Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Oh I wish I was Brentwood bound…

Why Paul Simon wished he was homeward bound to Brentwood

As a teenager I’d heard a rumour that Paul Simon wrote his classic song Homeward Bound while sitting at Brentwood Station in the 1960s. Back then it was easy to imagine him in the moribund waiting room writing lines about shades of mediocrity.

But in the internet age it’s possible to verify such assertions, and the truth is that Simon penned Homeward Bound in either Ditton or Halebank stations in Widnes, while waiting for a train back to Brentwood, where he was living with his girlfriend. Blimey. Yes, it was Brentwood that made Simon and Garfunkel get all poetic.


He made his UK debut at the Railway Inn Folk Club in Brentwood in 1964 and met Kathy Chitty there, the inspiration for Kathy’s Song and America. She was a 17-year-old Essex girl on the door selling tickets to bearded men in cord jackets. They dated for two years until Paul returned to the US. Kathy now lives in Wales and maintains a diplomatic sound of silence on all Simon-related subjects. Although I can picture her as a slightly folksier version of Celebrity Big Brother’s uber-Essex babe Chantelle.

These days if Simon was homeward bound to Brentwood, he’d walk out of the station, trudge 100 metres up King’s Road and come to the Amstrad headquarters. You wonder what Sir Alan Sugar would make of the wandering folk troubadour:

“Paul, shut up a minute will yer, you’re doing my head in! You took a bloody trip to Widnes to play a gig and all you could do is whinge about yer bleeding girlfriend Kaffy. No sales figures, just lyrics scrawled on a British Rail timetable. I’m not having that. Shut up, I am talking! OK, you can knock out a decent tune, but you ain’t doing it for me. If I asked you to build me a swimming pool you’d be knocking off every time you saw some leaves that are green turn to brown. With regret, Paul, you’re fired!”


  1. Possibly the second biggest musical moment in brentwood's history (after motorhead at the hermit club, 1980)

  2. Gavin Hadland comments via email: I was at that Motorhead gig! I remember I was blocking the view of a Hell's Angel and rather than say 'excuse me' he simply picked me up and placed me a few feet to one side. Good days!

  3. While Matt George adds:

    Presumably Bridge Over Troubled Water referred to a particularly poor West Ham performance at Stamford Bridge, the Sound of Silence followed a visit to Arsenal and Scarbourough Fair celebrated a fine performance by the Seadogs...

  4. Where us the Railway Inn? I know of the Railway Tavern - has the name changed or is the venue no longer there?

  5. "selling tickets to bearded men in cord jackets"

    You cann't have been there, because there were not many bearded men in cords, albeit I can think of one!

  6. I agree with Anonymous, there weren't many bearded men there, I was there, presumably you weren't. Kathy was nothing like Chantelle.

  7. Paul and Kathy could be found having a beer with all their chums at the Ship pub Gidea Park most Friday nights.
    Paul subsequenly had a wednesday night residency with his house mate Al Stewart at Mother Hubbard pub Buckhurst Hill. (now a apartment block)