Monday, 16 September 2013

Simon and Garfunkel "Sounds Of Silence" (1966) (Album Review)

Simon and Garfunkel “Sounds Of Silence” (1966)

The Sound Of Silence/Leaves That Are Green/Blessed/Kathy’s Song/Somewhere They Can’t Find Me/Anji//Richard Cory/A Most Peculiar Man/April Come She Will/We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’/I Am A Rock

“Hello ‘The Sound Of Silence’ my old friend, I’ve come to review you yet again, because a vision of this album softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains, within the sounds of Alan’s Archives...”

If ever there was an album that seems like it was made by fate and is a lesson in life never to give up on your dreams, then ‘Sounds Of Silence’ is it. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have been making records under a varying list of wild and wacky names together and apart since they were fifteen years old – that’s nine whole years of keeping the faith, when everyone around them must have been telling them to stop and get a ‘proper’ job. In 1964 they think they’ve cracked it, Paul Simon suddenly finding his ‘voice’ as a spokesperson for disenfranchised, lonely, alienated youth and the duo record some of their greatest work cheaply and quickly, with just an acoustic guitar as folk tradition dictated. The duo are so confident about their news endeavour that Art Garfunkel briefly gives up his studies. The result, ‘Wednesday Morning 3 AM’, is a severely under-rated folk-rock gem, full of the first buds from a brilliant songwriting flower as well as the occasional gospel cover thorn. After nearly a full decade of getting by on belief in their own talent, Simon and Garfunkel finally admit defeat, splitting for the third (or is it fourth?) time and going their separate ways, Art back to architecture classes and Paul moving on to England, where his heart lies. Both of them have given up on the dream that has sustained them across most of the past decade since [1] ‘Hey Schoolgirl!’ turned music from being a fun hobby into a potential career. Like Dustin Hoffman they’ve had to both knuckle down to prepare for a future they don’t really believe in and yet that seems the only possible future, Arty in architecture and Paul at best working odd-jobs in between nights at London folk-clubs where the audiences are already dwindling in the wake of The Beatles. There is no future anymore, just a past with a record they can look back and wonder over in their old age (two in Paul’s case with ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ selling even less copies than ‘Wednesday Morning 3AM’). Neither of them are prepared for what happens next – especially after an attempt to record an ‘extra’ single in April 1965 is abandoned, considered unreleasable by Columbia (to be fair it is ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’, an obvious attempt to sound hip and commercial – they may have had a point).

Producer Tom Wilson and engineer Roy Halee might not have had the go-ahead for a second Simon and Garfunkel album, but they still considered the duo to be simply one small break-through away from superstardom. They went on to work with other acts but would wonder out loud to the other and anyone else around about why their big hopes for the future seemed to have bombed when inferior musicians seemed to make it. Strangely, though, history seems to have ‘lost’ the name of the person who did more than anything to provide the impetus for a Simon and Garfunkel reunion: a disc jockey in Boston (on WBZ-FM) who particularly liked ‘The Sound Of Silence’ from 1964 and played it a lot; far from being cross about his obsession, his audience began writing in and asking more about the disc. There was clearly a cult following for this record that lasted beyond the sales figures. When The Beatles came to town in 1964 and changed the landscape overnight, The Byrds going even further down the folk-rock road the following year, Wilson thought he’d cracked it and decided to overdub some ‘Beatley’ type electric instruments onto ‘The Sound Of Silence’. Having failed to track the duo down (Art was busy studying and Paul stayed in a new English town every night without a regular address, long before the days of mobile phones) Wilson went ahead anyway and gave the duo that last great gamble they didn’t even know they had. When they did later hear the single folk purist Paul reportedly got the hump; Art considered the result merely ‘fair’. Chances are the duo wouldn’t have been interested in re-recording the song if asked anyway – it had been a flop once already, so why would some new instruments matter? However it made all the difference by giving the duo something they had’t had since 1957: timing. The world had fallen in love with folk-rock, The Beatles, The Hollies and particularly The Searchers pioneering the boom even though The Byrds came along and pretended that they had invented it. The world was crying out for thoughtful folk songs with the muscle of rock and roll and suddenly, thanks to that brave overdubbing decision, Simon and Garfunkel sounded contemporarty for the first time. Word of mouth meant the record took off (with yet more plugs from Boston and later elsewhere) and after all that hard work and missed chances for nearly a decade the duo became overnight stars without even knowing it – the ‘household name’ business won’t take off until the ‘Graduate’ film in 1968, but with just that one superb single Simon and Garfunkel have done enough to make some money, set the charts alight and prove that they have a ‘voice’ that deserves to be heard, not to mention sales enough to make this second LP.

The trouble for Simon and Garfunkel in this period is that they’ve already adjusted to life without the other and – in once case – without music. Art will continue as a student into 1966, sure that their success this time around will be as fleeting as it was in 1957. Paul, meanwhile, seems to have been content to become an exotic busker in a strange land, living hand-to-mouth and regaling local English folk lovers with tales of Greenwich village. He’s also found Kathy, perhaps the love of his life, who was so determined to stay out of the spotlight Paul had quite a decision to make when he got the call to record this follow-up with Arty as she made it clear she wouldn’t move to America and lose him to superstardom (in the end the pair are together until around 1968 anyway when the pressure gets too much and its obvious Simon and Garfunkel aren’t going away). Moreover, Paul had finally made a solo album under his own real name for the first time, ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’; flop as it was it proved to Paul that he no longer needed his old friend Arty from high school. Worse still, the initial rush of great songs that had poured out of him (used up on ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Songbook’) seemed to be over as his ambition faded away: of the eleven songs on the comparatively short ‘Sounds Of Silence’ album four of them are re-recordings of tracks from ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’, one of them is the overdubbed title track from the previous year, another (‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Me’) a clumsy re-write of the title track of ‘Wednesday Morning’ with almost the same lyrics, one of the ‘new’ tracks an old folk song with only a little ‘new’ music (‘April Come She Will’) and one of them (‘Anji’) is an acoustic guitar instrumental Paul learnt whilst in England. Even ‘We’ve Got A Groovey Thing Goin’ is an outtake left over from abandoned sessions in April 1965 that had already featured on the flip of the ‘Sound Of Silence’ re-release. That leaves a grand total of just two new song exclusive to this album written in the six months since ‘Songbook’ – ‘Blessed’ and ‘Richard Cory’ (and even the latter is a re-write of a Victorian poem a hundred years or so old). Paul never was the most prolific of writers but you’d expect him to have a few more songs ready; perhaps, after so many ‘failures’ he’d simply given up and adjusted to his new life as an unknown Yank in London? (The wonder is that there weren’t more songs ‘rescued’ from ‘Songbook’ or even ‘Wednesday Morning’: whilst ‘A Simple Desultory Phillippic’ is the kind of in-joke you can only do if you’re unknown or established songs like [113] ‘Patterns’ and [112] ‘Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall’ sound like the best of the bunch to me whilst [110] ‘On The Side Of The Hill’ is too great a song to only be used as the ‘Canticle’ section of [119] ‘Scarborough Fair’ the following year. In addition, the ‘Old Friends’ S+G box set issued around the millennium (and later the CD re-issues of this album) featured an outtake from the album sessions, [128] ‘Blues Run The Game’, a cover song that’s perhaps the pinnacle of the small handful of S+G outtakes with silky harmonies, bluesy backing and intelligent lyrics (by folky Jackson C Frank). How this song got left off the album when the likes of ‘Groovy Thing’ and ‘Anji’ got though I’ll never know. A ‘Sound Of Silence’ style overdubbing of [48] ‘He Was My Brother’ or [96] ‘Sparrow’ would also have made for an even more remarkable album, making ithis record always feel a little undercooked at just  eleven songs and a despicably short running time.

