Monday, 20 March 2017
Stephen Stills "Man Alive!" (2005)
Ain't It Always?/Feed The People/Heart's Gate/Round The Bend/I Don't Get It/Around Us/Ole Man Trouble/Different Man/Piece Of Me/Wounded World/Drivin' Thunder/Acadienne/Spanish Suite
'My heart is in my song - but my song is blowing in the breeze...'
Fan imagination, including mine, went into hyperdrive when we heard this album was on its way. Stephen Stills' first solo album in fourteen years - and his first full length album of new works in nineteen - was for the CSN cognoscenti, if not the world in general, a major event. Stills had been so long away (you could fit all eight of his solo albums in the gap between the last two records) and the last signs we'd heard from him on CSN/Y albums were generally good, with Stills' contributions the best thing by a country mile on both 'After The Storm' and 'Lookin' Forward' (albums which were themselves eleven and five years old by now respectively). At long last, after a wait that lasted most of his adult days, Stills' homelife was now stable and secure leading to hopes of a reprise of the loved-up Stills we had in the Veronique Sanson days of the mid-1970s. What's more 'Captain Manyhands' should have been the perfect for an early 21st century scene best described as 'eclectic' and we wondered where Stills might go next: folk, blues, rock, pop, blues or most likely a little bit of everything - in the age of sampling Stills' playful blending of genres and timeless production style (disco and 1980s pop album aside) suddenly looked like time-travel. When fans heard that both Nash and Young were heavily involved with the album there was already talk of 'career high' and 'comeback of the century so far' mooted around even before we'd heard a note.
So the album itself was something of a shock. It's not that this album is bad in a way that 'Right By You' often was. Or misguided as 'Thoroughfare Gap' sometimes could be. Or as unfinished and low budget as 'Stills Alone' turned out. But even so 'Man Alive' felt slightly...lacking. Stills songs, even the bad ones, generally come in at least three dimensions, often more. Even if you don't like a song in one style there's probably another one that sounds completely different to love moments later. Though Stills' most recent albums had been a little more one-note of late, at least they were largely good one-notes, returning to acoustic folk ballads or exquisite torch ballads, the sort of things fans had long been asking for. Even at his worst it's hard to fault the commitment or passion in Stills' songs. But 'Man Alive' finds the musician healthy but his muse largely dead. There are no songs here that weren't better told in past songs and so many of them seemed to tell the same story: things are rubbish, I hate them. That would be forgivable if Stills had stretched himself like the days of old, but this album has a curiously lifeless feel, a soul album of all things but a soul album in a 'glossy backing with a female choir' kind of soul rather than an Otis Redding emotional soul. Perhaps because this album had such a long genesis, some of these songs stretching back decades, this CD also had a curiously 1980s feel about it - the last decade which most fans would have picked to return to by choice. Usually Stills albums are full of chances to learn and understand one of the most guarded yet strangely emotional and honest writers at work - but there's nothing from 'Man Alive' you particularly want to learn, with this easily the most guarded of one of the 1960s' most unguarded writers' career.
The exceptions to that are the two acoustic songs, usually the moments at which Stills opens up the most. But he was at pains to point out in interviews of the day that these two cover songs that made the album were pure fiction. Interviewers salivated at the thought that he and Young trading lines on 'Different Man' meant that the pair were trying to be adult and putting bygones behind them; Stills just muttered something about thinking this traditional folk number had a good tune. Similarly critics all picked the cover of Booker T Jones' 'Ole Man Trouble' as an album highlight, revelling in how well Stills was able to tap into his heartbroken, self-destructive number of old - for the singer he admitted it was all something of a distant memory and simply a song he'd already meant to get round to one day. The long and short of it is that there's no great confessional moment on 'Man Alive', no moment when you realise that Stills is singing directly to us in his desperate attempt to get the truth of what he feels across and no great revealing moment when it all clicks and no one else could ever offer us what Stills does so effortlessly. Instead of answering what a 21st century Stills album or an eclectic Stills album made after a gap might sound like, 'Man Alive' answers what a settled Stills album sounds like instead. Not a happy or contented album either (that's 1975's gorgeous 'Stills') but a Stills album from a quiet era in his life where nothing much seemed to be happening. That's our loss maybe, but Stills' gain as the one and only great thing about this album is hearing how 'normal' life has become for someone who once suffered such agonising rollercoaster highs and lows.
Otherwise this is kinda Stills by numbers: there's the energetic opening pop number 'Ain't It Always?' that comes off as bland; the too-bad-to-be-a-charity-single 'Feed The People' which is almost a parody of CSN's hippie philosophy; the bland acoustic ballad 'Heart's Gate' which is a whole notch down even from 'Stills Alone'; demented rocker 'Round The Bend' (the only original song here that stabs at any autobiography, until it becomes another fictional song about a Vietnam Vet); cod white reggae on 'I Don't Get It'; cheery pop number 'Around Us'; fragmented blues 'Piece Of Me'; MOR soul 'Wounded World'; a remake of nobody's favourite CSN/Y moment 'Drivin' Thunder'; even flipping Zydecoe on 'Acadienne' and a needlessly ambitious 'Spanish Suite' that like the album as a whole promises much that never quite arrives. Stills is so busy ticking boxes about what he thinks people want to hear that he has no real time to offer up anything of himself on this album. The fragmentary sessions also means that there's never one 'house band' to get their teeth into these songs and offer any cohesion. Those that do play sound as if they're clock-watching or driven through one take too many, a booming bombast of old friends like Joe Vitale, Mike Finnigan and George 'Chocolate' Perry who all come from different periods of Stills' career and never quite gel when made to work together in the same room. Even Stills himself is largely quiet on this album, his guitar left in the box for half the record and prepared to lead from behind rather than from the front like the good ole days. Add in a sappy and dated production, that covers everything with an ugly surface sheen that screams shoulder pads and slickness and excess and the high expectation that surrounded this album and you have several reasons why 'Man Alive' might be Stills' weakest album - maybe the weakest of the CSN catalogue as a whole. Stills hasn't recorded another solo project since or indeed anything much besides his bit-part in spin-off band 'The Rides'. He doesn't sound as if he has anything much to say anymore, in stark contrast to the old days when Stills had so much to say fans often couldn't keep up with the rate at which albums seemed to be released.
However, no album is all bad and that goes doubly for CSN and there are moments - not whole songs but moments - when it all seems to be coming together. 'Spanish Suite' is at least eight minutes too long but the closing rousing finale is really gripping. 'I gave up on you!' spits Stills after toying with hiding his feelings in Spanish in the past tense for so long, 'It was the hardest thing I ever had to do!' Having been through all those other songs it wouldn't surprise me if there's an element of Judy Collins or Rita Coolidge or Veronique Sanson hiding in this song for one last time, a neat closing of the circle to a lifetime of watching Stills' relationships play out in song. 'Different Man' is a great song whether Stills means it or not and while his and Young's harmonies have always been a difficult pill to swallow without Crosby or Nash in the middle the two old friends and rivals bring out the best in each other here - would that the Stills-Young set 'Long May You Run' been half as good as this. 'Wounded World' is a clever idea that turned into a bad song, reflecting Stills' pain as he's abandoned not by a wife or mistress but by his teenage daughter going off to university and trying to live her own life, aware that he has to let her go but hating being apart all the same. 'Piece Of Me' at least tries to go back to old Stills with its haunted wounded bluesy feel, even if this is someone whose forgotten what it's like to have been hurt enough to write a song as deep as he used to. For the most part Stills sings brightly, far stronger than he ever did on 'Stills Alone' or 'Lookin' Forward' and he seems to be back in better health than he had been for a while (although admittedly I suspect some of these recordings might date back a wee while). The one moment that doesn't though, when his raw side slips, is fabulous and 'Ole Man Trouble' is a quite staggering reminder of just how deeply Stills used to feel, the old bluesman howling his way through Otis Redding's right-hand man Booker T Jones' pained howl of a song like a man possessed, rather than a man alive. Those are the moments that work best on this album - when Stills isn't simply surviving and waving, but drowning and while no fan would ever want to put him through the pain and misery of his younger years, he is one of those writers who writes best when his world is collapsing and everything is going wrong; on too much of this album he's making music for the sake of it rather than because he has anything burning to say.
Stills certainly outshines his guests, by and large, despite their names all mentioned on the sticker that came attached to the front of the CD (and which comes with some of the strongest superglue known to man alive or dead) and the 'special appearance' billing in the sleevenotes by nearly every song, even when the musicians can't be heard. Neil shines on 'Different Man' but barely turns up for the perfunctory solo on 'Round The Bend' which Stills could have played better himself. Graham Nash's fingerprints turn up across who swathes of the album but somehow none of them make much impact: his biggest collaboration is 'Wounded World', the first co-write between the pair since 'Turn Your Back On Love' back in 1982, but you wouldn't really know it from the low-mixed harmonies which lack the same sense of scale and wonder we usually have whenever two or more of CSNY get back together. I can't even hear him on 'Acadienne' despite the backing vocals credit, while I wish I couldn't hear him on 'Feed The People' where his cod-reggae lilt booms out above everyone else and makes a bad song worse. Even jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who'd have been the perfect instinctive soulful guest for any Stills project before this one, sounds awful and a little bit lost on the weird chord changes Stills asks him to play across 'Spanish Suite'. Frankly Stills could have performed the part a lot better himself. That goes double for the guitar solos (handed for the most part over to Young), the piano and organ work (handed over to Mike Finnigan), the bass (George Perry plays very simply, quite unlike his younger self), the drums (handed over to Joe Vitale on a migraine-inducing day) and especially the sea of backing vocals that swamp a good half of the album (featuring Finnigan again, Brooks Hunnicut, daughter Jennifer and seemingly anyone else within a hundred mile radius of the studio). The only truly magical musical moments on this album all come from Stills and then are fleeting in the extreme - the brief fiery solo on opener 'Ain't It Always?', the acoustic guitar on 'Different Man' and the angry electric guitar snarl on 'Drivin' Thunder' - the only aspect of this new arrangement that improves on the 1988 original. You'd have though, given the years spent crafting this album with only Stills always around and given that while his voice has faded down the years his playing might actually have been getting better, there'd be more actual Stills across this album. In the words of one of the album's more repetitive songs I don't get it, get it, get it.
The album's other best moment really is all down to Stills and is the cover. Stills drew his own self-portrait despite not ever having been known as much of an artist before and it's perfect, capturing all of his brashness and shyness in one go (his chin - now surrounded by a goatee - thrusts forward, his eyebrows connect into a frown and his mouth purses in a picture of stubbornness, but his eyes are closed and his head is turned as if in withdrawal). Stills also gives himself a full head of hair, something that hasn't been seen for real since the start of his music career! The back cover features another Stills self-portrait, this time of his hands wrapped around a precious guitar, another great sketch with more life to it than most of the album to be honest. Given how hands-on Stills has always been about all aspects of his career it seems odd that he hasn't tried to draw his own front covers before this. Full marks to the record label Talking Elephant for letting Stills do this instead of simply forcing him into putting a pretty picture of himself on the cover or something. The all-white background is a new one for Stills too, though it reflects the 'snow' picture of his first album (no giraffes this time around though!)
There isn't really an album theme - another sign of how many years the songs for this project cover - but if there is there's one then it's of feeling helpless. 'Your ship of life never goes where you steer it' sighs Stills on 'Wounded World', a line that rather sums up this album of passive-aggressiveness. This might explain why Stills is so hands-off for most of this album, frustrated that he can't make headway and get life how he wants even after this many years - though never in any big outpouring of emotion type way. 'Ain't It Always' is one long moan about how hard it is to stay in love and how easy it is to fall out of it, 'Feed The People' is one long moan about how some people always have too much while others go without even the basic necessities of life, 'I Don't Get It' is one long moan wondering why a loved one is 'so uptight', 'Wounded World' is one long moan about why hurting and suffering is an inevitable part of life and 'Ole Man Trouble' is the father of all moans. You get the picture: this could so easily have been an all-blues album or an outpouring of confessional grief a la 'Stephen Stills II'. Only instead of his heart being an open secret, leaving him gifted and robbed all at once, Stills is looking at the world in a more general sense. It's all of us and the world in general that's at fault not just Stills and even the two songs that seem to infer that come from cover versions. We're all robbed and never quite gifted enough to put things right, which is true enough but kinda obvious: we all know the world's messed up for somebody who doesn't deserve it (unless you're a millionaire Conservative/Republican and if you are what are you doing reading a CSN review at this site of all places?) but there's no aching fire to put that right anymore, just a general description. In retrospect the most telling song is the most low-key, the quiet blues hidden away as track nine that's so short you barely notice it. 'You all want a piece of me!' nags Stills before pleading 'Can I be excused?' That open secret seems a curse not a blessing here and Stills does his best to ignore it - but in doing so he comes up with his most generic, pointless, wasted album along the way.
