My Record Collection 179

Simon and Garfunkel – Well, the big ones are coming thick and fast now.  Paul Simon (see next post) and Artie Garfunkel had been making music together since school days when they had a minor hit under the name Tom and Jerry.  Paul was (and still is) the writer of songs and the guitarist, Artie had a voice from heaven – together they harmonised till dawn.  Their first album Wednesday Morning 3 a.m. (1965) crept out and sold a mere 2,000 copies.  Paul went to England and released an album of original songs, which would mostly appear on later S. & G. albums.   But a DJ recognised what a great song ‘The Sound Of Silence’ was, and impressed by the Byrds (see B) makeover of Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ put slight drums and base onto the duo’s vocals and it was released as a single and became a huge hit.  Paul rushed back and together a quite quickly recorded second album was released.  But back to the debut album – it is in some ways, an unremarkable folk album of the early 60’s (1964).  But the seeds of genius were already poking their heads up, ‘The Sounds of Silence’ was obviously a classic, but also a couple of other songs are pretty cool ‘Sparrow’ and ‘Bleeker Street’ and the title song is not bad either.   But no real sign of the great songs that would follow.  The follow-up, aptly named Sounds Of Silence was a huge step up; Paul had spent a year in England, writing, recording one album and singing in folk clubs. He had a clutch of new and outstanding songs.  Many of these songs had been earlier released as solo versions by Paul on a very poorly selling The Paul Simon Songbook (see S), the new versions were far better recorded and with Garfunkel’s delicate vocals work much better.  Best, are ‘Kathy’s Song’, ‘April Comes She Will’ and the big hit single ‘I Am A Rock’.  This was still mostly a folk album, with the acoustic sound they later became famous for, supplemented mostly by an almost not there backing of drum and base.  They did have a couple of more upbeat number ‘Blessed’,  and ‘We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Going On’.  A year on and they released Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  This was another excellent album, a slight touch of politics creping in with ‘A Simple Desultory Phillipic’ and the brilliant combination of ‘Silent Night/9 O Clock News’, The simple title classic folk song and some lovely gentle songs; ‘Cloudy’ and ‘The Dangling Conversation’ and a couple of more upbeat numbers ‘The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine’ and ‘The 59th Street Bridge songs (Feeling Groovy).  This was 1967 – but no hint of flower power at all.  Overall, the album has aged much better than most from the summer of love, including, dare I say it, Sgt. Pepper itself.  The biggest and best film of ’68 was The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman and the Music of Simon and Garfunkel featured throughout….the Soundtrack album is very good with the instrumental tracks supplemented by the duo’s songs.  The one new song and a huge hit and favourite over the years was ‘Mrs Robinson’, really one of Paul’s best songs and written just for the film itself.  I recently bought a box set of Simon and Garfunkel albums, which I thought I had most of, forgetting the 2 live albums released years later – but I was pleasantly surprised by 2 other live CDs (never officially released).  1967 features just the duo singing songs from the first 3 albums.  A nice album with some nice dialogue too but no new songs.  1968 saw the release of their most sonically diverse album so far – Bookends.   Some stunning new songs from the pen of Paul; ‘Save The Life Of My Child’, ‘A Hazy Shade Of Winter’ and best of all – the classic ‘America’.  But, somehow the album doesn’t hang together so well.  It seems incoherent and some of the songs are a bit weak – ‘Old Friends; and ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ seem half-hearted to me.  Still by most artist’s this would have been an excellent record.  Which, of course, their next – and what would turn out to be their final original album -was.  There is no way to fault Bridge Over Troubled Waters (1970).  The album has achieved both huge sales and critical acclaim and iconic status.  It is one of those albums you never get tired of (see Ram and Tapestry), all from the same time and all hugely successful.  I know the record inside out and still feel excited when listening to it, and can’t help singing along.  But….as well as being their best album, problems were lurking in their relationship.  Long term I think Paul was tired of being the writer, guitarist and often lead soloist, while Artie sung beautifully but contributed little else.  During the long recording of Bridge, Garfunkel was absent for months at a time pursuing a nascent film career.  Paul even wrote two songs ‘So Long Frank Lloyd Wright’ and ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’ about his frustration and sadness at the time.  The pair agreed to part company before the album was completed but toured in late 69 anyway.  My favourite songs are ‘Cecilia’, ‘Keep The Customers Satisfied’ and ‘The Boxer’ – though you cannot forget the title song itself.  In the box set is a CD of the 1969 tour which featured a few unreleased songs from Bridge. 1969 is another interesting record; despite the fact that they were halfway through a fraught recording and had maybe even then realised that their future was non-existent, they sung really sweetly.  No real surprises except a rendition of ‘That Old Sweet Daddy Of Mine’ (an old fifties or maybe earlier mawkish song).  They split up in 1970 – Paul going on to a brilliant solo career (see next post).  There was a period when recriminations were felt and spoken, particularly by Artie, who felt they should have carried on as a duo.  However, it didn’t stop them from having several re-union tours and one-off concerts; well, I expect the money was very welcome.  In 1981 they held a concert in Central Park, New York.  It was a free concert, attended by maybe 50,000 people.  Of course, they always intended to record it and recoup all their cost and more.  The album The Concert In The Park is pretty groovy, especially as Paul had his red hot band backing them, giving a greater depth to many of their previous acoustic songs. As this was in many ways Paul’s gig, he included a few of his hits too; ‘Me and Julia’, ‘Still Crazy’ and ‘Kodachrome’ among others.  The album was credited to them both, and I think Art sung on almost everything, adding a gentleness to the jazzy arrangements on many of the songs.  A memorable concert and a great album.   They repeated the exercise in 2003 and released (yet) another live album, a double – and this time, almost all Simon and Garfunkel songs.  Truly beautiful singing I must say; possibly the best they had ever sung together.  I also have a triple album Old Friends, which features most of their best songs and a handful of rarities and rejected songs.  Not essential but good listening.

SIMON AND GARFUNKEL Sing The Sound of Cylon | Forces of Geek