Still, what we do have here is the sound of a twenty-four year old (‘though he won’t be for long...’) songwriter whose finally worked out how to weave the pop commerciality of his early work and the sophisticated but un-commercial work of his recent ‘folk’ period, with the benefit of a perfectly syncrhonised singing partner however much Paul might have grumbled about the reunion.  Some of these songs are staggering achievements for a then-unknown songwriter life seems to have passed by and its strange in retrospect that no one else (barring perhaps the BBC who get Paul to appear on their ‘Five To Ten’ slot) seemed to notice how perfect a writer Paul was for his troubled-yet-hopeful times, including a lot of his audience judging by that one London show that’s survived on bootleg. Like ‘Wednesday Morning’, when this album gets it right it gets it very right: ‘Leaves That Are Green’ is a great folk-pop song that manages to be catchy without sacrificing depth; ‘Kathy’s Song’ is arguably the first ‘real’ heartfelt love song of the 1960s written from the heart not to an audience, Paul admitting to his fears and doubts and homesickness as well as his love and hope for the future; ‘I Am A Rock’ is a classic song with the story very much hidden between-the-lines, even the thickest of listeners (e.g. The Spice Girls) surely picking up on the fact that the narrator’s been recently hurt although he never breathes a word of it; better yet come two ‘class’ songs from different perspectives, the poor hopeless frustrated suicide of ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ who is as misunderstood in death as he was in life and ‘Richard Cory’, when a man in poverty hears of a millionaires’ suicide and still feels no sympathy for him. All that is without ‘The Sound Of Silence’, a classic song given an extra added bite and threat that the acoustic guitars couldn’t compensate for, however much I still prefer the haunting sparseness of the original. No one was writing songs like these in 1965: John Lennon has only just learnt to ‘connect’ with his inner angst on ‘Help!’ a couple of months earlier, Paul McCartney won’t catch up till ‘Eleanor Rigby’ six months klater and The Stones and The Kinks are nowhere near as yet (The Beach Boys come closest, but with a four-albums-a-year workload their great-to-ghastly-filler ratio is even lower than S+G’s). That’s two-thirds of an amazing album, catchy yet deep, accessible to rock ears without sacrificing the depth that folk still had over its younger counterpart in this era.

Of course like its predecessor but more so, when this record is bad its also pretty awful: the Christianity-baiting ‘Blessed’ is a dangerous song for its age and has some great ideas but its the difference between an up-and-coming mid twenties-year-old who wants to make a point and an older, wiser songwriter whose lived it; ‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Me’ is a re-write of one of the weakest early Paul Simon originals and somehow manages to pass over even the charm of that recording in favour of some uncharacteristic shouting and bluesy wailing; ‘Anji’/’Angie’ is a cute instrumental but very out of place in the middle of the record and much better played by composer Davey Graham on his own albums (Paul admitted later it was partly here as filler and partly to give an old friend some royalties, which is fair enough I suppose); ‘April Come She Will’ wastes a wonderful angelic Art Garfunkel lead literally on a nursery rhyme and ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’ is the start of an unfortunate trend of Simon and Garfunkel trying too hard to appear ‘hip’ (the sleeve of the record notes that this song was made ‘just for fun’; let’s hope they did have fun because there’s not much fun for the listener!) This is an album of two halves then and arguably the patchiest S+G record until the half-drop dead gorgeous, half nonsense ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – although you have to say the sheer brilliance of the album’s better songs more than makes up for the mistakes.

Weirdly, Columbia didn’t pick Tom Wilson as producer for this album, despite his sudden brainwave, enthusiasm and the fact that every decision he’d made so far had been spot-on. You’d think that a producer who’d had the nerve to request an expensive overdub session and insisted on a flop being re-released (which had magically turned into a surprise hit and money-maker) would have the record company laying out the red carpet for him. Instead, Columbia appears to have insisted on Bob Johnston as producer, a man with a tremendous track record in folk circles and far more experience, but not really the kind of producer a nervous young duo needed (especially one who’d already probably spent longer in a studio than Johnston over the years). Reports have it that Johnston didn’t like the material that much (especially ‘I Am A Rock’, which only made the album when it was running short; ironically it became the ‘single’ from the album and another big hit) and wanted the record done quickly so he could move on to ‘bigger’ projects (the album was made in just three weeks; by 1966 standards that’s short indeed – ‘Revolver’ started around this time took The Beatles about three months!) Luckily Roy Halee was on the duo’s side more often than not, but the trio’s relationship wasn’t quite what it ended up being in later years (both Simon and Garfunkel admitted bowing to their producer even though they instinctively trusted their engineer’s ear more). To be fair, though, a lot of Johnston’s decisions are spot-on as well. The running order for this album is almost certainly down to him and works very well: the run of ‘suicide’ songs on side two rfeel as if they belong together and the mood of this album just flows neatly, from anger to alienation to happiness in such subtle strokes that the listener hardly notices. What’s more, a lesser producer could easily have swamped this album with the ‘Beatley’ electric leanings of the ‘Sound Of Silence’ single; instead Johnston reigns the sound in, plugging in when the songs demand it (‘Blessed’ ‘Leaves That Are Green’ and ‘Richard Cory’) without swamping Paul’s more delicate acoustic compositions (‘Kathy’s Song’, ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ ‘April Come She Will’). No wonder this record did so well: almost neatly half folk to half rock, it is the in-sound of early 1966 before ‘freakbeat’ and early psychedelia change the soundscape of the 1960s forever. Simon and Garfunkel might not have come up with that on their own.

We keep talking about ‘timing’ on this site as if its something as important as melodies, lyrics or production (perhaps more so) but that goes double with this record because it finally purts right the only real thing that was wrong with the last two. Folk-rock was in (or at least it was in 1965; Simon and Garfunkel just about get away with it too in April 1966), thanks to a growing interest from the fab four (on albums like ‘Beatles For Sale’ and ‘Help!’), the rise of Bob Dylan, the peak years of The Searchers and the sudden spectacular rise of The Byrds, who fitted squarely down the ‘middle’ of Bob and The Beatles. Simon and Garfunkel are I would say an even better fit for that halfway line abd the perfect ‘new’ thing for their age: intelligent, scholarly and singing about the problems of the age with the outlook of the young and the mature voice of their elders, to a beat you can dance to if you so wish. No wonder so many students fell in love with this album, giving S+G a cult fanbase of millions even before they hit the mainstream with [138] ‘Mrs Robinson’ and [144] ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Just have a look at the cover which says it all: two students, draped in college scarves (only one of whom is entitled to wear them, paul having dropped out of his a term or two in) apparently in deep philosophical discussion and interrupted by the cameraman in deep flow. Both are the kind of young man you’d like to bring home to mother – your problem would be trying to stop them talking about ‘deep’ subjects long enough to have dinner. While dressing up for school would have been deeply wrong for any other era, it fits the late 1965/early 1966 vibe that ‘there has to be more to life than this’ and that being intellectual rebels are maybe a better way to go than ebeing merely greasy bikers. The cover is also a natural successful to the even better one for ‘Wednesday Morning’, when a staggeringly young looking S+G are viewing ‘the words of the prophets written on the subway walls’, here not lost in some alien landscape but – apparently – out for a stroll in their free periods from college. They are posh, after years of being working class being in fashion, but not by too much. That shouldn’t get in the way of the wonderfully barbed tongue Paul has at times on this album though: the rich have never been as subtly or as well ticked off as they are on ‘A Most Peculiar Man’; equally the class divide has never been treated as finely as it is on ‘Richard Cory’; these two songs and anti-religious crusade‘Blessed’ really are quite far ahead of their times, damning the very academic but detached world that S+G seem to be part of on the front cover.