Overall, then, there isn't much reason to own 'Man Alive'. There is that improved voice I guess, a far better pair of Stills-Young duels than we ever got on CSNY albums or the S-Y LP, a rousing emotional minute to an epic that lasts eleven, the pretty but pretty understated 'Heart's Gate' and one haunting blues cover version that fits Stills to a (Booker) T. But there's little in the way of invention or imagination and it's sad to say that the biggest gap between albums by far in Stills' catalogue still comes out sounding as if it needed a lot more time and effort spent on it. This is a man alive, but not a man thriving, at least creatively and Stills sounds a little lost here, not heartbroken enough to reach his A-game like he did in his glory years between 1967-1972 or even his sense of deja vu in 1990-1994 yet not happy enough either to reach his other high of 1975, his one great year of stability. This is instead Stills wishing we would all go away and leave him in peace but somehow not quite able to shut the door to the studio for good either, going through the motions and waiting for inspiration that never quite strikes instead. Maybe he's not such a 'different man' after all, but sadly without 'fear and anger' having 'power' he doesn't sound quite what to do with his new way of looking at the wounded world either. Please say the otherwise fabulous Stills canon doesn't end here - there's clearly another great album in there somewhere...
Most Stills albums start with something magical. This one starts with a thud. 'Ain't It Always' is as subtle as paint-stripper and as charming as The Spice Girls. The song starts with the repetitive clunky chorus, which is a bad move as it has Mike Finnigan at his most Mike Finnigan-ish and features a curious clipped riff that has no room to breathe, not to mention Joe Vitale drumming that sounds like a fistfight. Like much of this album, though, there's a layer of promise waiting underneath all that. The verses are actually quite inventive when we finally get to them, like every other Stills song that's come before it but at high speed. Stills' narrator meets a girl, he falls for her (presumably in 'an accident of faith'), worries that its going too well and he's bound to lose her somewhere down the line - and by worrying that's what happens and she leaves him. 'How much it hurts, she left you flat - ain't it always?' is his agonised, painful cry. An analysis of self-destructive tendencies we'd been waiting for across several decades, its perhaps fitting that this great idea should be lost behind such an ugly sounding song. Age hasn't mellowed Stills' responses to love as he howls 'falling - it's a trap!', which together with his much more with-it than usual voice suggests that this song dates back at least to the dark times of the early 1990s rather than the time around the date of recording when Stills had finally found stability and happiness. Certainly his riveting but all too brief guitar solo suggests he was at the time of recording going through some kind of hell and it may well be the best ten seconds on the record - edgy, dark, paranoid, stubborn and hopeful all at once. However it's gone so soon and then we're back with that ugly mock-soulful organ riff, choppy guitar chords and boom boom boom drums. I've got a headache....
'Feed The People' is worse. A world peace song performed with a Caribbean lilt, its heart is in the right place in calling for more love around the world, but its head is completely wrong with the most arrogant and needlessly patronising lyrics in the CSN canon and its sound is the single most 1980s sound I've heard outside the 1980s. Once again there are some bright spots, just to tease us with how well this song could have gone. When performed live by CSNY on their 'Freedom Of Speech' tour the opening flurry of a capella harmonies was a thrilling moment (even if it still sounds rather dead here played by an anonymous studio band of backing singers, plus Nash) and the middle eight is a far better song, adding a touch of danger and mystery. I quite like the line about 'turning swords to plough-sheds' too, which says a lot in few words, while the dig at politicians trading in guns when they ought to be trading for food to keep their people safe is exactly what CSN ought to be doing with their old age. Otherwise, though, this sounds like a tourist from a rich country wondering why we have to have poor in poor countries, something that even Stills realises has maybe gone a tad far so he quickly backtracks with the line 'I mean no disrespect!' It's a bit late for that though: the music alone is patronising - the sort of twinkly 'gee isn't it hot?' reggae type number that's played without guts and is deeply unusual for Stills who usually grasps different styles from world cultures much quicker than this. Note how much worse his voice has suddenly got too - while the sleevenotes don't mention when this was recorded I'd bet my Crosby-Nash tour programme the backing track is an unfinished 1980s baby that Stills overdubbed sometime around the album's release in 2005.
Misguided, misappropriated and mismatched, this song is one of Stills' bigger career mistakes.
Thankfully the album gets better from hereon in. The biggest crime of 'Heart's Gate', for instance, is that it's not very memorable. This 'Stills Alone' style acoustic song also suffers badly from Stills' now croaky slurred voice and his acoustic playing is perfunctory rather than spectacular as it so usually is. However the younger Stills would have made a pretty decent song out of 'Heart's Gate', which ponders some nicely philosophical thoughts similar to 'Move Around'. Debating love for the umpteenth time, Stills wonders why each relationship always feels so different and why none of his friends have the same story about how they met. Love comes in many shapes and forms Stills says and 'none of us gets to choose', whilst it 'pays attention to trust in divine intervention', but no matter how sure you are that a relationship is meant to be nobody is immune to heartbreak. Stills is alone again, trying to count his blessings - there's a gorgeous sunset before him (is he back in CSNY's old haunt of Hawaii?) and 'the air feels like velvet', but it's all to no avail because he has no one to share the picture with. The second half of the song - was this an older one abandoned and revived and finished off for the album? - has Stills suddenly cutting to being with his soulmate. He was wrong to worry about being nervous and plucking up the courage to ask her out because she said a big fat 'yes' and instead he's kicking himself for not doing this sooner and letting his nerves get in his way. Sweetly Stills reflects on his younger self's worry with confusion and laughter - was he really that messed up? He knows what security is now, the couple have 'had a few years, worked out our fears' and had 'lots of laughter and tears and growing'. For all the struggles they've been through, though, Stills knows this time that this was the love that was meant to be and the one pre-destined to be waiting for him on Earth at the 'heart's gate' and not any of the Judy Collins, Veronique Sansons or Rita Coolidges he used to chase. Anyone whose followed Stills' career with any interest across his difficult younger years is allowed to let out an 'ahhhhhhh' at this point on what's easily the album's most sophisticated and impressive lyric. I just wish Stills had spent more time on the melody instead of apparently singing the first thing that came into his mind as without it this song gets somewhat lost amongst the noisier songs jostling for your attention on this album. I bet this song would sound pretty great with CSN harmonies too, just a little extra hint.
'Round The Bend' is another of those songs that matches a fine lyric with a melody so generic it was pushing up daises when the blues was young. Stills writes a semi-autobiographical piece about his young Buffalo Springfield days. 'I was too young for where I'd been, trying to regain my innocence' spits Stills, struggling to cope with a difficult childhood as an adult who didn't have any role-models to help him act like one. The making of him is meeting an 'enigma...hard as Canadian ice' who can surely only be Neil, who urges Stills to calm down and care about living longer with the tip of the hat that his songs are 'classy', exactly the faith Stills needed at the time. Invited out to New York Stills sighs 'I couldn't find him so I headed West', cutting the story short with the lines 'well you know the rest!' (I was wondering how he was going to rhyme the line 'spotted a hearse with Ontario license plates!') Stills opens up further, adding that when the Buffalo Springfield finally hit the stage they found 'magic places' but were driven apart by 'hangers-on with four different faces' and once again his heart was too open and vulnerable to last the course. Throughout the song there's also a clever refrain at the end of each verse that great things are coming 'round the bend', that a band are about to meet in a traffic jam 'round the bend' and that finally, despite all that early promise, the Springfield drove each other 'round the bend!' This is a clever lyric, much more true to life and affectionate than Neil's surprisingly schmaltzy take on the saga (released as the song 'Buffalo Springfield Again' on 2000's 'Silver and Gold' CD), but it would have been better still had the music and arrangement been powerful enough to show why the members of this band were once talked about so often or held in such high esteem. It doesn't help either that Stills is guilty of fictionalising his past a little - he never did lose a friend in Vietnam and the 'real' story was that after a drug low one day he started having imaginary flashbacks of service over there (which Stills believed until someone pointed out that a show of the Springfield existed for the date he said he was over there). An intense experience all the same though, so it's a shame that the music for this one is same old, same old and enough to drive you round the bend!
'I Don't Get It!' is another very 1980s style recording, sounding like a long lost outtake from 'Live It Up!' with its synth Vitale drums and Finnigan keyboards. Why revive it now? I don't get it, get it, get it as the chorus runs, not that you can really follow the lyrics too well given that Stills sounds as if he hasn't put his teeth in and is drowned out by a choir of four female backing singers. Which is a shame because, again, the lyrics are better rather than the decidedly average mix of soul and reggae on the melody and the noisy backing would suggest. 'Maybe it's me' sighs Stills before spending a whole song wondering why his latest love has suddenly become distant from him and is pulling away without warning. 'We usually have so much fun, but now you up and change and run' complains Stills as he tries to read what his lover is trying to tell him and gets confused, finding the script 'too hard to swallow'. Stills ends the song deciding that this is surely about something bigger than just him but he's still cross his lover won't let him into her heart to help her - 'I know you're hurting, but I gotta sit here and watch you suffer!' he explodes. Sadly what should be a major revelation, on a par with the adulting of 'As I Come Of Age', becomes just another cue for a twee organ riff and more of those deeply insincere backing vocals. Had Stills recorded this when he was younger and with stronger vocals (preferably before the 1980s trappings came along) then this could have been a pretty nice number - but like so much of this album the potential is wasted under too many mistakes.
'Around Us' is the pop song none of Stills' fans were asking for. Though similar to 'Only Waiting For You', this song about finally being with your soulmate (good old Kristen again) is far inferior and just sounds like so many other twee pop songs, performed with yet more insincerity by the backing singers who rather take the song over from an actually pretty decent Stills lead (do these singers get trained to sound as uncommitted as possible?) The lyrics about being 'one heart beating' and Stills spending his time 'thinking of you' and other people being 'curious, probably jealous' may be some of the most one-dimensional Stills has ever written. Which is a shame because, this time, it's the melody that's worth a second listen with a nicely urgent five-note guitar riff and a kind of gentle relaxed sway that's unusual for the generally more uptight Stills (though the solo is so way out of Stills' usual zone its one of his weakest, bare and lifeless). The best part of the song is the middle eight which suddenly turns rhythmical and stomping, like soul suddenly switching in Motown, as Stills suddenly gets a fright that things are going too well and he pleads 'don't let them come between us baby!' However for once this is a Stills song happier to bask in the sunshine than spend its time with its head in the stormclouds and this at least makes for a change. You just wish Stills had kept this song to himself instead of inviting a faux soul band and a million backing singers in to chirp so unnecessarily beside him.
At last 'Ole Man Trouble' sounds like the 'real' Stills, even if it is in fact one of the album's covers and first appeared on a Joel Scott Hill record (goodness knows why author Booker T didn't keep it for one of the MG's albums and curse the fact he hadn't written it in fellow AAA member Otis Redding's lifetime because he'd have been perfect for it!) Stills probably learnt it thanks to two co-writers: Chris Etheridge, big friend of Manassas man Chris Hillman and an ex Flying Burrito Brother or drummer Johnny Barbata who'd once played with CSNY on their 1970 tour (before joining Jefferson Airplane). The song suits Stills to a tee and for once the strict upright backing contrasted with his own emotional maelstrom on the vocal is exactly what this album should be doing. Still starts off sad - there's a shadow that keeps following him around and making him sad and he can't shake it off no matter how much he tries. Little bit by little bit, though, parts of the 'old' Stills start peeking through as he realises just how angry and bitter he feels as yet another relationship dies a death prematurely. 'You know I worked hard for you!' he intones to 'Mr Charlie' (rockstar slang for cocaine) and moans at how much money and comfort he'd have by now if he hadn't wasted it all, finding his pockets emptied along with his mind. Calling out to God (a first on a Stills song) the guitarist pleads for 'somewhere to rest my lonely head' and dreams of a quick death to free him from his endless cycle of misery. In a couplet that could have been written by Stills himself, he also sighs that he's put too much of his life and heart into sings and now that no one seems to be singing them it feels like it's all been for nothing, his life and his worth 'blowing in the breeze'. The song reaches a mega-peak about two-thirds in as Mike Finnigan finally understands a Stills arrangement and pulses his way up the keys as Vitale gets noisy and Stills gets desperate, his wild wordless blues wailings lost in a sea of backing singers singing alongside him. Not the greatest thing Stills has ever done by any means, but for this album this recording is a quiet triumph and is easily the most committed Stills sounds across the whole album, a classy version of a classy song.
