"America" is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fourth studio album, "Bookends" (1968). Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, the song was later issued as a single in 1972 to promote the release of Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.
The song was written by Paul Simon and concerns young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of "America", in both a literal and figurative sense. It was inspired by a 1964 road trip that Simon took with his girlfriend Kathy Chitty. The song has been regarded as one of Simon's strongest songwriting efforts and one of the duo's best songs. A 2014 Rolling Stone reader's poll ranked it the group's fourth best song.
"America" was inspired by a five-day road excursion Simon undertook in September 1964 with his girlfriend Kathy Chitty. Producer Tom Wilson had called Simon back to the United States to finalize mixes and artwork for their debut studio album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. Simon, living in London at the time, was reluctant to leave Chitty, and invited her to come with him, forgetting the album and spending five days driving the country together. Several years later, "America" was among the last songs recorded for "Bookends", when production assistant John Simon left Columbia Records, forcing Simon, Garfunkel, and producer Roy Halee to complete the record themselves. In 2004, Bob Dyer, a former disc jockey from Saginaw, Michigan, explained the song's genesis in an interview with The Saginaw News. According to Dyer, Simon wrote the song while visiting the town in 1966, when he booked him for Y-A-Go-Go, a concert series hosted by the Saginaw YMCA:
I asked Paul Simon if they were still charging the $1,250 we paid them to play and he said they were getting about four times that much then. Then I asked him why he hadn't pulled out, and he said he had to see what a city named Saginaw looked like. Apparently, he liked it; he wrote 'America' while he was here, including that line about taking four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.
The narrator spends four days hitchhiking from Saginaw, Michigan, to join Kathy in Pittsburgh, where together they board a Greyhound bus to continue the journey. The narrator begins with a lighthearted and optimistic outlook ("Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together") that fades over the course of the song. To pass time, he and Kathy play games and try to guess the backgrounds of their fellow passengers. Over the course of their journey, they smoke all of their cigarettes. Kathy reads a magazine before falling asleep, leaving the narrator awake to reflect on the meaning of the journey alone. In the final verse, the narrator is able to speak his true emotions to Kathy, now that she is sleeping and cannot hear or answer. "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why" captures the longing and angst of the 1960s in nine simple words. The narrator then stares out the window "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike". So many other empty and aching and lost souls traveling down the highway, each on their own journey alone, even if someone is traveling with them.
You're probably thinking I've had a stroke after posting about 'Doctor Who' all day, haven't you?
Well, it says it all in that title - every so often I've posted suggestions (usually based on screencaps from movies) for fanfic about two TV characters played by those actors seen in the movie snapshot. I'm always hoping somebody will pick up my suggestion and run with it. Maybe they have but never let me know so I could read it.
I would do it myself except my talent for writing tends to be too technical (even though I have come up with great scenarios in my Toobworld adventures.) But there's an even better reason as to why I'm not writing it: I'm lazy.
Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bow-tie is really a camera"
As any Whovian could easily figure it out, this is the stanza which inspired me to think of the autobiographical song as hiding a secret encounter which the Doctor had with the fictional version of Paul Simon. One of those "faces" traveling on the bus with Simon and Kathy Chitty could have been the Eleventh Incarnation of the Doctor. And I would think that he was riding the bus instead of darting about in the TARDIS was because he was tailing a potential foe, or at least someone who piqued his interest or aroused his suspicions.
I'm thinking it might have been a Raxacoricofallapatorian wearing a human skin-suit.....
As for the gabardine suit, it sounds like the Doctor was finally wearing something other than the two outfits we saw over the course of his tenure in that incarnation.
We know when this happened - September of 1964. As to when in the Doctor's personal timeline it occurred, I'm going to say it was during that period after the Christmas special "The Snowmen". That was when a newly energized Doctor began his quest to find another facet of the Impossible Girl, Clara Oswin Oswald.
I think that's where I should leave it; after all, this is supposed to be your fanfic if you should so choose to write it. But if I may, I do have some ideas on what could happen during their road trip to find America.....
- When they introduce themselves, it surprises Paul Simon that the Doctor is more excited to meet Kathleen Chitty. "Chitty? What a splendid name! Like 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'!" They both think he's crazy because he seems to be speaking gibberish. Remember, the bus trip was in September of 1964 and the first third of Ian Fleming's children's story would not be released for another month.
- The bus stops at a secluded roadside diner where the Doctor mentions that he once intervened in a confrontation between a three-armed Martian and a three-eyed alien who claimed to be Venusian but was in actuality a Traskin. And he was able to prevent both their races from invading Earth, but unfortunately he was unable to save the travelers from their deadly fate on that rickety bridge.
- As Paul Simon and Kathy Chitty play their private little game of devising new back-stories for their traveling companions, their descriptions could identify the other passengers as recognizable TV characters of that era who might have had reason to be riding that Greyhound bus.
- While playing their game, they decide that the Doctor's real name is Julio. After that, Simon keeps calling the Doctor "Julio". And the main confrontation with the alien foe should be in a schoolyard. More inspiration for the future.....
- The fifth verse should take place after their adventure with the Doctor and they have resumed their bus trip. At some point in the team-up, both Paul and Kathy realize that their relationship is doomed. According to a 2014 article in the Daily Mail, "But with his initial success, the shy and sensitive Kathy became frightened of the huge attention from fans and returned home from the US in the mid-1960s." Maybe that was the cover story. Or maybe the alien foe had the ability to show them their future. Maybe she was traumatized by dealing with aliens and so fled back to Essex (unfortunately just in time for the Cybermen invasion of London!)
- There should be more to the team-up between the Doctor and Paul Simon, something that made their time together more fateful than a chance encounter. Perhaps it is Paul Simon who comes up with the way to defeat the alien... and have it be something that would get referenced in some later Paul Simon lyrics. Those wild songs from the album "Graceland" perhaps?
- (Maybe this is when Paul first came up with the line: "Don't want to be a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard"?)
- When her boyfriend is finally reunited with Art Garfunkel to finish their debut album, Kathy remembers what the Doctor said about aliens living on Earth - that "Some of them look just like you; take me, for instance. There's the occasional Tenza, of course. And some of them have been here for years, decades! They've raised families and blended in with their neighbors. There are quite a few second-generation aliens out there...." Kathy begins to look at the gawky Garfunkel with his puffy hair in a whole new light.....
- Once you finished that story, how about a prequel in which you tell us why the Doctor was in Pittsburgh in the first place?
The Doctor has met so many writers in the past - HG Wells, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Agatha Christie. Why not a song-writer? Of course, being an English show, the trend seems to favor English writers. Lennon and McCarthy would be the obvious choice there. But when has 'Doctor Who' ever gone for the obvious? Some photoshopper out there already thought of the Doctor meeting Bowie......
(One year for the Fourth of July, I had the Doctor inspire Maxfield Parrish and his painting "With Trumpet And Drum". So why not Paul Simon this time out? Maybe next time it'll be Jim Henson!)
So there you have it. More than enough inspiration for you to create a story in which the Doctor meets Paul Simon. Have a go!
And if you do write one, PLEASE share it and send me the link!
I liked that idea of the Doctor inspiring the lyrics to a famous song. Maybe one day the Second Incarnation of the Doctor, "The Cosmic Hobo", could meet Leo Sayer........
"I am a man of the road
A hobo by name"
"So good-bye, good-bye
I’m gonna leave you now...."
I’m gonna leave you now...."