If there’s an overall ‘concept’ on this album, then it’s one of mis-communication and not judging by appearances. Perhaps taking his cue from the success of ‘Sounds Of Silence’ (recognised as Paul’s best song at the time, even before it was a hit) ‘Blessed’ is the tale of a religion that’s lost its way and no longer ‘speaks’ to the worshippers, leaving the ‘meek’ to be metaphorically beaten up when the church should be helping; ‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Me’ is the tale of a man who seems to have everything – but to keep that lifestyle up he’s resorted to robbing ‘hard-liqour stores’; ‘Richard Cory’ might have millions in the bank but his life is a hard, empty slog and there’s no love lost between the rich overseer and the poverty-stricken workers under him, who both fail to understand the responsibilities of the other; ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ is a gossipy discussion between the landlady and friends of a man who died by his own hand in one of her own rooms – given all she knew and understood about her lodger the walls between them seem much thicker than the cardboard-thin building they were in (’No one in turn ever spoke to him...’); finally ‘I Am A Rock’ is the ultimate song of mis-communication as the hurt narrator so convinces himself that everyone is out to betray him that he locks himself away, afraid to show his ‘real’ self least he ever has to feel the pain of betrayal so badly again. Of the two songs here, only two are ‘happy’: ‘The Leaves That Are Green’, which ‘defeats’ the theme of mis-communication by recognising that hurts and slights are fleeting and life is short and ‘Kathy’s Song’ in which a troubled soul finally finds someone he can talk to honestly; by sharing the burden with another person he ‘breaks’ the spell of silence that casts itself over this album like a fog and at the end ‘I stand alone without beliefs – the only truth I know is you’. That’s quite an accomplished for a writer so young and so inexperienced at this sort of work (Paul was still writing primarily ‘novelty’ songs as late as 1963) and – even over and above ‘Wednesday Morning’ and ‘Songbook’ – the first flowerings of a career that still continues to impress and amaze today.  

‘Sounds Of Silence’ is an album of beginnings then, of a talented songwriter and two talented singers finally finding their voice and audience and flying off into the distance. And yet, the seeds of the troubles that will hit Simon and Garfunkel just three years down the line are already on display. You’d expect Simon and Garfunkel to be ecstatic about their unexpected fame and fortune, but they paid a heavy price for their unexpected ‘hit’ in the long run. Garfunkel finally had to choose between his studies and his music, something that he’d always successfully balanced till now and Paul was edgy and rather upset that he had to leave his girlfriend and a country he’d grown fond of to make a bit of money (he vowed in interviews at the time that ‘I’ll hang around for six months to make some money – and then fly back to England for good’; ironically S+G tried to persuade their promoter to book a UK tour but it turned out Paul had already been ‘earning money’ in a foreign climate for more than the allotted six months of a tax year so they weren’t allowed to earn any more). The fact that this fame turned out to be permanent rather than temporary seems to have caught them both by surprise. After all, the attitudes of Simon and Garfunkel’s attitude were bound to be wary: they’d been conned before by the music business swallowing them up and spitting them out and they’d thrown everything they could at the music industry down the years attempting every style, mood, tempo, funny accent and gimmick in order to get noticed – had they really just got their breakthrough without even being present for the overdubbing sessions? What’s more, the reunion was not on their own terms: both men had got used to working alone and were far less enthusiastic about this album than they had been on ‘Wednesday Morning 3 AM’; ironically enough this first break-through album was about the only one they’d convinced themselves wouldn’t be a ‘hit’. Paul actively had to go back and re-record ‘old’ songs he thought he’d already got right once on ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ and the fact that he only adds another two songs (one of which seemingly embarrassed him at the time) suggests that he didn’t want to ‘lose’ any key songs on yet another attempt at duo stardom. Garfunkel only gets one lead vocal – on ‘April Come She Will’ – and that is simply an altered nursery rhyme/folk song to keep him quiet (surprisingly, given Arty’s new found ‘power’ over his partner – in the sense that Paul’s solo album had flopped and the two hits he’d had now had been with Garfunkel – he seems to have had no input into the tracklisting, unlike ‘Wednesday Morning’ when he provided the more ‘traditional’ choices of [97] ‘Benedictus’ and [99] ‘Peggy-O’). 

By the way, what is this famous album called exactly?! As far as I can tell it’s called ‘Sounds Of Silence’ and so is different to the song ‘The Sound Of Silence’, implying that the album features ten more takes on the sound of alienation and miss-communication. However, my old vinyl copy (admittedly a re-print) actually calls this album ‘The Sound Of Silence’ on the spine while often the song is called ‘Sounds Of Silence’ by mistake and many fans/reviewers/pedants/people who should get out more insist on calling the album by that name ‘The Sound Of Silence’. As far as I can tell, that’s a mistake and I’ll refer to the album as ‘Sounds Of Silence’ from now on; however if it really offends you – and I’ve noticed during my years writing this website that while Beatle fans are the most pernicketty and Paul McCartney fans the most likely to complain about something I write, the S and G fans are the ones most likely to love correcting my grammar and syntax -  simply copy this review into some ‘word’ document and use the ‘replace’ button (top right) to replace every instant of ‘Sounds Of Silence’ with ‘The Sound Of Silence’! Better now? While we’re on similar subjects, some copies of this album (my old vinyl one again for instance) have tie-in single [122] ‘Homeward Bound’ as part of the track listing (we can see why some companies did it on their various re-issues as this is a very short running album after all). However the original album and most of the CD issues have placed this song on the ‘Parsley, Sage’ album, which is where we’ve chosen to review it.  

The Songs:

[98c] ‘The Sound Of Silence’, is – for those who’ve skipped our review of the original acoustic [98a] version – one of Paul Simon’s greatest songs. This incantation to darkness and isolation is so powerfully written that the duo couldn’t fail to have a hit with it, even if it took them the long way round to get there. On paper adding electric instruments, as old producer Tom Wilson took it upon himself to do, seems like a daft move: this song needs to be sparse, dry, vulnerable and I can see why the song’s creator was so offended when he foundf out what had been done in his absence. Personally I would still take the acoustic version every time: it’s tougher, more brittle and you can hear both Paul’s acoustic guitar and those stunning harmonies that bit more clearly. However the extra weight the rock and roll power gives this song takes it to a whole different place, with the impression of a whole generation screaming and a giant wall keeping all of us apart from one another. Impressively this new arrangement – as insitigated by a producer who wouldn’t have been used to doing this sort of thing – adds to the song rather than detracts, leaving the vocals front and centre and not doing the obvious thing by simply wiping over Paul’s acoustic playing. Uncredited on the original sleeve, none of the four players who appear on this overdub ever worked with the duo again (or probably even met them) so a quick belated round of applause to guitarists Al Gorgoni and Vinnie Bell plus bassist Joe Mack and drummer Bobby Gregg who all really understand this song at a time when precious few people ever seemed to. The closing trill of amplified arpeggios is particularly moving, like warm blood has been added to the amphibian narrator by the end of the song despite his sense of detachment. Interestingly, Simon and Garfunkel never ‘played’ an electric performance of this song: although they’ve performed it many times together and apart they’ve always stuck to their original acoustic arrangement, never the one that was a hit. And what a hit: Simon and Garfunkel, half an ocean apart, had to hurriedly get back together in December 1965 when this song rose near the top of the charts again. There is a lovely tale that they met up in Art’s beaten up old car somewhere in Queen’s, in shock as they wondered what to do next and the upheaval getting back together would mean in their lives, getting quite upset about it all. Suddenly this song came on their radio with the message that this song was the next big thing. Paul deadpanned on cue: ‘Gee I bet those guys are having the time of their lives while we’re stuck here in this old car in our old neighbourhood’. The pair then giggled, as only two old schoolfriends can: after all those years of vainly chasing after her, Simon and Garfunkel only found success after they’d realised that maybe they didn’t need her to be happy after all. However a musical world without them doesn’t bear thinking about. As Arty says about this song in his eloquent sleevenotes (for ‘Wednesday Morning’), ‘The Sound Of Silence’ is a ‘major work...more than either of us expected’. The leap from Paul’s rockabilly fixation to this in just a year (via [47] ‘Carlos Dominguez’) isone of the biggest in folk or rock and it makes for the perfect way to re-launch the pair’s career as few albums ever made can have started with a song more powerful or iconic than this one.

