Here’s a clip of Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening”, from his 1980 One-Trick Pony soundtrack album. This version is from Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park, which was filmed the following year.
The song is a great example of a songwriter who understands the importance of economy, which is also notable in earlier songs like “America”. Much like that song, this later tune also manages to become cinematic in just a few short verses. The tune is similarly populated with characters – his mother who “laughed like some ladies do”, “the girls out on the stoops”, and the narrator himself who is “underage in this funky bar” who then precedes to blow away its patrons with his nascent guitar skills.
It makes sense then that this comes from a movie of the same name which Simon wrote and starred in. Perhaps he wanted to see whether his economic storytelling abilities would translate to the big screen. Critics at the time weren’t so sure. But, at least he didn’t forget to write a good tune or two to go with the film.
Another thing I love about this tune is that horn section, and the percussion lines, both of which are forces which really push this song along. That’s another thing which Simon understands well, of course – music which interlocks with the story he’s telling. And I love the calypso flavouring too, like this song was meant to be a Caribbean road march to celebrate Carnival or Crop Over. Overall, this song just screams celebration!
Paul Simon would follow this soundtrack album up with the underrated Hearts and Bones in 1983, and then really have the best 80s a pop icon from the 60s would ever have after the release of his seminal Graceland album in 1986.