“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” is a song by Paul Simon, written in 1971, from the 1972 album Paul Simon. The song reached number twenty-two on the U.S. charts, and number fifteen on the UK charts.
The song was the second solo release by Paul Simon following his break up with Art Garfunkel. Simon has played this song many times in concert over the years. Simon and Garfunkel also performed it at their Central Park reunion concert in September 1981.
It is about a boy who has broken a law, although the exact law that has been broken is not stated in the song and has become a matter of some debate. When his mother finds out that he has broken the law, she goes to the police station to report the crime. He is later arrested, but released when a radical priest intervenes. The protagonist of the song had to say goodbye to “Rosie, the Queen of Corona”, so the events of the song are most likely to have taken place in Corona, Queens. Julio is presumed to be the boy’s partner in crime, yet others have suggested that he may also be the person that the singer may engage in a fight with. This is a common motif and setting: fights amongst adolescents.
Some believe the incident in the song refers to an arrest at an antiwar protest on a college campus (the “schoolyard”), with the “radical priest” (whom the singer claims will appear with him “on the cover of Newsweek”) being either Philip or Daniel Berrigan, priests noteworthy for their antiwar activity during the Vietnam War. It has been said also that the “radical priest” could be the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, chaplain from Yale, upon whom the Scot Sloan character in Doonesbury was based.
In a July 20, 1972 interview for Rolling Stone, Jon Landau asked: “What is it that the mama saw? The whole world wants to know.” Simon replied “I have no idea what it is… Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say ‘something’, I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn’t make any difference to me.” This has not stopped speculation: Truman Capote said that he believed the protagonist and Julio were involved in a homosexual relationship; other commentators have detected references to recreational drug use, and believe that the mother saw the boy buying drugs.
In 1986, Simon released a video for the song to promote his greatest hits compilation, Negotiations and Love Songs. The video features rappers Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie, basketball player Spud Webb, baseball legend Mickey Mantle, and football coach/commentator John Madden.
Performances by other artists
* The punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covered “Me and Julio” on their 1997 album, Have a Ball.
* Jack Johnson also covered this song in a medley following the song “Sexy Plexi”, available on the J.O.T.C. bootleg compilation.
* Dave Matthews Band covered the song live a handful of times in 1992, 1993, and 2001.
* Wheat quotes “Me and Julio” in their song “Body Talk (Part 2)”.
* The jangle pop band Guster covered “Me and Julio” in a one time only live performance.
* In 2003, the band !!! released a single called “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard”, a play on the title of this song, referring to Rudolph Giuliani.
* Other artists who have performed this song live include Pat McGee Band, Julie Doiron, and Peter Bjorn and John during a session for Morning Becomes Eclectic.
* New York singer/songwriter Jesse Malin covered this song on his April 7, 2008 covers album On Your Sleeve.
Features in movies
The song appears in the 2001 movie The Royal Tenenbaums directed by independent filmmaker Wes Anderson. It also appears in the film A Home at the End of the World and over the opening credits of Maid in Manhattan.
Features On Television
In E4′s Skins mini-episode “The Secret Party”, the song plays as the character Chris exits the Digger Lord’s Mansion following the secret party.
Grant-Lee Phillips (as the town troubador) sang it on an episode of Gilmore Girls.