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I hear the dribble of Lorraine: or what’s wrong with being quiet or an introvert? With help from Paul Simon, Eva Cassidy, Susan Cain, The Ramones, the Clash and the Specials!!

Date posted: Thursday 17th July 2014

Paul Simon and Kathy Chitty on the cover of Simon’s first album.
Paul and Arty: matching jumpers.
Arty: slightly creepy persona?

I hear the drizzle of the rain/ Like a memory it falls/ Soft and warm continuing/Tapping on my roof and walls.

Paul Simon: Kathy’s Song

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Simon and Garfunkel: while most of the boys I knew at school loved them, I hated their guts. It’s not really anything to do with Paul Simon’s mawkish lyrics or Art Garfunkel’s oh-so-pure voice and slightly creepy persona, but more about the negative association their songs quickly built up in my little 10-year-old mind as I was being walloped.

It all began on my second day at school, 500 miles away from home. Our teacher, who was part of the religious order who ran the school, fancied himself as a bit of a groovy cat, and liked to play ‘inspirational songs from the world of pop’ at the beginning of each day. So on day one he introduced himself to his class of little boys: ‘Hello, I’m Brother Tom (not his real name, I hasten to add: the guy’s still out there) Shall we start with a dash of S&G?’ What he really meant by that was, ‘I’m going to play ‘The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel, and I expect you boys to sit in silence during most of my lessons.’

I told my older brother about this. ‘What a poncy git’ was his response, ‘Next time he says that, ask him to play Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces.’ So I did.

(Enter Brother Tom at 8.30am.)

BT: Right boys. Shall we start the day with a dash of S&G?

Michael: Not really, Brother. How about a dash of Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces?

BT: Jones. See me at break time. Right boys, S&G it is then.

(How was I to know that later The Small Faces would split up and their lead singer, Steve Marriott, would form the ‘supergroup’ Humble Pie, take America by storm and take lashings of cocaine and Jack Daniels at the same time? Or that poor Steve would eventually end up like many a 1960s/70s rocker: setting himself and his house on fire because he had fallen asleep drunk, with a lighted cigarette in his hand.)

This was to be the first of many occasions I was to remain behind after break and get whacked six times with a leather strap. (It was Scotland. It was 1967. It was legal.) After my punishment, as I stood whimpering and waving my stinging hands around, Brother Tom went for the jugular. (Metaphorically, I might add. Being a vampire has never been legal in Scotland.)

BT: So, Jones, what have you learned today?

Michael: That you mustn’t call out in class.

BT: Anything else?

Michael: (Searching for something sensible to say)

That if you have a funny idea, keep it to yourself?

BT: (Looking and sounding very much like Snape off of Harry Potter).

I’ll ignore that. Let’s float this idea shall we? That when a teacher says ‘Shall we?’ it is a rhetorical question, and what he really means is ‘we are going to do it anyway.’ Now don’t forget that. And do you think I don’t know who The Small Faces are? That Steve Marriott will come to a sticky end, you mark my words. Now write out a hundred lines, with 10 words per line.

Michael: (Thinking, ‘If I’m not careful, I’m going to end up betraying my country by spying for the Soviet Union, or writing mildly satirical leftist ‘think pieces’ for The Guardian, in an attempt to undermine the class-ridden British Establishment)

Yes Brother.

So the negative association between punishment and Simon and Garfunkel was forged in my tender little psyche, and whenever I heard one of their songs I just seethed with resentment and wanted to do something rebellious. (Years later, I was working in a school dominated by a coterie of very straight-laced teachers who regularly slagged off children and their parents in the staff room. One of them decided to play Bridge Over Troubled Water on the piano as the kids filed in for her dreary and sanctimonious assembly. Just before break I got one of my female colleagues (another S&G hater) to accidentally- on-purpose leave a copy of Viz in the lades toilets. It caused a furore –“What is society coming to when teachers read this kind of smut in the toilets? What’s the matter with The Readers’ Digest or the Daily Telegraph? Etc etc.’ The Head saw the funny side of it (He was a Humble Pie fan), but cautioned me not to rock the boat too much. After my assembly about Nelson Mandela and the struggle against Apartheid, a copy of the Readers’ Digest and The Daily Telegraph were discovered in the gents.)

But back to 1970, when I was 13 and S&G’s ghastly Bridge Over Troubled Water was number one for an eternity, and it seemed like everyone in the school was playing or singing their awful songs. Top of my hate list of bad Simon and Garfunkel compositions was America. Even as a very small 13-year-old, I could recognise dreadful lyrics when I heard them. How about this?