Almost as strong is the cover of traditional song 'Different Man'. Stephen and Neil sing it between them, bouncing lines and guitar lines off each other (that's clearly Stills taking charge on the right and Young playing catch-up on the left) and while this pair never sounded naturally singing together without a cushion of harmonies they still bring out the best in each other. The tune is a good one, Stills adding some very characteristic blues touches on the guitar parts while the arrangement is impressively bare and fragile to get the message across. And that message is basically 'As I Come Of Age' yet again, as Stills vows that he's getting younger in his old age and more contented now that 'pain and anger got no power over me'. You still doubt that statement, such is the quiver of pain in his voice at times, but it's good to hear Stills at least singing other people's words about moving on and trying to be a better person. The song doesn't shy away from despair though. The opening verse has the narrator digging a hole and jumping right in it, the second being loyal 'to a fault' to similarly loyal friends but finding that even so 'there ain't too much good we've done'. Clearly this CSNY-style message is crying out for CSNY style harmonies (a shame that Nash, underused on the rest of the album, isn't on this track - one he could really get his teeth into) and it's odd to hear a second Stills cover in a row reaching out to God (and asking for 'forgiveness' as a 'sinner'), but fans of the Stills-Young feud/competition/rivalry/friendship will find much to enjoy here as two old friends sing an old song about old ways before embracing the fact that they are now 'different men' and can find it inside themselves to put the past behind them. And so it has proved - while the C/N axis has been in trouble lately, the S/Y one still seems pretty healthy these days.
'Piece Of Me' suggests that Stills hasn't changed entirely however. A muted, acoustic piece of blues puffing, this song is the most sorry-for-itself in the Stills canon. In a reflection of his defensive interviews around the time of this album, Stills turns on his critics for thinking they know him and wanting 'a piece of me' without ever giving anything back (erm...hi Stephen! You know I love you really, right?...) and has rarely sounded sadder as this recording almost slinks its way across the speakers with a weary shrug. Stills likes mysteries and wants to preserve his and equates understanding his songs to staring at the wild blue yonder from afar, which is fair enough, but Stills always makes his insights so interesting it's hard to look away. Once again on this album the lyric is far stronger than the album. Stills comes out 'the shadows', cries down a 'wishing well' and waits for a sign - only to be given what people think he needs rather than what he actually does (no clue to what that might be, though). '#It's a hunger' he complains, though whether he means his need to write about himself or our need to speculate on it is ambiguous, while the last verse is a cop-out, Stills trying to dazzle us with how remarkable his 'guitar-phone' is (whatever that might be!), hoping that it will distract us from deeper questions. Me, though, I'm not fooled - there's a very dark and angry song in here that returns to the dilemma of 'Open Secret' with its cry of 'somebody tell me have I been gifted or robbed?' For now Stills feels robbed, but it's that gift of being open that allows him to write songs like this one. Perhaps the best original on the album, although sadly that's not saying much - you still wish this sad bluesy track would get a move on or throw a middle eight in there for variety's sake, while Stills seems to be struggling with a basic harmonica part his younger self would have knocked out in minutes without thinking.
'Wounded World' returns to 'Feed The People's bombast as it studies a modern-day life that seems to be blooming miserable (an unusual song, actually, for the immediate pre-credit crunch days when things were relatively settled 9/11 aside). Stills sings in the first person but later revealed he and Nash wrote it together on a CSN tour-bus after finding that they both had children leaving home and would be returning to an emptier nest one things were over. The first 'family' Stills song since 'To Mama From Christopher And The Old Man', however, is an odd response and more like Cat Stevens' song of warning 'Wild World' than a 'good luck' message. 'Like a ship at sea, your life goes where you steer it' sings Stills in the closest he gets to being kind, although even this line is clearly nonsense - did Stills really steer any of those courses he set sail for in his youth? I think not! Stills, with Nash's support, tells his youngster (Jennifer? She'd be the closest in age) that sometimes he'll 'hurt', feel like 'giving up' and might be abandoned and feel 'all alone' (plus weirdly that 'you used you like a drug'). At least there's some belated cheer near the end when Stills praises his offspring for managing to stay so upbeat and innocent in a 'cynical' age, something dad considers a 'miracle', but this only makes him worry more: he sees so much of himself in her/him and he knows how badly he took to life alone when he left home to become a singer before he was ready. Sadly what comes over most from this ugly song isn't parental worry or pride but one of fear and paranoia - this isn't a world that's black and white, it's just black and Stills (plus Nash) sounds as if they're manipulating their children to stay at home for selfish reasons. That's a little unfair, as is the fact that this father-daughter/son time is unbalanced by first Nash's less than fitting harmony vocal and then another whole great choir again. The melody, too, doesn't do much except chug along. One thing the blues ain't is pretty I suppose (well, that and funny) but it's a shame this song couldn't have had just a little dash more colour or I'm in danger of never leaving my door again.
You all know 'Drivin' Thunder' if you're a fan enough to be reading an obscure review of an obscure album on an obscure site in an obscure corner of the internet, but in case you don't its the song about cars that added way too much heavy metal to the CSNY reunion album 'American Dream'. Though its actually more in Crosby's taste (see the similar 'Drive My Car' from 1989's 'Oh Yes I Can!'), it was Young who re-arranged the song for the album and got a co-credit for his troubles though in truth he didn't do much except 'simplify' it, as only Neil can. Here's Stills' go at his own song, possibly one recorded before the CSNY one if the 1980s stylistics are anything to go by, but with the Young co-credit reinstated. Sorry to say the 1988 version was superior and even that was pretty weak. This is a dumb song by Stills' standards, revelling in going fast and hanging out with a crowd without much care for the danger and with the inevitable result that at the last corner Stills manages to 'wingshot and win this race' from the expected leader. This version lacks the dangerous guitar riff of the 1988 version and swaps it for an irritating single note squeal that keeps interrupting the action after every line or so, while the less-than-vital Vitale drums aren't so much thunder as lightning, jumping about nosily at random so that you're never quite sure where anything will land. Only a Stills guitar solo, played solo and less aggressively than the 1988 take, offers any real excitement. There is, by the way, still a good song to be had here if only Stills would re-arrange it a third way, adding more doubt to the outcome and making a dangerous sport sound a little less safe. Heard like this, though, it's a car crash and not worthy of the Stills name.
'Acadienne' though is easily the album's weakest song. In his time Stills has paid tribute to just about every branch of Northern/Southern/Latin America there is but here he slips in one more with a tribute to the 'Acadians', the French settlers who came to Nova Scotia and surrounding Canadian areas and were wiped out when the English arrived and accused them of helping the French. In recent years DNA tracing and more open-ness about different cultures (till Trump got into power anyway) has led to more and more Americans and Canadians embracing this aspect of their family tree and people have begun digging up their traditional music. Stills, of course, just has to have a go and the Cajun-style should be right down his alley (think Buddy Holly's 'Brown-Eyed Handsome Man' which kicked off a mini-craze for the style in the late 1950s). Unfortunately the closest any of his band can find to 'real' 'Acadian' music is an accordion, which Mike Finnigan plays in the same noisy way he does his organ, while the rest of the band carry on as normal and pretend they're having a hootenanny. The result was never going to work in a zillion years played like that but falls even flatter than expected, with nobody paying attention or caring enough to go the extra mile needed to make this song swing. As for the lyrics, goodness knows what's going on - one minute we're mixing with 'Spanish grass and Cyprus leaves', the next we're driving with Stills in his Cadillac, the next we're running wild with 'gators and snakes' and then somehow we're meant to sympathise with a 'father' who has 'wanderlust' and recalls the times before he started a family and grew roots. 'The life you get is the life I want' concludes Stills, but whether that's as the privileged rock-star who never gets to make any music for fun anymore, the family man who never gets to go interesting places or the locals who don't want to spend their days wrestling with crocodiles all their lives is never explained. Perhaps everyone in this song is jealous of each other and that's what this song is all about? It would have been nice to have had a clue though. Really this is just an excuse to mess around in a new style, but it's not one that suits Stills (who in years gone by suited everything) or Nash, who sounds even less suitable here than on 'Wounded World'.
'Spanish Suite' tries hard to be an ambitious closing finale to the record. A little too hard to be honest - like a lot of other foreign-language ten minute AAA suites (such as Cat Stevens' 'Foreigner') it's an exercise that seems to be more about breaking the listener and their patience than truly adding to what we know about the author. There is, at least, some superb moments of pure Stills in here as yet again he looks back on a relationship that went wrong and tries to force himself to break away. We've seen on here in the past how the 'real' Stills is often buried on his foreign-language Spanish and French songs, rightly guessing that most of his fans won't understand or be willing to go the extra mile to work out what he's saying so he can be truly honest and open with us. Here, though, he offers us the English translation as soon as he's sung the Spanish as if to draw our attention to it. The lyrics are clearly heartfelt though, more so than most of this album and quite painful and real even if - as I suspect - the subject of them dates back to at least Rita Coolidge (maybe with bits of Judy Collins in there too given that this lengthy formless poem resembles 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' more than anything else in his canon). 'Goodbye and good luck' his once loved one sings from her pedestal, 'I am not interested - your love is worth nothing'. Stills is crushed but obstinate enough to try again anyway, figuring that love is meant to be a 'trial' where some win and some lose, only to lose again. Finally Stills 'gets' it, that there is 'no more me and you' and wonders how long it will take him to forget her - forever? In the two minutes of this song that stop sleepwalking and suddenly matter this fragmentary song suddenly grows into a full band performance. 'I gave up on you' Stills snaps, over and over, a sentence he never thought he'd ever hear himself say. This is, after all, a lover who promised to do anything and go anywhere for his loved ones and meant it too and Stills is still in shock unable to believe he's saying it. But for once it's not a lover walking out on him, he's giving up on her ;finished with the chase' and he's in shock, spinning the sentences out over and over past their natural breaking point in a flurry of words as if, even now, he's adamant that he needs to get everything right and expresses just how hard this decision was to make. 'I have nothing left to lose, even though I know you'll never really face yourself or put your trust in someone else that's just the same as asking all of us to turn away and just give up on you'. That, as they say, is a sentence! Unfortunately it's not the end of the song, as it should be, but the excuse for five minutes of some of the worst jamming session noodling on record (a decidedly non-super session if you will). Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock takes over but his jazzy chords are a world away from Stills' style and he doesn't seem to have been given much direction except to make a lot of noise and Stills' much more interesting flamenco style guitar doesn't get much of a look in alongside. To be honest it's all quite boring and no substitute for the 'doo doo doo' ending to 'Suite: Judy'. The song chills and you half-expect a verse reprise to stamp the song's authority back in the peak of the chorus, but no - this song just drifts away which is disappointing after that adrenalin rush. The middle, then, is great and back to the ambition and themes of old - but it's a great two minute song sitting at the heart of an eleven minute track you won't be able to stomach too many times unless you really like weak jazz or really really really like Stills' 'latin' songs (of which this is, sadly, the weakest).
Not that I'm giving up on Stills or anything. The middle of this CD is pretty decent and had this album been made for the LP-length days when a few of the weaker songs from the beginning and end had been kicked out it would have been just about up to standard. But even with a few moments that catch the ear, the good moments are rather swamped by everything this album gets wrong - every bland song (the melodies being a particular disappointment across this record for someone of Stills' standards), every repetitive 1980s arrangement and every lifeless performance just sucks the life out of this record before it's even had a chance to get going. This isn't the sound of a 'man alive' - well not up to the standards that a Stills album is generally so amazingly, remarkably, full-bloodedly alive. Instead this is another 'marking time' album like 'Stills Alone', albeit one made over a longer period of time and with more actual songs on it this time. There's an inside-sleeve picture that goes with this album that's obviously meant to be clever and cool, Stills playing his guitar in a Hawaiian shirt (Stills that is, not the guitar - his neck's not that big!) on a fast-speed camera that's all blurry. Instead of looking energetic and powerful, though, it just looks like an old man waving his arms around for a bit for no reason. That's the problem with this album, which spends too long concentrating on the daft speedboats of 'Right By You' and trying to make Stills look trendy instead of concentrating on what this album does get right - the wiser, cooler head, the occasional heartfelt autobiographical lyric the younger Stills wasn't yet grown enough to be writing and the passionate delivery on the pair of cover songs. This album tries so hard in so many ways, while in others it doesn't try anywhere near enough, being by far the lowest moment in Stills' solo canon. That said, though, I'd like to hear any other career lowpoints with the power of the performance heard on 'Ole Man Trouble' 'Different Man', the lyrics of 'Heart's Gate' 'Round The Bend' or 'Piece Of Me' or the sudden moment everything works in the middle of 'Spanish Suite'. Giving up on you? Hardly - this album still has enough to gets fans excited about for a future Stills album being as great as we know it can be as long as Stills ditches the production, bandmates and bland melodies.
