Saturday, 17 January 2015

Simon & Garfunkel (II): from disbandment to success

I’ve been itching for more and more Simon & Garfunkel lately, so I suppose it’s time to back to them, after writing about their debut album a two or three months ago. Although Wednesday Morning, 3 AM was a lovely bunch of songs, the duo were not successful, and Paul Simon went to England, where he recorded The Paul Simon Songbook, which wasn’t didn’t make a big splash either. Despite that, Simon was happy in England and wasn’t planning to go anywhere else.

And here is when one of these funny twists of fate happened.

While Paul Simon enjoyed life in England, a late-night disc jockey at WBZ-FM in Boston began to spin "The Sound of Silence" overnight, where it found a college demographic, which extended along the East Coast. This led Tom Wilson, the song’s producer, to remix the song, overdubbing electric instrumentation with the same musicians who backed Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. Simon & Garfunkel didn’t know about this until the remix was released, and even though the success was big, the duo weren’t happy with it (actually, Simon was “horrified” when he first heard it).




But success can’t be ignored, and by January 1966, more than one million copies had been sold. Simon went back to New York, leaving his girlfriend Kathy Chitty in England. The new album was recorded in three weeks, and it consisted of re-recorded cuts from The Paul Simon Songbook and four new songs. The new album was called Sounds of Silence, because the wave of the hit had to be ridden, obviously. Although some critics considered the album a manufactured imitation of folk, the success was immediate.

The difference between Wednesday Morning, 3AM and Sounds of Silence is huge. In the former, as I said in the post about that album, “the album’s formula is simple: guitar, bass (which is often not very noticeable) and then banjo on Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”. Here, the beat is amplified, and electric guitars can be found in about half of the songs.

And now comes the hardest part... which song is best? Hell, it’s such a well-rounded album, I just can’t choose. From the new version of The Sound of Silence (or Sounds of Silence, or The Sounds of Silence, you choose), which is great despite what Paul Simon may have thought at first, to I Am a Rock, a childhood favourite of mine, the album is filled with great tracks. There’s room for romantic stuff, and I mean really beautiful romantic stuff, such as Kathy’s Song, dedicated to the aforementioned Kathy Chitty and April Come She Will; more rocking songs such as Blessed and Somewhere They Can’t Find Me (a revision of Wednesday Morning, 3AM); sad songs such as A Most Peculiar Man and the harpsichord-garnished Leaves That Are Green. The duo’s voices were always on top of all that, of course (except for the short instrumental Anji).







Simon and Garfunkel were there to stay. They would also take more time to produce their next album, which was also excellent... but that’s another story.

P.S: thanks a lot to my grandmother, who gave me this CD when I was twelve or thirteen years old.

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