Klinger: Graceland is another one of those albums that came out my freshman year of college, so the temptation is certainly there to yammer on about that magical, terrifying period in my life—how this album was the soundtrack to my first fumbling attempts at a grown-up relationship and all the rest of that nonsense. I’ll spare you and our readers that, though, and save it for my ponderous coming-of-age novel.
Instead, I’ll say that the key to understanding the greatness of Graceland (and make no mistake, greatness abounds) is recognizing just how sorry a state Paul Simon’s career was in by the mid-1980s. After taking the second half of the ‘70s off, he returned to deliver two fairly colossal flops—the 1980 film/album One Trick Pony and 1983’s Hearts and Bones. Now, there are great songs on both records, but there’s also a sense that Simon had given over to a certain fussiness that was sapping the energy from his music. By the time Graceland came out, people my age generally thought of him as a purveyor of AM-radio mellowosity—way hipper than John Denver, but only slightly hipper than James Taylor. That’s why Graceland blew us away. It was as much a revelation for us as hearing that Gumboots tape was for Simon himself.
Mendelsohn: I don’t think there is any question that Simon created something almost otherworldly with Graceland, connecting with a vast swath of the music-consuming public—including a very impressionable six-year-old. And since you won’t get into your coming-of-age story, I might as well indulge. I was just a kid when this album hit and since Simon was making music for people like my parents, they went out and bought it, which inevitably led to me hearing it quite often.