'We are the age of the beatniks and we're proud of our fate, not much we're sure of 'cept we know that we're great!' Sometimes AAA bands seem to arrive out of nowhere with the 'perfect' debut song and a #1 hit with their first release (Pink Floyd and The Monkees spring to mind). Occasionally though the road to glory takes longer, with a few mis-steps and style makeovers along the way. Perhaps the most interesting - certainly the longest - road to discovery, though, was from Simon and Garfunkel who started their career not as Paul and Arty but as 'Tom and Jerry', two clean-cut sixteen year-olds who sang doo-wop songs about being at school in between doing their actual homework (the name was the idea of their new boss Sid Prosen). In fact so young were out future superstars when they got their first hit that their first release 'Hey Schoolgirl' (their biggest hit by far until 'The Sound Of Silence' as things turn out) has the distinction of being the first ever AAA record in November 1957, a full five years before 'Love Me Do', four before The Beach Boys' 'Surfin' Safari' and even a full eight months before The Quarrymen had a bash at 'In Spite Of All The Danger'.
As you'd expect some of the duo's early records as Tom and Jerry (Arty was Tom by the way and Paul Jerry in a twist on their future rolecall name-order) they sound young, hungry and impossibly naive. Sometimes, as with that first hit single, they sound genuinely inspired as if they've worked out singlehandedly how to combine doo-wop and rock and roll years before their elders have got a clue. More often though it has to be said the pair sound tired, churning out the sort of things that are likely to sell rather than what they believe in. You have to say too that, though some of the melodies are rather charming, in terms of Paul (and even Arty's occasionally) lyrical development is zilch. Aside from 'Schoolgirl' which started making appearances in concert during the pair's last 1969 tour and occasionally turns on compilations since, you get the feeling that neither man likes their earliest recordings and one of the few things that brought Simon and Garfunkel together in the mid-1970s was an attempt to stop their original labels 'Big USA' 'King' MGM and 'Warwick' from cashing in on their success with a compilation of their work. Given that the pair had actually sanctioned the release of these records at the time though (and the pair even turned the rights over to the 'Tom and Jerry' name over to their 'Big' boss Sid Prosen - that's the name of the label by the way, not a euphemism) they didn't really have a legal leg to stand on and the songs have appeared occasionally since. Not very often - Simon and Garfunkel still try to fight these re-releases when they can because they feel deeply embarrassed by their younger selves' mooning and Juning and don't want them to be ripped off by thinking they're buying the 'real thing'. However we say that these early discs are rather charming and, when marketed the right way for what they are rather than as the next Simon or Garfunkel record, are an invaluable insight into just how talented the duo were, even when taking their first musical breaths. We S and G fans are in the rare and privileged position to hear our singers growing up before our ears (if only we could hear our other bands mature at the same speed) and though there's maybe only a half dozen records here that are truly great, it's well worth hearing them all if you can. Do bear in mind too that what we list here aren't 'bootlegs' though many fans refer to them as such: instead these are legitimate releases made up of previously released material the CD companies have legally bought: they just don't happen to have the backing of Simon and Garfunkel who would rather we forget they exist at all.
Most fans have vaguely heard of Tom and Jerry and their early fame (a US peak for 'Hey Schoolgirl' is pretty darn good in an era when the charts are chock-full of songs by Elvis, The Everly Brothers and Little Richard, with rock at an early healthy peak), but not that many know what happened next. So this little introduction will seek to deal with all that: the split between 'Tom' and 'Jerry' that happened predictably early before the pair went their separate ways, Garfunkel re-naming himself the trendier 'Artie Garr' before temporarily leaving music to study the unusual pairing of architecture and art history at university; Paul decided to cash in on an Elvis craze with a parody he credited to 'True Taylor' and then carried on his doo-wop-pop career as 'Jerry Landis' (half-cashing in on his old name and half adopting the surname of new girlfriend Sue Landis). When this failed he tried to joined a group that were already successful, become on eof half a dozen lead singers who passed through the ranks of professional doo-wop group 'The Mystics'. Paul, though, never liked the thought of taking direction and quit after just one single (plus an outtake) to form his first (and only as it will turn out) rock 'band', styling himself as Tico, the head of a motorcycle-style posse named 'The Triumphs'. Paul even scored a second hit under this pseudonym on the hard-rocking 'Motorcycle', though at a chart high of #99 it wasn't exactly a success either. Artie, meanwhile, had one last gasp at musical success with a second single recorded during the summer off from his studies and after writing letters back and forth from uni with his old friend they decided to get 'Tom and Jerry' back together one last time.
And a third time a year later when that success failed too.
Paul, meanwhile, is spending his time bouncing between performing as a solo act in coffee houses and working as a Brill Songwriter recording demos for original and cover songs for other acts to record at a few cents per time (Gerry Goffin and Carole King are two of his companions in the same building - photos exist of all three before their fame came calling). Paul recorded everything, whether he liked it or not, to make ends meet which is where the bottom half of our retrospective comes on (note: we've only reviewed the songs that have actually been released 'officially' - there are plenty more on bootleg, so if you've found a track that isn't here that's probably where it's come from with two exceptions: see below). Finally, our story ends in 1963, when The Beatles and Bob Dylan have come along to blow the doo-wop cobwebs away and Paul has had an epiphany of sorts, finally realising that though his first loves were always doo-wop and rockabilly, his true calling was an acoustic folky. However he's still reluctant to use his real name, trading under one last alter ego 'Paul Kane', protest singer. Proudly sending a copy of his new record to Arty, his old friend is deeply impressed and writes his congratulations, along with an offer to help him record the songs. 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' is what they come up with, a debut album which contained an early version of perhaps Paul's fourth or fifth song in this new style 'The Sound Of Silence'...
Note: Before we begin properly, there are a whole number of later singles credited to 'Tom and Jerry' than the ones listed here, all of which have nothing to do with 'our' Tom and Jerry (aka Garfunkel and Simon). This isn't the usual case of another band half a world away who had the same hip idea for a band name either: Sid Prosen, boss of record label 'Big', had come up with the aliases before persuading Simon and Garfunkel to use it and he wrote it into the contract that he kept the name even after they'd left the label (yes, that's right, he let Simon and Garfunkel walk away but insisted on using the dumb name he came up with for them. Let's think about that for a minute...) Confusingly, some of the re-issues of this material (such as 'Baby Talk') even feature the 'real' Tom and Jerry on the flipside ('Two Teenagers'), though only through older previously released recordings. Sometimes bootleggers and official CD compilers alike don't know the difference so simply release every Tom and Jerry single out there, so for the record here's a list of the releases that credited to Tom and Jerry which appear often on Simon and Garfunkel compilations but don't actually feature either (and aren't reviewed as part of this article). It doesn't help that replacement singers Chris Gantry and Len Chiriacki also sound a little like 'our' Simon and Garfunkel and if anything are even more besotted by The Everly Brothers. Anyway, here's a list of what Simon and Garfunkel aren't on: 'Baby Talk' (September 1961), 'Surrender (Please Surrender) and 'Fightin' Mad' (October 1962), 'Lookin' At You' and 'I'm Lonesome' (May 1963). Ditto two songs often credited to 'Artie Garr' though they don't sound much like him and weren't released at the time (their listing as Artie Garr seems to have been a mistake and the identity of the 'real' singer is unknown - that is, assuming he wasn't *really* called Artie Garr, which seems unlikely): 'I Love You (Oh Yes I Do)' and 'A Soldier And A Song', which we've also skipped here until we get proper confirmation that it really is 'him' and not a bootlegger trying to fill up an extra five minutes of a CD.Another single by Jerry Landis, featuring covers of Al Jolson standards 'Swannee River' and 'Toot Toot Tootsie' would you believe was planned for release in 1960 but cancelled for reasons unknown; so far these tracks have only appeared on bootleg and mighty weird they are too. Note too that we've stuck with UK or US examples in our list of places to find this material for the most part as those are easiest for our worldwide readers to find but the 'Work In Progress' albums we mention were only ever made available in Germany.
Tom and Jerry (Part One):
November 1957: Woo-bop-a-loo-chi-ba! Of course the catchy [ ] 'Hey Schoolgirl!' was going to be a hit: what is there not to love? The energy, the fun, the pure innocent joy of two teenagers whispering their love for a girl in class so their teacher won't hear. Of course compared to later, deeper classics it's hard to believe that this is an early Paul Simon song (with a bit of help from Arty), with lines like 'Gonna skip my homework, gonna cut my class, bug outter here real fast!' but there are plenty of melodic trademarks making their appearance even this early: the melody that's instantly memorable on first listen and yet never gets boring or goes where you expect it to, an instinctive understanding of rhythm (emphasised by Arty whacking a tambourine on the main beats), wide open acoustic guitar strumming (a sign of 'Mrs Robinson' to come?) and two-part harmonies that are already working in counterpoint, not always doubling what the other is doing. Paul sounds rather high, but Arty is already much like we always know him. Legend has it that Simon and Garfunkel 'accidentally' wrote the song when trying to remember the lyrics to 'Hey Doll Baby', a track from their self-titled 1958 album, after it came on the radio. I'm not sure I buy that though: this is Pauk's beloved doo-wop group The Penguins as performed by Elvis and actually a rarity for not having any of that folky Everlies lilt the duo will re-use on most of these early records (furthermore they'd already written their first song together by this time, the still-unreleased 'The Girl For Me'). 'Schoolgirl' is actually impressively original for its era and the youth of its writer/performers, irresistible fun for teenagers, written by a pair who clearly are teenagers and know the rules and laws of the classroom of their generation well. The surprise is not that two unknown sixteen year olds on an unknown label got a top fifty hit and an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand - sadly wiped - out of it (with rumours that Prosen, not immune to 'payola' scandals, paid to get it on the air) but why this classy single didn't go top ten. Easily the best thing released under the 'Tom and Jerry' name. Fame will ultimately seem fleeting, though, with Paul in particular learning a difficult life lesson when he put almost all his money from 'Hey Schoolgirl's success into a new flashy car, an Imapala convertible. One day it's engine blew up just after he'd dropped Arty off home, nearly setting him on fire and taking all of his money in one go. Never have two teenagers seemed more desperate for a follow-up hit - or struggled so hard to find the right sequel. Find it on: 'Paul Simon: 1964-1993' (1993), 'Old Friends' (1997), 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000) 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
The B-side [ ] 'Dancin' Wild' was a little more ordinary, a rocky song credited to Simon and Garfunkel together over a funky weak-kneed Elvis backing. 'Ooh lala you're my baby, ooh lala don't mean maybe, ooh la la drives me crazy' might not seem like a typical Simon/Garfunkel lyric, but it makes more sense in context with the music and it's distinctive held 'ooo-ooo-oooh' points ahead to more complex creations in later years. There's a nice guitar break too, which is nicely confident assuming it is by Paul and not just a session man (though if it is one then he's clearly playing what Paul has taught him, in Pauk's recognisable style - a unique mix of Bob Dylan, Elvis and Penguins styles). What does seem odd is Paul's deeply voices spoken word cameo ('I love you so!') and the idea that Simon and Garfunkel, famous for standing stock-still during later performances, are actually trying to teach us how to dance! Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000) 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
March 1958: Simon and Garfunkel must have thought this recording lark was easy: a hit with their very first song! They probably thought they'd get plenty more without really trying so the pair come up with an immediate sequel together. [ ] 'Our Song' is a surprisingly postmodern song about the excitement of hearing 'our song on the radio' and wondering what their friends will say when they hear it. Before the pair get too clever by half, though, they throw in a lyric about how the music on the radio reminds them of happier days because their girl's gone (sorry, 'go-o-o-o-o-one' in the single biggest S and G debt to the Everly Brothers in their career). Combining folk, rock and doo-wop isn't easy and the track sounds a little disjointed - the melody is certainly less memorable than 'Schoolgirl' which is probably why this one didn't make the charts. But it's still a good song, especially for a pair of by-now-seventeen year olds and much under-rated. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
