"All around the world" by Paul Simon
June 11, 2007 6:43 PM   Subscribe

I was wondering if anyone knew what the song "All around the world" by paul simon is about . . . Particularly the line "Ever since the watermelon" confuses me, so please let me know your interpretations!
posted by klik99 to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've always thought it was poking fun at conspiracy theories, myself.
posted by misha at 6:54 PM on June 11, 2007

FWIW, I recall, from ages ago, an interview with Paul Simon in which he said something to the effect that certain odd, evocative images or phrases would occur to him, and that these would sometimes form the kernel around which the rest of the song/lyrics were written. He said (if I recall correctly) that he didn't necessarily understand these images or phrases -- he just found them compelling.
posted by treepour at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2007

I think treepour is right, at least about the phrase "ever since the watermelon." I've always thought the song, given the "myth of fingerprints" lines, was mostly about how people around the world, despite being so different, were all essentially the same.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:16 PM on June 11, 2007

There's absolutely no way I can vouch for the accuracy of what's here, but it says:

Actually, Paul Simon himself admitted that it means absolutely nothing. He likes to put words or phrases that sound good into his lyrics, sometimes completely devoid of meaning.
posted by bunglin jones at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2007

Watermelon = Earth. With black pit towns.

Or it could just be that Paul Simon was looking for a metaphor for something dating back to antiquity. You know, ever since mud, ever since Adam, ever since the watermelon, that kind of thing.
posted by YamwotIam at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2007

songmeanings.net is a great place to find stuff like this.
posted by internal at 8:25 PM on June 11, 2007

YamwotIam has the best reading, in my opinion. There's a direct metaphor with earth, and the song is about human sameness despite appearances of difference (evils in the world being traceable to "the myth of fingerprints -- I have seen them all, and man, they're all the same").

In addition, Paul Simon has talked extensively about what he was doing on Graceland. While writing the album, he was listening to township music -- guitar-driven, jangly rock of the South African township neighborhoods which were densely populated by poor blacks who were restricted from living elsewhere. A lot of township music has fast-moving, staccato lyrics, and it's usually not in English, but in Swahili or Zulu. So as he was listening to it, Simon admired the pop and flow and detailed sound of the vocal, but he couldn't understand any of it. He was aiming to replicate that intricate, wordy vocal sound on Graceland, but using English. You can hear that attempt all over the album -- a line like "Don't I know you from the cinematographer's party?" was created primarily for the impression it gives when spoken rhythmically, fast short syllables falling all over each other, than for storytelling reasons.

But to me, the genius of the album is that sense emerges from the sounds anyway. Look at the lyricsacross the whole album - they don't read like lyrics, but when sung rhythmically they're incredibly musical. "A man walks down the street. I's a street in a strange world. Maybe it's the third world. Maybe it's his first time around. Doesn't speak the language. Holds no currency. He is a foreign man. He is surrounded by the sound, the sound of cattle in the marketplace. Scatterlings and orphanages..."

"Ever since the watermelon" is an excellent fill that adds sense and extends a metaphor already in the song...that's all I'd say.
posted by Miko at 8:57 PM on June 11, 2007 [6 favorites]

Wait , it is not a Buckaroo Banzai reference :-)
What is that watermelon doing there, anyway?
posted by stuartmm at 11:53 PM on June 11, 2007

Miko, thanks for the insight. I have always loved this album and found that I was able to take my own meaning from it, connecting with different songs at different points in my life.

For instance, those lyrics you quote from "Call me Al:" I had never really listened to them closely until one night I was on a night bus in India, and I found that those words really vocalized the disoriented yet thrilling experience I was having traveling in India.
posted by lunasol at 8:22 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

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