Toss me a cigarette/I think there’s one in my raincoat/We smoked the last one an hour ago

Or what about: Michigan seems like a dream to me now/ It took me four days to hitch hike from Saginaw/I’ve come to look for America.

Three years later I left school and the first thing I did was develop a crush on Lorraine. We were joined at the hip for just over 18 months and she was a bit of an S&G fan. Now I’ve always had a soft spot for Simon and Garfunkel, and especially Paul Simon’s hugely romantic and meaningful lyrics and Art Garfunkel’s mellifluous voice (despite his slightly creepy persona). So when Lorraine suggested we go hitch hiking around Scotland for three weeks in the summer, my heart was in my mouth. We did a few ‘dry runs’ first, hitching back down the A3 from college to our small town in Surrey. Once we got a lift from a coach driver, driving his empty coach back to Petersfield. We sat in the back seat and I whispered in Lorraine’s ear, ‘Pass me a cigarette. I think there’s one in my duffel coat.’ She replied, ‘Godalming seems like a dream to me now.’ We were in heaven.

A few months later we were standing by the side of a tiny road on the Isle of Skye, with the rain pouring down cold and continuing on the hood of my duffel coat, and lashing on the legs of my Levis. It had taken us four hours to hitch hike from Portree. We had come to look for Scotland, apparently. Luckily we got a lift from a coach driver who was on his way to we- didn’t-care-where-as-long-as-we-were-out-of-the-rain. We sat at the back. I sang to Lorraine’ ‘I hear the dribble of Lorraine.’ I won’t repeat what she said. We were in hell.

This got me to thinking about what the young Paul Simon must have experienced when he first came to England. He was a penniless 22-year- old New Yorker, hoping to set the folk clubs of places like Walsall and Barking alive with his Bob Dylan covers and slightly quirky takes on traditional English folk songs. Legend has it that his very first gig was on the 12th April 1964 at The Railway Inn, Brentwood, Essex, and that a ‘quiet and shy’ 17-year-old called Kathy Chitty was selling tickets. The rest is rock history, as they became an item and went hitching around the States and catching Greyhound buses whenever they could afford it.

Simon and Garfunkel: Homeward Bound to a silent Kathy waiting there for them?

Apparently Kathy was Paul’s muse, and Kathy’s Song, America and at least two other songs, including Homeward Bound (with the immortal lines Home/Where my love lies waiting silently for me) are all about her. It sounds really romantic doesn’t it? Apparently Kathy was very ‘quiet and shy’ and when Paul and Arty started to get famous, Kathy baulked at the thought of appearing in the limelight next to the brilliant folk duo, so scuttled back home to her family in Essex. This apparently upset Paul so much that he penned Kathy’s Song.

Eva Cassidy Kathy’s Song: I hear the drivel of Lorraine.

So there you have it: ‘shy and quiet girl’ shrinks from a glittering life in the limelight, and ends up, according to one newspaper, ‘as a grandmother in a village in the mountains of Wales’. Yet again quiet people are cast as no-hopers who lack the guts to go out and grab life by the (you add your own ending to that metaphor) and make a go of things. Yet another ‘shrinking violet’ with nothing to offer society. But there’s another way of looking at the Paul and Kathy story:

You are a 17-year-old from a small Essex town who gets flirted with by a 22-year-old American, who seduces you with stories of how great life is in the States, and why not come back with me and I’ll take you on a road trip of a lifetime, where we can go in search of the spirit of the Founding Fathers? So there you are, a few months later, on the side of road by the New Jersey Turnpike. It had taken you four days to get from Saginaw to Michigan. Finally Paul agrees to part with some of his cash and allows you to get a Greyhound bus to another grim city. You are, quite understandably, a bit grumpy. Paul asks you to get him a cigarette from his raincoat, so you toss it at him. He starts telling you how lost and aching inside he feels, so you pretend you are asleep. When you finally get off the bus, in Duluth or Milwaukee, Paul is all excited: “While you were sleeping, I wrote a song about you. I’m going to call it ‘America’! And I’ve got another one on the go, called ‘Homeward Bound’. Just wait until I show this to Arty. Me and Arty will travel around the US in the back of a van, playing gigs until we make the big time. And you can come and join us in the van sometimes. (That is when you are not lying at home waiting silently for me!)”