B-side [ ] 'Two Teenagers' though is pure shluck and the first S and G cover song that's hardly up to their own material (it's by Rose Marie McCoy if you really wanted to know). As if Artie wasn't high enough already, the pair have been joined by two irritating girl singers who intone 'that's us' with all of the emotion of a speaking clock. Simon and Garfunkel are clearly going for an 'Elvis ballad' style here with a Presley style 'uh-huh' in the lyric and the musical equivalent of much hip-shaking going on too. Though most of the melody is bland and repetitive, with another woo-bop-a-loo-chi-ba for good measure, there's a clever moment when the singers switch over near the end (the girls taking the main melody and Simon and Garfunkel answering with a sighed 'that's us!') The lyric too is mostly atrocious but does feature one clever line that points towards the similarly tongue-twisting one on 'The Boy In The Bubble': 'The birds and the bees in the trees sing the sweetest melodies, to young hearts a flower with flaming desire...' Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
March 1958: Here, as early as the third single and only four months into Simon and Garfunkel's discography, comes the first split! In fact [ ] 'True Or False' will have repercussions across the rest of their careers, Art often ringing it up during moments of stress for the pair when he felt his partner was 'conning' him out of equal shares in some way. For Paul, unbeknown to Arty, had also organised with Prosen to record this single in a style that Simon felt was both a certain hit and had no room for Garfunkel's voice. However Elvis pastiche 'True Or False' seems awfully trite for either partner to waste so much time and energy on; even compared to the Tom and Jerry singles it's not much cop to be honest. What is convincing, though, is Paul's Elvis impression which is closer than most wannabe teenagers in this period releasing Elvis soundalike singles and proves that Paul could have had a job as a passable imitator had the whole songwriting thing not worked out. It's the song that's awful, not his impression. Oddly though there's a postscript that points towards how guilty Paul may have felt over this: in his 1980 film 'One Trick Pony' Paul writes a semi-autobiographical part named Jonah Levin whose so obsessed with Elvis it's hurt his career and won't let him move on in music even after his idol is dead (bar a rogue one-off protest song that's loosely like a poor man's 'Sound Of Silence'). Is this Paul acknowledging that, if this one-off track had been a hit, he'd have been hungry enough to leave his best friend behind and pursue music in an Elvis style on his own? Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002) and 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs'
B-side [ ] 'Teenage Fool', meanwhile, is worse - a pastiche of Elvis' ballad style which borders on the offensive given how OTT Simon draws breath. To add insult to injury, this track is badly recorded as well as performed and features an opening that's more like an Acker Bilk record and would have had all self-respecting teenagers of 1958 reaching for their radio's off-button. There's still...something in there though, as bad as all this is, with Paul doing another passable Elvis impression once he gets past the awful first verse and even adding a bit of real emotion in character by the end. Marks for trying, then, but if Tom and Jerry couldn't get anywhere as fun-loving teenagers with some originality there's no way one of them could do better mimicking the 'opposition'. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) and 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
Tom and Jerry (Part Two):
May 1958: In another familiar pattern, Simon and Garfunkel put their differences aside and got back together again for the sake of the music (though Arty is suspiciously low in the mix, as if his partner has pushed him off mike). The duo's third single [ ] 'That's My Story' is less original than either of the previous two, a slow and weepy doo-wop song that's clearly meant to pull at our heart-strings but comes over a bit false. 'I go to sleep at night and dream of you - I wish I could hold you tight the whole night through' runs a typically boring sample lyric, ending in a comical 'doo-doo-doo-wah!' punch-line as if we're listening to the Black and White Minstrels. This isn't 'my story' at all but every teenager's story since time immemorial and with nothing distinctive about it at all. Perhaps the weakest of the six 'Tom and Jerry' records and another chart-missing flop. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
Far better is the B-side [ ] 'Don't Say Goodbye', which in contrast to the Elvisified doo-wop of 'Hey Schoolgirl' sounds like a pair of Elvises doing The Everly Brothers. It may well have been a compromise between the two who were already branching in different musical directions and which allowed Paul to get out his 'inner Elvis' while still allowing Art to sing in close harmony. It's a compromise that works, with a track that sounds quite unlike anything else from the same period and which is one of the pair's most successful early songs, with spot-on impressions of not just Elvis but the familiar Everlies guitar opening and mournful cry (a spot on copy of 'Bye Bye Love') and even some Buddy Holly hiccups as the song drops out to leave Paul to sing 'my...' really quietly before the song starts up again. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
Outtakes Released 1970s: There are also two instrumental tracks apparently taped during this last flurry of Tom and Jerry activity and unreleased until the 1990s though in truth the two tracks could be by anyone. If they were made by 'Tom and Jerry' then they were certainly going for a different style in their final days! (They're credited to BIG label boss Sid Prosen and a chap named Tom Layton, so they could or could not be). The wittily titled [ ] 'Simon Says' (whether by composer or bootlegger) is a joyful brass-band instrumental loosely based around the 'pretty baby!' hookline of the earlier 'Dancin' Wild' but given slightly more weight and power thanks to a nice surfing guitar part (which is certainly very in keeping with Paul's style), some dramatic bass 'gulps' and some heavy-handed drumming. It's pretty darn good actually, whoever made it, but needs vocals desperately. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000) and 'Tom and Jerry' (2002)
[ ] 'Tijuana Blues' sounds like the same but slower, an aching cod blues as played by Herb Alpert's copycats. The blaring horns seem to be going for a 'stripper' vibe, but the high profile harmonica part is more R and B, while that Paul Simon-ish guitar runs all over the song, weaving musical hooks around the main tune. It's a nice idea, but gets boring long before the 2:30 running time is up. And, yes, really needs some vocals too. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Jerry Landis (Part One):
August 1959: However, the third Tom and Jerry single was not a success and festering tensions meant that neither of them fancied a fourth single just yet. So the pair went their separate ways, with Paul staying behind to work as 'Jerry Landis' for a new record label, MGM for a one-off single. For some odd reason, though none of his singles sold too well, Paul's first release as Landis seems to be the hardest to find for someone and appears less frequently on compilations than his other records (with poor 'Annabelle' near impossible to track down). The A side [ ] 'Loneliness' is a much bigger production than anything Paul had done before and finds him using his 'pure' falsetto voice for the first time, as if making up for the fact that Arty isn't there. Though neither tune or lyrics are up to much (you could probably make up a better lyric on the theme of loneliness yourself in the time it takes to hear this song), the arrangement is a huge step forward with a parping guitar working in counterpoint to his main vocal, a tinkling bluesy piano and a mass choir that step in to cheer the narrator up from his loneliness from time to time. Of all his early records, this is the one that most sounds like his only future return to doo-wop on his musical 'The Capeman'. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
The rocking Little Richard style B-side [ ] 'Annabelle' is rather good too, contrasting the harshness of Paul's almost shouted main lyric about the pair's fights with the tenderness and innocence with which he sings his girl's name. Paul will go on to be great at delivering contrasts like this within a single song (see the 'Parsley Sage' album in particular) and is another step closer to finding his natural sound even if he's still trying to sound like Elvis on the vocal. It's half-tempting to see this as an early comment on his relationship with Arty too: the pair are always arguing and tugging in two different directions and yet Paul's narrator is desperate not to say a full goodbye because he has genuine love and respect for her and knows they can make 'great music' together. The fact that 'Annabelle' is probably the closest name to 'Art Garfunkel' he can get away with might be a 'clue' too, though I'm clutching at straws here to be honest. The best thing about the record though might not be the lyric or vocal at all but the funky guitar solo which wouldn't have disgraced a period Chuck Berry record. Another of the better songs on this list. Find it on: I've never actually seen this track on CD!
February 1960: Fed up of not getting anywhere and wanting another taste of success, Paul answered an advert in a music magazine and joined a 'proper' doo-wop band in The Mystics, a group that had been going since 1958 and were best known for the single 'Hushabye', a doo-wop masterpiece The Beach Boys later covered for their 1964 album 'All Summer Long'. Paul only stayed for one single, though and sadly [ ] 'All Through The Night' isn't one of the band's more inspired efforts. Though Paul was officially the 'lead singer', this track features all the group singing in tandem and Paul, singing at the low end of his range, doesn't seem to fit the band's sound at all (in fact the record sounds kinda flat and Paul seems as badly a culprit as anyone: then again I only have a really scratchy and beaten up copy of this single so perhaps it's that?) The song though is pretty bland too: 'Pretty baby how much I love you, all through the night, how I long once more to kiss you...' This prototype 'All Day and All Of The Night' desperately needs some Kinks amplifiers to wake it up a bit! An orchestra, meanwhile, sounds as if it belongs on an entirely different song. At least this time Paul got lucky with his investment: asked whether he'd rather have a flat 'joining' salary or part of the royalties, Paul went with the start-up fee. Find it on: 'The Complete Mystics' (c.1980)
The B-side [ ] 'I Begin (To Think Of You') at least has a 'proper' tune, though I wouldn't say this track sounds that original either. The band still sound a little flat though Paul is at least singing higher than he did on the A-side and that seems to register in the blend a little better. Paul gets a solo spot on this one and sounds rather good, using his best 'romantic' voice to good effect against a lush orchestra. There's a moment though when Paul messes up the chorus line '...recall your eyes' though, coming in a fraction too late, something his later self would have binned in an instant. This Four Freshman soundalike is certainly better, but in truth it's still not that good. Find it on: 'The Complete Mystics' (c.1980)
Outtake: I actually prefer outtake [ ] 'Let Me Steal Your Heart Away' , a bouncy and sunny tune that actually has a bit of life about it even if the band sound flatter than ever. This track features a much larger part for Paul than either of the other two tracks and his influence is a lot more profound, with a lot of 'doo-wop' doo-doos in the background that sound nothing like any other Mystics recording. This track only ever appeared on a rare compilation, having been left in the vault for far too many years. I've never seen a CD copy of this either just to warn you, but unlike the other two Mystics tracks this one's actually worth hunting down. Find it on: 'The Complete Mystics' (c.1980)
Artie Garr (Part One):
October 1959: Artie, meanwhile, wasn't giving up on his musical dreams and stubbornly carried on recording originals he wrote alone in the same Tom and Jerry doo-wop story. [ ] 'Dream Alone' too sounds like a comment of sorts on the pair's breakup, as Arty's small amount of lyrics have him 'dreaming alo-o-one' and 'cry woah crying alone'. Unfortunately a nice melody and a potentially engaging lyric then simply end, with Garfunkel never quite having Paul's ability to push ideas through past the moment of inspiration (he's best with collaborators who can expand on his ideas, though he won't find this out until as late as 2003's exquisite 'Everything Waits To Be Noticed'). Unfortunately, too, Arty sounds like he's singing the song from the end of a very echoey bath-tub, with a ridiculous amount of echo on his voice and an all-too-obviously overdubbed backing track that doesn't get very much to do.Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014) and bizarrely 'Recorded As Jerry Landis' (2006), which this record certainly wasn't!
More developed is B-side [ ] 'Beat Love', a track which seems to have survived the years in a 'half-finished' state so that it often appears on compilations twice, with and without Art's mass overdubbed harmonies. Though Art sings in his oh-so late 1950s lyric that he loves rock and roll for its rebellion but really thinks like an intellectual beatnik, the song is actually very free of rock and roll. The opening ear-catching vocal flourish puts you in mind of the era's taste for things Mexican and 'exotic' (it sounds ;like Pat Boone's 'Speedy Gonzales', though in actual fact that song won't be out for another couple of years yet), while the rest is upbeat pop. Both sections are rather good, if very much of their times, while Art has finally found his 'voice' away from Paul (even if he still sounds like he's singing in the bath). Another Garfunkel original, probably co-written with a pal named Sol Schlesinger, this song suggests that Art should have persevered with writing more even though he always felt embarrassed by his early songs. It's notable, though, that the most memorable section isn't a lyric at all but a 'linking' dabbawabbadooba part, which is the sort of thing that will become Garfunkel's speciality on songs like 'Scarborough Fair' in years to come. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014) and again 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) even though it wasn't!
