My time with Paul Simon

I was about 19 and into folk music and trad jazz.  One day 5 of us from Romford folk club decided to go to Paris for a long weekend.  What I didn’t know was that some of the boys were intending to go and visit this guy called Paul Simon, who was staying at a hotel in Paris, to try and entice him to come to our folk club in Brentwood.  He was not known over here and was hoping to get onto the TV to advertise himself and Garfunkel.  [Which he did.]  We were staying in tents and sitting at the side of the Seine every day because although we were all working, none of us earned a lot.  So it was more like a paupers weekend, but it was still great fun.  Near the end of our long weekend a couple of the boys went off to interview Paul in his hotel room!  They came back all excited saying he would be happy to come to the folk club!  They even got him to sing for them as they had no idea what his voice was like and wanted to make sure he was “good enough” to sing in the folk clubs!!  [Imagine that!]

At home again I forgot all about Paul Simon until the others told me when he would be arriving.  My one thought, as I’d not met him, was, would he be good enough to stop the crowd from constantly talking whenever the singers were trying to entertain.  Well!  I was totally amazed and gobsmacked when he picked up his 12 string guitar and opened his mouth.  I think everyone was in awe throughout the whole time he sung to us.

We had our own little cliché who always went around together and Paul was staying with one of them at his parents house in Brentwood.  We would all meet up each day to take him around.  One evening we all went to a party and he sung for us.  He even got me to sing Hava Nagila with him.  OH my cheeks were burning…. The following night we took him to Leicester Square to a basement coffee bar/folk club, [I think it was called Bunjies?] And we were going to ask if Paul could sing a song.  We asked the question and the guy just looked at him and said “I’ll try and fit him in!!!”  He did, and I often wonder now how he felt when Paul and Art Garfunkel became a phenomenon!  He also had the crowd at the basement folk club in awe.  One of the songs that I kept asking him to play is called “He was my Brother” which is about the freedom fighters in America.  He not only sung it each place we went but sent it to me on a single when he went home!  And before you ask: No, I don’t have it anymore and I don’t know what happened to it!!!  He also wrote me a letter, which I didn’t reply to!!  Only because I’m terrible at replying to letters.  I still am!  On the last day our gang were all round the house where Paul had been staying.  We were all up in David’s bedroom reminiscing and I was really tired after all our late nights so I scrambled up onto the top bunk bed and just laid there listening to them all chattering, and the next thing I knew was Dave’s Mum was waking me up to go downstairs where they were all having sandwiches!  But in my dreamy state I thought I was in heaven – I could hear this beautiful soft music coming from somewhere.  Dave’s Mum told me Paul was entertaining the others while they waited for me!!

After that I saw him a few times, usually around the West End, normally when I was on the way to the 100 club in Tottenham Court Road. [A jazz club]  One time when I was walking towards the jazz club I heard my name being called, I looked round and sitting in the Wimpey Bar with a girl was Paul.  He called me in and we all chatted for a while then I went on my way.  I think that was the last I saw of him.  I have always treasured that time of my life and wouldn’t change it for anything.  Such fantastic memories of before he was famous!

Barbara