What would you do? If you decided to dump Paul there and then, does that mean that you are ‘shy and quiet’? Or does it mean that you are assertive and have a better vision of your life, which involves you having control and making choices, rather than waiting silently for a partner who is off with his mate gigging across the country? Maybe Kathy was quiet. Maybe she was shy. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t be assertive and positive and in control of her life. Good on you Kathy. Perhaps Kathy Chitty was actually an introvert who gained her energy from being on her own sometimes. Introverts are often cast as people who are ‘under-confident’ and ‘full of anxiety’, as we see from listening to ‘Behavioural investigator’ Vanessa van Edwards

Tips for ‘introverts’: how to lose your ‘under-confidence and anxiety about meeting people’.


Susan Cain: What it really means to be an introvert, and why it’s a good thing!

And in case you were wondering, I bumped into Lorraine a few years after our damp road trip around Scotland. I was living in Finsbury Park, North London, and she was queuing up outside The Rainbow Theatre, hoping to get a ticket to see The Ramones.

The Ramones live at The Rainbow: Hey! Ho! Let’s go!

We went for a coffee and reminisced about our trip. ‘Pass me a cigarette will you Mike?’ Lorraine asked, ‘I think there’s one in my leather biker jacket.’ So we both looked at the scenery (a gaudy framed photo of the Acropolis and an AEK Athens calendar on the wall opposite). She read her magazine (Time Out: she was planning on seeing The Clash and the Specials with her boyfriend. I was planning a quiet night in on my own with Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.). And the moon rose over nearby Highbury Fields.

The Specials: Too much, too young?

This is the last post before the summer holidays, so I hope you all get some rest and have some fun!

Take care out there


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6 responses to “I hear the dribble of Lorraine: or what’s wrong with being quiet or an introvert? With help from Paul Simon, Eva Cassidy, Susan Cain, The Ramones, the Clash and the Specials!!”

  1. John Rice says:

    I digress but must take issue with a description of Paul Simon’s lyrics as ‘mawkish’. Michael, I thought you knew you better!

    It’s okay to be an introvert, the issue is in determining when which aspect of a personality should take control.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Hi John
      Yes, I agree with you on both counts. I suspect that I’m not exactly sure what ‘mawkish’ actually means!(I trawled through my collection of NMEs from the last 40 years and found a review of ‘There Goes Rhyming Simon’ that used that word. ( only joking about that last point!)
      You have hit the nail on the head about when certain traits in our nature can get in the way of how we operate in groups. It’s good to be able to accurately label how you are, and then try and accommodate to the needs of groups: e.g in meetings or in class.
      Also, as a pupil/student, it’s helpful if the teacher explains how they would like the class to behave viz a viz contributing verbally (‘hands up before you ask a question/wait until I have finished talking and then we can have a discussion’etc.) in my day this would have helped me from getting whacked!!!
      Great to hear from you. If you supply me with an alternative to ‘mawkish’ then I will be happy to change it. And what do you think about me describing Art Garfunkel as a bit creepy?
      Great to hear from you

  2. John Rice says:

    Perhaps “Idiosyncratic” or “oblique”. Paul Simon penned my favourite lyric of all time – ‘I’m gonna stand guard like a postcard of a Golden Retriever’. Brilliant stuff.

    Art Garfunkel: I have to agree, he’s always struck me as perhaps a bit creepy!

    I read your post after I’d been chatting to my colleagues in the sunshine. I was slightly gregarious and, though I say it myself, whilst my wit may not have been sparkling it was gently effervescent. It occurred to me that I was contriving my personality to suit the social context. Writing poetry the following day I was isolated, moody and most definitely not witty. I suspect that personality traits are habit forming and we all need access to a variety of social environments to remain healthy.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Wow John!
      That has really got me thinking. What you say about the social environments and habits certainly makes me think about people who lack confidence in social skills and become very anxious about the impression they made/might make through talking.
      I’m sure this is a very strong force for teens, and girls in particular, where how we talk on groups if teens is judged to be very important.
      Sometimes it’s only in adulthood that we can get to a point where we are comfortable about who we are socially and don’t worry so much about what other people think.
      Thanks for that!

      • John Rice says:

        I agree. Years ago I attended a staff training event with the whole school. Some of the midday supervisors were asked to give a short presentation and one lady in particular was mortified that she was being asked to speak in front of others.

        I’ve also seen a very successful business man, used to giving keynote speeches at large conferences, have a near nervous breakdown when asked to talk to a school of children!

        • Michael Jones says:

          Hi John
          It’s good to have these fearful experiences, because it helps us to empathise with others and to realise that an ‘irrational’ fear can be gradually got rid of, but ‘gradual’ is the key word.

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