What Did it for Me! – Chapter 6, Tim Freeman

Tim Freeman was front man for the wonderfully weird and melodic 80s pop band, Frazier Chorus. At a time when most other bands were brash and heavily synthesized, Tim delivered songs with hushed, almost whispered vocals backed by a band that played flutes, clarinets and bongos.

Frazier Chorus – Dream Kitchen on MUZU.TV.
Tim is many other things, too, though. He and wife Jacquie and two adorable daughters used to be my neighbors and I’m still mourning their moving across town. Right now he and I are collaborating on a set of 12 songs for UNICEF’s Rights & Respect charter.

Over to you, Tim. What did it for you? (PAK)

The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel
simon and garfunkel - bridge over troubled water (front)

From the lyric to the arrangement, the production to the playing, this recording is an amazing thing. Press play, and a shimmering acoustic guitar arpeggio steps down through the keys to a bed of warm chords on which to lay verse one. And what a verse––Paul Simon turning words into pictures, live, inside your own earhole. To a nine-year-old boy, Simon’s lyric seemed clear as custard, pleasingly vague, allowing plenty of space for your own imagination to fill in the blanks. (Though it was a few years before “…just a ‘come on!’ from the horse on 7th Avenue” revealed itself to contain instead the word ‘whores’. I’d been happier with my image of a friendly horse encouraging the poor fellow to cheer up, but what the hey… )

After what appears to be a great synth solo (actually an astonishing electric guitar solo cunningly disguised as a good flute solo), the imagery soon snaps into clarity: “In the clearing (brilliant!) stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade…” All is revealed: so this is him, our narrator – the runaway, “no more than a boy. . . laying low… a pocketful of mumbles,” getting drawn into deeply sad shit: so much so that he might have to fight, so he fights. So he can fight. So he fights, “and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him ‘til he cried out…” That line’s the heart of this recording: from “carries the reminders” onwards, the rhythm changes, all 16ths, pushed by a jabbing, wheezing accordion until it “cut him” (bang! bang!) ‘til he cried out “in his anger and his shame: ‘I am leaving, I am leaving!’ but the fighter still remains….” He’s not going anywhere. He’s ‘The Boxer’ now. This is a fighter’s life, and as a song it ends: “Lie la lie (Whack!) Lie la lie lie lie la lie, Lie la lie (Whack!) Lie la lie lie lie la lie…”
All those lies. All those whacks.

Apart from the thing with the horse, I really ‘got’ this record on first hearing: the words, the sounds––this enormous, tangible, three-dimensional physical fact. Paul Simon can do that––still does––and this recording has been as good as it gets for 40 years.
(Tim Freeman)

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