Jerry Landis (Part One):
June 1960: Arty was probably giggling into his Columbia University scarf when Paul sent him a copy of [ ] 'Shy'. Paul does sound like he was shy round other ';ordinary' people back then, but was never shy in the studio as this elaborate production proves. Though the song is simple, bordering on stupid, Paul throws everything he can at his first Jerry Landis single including castanets, an echo opening Phil Spector would have been proud of, a double-tracked lead vocal and a doo wop choir who sing 'bum dum dum' in stereo (heady stuff in 1960!) The lyrics deal with the narrator being shy round girls - which by the sound of it wasn't actually true either given the amount of girlfriends who appear in Paul Simon biographies round this point! There's a sweet verse where the narrator practices what he wants to say in the mirror, though, pointing at a self-deprecating humour that will serve many a PS lyric well in the future. Unfortunately by releasing this single in his cutesy wutesy falsetto, 'Jerry Landis' will rather peg himself in as this character for the rest of his run under this name and it's not a character that suits him, even as well as the Elvis impersonations. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003), Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
B-side [ ] 'Just A Boy' is even more self-knowingly cute. A not-quite-twenty-year-old Paul tells us that he's 'not yet a man' but his girl's love makes him feel that one day he will 'be a man'. Far too icky and cute by half, it's not helped by a warbling female backing singer or a toy piano accompaniment, which is a shame because the tune itself is actually rather good. In many ways it's the first example of a future trick Paul will use a lot: though this song flows rather better than 'Our Song' it's another track built up in section and thus grows in power little bit by little bit, reaching a peak somewhere round the middle for a booming middle eight before slowly backing down again, a neat reflection of the narrator's 'doubts and fears' getting in the way during his chat-up sessions. Songs like these make me grateful that I wasn't a teenager in New York in the 1950s. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) , Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
October 1960: Here we are, four years before 'The Sound Of Silence' becomes one of the deepest and erudite songs about mis-communication and alienation as felt by teenagers everywhere, and Paul is recording a song titled [ ] 'I'd Like To Be (The Lipstick On Your Lips).' Actually the song is rather better than its title, an early example of Paul's clever ear for a good rhythm and sadly the only bossa nova he'll ever record (the song is by Hal David and Sherman Edwards, so they're to blame for the awful title). The lyrics, it's true, are pretty dire but even these reflect future 'list' songs like '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' as Paul works his way round his lover's body and there's a semi-clever pay off where he declares that he doesn't mind which bit of her body he gets to snuggle 'as long as I'm the one you love'. Paul's learnt how to better use the backing singers too and he sounds as if he's in competition with them throughout the track (it's probably a draw by the end). Still, you can understand why Paul has done his best to pretend this song never existed. In case you think I've missed a song out (now why would I do that in this of all articles? We all have to suffer this together!), 'Just A Boy' was recycled as the B-side of this flop single too, by the way. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
February 1961: More of the same, only if anything not quite as good. [ ] 'Play Me A Sad Song' features Paul ripping off the tune to 'Baby It's Cold Outside' and singing in an irritatingly false falsetto with a notably strong Bronx burr to it here (he sounds like nothing less than a depressed Bugs Bunny). However, it's easy to be critical: for an unknown twenty-year-old this is still rather good and shows that Paul has a big record collection he's been doing his homework too if nothing else, with some nice use of the backing singers (who chime 'oh yes!' as if in full agreement at key moments) on a lyric that rehashes 'Our Song' but to a more natural and heartfelt degree. The narrator is feeling so blue he doesn't want to hear any of his favourite records - just the sad slow ones. I still doubt many teenagers around in 1960 requested this one though. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Paul sounds more like Liberace on [ ] 'It Means A Lot To Them' credited to a songwriter named 'Ross' - I leave it up to you whether sounding like Liberace rather than Elvis is an improvement or not. Though the melody is again naggingly familiar and the arrangement even more overdone (there's now such a pile of girl singers that record label either Warwick must have hired everyone from across New York state or there was a musical in town with a chorus missing), the lyrics are another step closer towards sophistication. Paul sings of love as a mystery, something that 'other' people do and he spends the song wondering why all his friends and strangers the same age spend so much timer talking about love. It's a short hop from here to the alienation of 'I Am A Rock', though Paul sounds more curious than isolated across the song. Nicer than most Jerry Landis recordings. Note: officially there's an 'unreleased single' intended for release around here featuring a rare example of Paul as a cover artist. A planned single of 'Swannee' and 'Toot Toot Tootsie' was due for release round about here but cancelled for reasons unknown and the track hasn't been heard of since, though it does appear in a few discographies. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Artie Garr (Part Two):
August 1961 : Now a couple of years into his university course, Artie was feeling nostalgic and booked time into a studio to record a second solo single, more for fun than in the certainty of getting a hit. Judging by A side [ ] 'Private World', Garfunkel was quicker off the mark re-acting to changing styles than his partner, turning in a sad and reflective folk song with doo wop overtones that's far closer in style to what Simon and Garfunkel will do in the future. Not for the last time, Arty sounds cross with an un-named other and reflects on someone he used to know who hurt him, stewing in his own misery as he reflects on days they used to 'spend talking on the phone, sharing our own private world' and that now 'you've gone from my life'. It's interesting that both Simon and Garfunkel are recording prototypes for the alienation and bitterness of 'I Am The Rock' here, separately. Arty also sings double-tracked and his years of practice have paid off with a pitch-perfect performance that belies his own twenty-year-old newcomer status, though this song would have sounded rather nice with Paul in there too. A one-off release on the record label 'Octavia', sadly this fine recording never seems to turn up on compilations, which suggests issues with the rights, but that's a shame as it's one of the better recordings and performances here. The single peaked at an impressive #102 on Billboard, which is better than three out of four Tom and Jerry singles. Find it on: Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
The B-side [ ] 'Forgive Me' is sadly rather more clichéd, a typical doo-wop-pop song of the period that sounds like it's only missing the comedy 'ba-bums'. Garfunkel's last solo written song ever (!), it's easily the weakest of his four with some pretty awful lines: 'It's funny I should cry but the tears I can't hide, I know I'm on my way to stay...' In case you're wondering Artie seems to be asking for forgiveness from God rather than from a girl, which is a rare case of a Simon and Garfunkel song where the response to religion is 'straightforward', rather than sarcastic/doubtful/warped/done for humour in some way, though there are no juicy details of what Artie's narrator may have done to want forgiveness so badly. The performance is rather good though, Arty suddenly reaching effortlessly upwards from a surprisingly deep roar to his usual high falsetto in the style of Franki Valli and The Four Seasons - the contrast between the two is rather affecting. Find it on: Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014)
Jerry Landis (Part Two):
October 1961: Meanwhile, over in Paul's side of the studio, his fourth single as Jerry Landis came out right on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. [ ] 'I Wish I Weren't In Love' is edging ever closer to the rockier end of what we associate with Simon and Garfunkel, but still sounds like a rock song wearing a doo-wop overcoat with a bunch of 'ooh-wah' ing backing singers. The melody is perhaps his best since 'Hey Schoolgirl', sounding close enough to the period demand for doo-wop hits while adding a particularly memorable upbeat guitar shuffle and more hooks than perhaps any of his future songs (except perhaps 'Mrs Robinson'). Admittedly it all comes off sounding rather like Dion and the Belmonts' 'Teenager In Love', a 1959 hit that was clearly a big influence on many of these songs, but it's another step in the right direction with Paul offering up a lyric about a one-sided relationship that shows some real emotion in between the catchy doo-wop as he writes his girl's name over and over in his homework by accident. An early version of 'Tico and The Triumphs' provided the backing vocals. 'Find it on: Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
It's interesting how many of these early Simon and Garfunkel lyrics are already concentrating on the themes of loneliness and alienation and of being an 'outsider', years before 'The Sound Of Silence' and 'I Am Rock', even if they do so in a relatively 'dumb' manner. [ ] 'I'm Lonely' is a case in point, a forgettable over-echoey ballad that by itself is pretty awful: boy wants girl to call him on the phone, girl doesn't, boy feels sad and lonely kicking his heels at home. In this song in particular, though, you can hear all sorts of future S and G themes coming together: every other teenager in town seems to be out and having fun but 'Jerry Landis' is stuck inside with nothing but his books to keep him company. Even the slightly breathless rush of excitement of the melody, which seems at odds with the sad lyrics, is something of a future S and G twist, audibly 'hammered' into place by some terrific rolling drum beats as if mimicking just how stuck in place the narrator is. Clearly the writing and arrangement of a future talent, even if it's easy to see why songs like this were ignored for so long. Unusually for these early recordings, Paul sings using double-tracking and interestingly his higher pitches falsetto backing sounds remarkably like Arty - was the writer missing his old friend already? Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
Tico and the Triumphs:
October 1961: By 1961 solo acts were dying out and bands were in - especially if they had a good old rock and roll rebel vibe to their name. To this end Paul temporarily abandoned his solo career in favour of a group he helped form, a sharp-suited three piece rock and roll group with Paul/Jerry now re-styled as 'Tico', singer and guitarist (ever the collector, Paul named himself after one of his favourite independent music record labels, while his band took the name 'Triumphs', in true early 1960s style, after their favoured make of car). Paul had more experience than the rest of the band (Mickey Borack and Marty Cooper, plus later on backing singer Gail Lynn), who were both unknown young teenagers hanging around near the town of Flushing in New York that the elder Paul got to know after attending a talent contest at Parsons Jr High School. Part talent scout, part manager, part frontman, Paul drilled the band with endless rehearsals at the basement of his New York flat and changed styles yet again to become an earthier, grittier rock and roll singer. What Art Garfunkel, now a student, made of his old partner's change of direction is unknown, though it seems likely the pair were still in occasional contact while Arty had gone back to being a student. The trio were unlucky not to have any success: even above Tom and Jerry they're probably my favourite of Paul's pre-'He Was My Brother/Sound Of Silence' recordings and their work is well worth looking out for. Their first release [ ] 'Motorycle' actually became Paul's first charting top 100 single since 'Hey Schoolgirl', though with a peak of #99 it was never quite enough of a success to sustain a long-term career either (DJ Murray The K liked it though - the chart peak came after the DJ picked it as his favourite 'new' song of the week). Easily the best of the three singles released under the Triumphs name, it's silly but good fun and puts together many tricks that Paul had learnt over the years. The strong heavy beat and daft doo-wop vocals of 'Hey Schoolgirl' are back, along with a 'True Taylor'/'Elvis' style lead vocal from Paul, motorbike sound effects and lyrics celebrating the latest current trend for motorbikes. The effect is less Beach Boys or Chuck Berry, though, and more like Fats Domino 'twist' single that's more about the beat than anything else. The 'ba ba baaaa woah woah motorycle' chorus is as infectious as the plague and all those rehearsals seem to have paid off, with the Triumphs turning in the tightest backing track of any of these recordings so far (their backing vocals are pretty darn good too). However this is an idea more than a song with nothing to say other than 'hey, aren't motorcycles cool?' Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
The B-side [ ] 'I Don't Believe Them' offers even more recycling, a simple doo-wop song that's basically 'I Wish I Weren't In Love' with different lyrics. Marty sings lead on this one and does a good job, offering a genuine feeling of helplessness as he recalls his hurt on hearing that his girl has been seen with another guy while trying to pretend that it isn't true. Paul and Mickey, meanwhile, turn in a contrastingly neat and on-the-money backing. Paul's lyric, while clearly teenage-driven, has some real emotional weight behind it this time as 'we' know and his friends know the narrator is just in denial but he still refuses to believe it over and over, with Marty's wobbling voice getting higher and higher with each wave of denial quite affecting. It's certainly a big improvement on 'Weren't In Love'. Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
April 1962: You can hear a little bit of the acoustic guitar strumming of 'Mrs Robinson' on second Triumphs single [ ] 'Wild Flower', which also sounds suspiciously like the Buddy Holly single 'Not Fade Away'. Paul probably had Johnny Preston's 1959 hit 'Running Bear' in mind for this unusual Cowboys and Indians song, though, as Paul sings about his new restless girlfriend: 'She was never the type to be settled down 'cause like the wind she was roaming round!' It's a far cry from Paul's usual type of girlfriends (brooding, quiet, shy and deep) and to be honest he sounds a little out of his depth, struggling to come up with a reason to make her want to settle down with him. It even ends with a bit of Hawaiian which sounds rather good - sadly we never did get a 'Hawaiian' album to go with the African 'Graceland' and Brazilian 'Rhythm Of The Saints'. This song has a memorable stop-starty tune, the Triumphs all sing with gusto and this is an early example of Paul's love of unusual instrumentation, with a clarinet of all things playing the solo. No 'Sounds Of Silence' admittedly, but still much under-rated. Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