If your entry to Simon and Garfunkel started here, with their first strong-selling album and you’d bought the LP on the strength of the single you might have expected more ruminations on alienation, some poetry-set-to-lyrics, maybe some moody electric-acoustic instrumentals. You probably weren’t expecting [105b] ‘The Leaves That Are Green’ as the next track, a delightful bouncy catchy song about aging that first appeared in acoustic form on ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’. This version is by far the superior, though, Art’s sunny harmonies really bringing out the prettiness of the melody and a memorable harpsichord accompaniment (Larry Knechtel being the first of the band’s regular sidemen from here onwards to make himself heard) giving the song a sense of ‘history’ and timelessness. Given that Paul was just ‘twenty-one years when I wrote this song’ (and twenty-two when he recorded it for ‘Songbook’ – interesting that he didn’t update it to the twenty-four he was here) the lyrics are terrifically mature, the narrator relishing his youth because he knows he won’t be young forever. Back in the 1960s, perhaps the most youth obsessed decade of them all (‘Hope I die before I get old!’) this was brave stuff indeed. Some lyrics in this song are, it’s true, more inspired than others (throwing pebbles in a brook to see the ripples is a theme that must be on about its 20th appearance on this website by now – and the middle eight of ‘hello, hello, hello, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye – that’s all there is’ must be the single laziest piece of writing Paul Simon ever did). The first couple of verses, though, are some of Simon’s best work, writing some memorable lines about how love ‘withers in the wind’ and lost loves ‘fade in the night’, while ideas he was destined to write can be lost forever if he gets distracted, ‘a poem I meant to write’. Indeed, this song is basically a precursor to George Harrison’s better known ‘All Things Must Pass’, talking about ‘endings’ as a natural part of life and adding that we should be happy rather than scared to embrace change. Paul still sings this song in concert occasionally today (unlike most of his early work barring ‘Silence’) adding ‘Boy I sure wasn’t 22 for long...!’; fans love this song too, for its quirky engaging style and the fact that its happy take on aging is so different to its author’s usual style. One of the better tracks on the album and the perfect solution to the idea that Simon and Garfunkel needed to commercialise their songs to sell more copies – I’m surprised, actually, that this wasn’t rush-released as a sequel over the more dour closer ‘I Am A Rock’.

[114] ‘Blessed’ is a real oddity. It’s not because the song is religious – God is a theme of many a Paul Simon songin the future and has indeed grown in prominence in his work more and more as he gets older and closer to finding out which of his two ‘theories’ of the afterlife are closest to the truth (a bureaucratic nightmare of queues or a doo-wop filled paradise filled with song). It’s not even just that this song is anti-religious, as that happens too in the future, although it does seem strange that a songwriter who got his first big break performing on BBC Radio’s ‘Five To Ten’ religious slot should be quite this openly venomous. No, it’s the style: full of angular, crushing notes and written deliberately as an ‘electric’ song (perhaps Paul’s first) full of crashing chords and Rickenbacker echo. Paul apparently wrote the song after taking shelter from the rain in St Anne’s Church in Soho. As a Jew he had never been in Christian Church before and the contrast between the ‘sermon on the mount’ quoted in the song being indifferently delivered in stark contrast to the dark looks and mutterings he was being given in his shabby, busking state struck him as hypocritical. Imagining himself a beggar whose ‘walked round Soho for the last night or so’ Paul listens to the words of how ‘the meek shall inherit the Earth’ and a series of clever quick-stepping rhymes (‘Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon ratted on asks ‘Oh Lord, why have you forsaken me?’ The tone of the song isn’t a philosophical argument as per later, either, but an angry rant against organised religion spouting ideas they no longer practice. Like many of Paul’s best songs its by giving a voice to those who he feels in society don’t have one that this song comes alive and Paul admits that instead of being welcoming or ‘Christian’ the ‘church service makes me nervous’ because of the difference between what the people there teach and what they say. You can still see this to this day in any English church that is asked to welcome in someone poor or downtrodden which interrupts the ladies of leisure who run them. Notably though this isn’t a full condemnation of the religion akin to, say, Neil Young’s or John Lennon’s, merely against the people who don’t practise what they preach. The very ending, though, is mysterious: why does Paul sing that he’s ‘tended my own garden for much too long?’ Has he suddenly switched into the body of one of the congregation whose suddenly seen the selfishness of their ways? Overall the effect is a bit too OTT, the combination of Simon and Garfunkel shouting out dissonantly, in stark contrast to their sweeter vocals across the rest of the album and their career, the bitter-sounding lyrics and the howling guitar attacks combined at least one experiment too far. That said, this is a brave song for the period and Simon and Garfunkel should be applauded for trying to do something like this back when they were still relatively unknown and didn’t carry as much weight. The later, elder Simon and Garfunkel (together and apart) would have tackled this subject a bit more subtly though, you sense. In fact, the evolution from this song to Paul’s reverential [201] ‘Silent Eyes’ is quite pronounced, though whether that’s because of the change in religion or what comes with growing older is another matter.

[109b] Kathy’s Song’ is a re-recording of the song from ‘Paul Simon Songbook’ and features a slightly better vocal from Paul but otherwise sounds more or less the same; full credit to Bob Johnston for keeping the simplicity and fragility of the original intact instead of treating it like a ‘demo’.  Kathy was the name of Paul’s media-shy girlfriend and the pair really did meet in England ‘where my heart lies’. The first real love of Paul’s life, this song sounds like a letter of devotion set to music, written during one of Paul’s spells in America recording ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’ in April 1965. Like many a ‘real’ love song, it almost seems as if we’re listening in to a private conversation and it must have been a shock at the time to hear such a seemingly confident and ‘hip’ songwriter pouring out his hopes and fears like this (‘I don’t know why I spend my time writing songs I can’t believe, with words that tear and strain to rhyme’ – perfectionist to the end, even Paul’s couplet about not being much of a writer is beautifully poetic and scans perfectly!)  Paul’s lyrics are rarely better, summing up the British weather in one pithy line (believe me, if he’d gone to Carlisle he’d be cheering that it was only drizzling, not snowing!) and admitting to his beloved that without her behind him, believing in him and giving him direction, he’s only a pale shadow of himself. On an album about the problems of people not communicating properly, the fact that one person can shape another for the good seems like a revelation and makes for a highly successful, poingnant song. In truth this is more ‘Paul’s song’ than ‘Kathy’s song though – she’s more a ghostly muse in this song than a ‘real’ character and is much more fully formed in the other song that mentions her by name, [132] ‘America’. The difference between the two performances are at their most pronounced too, not in terms of arrangement but in terms of feeling: the ‘Paul Simon Songbook’ version is a dim and distant memory, an obstacle that will never be there again, but Paul ‘feels’ this re-recording so much more, knowing that he’s recording it for an album that actually has a chance of selling this time on the back of a hit single. His vocal has in fact rarely been bettered across this book, although it’s a shame that there isn’t room for Art’s vocals anywhere (weirdly for such a personal song, Art gets to sing this one on live performances – which either suggests that Paul thought the more romantic lyrics were more in his line or that the two parted company much earlier than the history books have always suggested).  

[115] ‘Somewhere They Can’t Find Me’ is one of the lesser songs on the album, effectively an electric reading of the title track of [103] ‘Wednesday Morning 3 AM’ with many of the lyrics (though oddly not the worst ones) re-written and a new catchier chorus added. Paul always seemed to be fonder of that song than by rights he should have been – its arguably the weakest, most derivative original on that first S+G album and yet it ended up being the title track; it makes some kind of sense than that after the success of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ with electric overdubs Paul should think about repeating the same trick on another song and this ‘gangster’ track sounds on paper as if it should be made for an electric feel. However lightning doesn’t strike twice and the result falls a bit flat, even if that new chorus of ‘creep down the alleyway, fly down the highway’ does catch the ear, adding more background to the narrator’s panic (even if it still doesn’t explain the bit we all want to know, his motive for robbing the liquor store in the first place). The trouble is not with the arrangement, which does a good job of ‘Beatleifying’ the original into a turbulent swarm of keyboard, guitars and a bucket load of percussion but with the original song which isn’t changed nearly enough. Paul’s usually good at writing for underdogs, putting lines into the mouths of characters from [152] ‘The Boxer’ to ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and [125] ‘A Poem On The Underground Wall’ that turn what should be ‘losers’ into ‘winners’ for one brief shining moment, perfectly conveying their frustration and hopelessness and transforming societal rejects into mini-heroes. The trouble is that the narrator of this song (in both versions) is so unlikable: he actively brings on his problems by holding up a 1960s Americana version of ‘Bargain Booze’ without any thought about what it might do to the life of the fiancé he sleeps next to on his return or the poor shopkeeper who might have been scarred for life. At least this ‘second’ version sounds like the events being described though: turbulent and suffocating, with some truly great Simon and Garfunkel harmonies on the new refrain ‘before they come to catch me I’ll be gone’. A definite improvement on the original then – but why Simon and Garfunkel returned to this song at all is beyond me (now an electric re-recording of [44] ‘He Was My Brother’ – that could really have been something!)

