"The nearer your destination, the more you're slip sliding away."
Paul Simon gave us this koan in this story about three different people who retreat from their passions when confronted with the vagaries of life. The song shows how we can all watch our dreams pass us by and end up like the absentee father in the third verse, kissing his son as he sleeps and then heading back home. It can seem like we are fated to do so, as "God makes his plan" and "the information's unavailable to the mortal man."
The song is repetitive, with the chorus at the beginning and then showing up again four more times. Speaking with SongTalk, Simon explained that this was a flaw in the song. "The last verse is a powerful one, but the chorus, it keeps coming back to the chorus," he said. "You know what that chorus is going to say. I always felt it should be shorter, but I didn't know which verses to take out. Either the last verse or the father/child verse. But they all seemed like they had to be in there, so I left it. But I always felt that the record and the song stayed on a plateau. It didn't build."
This was one of two new songs released on Simon's Greatest Hits, Etc. album. It was released as a single backed with the other new song "Stranded in a Limousine."
The album was a turning point in Simon's relationship with Columbia Records, which barely promoted it. It peaked at #18 in the US, a surprising flop for Simon. Clive Davis, who championed Simon at the label, had left, and the new regime was more enamored with artists like Billy Joel and Paul McCartney. Simon and the new boss, Walter Yetnikoff, didn't get along, and Simon singed a deal with Warner Brothers.
Backup vocals are by the country group The Oak Ridge Boys.