After a song about motorcyles, a track about the early 1960s' other favourite form of transport was inevitable. B-side [ ] 'Express Train' should have been the A-side, a delightful merger of doo-wop and rock and roll with an infectious vibe that displays just how strongly Paul was developing his ears for rhythms. This track, unlike most from the era, really does sound like a rickety old train rolling down a track and Paul's histrionic vocal urging the locomotive to get home quick is terrific, outshone only by the Triumphs' straight-faced backing and train whistles. The only thing the song is missing is a chorus as strong and hook-filled as the rest of the track, but everything else is here in place and this track really should have been a hit. Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
September 1962: Third single [ ] 'Get Up And Do The Wobble' is easily the weakest of the six 'Triumph' sides, an embarrassing pastiche of current dance crazes that isn't earnest enough to work for real or funny enough to work as a spoof. Perhaps wisely, Paul hands the song over to Marty over to sing but he sounds deeply uncomfortable here, encouraging us to get up and do a weird dance that he never actually gets round to telling us how to do. By contrast Marty is too keen to tell us that all the kids are dancing to it and how much better it is than the 'mashed potato' (believe me, that's not hard). Sounding not unlike 'Going To The Chapel' with some notes removed, it's rather odd for a dance song with none of the sense of rhythm the other Triumphs songs have displayed. If the other two singles couldn't sell, this one didn't have a hope and the lack of Paul Simon (though he is just about audible on the lowly mixed backing vocals) makes this one of the least essential early Simon recordings to hear. Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
However, the Triumphs hadn't lost their touch. B-side [ ] 'Cry Little Boy, Cry' beats even 'Motorycle' with a clever Four Seasons-style song that offers both punch and vulnerability. Marty is excellent as the broken-hearted narrator tugging on our heart strings on a lyric that sounds like a trial run for 'Sounds Of Silence': 'Every night I sit up in my room, feeling the silent gloom of my lonely heart and the voice cried out from deep inside of me why don't you cry little boy cry?' Meanwhile behind him Paul and Mickey turn in a busy backing vocal full of 'woahs' and shouts and yells, urging the singer on to confess all as a once cool and trendy teenager reveals himself to be a self-pitiable wreck. However, here's the twist: unlike every other record of the period revealing his 'true' self works as the girl he's been fancying from afar passes and feels sorry for him, cheering him up after the loss of his first girlfriend. Suddenly those tears are tears of joy - a clever twist and the sort of thing Paul will go on to write more of during these early years. An excellent, groundbreaking song, an immaculate performance - why wasn't this song picked as a single? Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
Outtakes released in 2014: As per usual, the record label Madison (later re-issues were on 'AMY') got fed up of too many flop singles and decided to cancel the Triumphs' contract even though they had another song all ready to go. The song wasn't released officially until as late as 2014, despite the years of Simon and Garfunkel peak success, but then Paul very much takes a back seat to his colleagues this time around. Marty is sobbing his heart out again on [ ] 'Here Comes The Garbage Man' , a song about feeling worthless and thrown out along with the trash, but the song isn't quite as convincing. The cod-Jamaican accent is clearly meant to take off 'Please Mr Postmen' by the Marvelletes' as re-wired for a different audience via an early form of ska (proving, perhaps, how early Paul was tapping into other cultures). However it's less than convincing ('He's not the postman, he got da junk man!') and doesn't seem to feature Paul at all. Still a better attempt at reggae than 'Why Don't You Write Me?' though. Find it on: a one-off special edition vinyl (i9t's never appeared on CD)
Unreleased B-side [ ] 'The Biggest Lie I Ever Told' is also pretty unwieldy, with an unusual melody that keeps getting interrupted every-time it's just beginning to soar. The best part of the song comes when Marty drops the tempo and turns the track into a song akin to an Elvis ballad, but soon the song's half-jazzed up again and falls over its feet trying to do too much. I can't hear Paul on this one either. Paul then split all ties with the band completely and they carried on, rather weirdly, as 'Tico' (wasn't that meant to be Paul?) cutting one last single without his involvement that was released this time, in 1962. Both 'Cards Of Love' and it's flipside 'Noise' are a big improvement on this one but lack Paul's involvement and forward-thinking, coming off as well-performed pieces of doo-wop fluff rather than anything that heartfelt or profound. Find it on: a one-off special edition vinyl (it's never appeared on CD)
Jerry Landis (Part Three):
November 1962: Who is that masked guitarist? You don't know? Why it's philosophical poet Paul Simon, as you've never heard him before. Returning to his solo career, Paul came up with what's easily my favourite of this entire list. The fast-shooting wise-cracking unofficially endorsed TV spin-off [ ] 'The Lone Teen Ranger' is hilarious, Paul showing off an early grasp of comedy as his latest hapless teenage narrator loses his girl not to another boy but the hero she sees on TV every week 'bout eight o'clock'. Paul's inventive arranger makes good use of a whole crew of backing doo-wop singers who handle the tricky stuff while Paul's increasingly hysterical narrator sings a gutsy vocal up front, while the backing track incorporates yet more of Paul's beloved sound effects (one of them is even used as the big hook: 'He goes bang bang *pistol shot* It's the Lone Teen Ranger!') and even a quick burst of the William Tell overture. The melody has a nicely restless feel, urgent and fast as the narrator gets more and more jealous, but it's the lyrics that make this song work, putting a twist on Paul's usual feeling of being an unlucky 'outsider' and making out that being a loner can actually be 'cool'. His girl sees this figure that he can never live up to on TV 'and since then she never has time for me!' and the track additionally includes the single most hysterical line of Paul's career ('She even kissed the TV set - oh it's a crying shame!' delivered with the same deadpan shrug that Paul wall revive on the better known 'You Can Call Me Al' video). Hilarious and deservedly the second biggest 'hit' of all these songs, though #97 was never going to be enough for an ambitious young lad like Jerry, sorry Paul. This teenage pop business is clearly getting Paul down and it's no surprise really that he gives up his career as 'Landis' after this, changing his style completely. Paul really did give his all for this single, his single biggest production until the 'Parsley Sage' period and 'Scarborough Fair'. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000) and 'Tom and Jerry' (2002), 'Before The Fame' (2003) , 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
B-side [ ] 'Lisa' is much more ordinary, a quick run-through a sort of 'greatest hits' of all the other doo-wop songs above. Sounding like a less inspired version of 'Cry Little Boy Cry' crossed with 'I Weren't In Love', 'Lisa' is a candidate for Paul's worst lyric as he tries to break up with his girl. 'Lisa, oh Lisa, I wrote you a letter today, Lisa oh Lisa I had so much I wanted to say, so I got some paper and a pen and I started to write and I started over again...' Note, though, that Paul is already turning writing letters into a 'song', a theme he'll pick up on later (particularly on the 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' album). There's also a hint of autobiography and restlessness and Paul's head 'tells me to stay' but 'my feet start walking and I walk away'. Find it on: 'Tom and Jerry Meet Tico and the Triumphs' (2012)
Outtakes Released in 1990s: Oddly popular on compilations considering it wasn't thought good enough for release at the time and isn't by Simon at all (its by unknowns Marvin Hamlisch and Joel Hirshorn), [ ] 'Flame' is about an old flame called, erm, 'Flame' ('That was her name'). A singing choir can't disguise the fact that song too is pretty awful and if they ever do a Mills and Boon book based on Simon and Garfunkel songs, this one's a shoo-in for the opening credits. ('Her lips sweeter than wine, clinging to mine, taught me desire'). The melody, however, is very pretty and is well handled by Paul's stabbing staccato guitars in opposition to some twinkly xylophones and flutes. Paul's latest narrator, however, sounds like a wet blanket despite the intensity of the two characters' relationship. Find it on: 'Two Can Dream Alone' (2000), 'Tom and Jerry' (2002) and 'Before The Fame' (2003)
More generic doo-wop from a singer who sounds as if he's getting fed up by now to be honest, [ ] 'Just To Be With You' is perhaps the most forgettable of all these songs, itself with a tune recycled from 'That's Our Story' (which is odd because most sources credit this song to Paul's fellow songwriter/demo maker Carole King. She's obviously been listening hard to Paul's previous work). Funnily enough it's also the one that sounds most like 'The Capeman', Paul's later slightly mis-guided (if misunderstood) doo-wop musical about a murderer from the wrong side of town. In other words, it's very much the 90s idea of doo-wop (sweet, innocent, pure and slightly soppy) full of lyrics about being in love and seeing stars rather than most of the genuine period songs which can be very gritty and realistic. You can probably work out most of the lyric from the title and Paul over-sings terribly, especially on his last breath-in on the false ending.
No Paul isn't covering a Beatles B-side - in fact John Lennon has only just written his song of the same name. [ ] 'Ask Me Why?' is still unbearably twee but at least has a bit of life about it and some nice stinging surfing guitar behind Paul as he asks a series of rehtorical questions ('How come every minute apart away from my beloved seems like years?' he asks. 'Why does the gap between this and 'Sounds Of Silence' seem like 200 years not two?' you can ask in reply). Arguably the two better songs from these sessions ended up on the record, though goodness knows three out of four of them are pretty bad.
August 1963: 'You ask why I search? There are many reasons why!' By now it's been nine months since Paul's last single: time enough for someone to have a baby, although actually it's the 'true'; sound of Simon and Garfunkel being born for the first time (albeit with Paul still a solo act for one last time). Though [ ] 'Carlos Dominguez' was as big a flop as all the Tom and Jerry/Tico/True Taylor releases, it's clearly a far more important song and 'Paul Kane' (Paul moving halfway to adopting his real identity) sounds inspired. It seems odd he never returned to his delightful Spanish-sounding A-side, whose the first in a long line of troubled, alienated philosophical loners from Paul Simon's pen, 'searching for something I cannot find'. The melody is like a troubled version of 'Sparrow' (written two songs after this one, if Arty's memory is to be believed), while the lyrics alternate a verse in the third person commenting on Carlos Dominguez being an 'unhappy man' and verses in the first person, with Carlos complaining that there's too many reasons he's 'always running away' and 'crying every day'. His final discovery, that 'all men die' and that despite looking for love 'all I find is hate' isn't that far away from the lyric of 'I Am A Rock' only, if anything, even better. Classy too is Paul's flamenco flourishes on the guitar, angular and turbulent, musically looking for a 'resolution' that never comes. The name is a mystery by the way: there are plenty of famous Carlos Dominguez' around, from cyclists to footballers to writers, but they all seem to have been born after this song's 1963 release (except for the writer, who was aged eight). Chances are Paul wanted a suitably Spanish name with five syllables to fit his flamenco-sounding melodyline - although maybe his song was more influential than we've long supposed given the amount of people born with the name in the 1960s and 1970s! A real move forward, it's a tragedy that this single a) missed the charts completely, not even doing as well as 'The Lone Teen Ranger' or 'Motorcycle' and b) that the record label that released this single, 'Tribute', must pay higher rates than all the other minor record labels on this list as to date this thrilling stepping stone in Paul Simon's development has never been officially released on CD. It was also Paul's biggest 'success' in many a long year after Val Doonican covered it on his first self-titled album soon after release - but we put 'success' in inverted commas because its a very weird version that probably cost rather than gained Paul new fans.Search for it on Youtube and second hand stores et al though, it's a song every S and G fan should hear, highly under-rated in terms of Paul's development.
The B-side [ a] 'He Was My Brother' was a first go at a future Simon and Garfunkel classic, written in horror after Paul learnt that one of his classmates had died in Vietnam. Burning with an anger rare for Simon and Garfunkel, Paul tones the feel of this song down compared to the future re-recording on 'Wednesday Morning 3AM', sounding more in shock than the later recording's defiance. You badly miss Arty, whose strident vocal harmony did so much to make this song special (he considered this song Paul's breakthrough, stating on the '3AM' sleevenotes that he 'loved how it made me feel' with all those elongated vowels and long held lines he's so good at) and this recording sounds more like an outtake from 'The Paul Simon Songbook' than what the track will become. It's still a strong version though with Paul patently moved and indignant in his anger, with one lyrical change hinting that the song is more of a protest against racism and the lynching mobs of the American South: 'Mississippi's gonna be your burying place!' (changed to the less incriminating 'this town' on the final version). In case you were wondering, Paul officially copyrighted this song to 'Paul Kane' which is why that track is thus credited on the '3AM' album - it really is an original Paul Simon song and a mighty fine one at that. Again, infuriatingly hard to find in this day and age and as yet unavailable officially on CD.