If the opening to [116] ‘Anji’ (as this folk classic is traditionally called) or ‘Angie’ (as Columbia accidentally re-printed her name for this record) sounds familiar, then that’s because you’ve probably just heard the opening guitar lick on the last song. Rather than try and hide the fact that Paul had nicked a bit off one of his favourite instrumentals learnt in London, Columbia seem to be flaunting the fact by putting the two alongside each other. Not that composer Davey Graham was likely to complain – Paul added this full cover to the album deliberately as a favour to an old friend he admired and for years, until he too became established, with the royalties from this album the most money Graham ever made in a single go. A nice gesture then, but as the only instrumental in S+G’s canon this song doesn’t half sound out of place and chances are Art Garfunkel isn’t even there for the session. Good as Paul’s playing is – ‘Anji’ being a legendarily hard and complex piece to play – he’s no Davey Graham (or even a Bert Jansch, our old friend from our Pentangle book who covered this song too) and is all too clearly the ‘pupil’ rather than the ‘master’ here (amazingly Davey was even younger than Paul was here when he wrote the song, coming up with the basic chord progression and melody when he was nineteen and naming it after his then-girlfriend. He didn’t name himself after her surname though, so ‘Jerry Landis’ still had one up on him there!) Still, given the speed with which this album was made some filler on the album was inevitable and the duo could have done worse than bring the world the first commercial recording of this soon-to-be acknowledged classic (although I’m still puzzled as to why S+G didn’t re-record [113] ‘Patterns’ or[112] ‘Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall’ for another year). Incidentally, I’ve only just noticed that there’s yet another riff here that Paul re-uses – the centre phrase of ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’ heard at 1:35, which will be cropping up in four song’s time (Simon and Garfunkel didn’t hide their influences very well did they?!)

[117] ‘Richard Cory’ opens side two with an absolutely classic song, Paul’s newest at the time of these sessions. Based loosely on a poem of the same name by Edward Arlington Robinson this is a brutal, smoky, urban song where everyone feels trapped and nobody comes out of it well, everyone jealous of everyone else. Although none of the lines are left intact from the original, there really aren’t all that many differences between the poem and the song: Paul simply fleshes out the details of the characters, adding in the operas and charity works but Richard Cory is still very much the ‘gentleman from sole to crown’ of the original and still kills himself with a ‘bullet through his head’ in both versions. The narrator is in fact not Richard Cory as many non-fans assume but someone un-named who works in his factory and who dreams of having all the money and fame and power of his boss. Richard Cory probably doesn’t see it that way: his life is an empty grind of being seen in the right circles, full of a responsibility and loneliness that gnaws away at him, cut off from the people in his posh office. So the narrator is surprised when the newspaper reports starkly state that ‘Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head’. He ought to feel sorry about his old boss, but he doesn’t, instead hitting straight back into the catchy ‘wish that I could be’ chorus, desperate for the sort of problems when he has to work long hard hours or die. The hint here in this capitalist diatribe is that the distribution of wealth is stupid: Richard Cory has too much of it, worries about what to do with it and how to be seen using it not to mention getting more of it (he already owns ‘one half of this whole town’), while the workers just a couple of rooms away from him at his factory toil away for peanuts; both sides would benefit from a bit more of what the other has. Equally the song juxtaposes the boss’ longing for the lack of responsibilities of their minions and the workers longing for their money of their overseers. Both men are trapped and might have understood the other better had they talked – but in the great Paul Simon tradition these are two men living such completely different lives they never had a hope of talking to one another. A terrific punchy song, with a stark muscly backing track (impressive for someone not used to working with a full band yet) perfectly suited to the song’s theme and some wonderful vocals (particularly Paul’s sarcastic second verse where charities are ‘grateful for Cory’s patronage and thanked him very much’), this is a terrific song and a clear album highlight, much covered but never bettered. Wings used to perform this song as a medley with ‘Picasso’s Last Words’ on their 1976 world tour where it gained a new lease of life (you can hear Denny Laine sending up the folk protest of the lyrics on ‘Wings Over America’ where the singer, fed up after another drugs bust and surrounding media coverage, thinks about the sort of media-backed responsible music star image he longs for and improvises the line ‘I wish that I could be...John Denver!’) The sleeve of the ‘Sounds Of Silence’ record adds that the song is used here ‘with apologies to Mr Robinson’; on the contrary Edward would surely have been thrilled at such a talented writer adding his own slant whilst staying true to the spirit of the original poem and breathing into it a new lease of life so that people think of it as a living breathing part of modern lofie rather than a dusty relic.

[108b] ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ is another album highlight about a suicide (not the kind of sentence I write very often – the only other time must have been covering ‘Who By Numbers’ five years ago!), cleverly constructed and magnificently performed. Another piece first featured on the ‘Paul Simon Songbook’, the work has grown in stature and confidence tenfold here, Garfunkel’s cherubic harmonies the perfect accompaniment on a song that sounds so sweet until you analyse it properly. Tongues are a-wag outside a landlady’s house as gossip ‘Mrs Riardan’ tells everyone she can about how one of her tenants died on her property in dramatic circumstances. The line ‘he was a most peculiar man, and she should know – she lived upstairs from him’ is a masterstroke, the song widening out to show that no one really knew the poor deceased victim of life at all and the landlady might as well have lived on another planet. Why should she she know more simply living downstairs? She herself says he ‘seldom spoke’ and seems to have done her best not to engage him in conversation, thinking him odd.  S+G handle the revelation expertly, pulling back gradually to reveal the whole story, the truth finally gushing out in a thrilling extended verse (‘He died last Saturday…he turned on the gas and he went to sleep, with the windows closed so he’d never wake up, to his silent world and his tiny room...’) before pulling the rug out from under us again by adding the idle gossip (‘...And Mrs Riardan says he has a brother somewhere who should be notified soon’). If only the people around him had tried to talk to him and befriendthis poor chap who didn’t even have a name, instead of pulling faces over his odd ways and his self-imposed isolation and calling him ‘a most peculiar man’ he need not have died at all. The song is based on a true story after Paul read a rather unflattering account of a local suicide in a London newspaper during his stay in England and figured that he identified more with the dead thasn the living telling tales about him so he ought to give him a more fitting send off, although the title line ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ seems to have been a Paul Simon invention. Perhaps the ultimate song about mis-communication out of the many Paul wrote on the subject (along with ‘Sound Of Silence’ of course), ‘Peculiar Man’ is a masterstroke of writing, saying so much between the lines that we get if we listen properly but which the characters in the song themselves are too ignorant to understand. It’s also perfectly performed here, the backing track caught somewhere behind surface sadness and indifference while Simon and Garfunkel pitch their detached vocals just right. We fans said for decades that Paul should have written a play, such is his eye for character and detail (we learned to be careful what we wished for after the musical ‘The Capeman’ came out in 1997) and nowhere is that better displayed than on this track, one of that handful of truly great S+G songs they never seem to play on the radio.

[107b] ‘April Come She Will’ isn’t bad either, it’s just that coming after two such superb songs it’s rather too insubstantial to be taken as seriously. Garfunkel sings solo for the first time on an S+G record and his vocal is a good one, tender and pure, while Paul’s Anji-like guitar picking seems almost telepathically linked to what his partner sings. The trouble is that the song is borrowed from yet another source and not really altered: although the melody sounds quite different, ‘April Come She Will’ is a folk song as old as any that have appeared on AAA albums down the years. Like ‘The Leaves That Are Green’, this is an album all about aging and the inevitable passing of years, the lifespan of a human being reduced to the ‘twelve months’ of a single year. The two characters start happily enough before a mid-life crisis (when in ‘June’ she’ll ‘change her tune’) and a sad ending (‘August die she must’), although Paul chickens out of adding any months in between October and March (potential extra verses for anyone who wants to copy a Paul Simon song and add a bit. Why, in a longstanding AAA tradition, we’ve even had our own go: ‘October she’ll get mouldier, November she’ll be slender, December she’ll dismember, January she’ll drive a van-uary, February she’ll bang her head-uary and in March she’ll feel a bit parched’. OK, I’ll stick to the day job!) Paul may have written/re-written the song (an unusually clumsy version can be heard solo on ‘Songbook’) but he did the right thing giving it to his partner to sing: Art has always had an affinity with folk, even if he’s better known nowadays for singing pop ballads, and his innocent tones are just what the song needs, the moment when his love disappears taking his pure innocence by surprise. A shame, though, that there isn’t slightly more on offer here: a sudden burst of S+G harmonies, a middle eight or an extra instrument of accompaniment for variety’s sake as there is on a majority of this album (at only 1:53 ‘April’ has the distinction of being the shortest song on the fourth shortest album of all time; naturally being the anoraks that we are we’ve timed all the AAA albums: see *here* if you don’t believe us!) As a result, ‘April’ is rather crowded out by the noisier songs either side of her and isn’t quite memorable enough to make the grade on an album full of so many excellent songs.

