Simon & Garfunkel
“Cuba Si, Nixon No”
Back to College: Live at the Miami University in Oxford, OH (bootleg), 1969
Bridge Over Troubled Water was supposed to have twelve songs. Paul Simon argued for “Cuba Si, Nixon No” and Garfunkel argued for the chorale of “Feuilles-O”. As they couldn’t agree, both songs were dropped and Bridge was released with only eleven songs. “Feuilles-O” would be released in demo form on 1997’s Old Friends box set, and appended to Bridge Over Troubled Water in 2001 when it was remastered for The Columbia Studio Recordings set. “Cuba Si, Nixon No” has never been released.
In fact, the studio version has never appeared even in bootleg form. All we have are a few snippets of the recording sessions from the Songs of America TV special and this concert performance recorded at Miami University in Oxford, OH on November 11, 1969.
I can’t for the life of me hear why Paul Simon was so enamored with this song. It starts as a standard Chuck Berry shuffle, and like every Berry shuffle it gets the toes tapping. But the short bridge after the sad solo cuts it’s legs out from under it, and Paul and the band can’t get back to Chuck’s boogie. And the lyrics! Paul Simon was always a bit cack-handed when it came to broad as opposed to personal politics (see “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)”, for example), and this is no exception. I’m not even sure what he’s trying to say beyond the title. Is it about a pilot with the shits who flies to Cuba instead of New Orleans? It may have been inspired by some real event, but Simon does nothing with it beyond a slightly eye-catching and, considering the times, slightly inflammatory title.
Thankfully, Garfunkel kept it off the record. Artie si, Simon no, no , no.