Keep The Customer Satisfied Lyrics

Gee but it's great to be back home
Home is where I want to be.
I've been on the road so long my friend,
And if you came along
I know you couldn't disagree.

CHORUS
It's the same old story
Everywhere I go,
I get slandered,
Libeled,
I hear words I never heard
In the Bible
And I'm on step ahead of the shoe shine
Two steps away from the county line
Just trying to keep my customers satisfied,
Satisfied.

Deputy Sheriff said to me
Tell me what you come here for, boy.
You better get your bags and flee.
You're in trouble boy,
And you're heading into more.

CHORUS
Song Info
Submitted by
Submitted on
May 21, 2001
33 Meanings
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My family and I always joke around about Simon & Garfunkel songs being about drugs, solely because of the era the songs were written in. But I don't believe any of their songs are about drugs, this one included.

To me, seems like this is about a musician just starting out. No agent or anything, the only way to get started would be to play on the streets. Street musician being "one step ahead of the shoe shine". "Slandered, libled, hear words I never heard in the Bible" meaning he's constantly being criticized and cursed at (doesn't seem like too many people like street musicians for some reason). "Two steps away from the county line" means he doesn't stay too long in one city, because the people will eventual get sick of him and run him out of town (thus the deputy sheriff verse). "I'm so tired" part at the end means exactly that: he's tired of doing the same thing over and over again ("it's the same old story everywhere I go"), but feels obligated to make his music heard ("Just trying to keep the customer satisfied").

That's my interpretation of the song. Comments on the song: love it! Great lyrics, tune, and music. Love S&G's music.

My Interpretation
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I don't think this is about any thing specific other than it's illegal. Fill in the blank - drugs - contraband - steroids- (yeah, yeah they didn't exist then but it still works) never thought it was prostitution but I don't think it matters, its about some guy just stayin ahead of the law. I always thought "shoe shine" meant the sheriff and he was two steps away from the county line to stay away from the law. Anyway, its a great song. Typical Simon genius.

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It's probably about anal sex. Most songs are.

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For christs sakes guys, not every song has to be about drugs.

It's obviously about a door to door salesmen.

Song Meaning

Sure, not every song has to be about drugs, but I think this one is. My take has always been that the guy in this song is a dope dealer. This is an opinion that I arrived at on my own and which it appears that a lot of other people arrived at independently as well, based on the lyrics. Someone who is obviously always on the move, in trouble with the law, near the lowest rung of society, "trying to keep the customer satisfied."

For those who balk at the thought of an "good boy" type who...

@degree7: Definite possibility. Any traveling salesman who doesn't belong in a small Southern town. The use of the term "boy" raises the possibility/likelihood that the salesman is black, but I suppose it could be used against whites, too.

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I definitely agree with degree7 about it being a door-to-door salesman, i always sort of identify it with the movie "paper moon," kind of a con man/salesman being forced out of town.

@typicaleo : Your interpretation sounds right to me.

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I've always thought this song was about race, from the POV of a black man, probably a musician. The sheriff calling him "boy," the "shoeshine" references, being run out of town (or out of the COUNTY), cursed and abused, etc., etc.

@Welgunzer I grew up when this song first came out (I just rediscovered recently). "One step ahead of the shoeshine"- well, back then, you would find "shoeshine boys" at the train station, so it is another reference to being ready to go at a moments notice. Also, his trouble with the Deputy Sheriff would likely be due to him looking like a hippie, but the influences in these lyrics would probably reflect how black musicians were treated, and possibly how Simon and Garfunkel were treated for being Jewish. Being a wandering minstrel was never easy.

@Welgunzer I grew up when this song first came out (I just rediscovered recently). "One step ahead of the shoeshine"- well, back then, you would find "shoeshine boys" at the train station, so it is another reference to being ready to go at a moments notice. Also, his trouble with the Deputy Sheriff would likely be due to him looking like a hippie, but the influences in these lyrics would probably reflect how black musicians were treated, and possibly how Simon and Garfunkel were treated for being Jewish. Being a wandering minstrel was never easy. EDIT:...

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Uh, folks, I'm 99.99% certain that all of you have missed the meaning of "Keep the Customer Satisfied."

As with many songs of the day, they were very politically centered. Think of the opening lyrics: "If you came along, I know you couldn't disagree." A reference to time served in 'Nam, and the horrors of that war.

'Nam vets were spat upon, cursed at, and all because they had to answer their draft card number. Hence, "Everywhere I go, I get slandered, libeled," and as he's cursed at when finally back home in the US, he hears "words [he] never heard in the Bible."

As for the steps, the "shoe shine" would be the sheriff, and he's close to the county line, because he's been ridden out of town. Just think of John Rambo in First Blood, and it's a perfect fit!

@louisvillebandman: Could very well be, although the traveling salesman/con man/drug dealer suggestions on this thread also fit very well. The 'Nam vet interpretation is poignant and original.

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Like many, I'd run through the range of possibilities for meanings to "Keep the Customer Satisfied." It was kinda tough since you could make a lot of possibilities fit as reasonable interpretations.

Just last semester, a class on music of the counterculture opened my eyes in terms of circumstances surrounding some of Simon and Garfunkel's work, particularly their last album "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

From the circumstances, it seems audioafan's take is pretty close.

The general consensus in readings from the course is that, like other tracks on the album, "Keep the Customer Satisfied" is one of Simon & Garfunkel's self-referential works.

In other words, it's Paul Simon's story of his career with Art Garfunkel from their early days as "Tom & Jerry" (where they did begin as nothing much more than street musicians) through the height of their Simon & Garfunkel fame.

By the end, Paul Simon was chafing under the expectations to keep turning out the "Simon & Garfunkel" works people had come to expect and felt it was stifling his creativity and ability to explore new styles, but he was under constant pressure from record executives, fans and critics to keep the customers satisfied with what they wanted -- more of the same.

Really makes sense when you look at it in context of the production of the album and the other tracks dealing with the split between Simon & Garfunkel("So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright", "The Only Living Boy in New York" and "Song for the Asking".)

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Agree that there is a definite reference to race in the lyrics: "shoe shine", "boy", "county line". The song (which I love) could refer to a black man, a civil rights worker, a salesman/con man, an itinerant worker. A drug dealer is a possibility, too.

Keep the Customer Satisfied was written shortly after the civil rights era, and the wording absolutely references being run out of a county in the South. (I am old enough to remember that era.)

Excellent comments from all and great site.

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Looks like the consensus meaning for this song refers to a Black Vietnam veteran civil rights activist, with a little something on the side, getting railroaded out of a southern town.

Song Meaning

You have a real gift for condensing things...

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