[118] ‘We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Goin’ is only minutely more substantial though. The song runs seven seconds longer than ‘April Come She Will’ and has perhaps a handful more lines, but none of them compare to the brilliance of the best songs on the album, probably a good idea to leave in the can when Tom Wilson sent an SOS to the pair in April 1965, asking for a follow-up single to the ‘Wednesday Morning’ album thast wa s’hip’ and ‘groovy’ (something Paul seems to have taken at face value a bit too much). This is Simon and Garfunkel doing their idea of ‘hip’ talk (which they do every album or so: see [111] ‘A Simple Desultory Philippic’ and [153] ‘Baby Driver’) and like those other tracks it seems both too meaningful to be total parody and too light and aimless to be truly heartfelt. To be fair, Paul’s clearly trying to stretch his palette here, offering up the folk-rock his producer asks of him and proving he can mix it with the big boys – even though his heart clearly isn’t in it and in many ways this song sounds like self-sabotage. Already though you can hear the first stirrings of psychedelia and the song is actually spot on for its planned mid-1965 release date (it’s a little ahead of The Beatles’ ‘similar ‘We Can Work It Out’ for instance). Unfortunately, the result is a little like your parents dancing at a disco: they mean well, but however much you want to excuse them you know you’re going to be the laughing stock of the town tomorrow morning for letting them try. Another way of looking at this song is to see it as the first cracks in Paul’s relationship with Kathy (‘Bad news! Bad News! I heard you’re packing to leave!’); too scared to treat the subject matter head on Paul might be trying to ‘hide’ his true feelings behind a ‘mask’ of ‘hip’ lyrics (alternately he could simply be writing a pop song. Or having a songwriting seizure). However well intentioned, it’s hard to listen to two talented singers and a talented composer trying to sing a verse like ‘I hear you’re fixing to go! I can’t make it without you! No no no no no no!’ less than twenty minutes after hearing the sublime ‘Sound Of Silence’ (if you’re listening to the album in order). Even the Stones or The Animals would struggle to make this material work – and neither Simon nor Garfunkel have voices born for the ragged, gutsy howling this song cried out for. Definitely the album’s lowest moment.

Thankfully coming after the two worst songs on the album is finale [104c] ‘I Am A Rock’, a song that was rightly heralded as a ‘classic’ at the time but seems to have been forgotten nowadays as the stock of songs like [122] ‘Homeward Bound’ and [119] ‘Scarborough Fair’ have risen over the years. Just put yourself in Simon and garfunkel’s shoes as they discussed what to release as this all-important second single. They’ve never ever been able to follow-up a hit; Tom and Jerry, Jerry Landis, even Tico and the Trumphs only ever had one charting single apiece despite years of flogging a dead horse. What’s more Simon and Garfunkel aren’t even sure they want fame after chasing it so hard: London and Kathy are still calling to Paul and Art has got used to the idea of college life. However, still they come up with a song so good that – even with Columbuia’s merely half-hearted support – this ‘Songbook’ refugee could do no wrong. A grumpy sulk of a song, this is the dark side of the angst heard on the rest of the album, the narrator cutting himself off from the rest of the world out of sheer misery so he won’t get hurt again – the reason ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ and ‘Richard Cory’ topped themselves and the cause of the ‘Sound Of Silence’. What the narrator doesn’t say, but which is cleverly writ large in the lyrics all the same, is that the narrator is not the detached, cold blooded isolationist he claims to be but has clearly been hurt in some way, doing this out of self-protection rather than the philosophy he spouts at us. ‘Don’t talk of love, though I’ve heard the word before...’ Paul croons darkly to us, merely hinting at a past that’s ‘sleeping in my memory’, even though this is clearly the central line of the song and isn’t just sleeping but still burning in his heart, mind, body and soul. He tells us not to feel sorry for him: he has books he can read in isolation, poetry to write and a classic rhyme of ‘room’ and ‘womb’ that can cocoon him safely from life. But that’s no substitute for the companionship he once shared and the love he feels in his heart. Figuring that ‘If I’ve never loved I never will have cried’ Paul’s rounds off this album of miss-communication by pushing the subject as far as it will go, cutting himself from everyone forever because ‘a rock can feel no pain and an island never cries’. A clever melody, which tries it’s best to sound rational and clearheaded but still comes through in staccatoed shreds that sound like the song is being played in-between sobs, is the perfect accompaniment. Not quite as universal in appeal as ‘The Sound Of Silence’, this song still clearly struck a chord with S+G’s growing fanbase, making an impressive #3 despite Columbia’s odd decision not to properly ‘push’ the song, figuring the duo were a one-hit-wonder. The sound of a clever man with his thinking cap on, ‘I Am A Rock’ has just enough heart attached to get by. AAA fans may also know this song from a Hollies cover (released on their fourth album ‘Would You Believe?’ barely months after this album’s release), which gains from some drop-dead gorgeous harmonies and guitarwork but seems to fully miss the point of the song, turning the final chorus into a rousing celebration of life, love and goodness knows what else instead of the personal confession it is here (Paul reportedly complained about the cover when it came out, albeit more because the music sheet for the Hollies version reproduced the word ‘womb’ as ‘room’ again– the Hollies singing ‘hiding in my room, safe within my room’ instead – however this was probably either a mistake or an attempt to out-censor EMI; the band clearly sing ‘womb’ on the first line if you’ve heard their version as many dozens of times as I have). Six years later Paul will record another famous song with ‘rock’ connections, but [172] ‘Love Me Like A Rock’ (from ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’) is the polar opposite of this song, praising unmoving ‘rocks’ for their stability and support (or is it?...) Depression has never sounded so, well, darned catchy before.

‘Sounds Of Silence’, then, is a pretty impressive record considering that it was made in such a hurry (in four non-sonsecutive days this time, all across December 1965 and therefore right on this album’s January deadline) and that Simon and Garfunkel had, mere weeks before recording it, been adjusting to life without the other full-time. Along the way Paul Simon proves that he’s far from a one-note songwriter, adding several songs to his repertoire that are still among his best, including ‘Richard Cory’ ‘Leaves That Are Green’ ‘Kathy’s Song’ and ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ as well as the better known ‘Sound Of Silence’ and ‘I Am A Rock’. Art Garfunkel, too, deserves much praise for this record: compare the relevant songs back to back with ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ and – great album as that is – it sounds like a series of demos when compared to the deeper, fuller, harmonised version of this record. The only things that prevent this record from really being up there at the pinnacle of the duo’s work alongside ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ and ‘Bookends’ are the short running time, the recycling of so many songs from earlier in the duo’s short career and the occasional clumsy mistake. The fact remains, though, that ‘Sounds Of Silence’ is a far better album than it has any right to be, given the circumstances and speed behind the making of it, and there are at least six songs here out of the eleven that deserve classic status – which is pretty good odds for any album, even one that only lasts for twenty-eight minutes. Simon and Garfunkel have, at last, broken their duck and proven that they are here to stay; well until their differences get the better of them at any rate…

Footnote: This is, most likely, the last review that I will finish on my faithful old computer, Dellboy, whose kept me company on these reviews across four of the past five years of writing. As you can imagine, writing a site the length of seven editions of ‘War and Peace’ (or five and a half copies of the entire Bible) can take a lot out of a computer: ‘Delly’ has been missing the internet for four months now for reasons best known to herself (a case of electrical alzheimers?), the webcam and video recorder mysteriously ‘disappeared’ the last time she went in for repair, the ‘J’ key broke a year ago (which has made reviews of ‘Efferson Airplane ‘Ohn Lennon and ‘Ack The Lad’ particularly difficult) and she loses her charge even quicker than I do nowadays (and boy, is that saying something!) Yes, something had to give: every review I write now gets interrupted by ten minutes of the computer trying to connect to an internet connection it can’t find and my heart is in my mouth every time I open her up, given that the screen is hanging on to the main body of her by a thread. Thankfully, after months of saving, I can afford a new model – and a good one hopefully too unless the Coalition have done something dastardly to put all the prices up. Alan’s Album Archives regenerates at last!! Even so, I will be sorry to see her go (or for her to end up in my bedroom living her days out in retirement playing solitaire anyway) as she’s been a marvellous companion on this journey of music with you down the years and I only hope my new friend-to-be (Dellboy Mark 2) will provide as much fun, laughter, writing and loving company in the years to come. RIP Dellboy, you’ve earned it!

