Revisiting Paul Simon’s Only No. 1 Solo Album
Paul Simon began his post-Simon & Garfunkel career on a hot streak, with his first two albums and three singles reaching the Top 5. But he would reach the apex with his third record, Still Crazy After All These Years, released on Oct. 25, 1975.
Still Crazy would be his only No. 1 album to date. It also provided him with his sole chart-topping single and earned Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. All the plaudits, by the public and the press, were deserved.
Even on his earliest records, Simon had been mature beyond his years. So, as he approached his mid-30s – he turned 34 two weeks before the album came out – he was already adept at dealing with adult themes. And it helped that Paul Simon had just gone through a divorce.
The world-weariness announces itself from the opening, via Barry Beckett's electric piano intro to the glorious title track, which also features a saxophone solo by jazz great Michael Brecker. Yet, for all its power, Simon deliberately undercut the song's impact a year later he sang it on Saturday Night Live while dressed in a turkey suit.
Next up was a brief reunion with Art Garfunkel in "My Little Town," which gave him/them another Top 10 hit, and the reflective, jazzy "I Do It For Your Love." But it was "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" that took Simon to the Promised Land. Between the hepcat rhymes in the chorus and Steve Gadd's seductive drum pattern, the song was too catchy to be denied and remained at No. 1 for three weeks in February 1976.
But just because three of the album's hits were among its first four songs doesn't mean the rest was filler. "Gone at Last," a Top 30 single that featured vocals by Phoebe Snow, continued a fascination with gospel that had last been heard on Simon's previous album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon.
While there's an even heavier dose of self-pity than usual for Simon, he juxtaposes it by venturing into Randy Newman territory in "Have a Good Time," where the narrator is laughing through his mid-life crisis – and "You're Kind," which boils down the divorce to how much ventilation the apartment should have.
Co=produced by Phil Ramone, Still Crazy After All These Years would the last studio album Paul Simon recorded for Columbia. He fulfilled his obligation with the 1977 compilation Greatest Hits, Etc., which had a Top Five hit with a Still Crazy outtake, "Slip Slidin' Away." He then signed with Warner Bros., where he would remain until 2006's Surprise.
Paul Simon / Simon and Garfunkel Albums Ranked Worst to Best