Other Simon and Garfunkel/Paul Simon reviews from this site you might be interested in reading:

'The Paul Simon Songbook' (1965)

'Sounds Of Silence'

‘Graceland’ (1986)

'Rhythm Of The Saints' (1990)

'Songs From The Capeman' (1997)

'You're The One' (2000)

'Stranger To Stranger' (2016)

Every Pre-Fame Recording 1957-1963 (Tom and Jerry, etc)

Live/Compilation/Film Soundtrack Albums Part One: 1968-1988

Live/Compilation Albums Part Two: 1991-2012

'Angel Clare' (1973)

‘Breakaway’ (1975)

'Watermark' (1977)

‘Scissors Cut’ (1981)

'The Animals' Christmas' (1986)

'Lefty' (1988)

AAA Stars In Further Education (Top Five for News, Views and Music 211)

There are only really two jobs you can get in Great Britain where you don’t need any formal qualifications. One of these is of course good old rock and roll, an area that lazy journalists assume are full of school-leavers and drop-outs, and the other is of course being Prime Minister (which explains a few things about how bad David Cameron is at his job!) However, if you’re trying to get your music mad son or daughter to give further education a go then do not despair: simply point them towards this week’s little list which features no less than ten AAA stars who went on to at least try spells at universities and colleges and who knows – if you’re just starting somewhere new you might find out about an alumni you’d never otherwise have discovered (as expected, though, there are no fellow musical alumni from St Martin’s, now the University of Cumbria; a big shout out if you are at or went there!) Sadly, information is a little sketchy for quite a few of these artists so we’ve had to adopt a bit of guesswork this week – I guess a degree doesn’t look that cool on a rock and roll CV, even if Simon and Garfunkel are sporting college scarfs on the cover of the album we’ve reviewed this week. On the other hand, if you’re worried that failing your exams means you’re thick and life is over because that’s what your teachers have been telling you for a decade – don’t worry, it isn’t; Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and Neil Young are three of the cleverest men to walk the Earth and they all left school at the age of 16 with only a handful of qualifications to their name. What’s more, George Harrison, Brian Jones and Dave Davies were expelled – something that seems to have done their careers absolutely no harm whatsoever! By the way, see if you can guess members of which bands were the only ones to a) study music formally past the age of 16 and b) received a doctorate at the height of their musical careers?...

Art Garfunkel

(studied architecture 1960-61, the history of art and mathematics 1965 at Columbia University, then Columbia College)
Art was a natural student. Bright, curious and hard-working, Garfunkel could have turned his hand to many careers even without that natural gift of a voice and seemed to have a gift for several subjects, choosing architecture at the request of his parents but soon dropping it in favour of art. Just think of it – a student called Art studying Art! Garfunkel was more likely to have been teased for being a ‘teenage heart throb’ though – along with Paul Simon he’d had a local #1 record under the name of ‘Tom’ and ‘Jerry’, although even then he’d put his love of learning top good use, giving himself the pseudonym ‘Tom Graph’ in honour of his love of plotting his favourite records’ progress in the charts on graph paper! Perhaps Garfunkel should have gone with maths originally, because he still wasn’t satisfied after gaining his degree, signing up for a maths course at the age of 22 after recording a ‘flop’ album with Paul (released in 1964 as ‘Wednesday Morning 5 AM’). Art even writes his ‘sleevenotes’ for the album (really a long, rambling letter to Paul) from his student digs, ‘with three term papers ahead of me’, looking on jealousy as his partner travels to England as a solo singer. Music was never far away though – according to the (unusually helpful) Columbia University website, Art performed at many university concerts, both by himself and as a member of local a capella group The Kingsmen. Following the moment that changed Simon and Garfunkel’s lives forever (when producer Tom Wilson overdubbed electric instruments onto ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and scored a surprise hit), Art was still reluctant to give up his studies. Figuring that his music career probably wouldn’t last that long, Art was still studying for a batchelor’s degree in mathematics as late as Christmas 1965, when the band’s third hit single ‘Homeward Bound’ was entering the charts. Since becoming famous Art has returned to his ‘old’ digs twice: once for the opening of a new hall (The Alfred Lerner Hall) in 1999 and again with Paul in 2003 as part of a charity night raising money for local healthcare in Columbia.

Mick Jagger

(degree in economics from the London School Of Economics, circa 1960-62)
The most interesting part of Keith Richards’ autobiography ‘Life’ is the early section when three of the Stones are living in a house together and existing on the kindness of various parents and siblings and Mick’s university grant. While Brian had been kicked out of every school going and struggled to keep a job for a month, Keith had already dedicated his life to music at the age of 17. Mick, on the other hand, was serious about his studies, at least at first, spending two tough years taking perhaps the most un-rock and roll degree of them all: economics. Legend has it Mick was always stingy about his money – but sharing a grant meant for one across three people was actually a very kind thing to do (Jagger often walking a long way into class in order to save bus fare and buy food for the night) and the singer’s legendary battles with businessmen down the years probably spring from what he learnt during his classes. The three Stones did get some money from playing local gigs with and without Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and their ‘discoverer’ Alexis Korner – and in between Mick’s classes where possible - but it was very few and far between until at least early 1962. Legend has it Mick was finally kicked out of what was and is quite a posh and distinguished school for riding a motorbike into the main library; with manager Andrew Loog Oldham on board and a record contract with Decca I doubt he was too worried, although sadly he never got to finish his degree!

Stephen Stills

(degree in English from Louisiana State University circa 1960-61)
Stephen Stills’ background in Texas is quite different to most bands we cover – and certainly different to the dreamy music-filled background of David Crosby and Manchester poverty of Graham Nash. Born into quite a military family, most of Stills’ education (at both high school and college) came from military academies full of upright, uptight teachers lecturing on practical subjects with the odd drill before lunch. Louisiana State University must have seemed like a breath of fresh air, then, especially as Stills was majoring in English – a subject built for debate and opinion rather than facts! However, Stills doesn’t seem to have stayed there for very long – perhaps for as little as a term in either 1960 or 1961 – having already got the music bug young (a picture in the Stills box set ‘Carry On’, released earlier this year, has a 12-year old Stills as a one-man band busking at St Leo’s College)and having already begun to make a name for himself as a folk singer. Stills may well have played a few gigs around Louisiana as part of a band called The Continentals (with future Eagles member Don Felder) while still a student, although it was only after ending up at Greenwich Village and meeting Richie Furay, Neil Young and Peter Tork that his career really took off.

Paul Simon

(a course in English from Queen’s College circa 1961-62)
Despite his ‘educated’ image – and the college scarf he proudly wears on the back of the ‘Sounds Of Silence’ album – Paul Simon never actually finished his studies and doesn’t appear to have been at Queen’s College for very long. Paul was always too busy with his music, having recorded his first song in 1956 at the age of 14 with Art. Unlike his partner, though, Paul continued with music long after it seemed to have given him up, being part of a ‘team’ making demos for big name singers in the ‘Brill Building’ in L.A. (along with Carole King) and recording under a variety of wild and wacky names solo and with friends (‘Tico and the Triumphs’ being by far the best, releasing at least three great singles in the early 1960s). Paul had one last shot at the big time with Art (1964’s flop album ‘Wednesday Morning 5 AM’) before travelling to England to busk his music there and play in some folk clubs. The singer had certainly stopped being a student long before the ‘Silence’ album (unlike Art), although his time at college did inspire at least one song, ‘The Dangling Conversation’ from 1966’s ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ which references a lot of the poets Paul had to study during his time there (Emily Dickinson being his all-time favourite).

Rick Wright, Roger Waters and Nick Mason

(architecture course at London Polytechnic circa 1960-63)
London Polytechnic’s architectural course of 1960 saw one of the most important intakes of all time as its where future Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason met. Discovering their love of music, the pair played together under a list of increasingly weird and wacky names (including ‘The Architectural Abdabs’!) before Rick Wright joined their group a year in. Rick is the only musically-trained post-16 AAA member we asked you to guess above, having studied piano and composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, albeit only for a couple of terms (a lack of money made him try his hand at something else – the music world might have been quite different if there’d been another course or college nearby that day). In case you’re wondering where Roger’s friend Syd Barratt was, he was busy studying painting at the Camberwell College Of Arts, although legend has it he didn’t turn up that often! All in all this makes Pink Floyd the most educated, certainly of AAA bands, with all four founding members in higher education (which is about what you’d expect for a group from Cambridge, although none of them went to the universities there!) As for David Gilmour...he was busking in France for most of this period! Interestingly when the Floyd were first formed they were joined on stage by their occasional lecturer and also landlord Mike Leonard – not from London Polytechnic but from nearby Hornsey College (see below for another alumni from there!) Talking of coincidences, who was Syd Barrett’s first teacher at primary school? Roger waters’ mum Mary, long before the two became friends! Roger Waters has, of course, since become the bane of teachers everywhere thanks to the lyrics of ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ with the chorus ‘we daahhn need narrr edducasshun!’, although Roger claims to have written the song about his hardened ex-war primary and secondary teachers rather than his college lecturers (who, uncharacteristically, he seems to have got along with rather well!)

Ray Davies

(Studied art at Hornsey Art College circa 1961-63)
The moment in Ray Davies’ ‘unauthorised autobiography’ ‘X-Ray’ when the befuddled, shy, awkward, anti-social Ray leaves the rigid world of school for the exciting ethereal world of art college is a truly magical moment. A reluctant student, there to please his parents and save them the grief of having two kids at home every day (Dave having just been expelled for getting his girlfriend pregnant), Ray blossomed at art college under the watchful eye of several tutors. By his own admission, Ray was always much more into music and books than he ever was into art, but he’s often said that the different way he was taught to look at the world through an ‘artists’ eyes’ at college had a lasting effect on him. Typically, though, it was the musical jamming sessions on blues numbers during lunch breaks (and, sometimes, during lessons) that caught his imagination the most. Ray joined his brother’s band The Kinks (then more often than not billed as ‘The Ravens’) during this period and often got gigs through his art school connections, music gradually taking over to the point where he hardly had the time to run up anymore, both student and college mutually deciding it was in his best interests to leave when The Kinks got a recording contract with Pye. Ray has written about his art school days a few times down the years, his song of lost childhood ‘Do You Remember, Walter?’ being at least partly inspired by an art school chum and ‘Art School Babe’ (from the 1994 solo show ‘X-Ray’) about a date with an older girl that went a bit wrong!

Kevin Godley and Lawrence Creme

(studied art at ‘a Manchester University’ circa 1961-64)
Before their big break with 10cc in 1972 both Godley and Creme’s biggest claim to fame was painting the white fence seen on the set of the 1960s film adaptation of ‘The Railway Children!’ That apparently came about during a week of work experience as set dressers organised by ‘a Manchester University’ – although frustratingly no website or book seems to agree on which one (most likely it was Manchester University itself). Godley and Creme had known each other since about the age of 6 and deliberately applied for the same university so they could be together. The pair recorded both separately and together in a variety of bands throughout the 1960s, the most me,morably named one being ‘Frabjoy and the Runciple Spoon’, including during their time at art school (while 10cc bandmates Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldmann – who’d been at secondary school with the pair - were busy with The Mindbenders and The Mockingbirds respectively). The duo credit their art school background with many of 10cc’s ‘weirdest’ songs, especially ‘Une Nuit In Paris’ which Creme later described as ‘trying to paint a picture with sound’. Godley and Creme later recorded a song called ‘Art School Canteen’ for their 1978 album ‘L’, which is most likely autobiographical, about an eccentric student ‘walking round with my talent hanging out’. If it is then neither singer seems to have been a model student! (‘Come in late and go home earlier, do one day a week or maybe less!’)

Pete Townshend

(studied art at Ealing Art College circa 1962-63)
Another huge fan of the art college system was Pete Townshend, who in fact tried to get on the same course as Ray Davies before finding it was full (a band with Pete and Ray writing together – now that would have been something!) Like Ray’s autobiography, Pete’s book ‘Who I Am’ has a timid and awkward child floundering under a rigid educational system suddenly flower under the looser, more individual teaching methods of art school. Pete had already formed The Who with Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle at Acton County Grammar High School – and the others, working at 16, really seem to have feared that they were ‘losing’ their guitarist in a sea of paintings, philosophy and staying-in-bed-all-day according to his book. Like Ray, Pete left his course early when The Who’s career took off but also like Ray he used a lot of what he learnt in his music. The band’s dalliance with ‘pop art’ came from what Pete had been taught (with pop the short, artificially throwaway ‘instant’ equivalent of modern art pieces and installations in 1965) and Pete’s decision to ‘smash’ his guitars up during gigs is meant to have its roots in ideas he learnt during art school lectures (combined with a low ceiling and a dodgy cheap guitar that broke easily). Fans have also had a field day tracing rock operas like ‘Tommy’ and ‘Lifehouse’ back to art school concepts of understanding the world and connections between human beings.

Mark Knopfler

(degree in journalism from Harlow College, Essex, circa 1970-73)
As we’ve mentioned many times on this website by now, Knopfler wasn’t just a student but a teacher, lecturing on history in a variety of Newcastle schools as a ‘filler’ between jobs. Before that, though, he was brave enough to travel all the way to Harlow College to become a journalist, the same college that has given the world such serious broadcasters as, erm, Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson (no wonder their website emphasises so many of the musicians they’ve turned out instead!) Unlike the majority of entries on this list, Mark completed his course and got his degree, working for a time as a junior reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post (a fact that seemed to be lost on them when I brought it up during an interview there once!) Whilst still a reporter, Knopfler also took night classes for an English degree at Leeds University – sadly missing out on the famous Who ‘Live at Leeds’ gig there in 1970 by only two months! Mark didn’t play any gigs in this period but he was busy writing his own material when he had the time and gradually got more and more involved in music as first his journalism and then his teaching work dried up.

Stuart Murdoch/Belle and Sebastian

(degree in English from Glasgow university circa 1986-88, plus a business studies course circa 1994)
Finally, Belle and Sebastian are the one AAA group that formed at college, during a business studies class for mature students somewhere around 1994. The first album, ‘Tigermilk’, was recorded in the college canteen across three days, not for a music project but for part of a business studies course (in which a group of students had to come up with a ‘unique’ product they could sell in a ‘unique’ way – discovering they had a shared love of music the first line-up of the band decided to make an album using Stuart Murdoch’s songs and then sell it on a newfangled invention called ‘the internet’. I wonder what happened to that...) Murdoch, meanwhile, had already taken one degree – from the local University of Glasgow, although sources vary as to what subject he studied (some say English which seems likely, so I’ve plumped for that). Again Murdoch is one of the few students who completed his course, although he couldn’t do much with it: he’d become poorly with chronic fatigue syndrome during his last term at university and spent most of the seven years in-between his degree and the B+S course in bed writing songs. Murdoch wasn’t yet writing or performing during his degree, but he did work as a DJ for the university radio there – the few people who remember his work claim to hear a direct link with B+S’ later sound!

And that’s that for another week – we’ll join you next issue for some more news views and music. Remember, you can be as overqualified or as underqualified to read this site as you like – all you need to love music are a pair of ears and a soul!