Undated Jerry Landis Demos:
That's it for the official Simon and Garfunkel releases. However the past twenty years have seen a whole pile of 'extra' Jerry Landis songs (circa 1960-1961) come out on 'official-in-the-sense-that-the-tapes-were-bought-up-fair-and-square, unofficial-in-the-sense-that-Paul-and-Arty-hate-the-guts-of-everyone-who-keeps-putting-these-things-out-on-CD-when-they'd-rather-they-were-just-forgotten compilations. These are a slightly different bunch to those listed above: they feature Paul Simon not as a singer-songwriter but as a Brill session singer, recording demos of songs written either by himself or occasionally (we'll tell you where, when we know) by outside songwriters for a few cents at a time. Considering that most of these songs are by 'grown-ups' you have to say they're not up to the standards Paul had already reached with Tom and Jerry but hey, everyone has to eat - especially songwriters. Most of these tracks are in truth deeply embarrassing and Paul sounds terribly uncomfortable at times, but these recordings too are an important stepping stone in his role as 'producer', learning how to make the best of what was available and recording something that stood out from the crowd while appealing to it all at the same time. Some of these tracks are rather good too, though not that many as far as I know none of these many recordings were ever hits as covered by other people (in fact did Paul manage to successfully sell any of these songs?) There are literally somewhere around a hundred of these tapes in existence, although by and large most have only appeared on 'bootlegs' so far and not official releases so we haven't included them all here (Phew! Let's get this book published quick before I have to listen to them all!) However we've drawn your attention either to songs that are available 'properly' or are particularly important:
[ ] 'A Different Kind Of Love' sounds exactly like half of the songs above: generic forgettable doo-wop. However the lyric is intriguing: the narrator boasts that his kind of love is different to everyone else's, 'more than just a boy's and girl's. Of course what he means is that this love is 'so right' it's deeper than everyone else's, but for a moment there you think he's going to announce that his lover is a man or a horse or an alien or something. Paul sings this one like Dean Martin after one too many from the recording studio bar. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
My favourite of all of these tracks in a good-God-this-is-terrible kind of way, Martin Hugh's [ ] 'Make A Wish' has Paul being woken by 'an oriental genie leaning on my bedpost'. Paul, waking up, asks the genie to help a girl named (inevitably) Lulu to fall in love with him,. Amazingly he can't (I mean, he has just announced himself as 'A smah! A wow! A wizard!' so it's an embarrassing admission) - it turns out that Paul's the tenth person to have asked for the wish tonight. To save them getting jealous even the blooming genie went out with her! Fittingly it's Lulu's choice that saves the day as she chooses Paul in a flurry of coloured smokes and a final cry of 'Wow!' that makes you wonder if the smoke in the studio was of the herbal variety. Best of all though is the hoho-ing Father Christmas style genie who has some great interaction with Paul, who turns in a pretty ho-hoing performance himself. You sense that of all the records here this children's novelty record is perhaps the most embarrassing and if Paul ever meets his genie again the first thing he'll ask is to have this record destroyed forevermore. Paul sings this one like Neil Sedaka on magic mushrooms. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
A boy, a girl, two children 'who look like you', a wannabe teenager needing cheap work, a corny pop song about love, a naggingly irritatingly chorus - that's Wolf/Raleigh's [ ] 'A Good Foundation For Love'. Day by day, kiss by kiss, this love's going to get better and better. Future glorious single by future glorious single, this song keeps seeming worse and worse. Paul sings this one like Tommy Steele on anti-depressants. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Pretty, but pretty hopeless, [ ] 'A Frame Without A Picture' is one of the bigger production numbers here written by future Burt Bacharach collaborator Hal David with Sherman Edwards. Paul sounds almost convincing as he tries to take a picture of his beloved for his photo frame. There's way too much sugar in this song, though, which is exactly the sort of thing rock and roll was invented to destroy. Paul sings this one like Adam Faith locked up in a mental asylum.Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
This one's a little better, with Paul singing deeper on a song that resembles his own favourite song of the period 'Earth Angel' by songwriters Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan. [ ] 'An Angel Cries' is cute, Paul sounding genuinely romantic here, but the less than angelic and rather noisy choir need shooting. Paul sings this one like Gordon MacCrae with tight trousers. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
A burst of whistling, a touch of Buddy Holly in the tune and suitable lyrics about wandering restlessly for something better makes [ ] 'North Wind' by Ruby Fisher one of the more suitable songs Paul sings in this period. He even plays the sort of shimmering guitar effect he'll be using for most of his future career. However the corny wind effects and another Godawful sugary choir still lose this skiffle song a few points. Paul sings this one like Lonnie Donegan's younger brother. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'Rock 'n' Roll Skater's Waltz' really is a waltz, perhaps the only one Paul's ever done, perhaps thankfully given how awful and corny this tale of a turtle-necked sweatered skater is. She has 'the figure to do figure eights', apparently. Paul sings this one like Patti Page's 'The Tennessee Waltz' played at the wrong speed. It took three outside songwriters to come up with this one when Paul could surely have come up with something better on the spot! Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995) while an outtake appears on 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
Next up, [ ] 'Just A Kid' - and doesn't Paul sound it! Actually it's a love song for a 'girl in pig tails who played with my kid sister - and I took them to the show'. Not creepy at all then, as Paul falls in love with a girl several years his junior and, well, you could knock him down with a feather at how pretty she suddenly is. Honestly, that's what he sings. You wonder if the likes of Carrie Fisher have ever heard this song. Paul sings this one like a sweating suspect in Operation Yewtree. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Paul doesn't want a teddy bear for Christmas this year, he's 'a man not a boy' and [ ] 'I Want You In My Stocking' (instead of a toy). Be afraid. Be very afraid. Performed as an un-agreeable cha-cha-cha, this is one truly wretched Christmas single that won't leave you feeling very festive and songwriters Paul Kaufman and Mike Anthony are probably still wishing we'd bury this song along with Paul. Mr 'Perry' Simon sings this one like Perry Como having a less than magic moment. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
I've often wondered if [ ] 'That's How I Feel' is where Paul got the hook for Graceland song 'Crazy Love' from (is that why the 1987 version is listed as 'Part Two'?) Paul is singing about that dizzy silly daffy dilly willy nilly hazy crazy love as love drips down to his feet 'like a pizza', but if you can ignore the dizzy silly daffy etc lyrics, this one's actually rather good. The melody is nicely urgent, Paul's backing singers are for once on the same page and find this all as stupid as he does and there's a nice key change mid-way through that's pure Eurovision. Crazy, but also rather cool. Paul sings this one like Kenn Dodd having an acid flashback. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'Let's Make Pictures' features Paul putting on his best crooning voice for something more like one of the Rat pack would do, but he's not a natural at this style and the corny song about the narrator thinking his girl should be in a Hollywood movie is terribly hackneyed and cliched. The chirruping female chorus behind Paul isn't helping either. He sings this one like Bing Crosby with a cold. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
More in keeping with Tom and Jerry's teen-orientated doo-wop records is [ ] 'When You Come Back To School', a sweet if rather insincere song by Curtis/Meyer about the boy next door wondering if the girl next door will remember him after their long summer break. Paul sings this one as if he's in the middle of an Enid Blyton book. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Another of the better songs on this list, Paul excels on the moody [ ] 'One Way Love' where his heart is broken by a girl who doesn't feel the same way. 'I love you, why don't you love me too?' he pines, while a Johnny Cash style oompah rhythm drives this slow song along. Paul sings this one like a teenage Roy Orbison. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Paul audibly grins mid-way through this sickly sweet 'n' silly song as a female choir mercifully drowns out the lyrics of [ ] 'Bigger and Better Things', the weakest of the David/Sherman songs. It's a sort of weird update on 'My Favourite Things' (The Sound Of Music was still very popular circa 1960) written from a little girl's point of view but all too obviously written by a middle-aged man. 'Chapel bells, wedding rings...I'm ready how about you?' teases Paul, sounding like a re-incarnation of Shirley Temple. Find it on: 'Recorded as Jerry Landis' (2006) and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
Paul's discovered rock and roll and not before time, with [ ] 'Tick Tock' a great song in the 'Tico and Triumphs' line. Paul is an impatient teenager looking at his watch, 'all dressed up with nowhere to go' as he waits in vain for his girl to show to a terrific 1950s backing and a catchy time-ticking-down chorus. Once again we hear Paul's inner Elvis come to the fore on a cracking recording that might well be the best of these 'demo' recordings. Who could possibly turn this song down after hearing such a joyous energetic performance? Find it on:Singles and Rarities 1958-1962' (2014) and and 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
Proof that the young Paul Simon was nothing if not versatile comes with the decidedly Oriental-flavoured [ ] 'Fortune Teller Cookies'. 'Someone in Singapore knows everything before we do!' he boasts while his usual backing crew make silly 'ninny ninny noo' sounds behind him. Paul didn't write this, unsurprisingly, instead singing it on behalf of writers Milton De Lugg and Bob Hilliard. Thankfully Paul skirts round the idea of having an embarrassing and racist Chinese accent but he still sounds deeply uncomfortable and sings this one like Carl Douglas of 'Kung-Fu Fighting' fame. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'I Want To Know All About You' by the prolific writers Wolf/Raleigh is upbeat and poppy and just a little cutesy wutesy as Paul tries to grill his girl over her favourite films, 'mystery novels' and wonders if she likes 'midnight snacks'. This is quite sweet actually in a thank-God-the-1960s-came-along kind of way and Paul delivers just the right balance of enthusiasm and stupidity, singing this one like Mickey Rooney in a Judy Garland film. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
There's a nice guitar groove behind [ ] 'Up and Down The Stairs' that for a few seconds there sounds like an outtake from 'Rhythm Of The Saints'. Unfortunately it's another overly cute song about school as Paul's narrator walks up and down stairs between lessons not understanding any of them ('History is just a mystery!'). He must be pretty good at geography by the end of all those stair climbs though - me, I got lost on my way to the exam. Paul sings this one like Billy Bunter. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'Dreams Can Come True' - but only if your dream was hearing a plainly embarrassed and youthful sounding Paul singing about 'castles and kings' on another track that's clearly intended for a female singer. This one has a nice tune actually and would have made a nice Everly Brothers B-side, complete with another oriental-flavoured backing. Paul sings this one like the Siamese Cats from 'Lady and the Tramp'. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
For one night only Paul is The Man In Black, well if Johnny Cash had ever been persuaded to sing sappy teenage songs for money anyway. [ ] 'One Lonely Boy' by Baker Knight comes with a boom-chikka beat behind another lyric of classroom angst. Note, though, how much more at home Paul is on a song that casts him as an 'outsider', until his fellow 'one lonely girl' comes along for company. This is perhaps the only song on this part of the list to be a 'hit' when covered by Dean Martin though not, chances are, because of this demo given the late dating of Dino's version. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'Pretty Words' by Martin Kalfin actually has some pretty terrible words as Paul looks back on another year over on December 31st and can only remember the ones he spent with his girl 'from the bottom of my heart'. He also forgets the stars in the sky because he's too busy looking at the stars in 'her' eyes. Excuse me I think I'm going to be sick...Paul sings this one like one of The Sex Pistols. No, only kidding, he sings it like exactly what he is: an embarrassed twenty-something being held at metaphorical gunpoint to sing a teenage song he clearly hates and could write better himself. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
[ ] 'Educated Fool' is rather better despite covering similar ground to other failing-at-school songs, or maybe I've just been brainwashed after hearing so many? There's some nice acoustic strumming on this song and a pretty chorus as Paul learns about not just his lessons but love, deciding that he's an 'educated fool' at both, with a 'diploma but a broken heart', learning the hard way. Paul sounds like a really good Buddy Holly imitator. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume One' (1995)
We're back to the Bikes on the embarrassing [ ] 'Back Seat Driver', a track that features another singer with a 'tuff' 50s rock and roll voice on one of Paul's own songs as a biker tells his girl to stop nagging him from the back seat. Now baby are we gonna bug Paul through his whole scene, for a mistake made a few years ago? Probably - it is very unintentionally funny. Whoever sings this one sounds like a tone deaf Beach Boys. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
I rather like [ ] 'A Charmed Life' though, a Paul-sung harmony fest about how some people get all the good things in life and others record rotten rock and roll songs for small change. This is another of those tracks where you can hear something of the early Simon and Garfunkel: the vocals, the melancholy, even the jealousy, if not quite as powerfully yet. Little does Paul know he's going to be leading a 'charmed life' not too long after recording this song, although interesting he includes himself in the line 'people like us' who 'never have storm or strife' as a rich millionaire buys a tired farmer's land for peanuts and discovers oil. Paul sings this one like The Four Freshman if they'd ever recorded in a minor key. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
[ ] 'Beach Blanket Baby' sounds much like what you'd expect: Paul's just spotted a girl he fancies in a 'red and yeller' bikini and getting whistles from the 'fellers' while a boy sings to her on a guitar. 'The Sound Of Silence' is just three years away, remember, but at least Paul sounds like he's having fun. This track sounds as if Paul is deliberately aping his fellow demo recorder Brian Hyland, who had just scored a big surprise hit with the original version of 'Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini', recorded under exactly the same lo-fi conditions. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
[ ] 'Invisible' by Larry Kusik and Don Wolf is more cute doo-wop at school, this time 'at the dances and the movies' while hiding the evidence from the girl's mother and father. The 1960s 'revolution' has never sounded further away as Paul sings like, well, Alvin and the Chipmunks if I'm honest (to be fair my cope may be playing at the wrong speed!) Find it on: 'The Wobble' (2012)
Anyone hoping for some depth in a song that bears the title [ ] 'I Grew Up Last Night' will look in vain, as Paul delivers another moon-June-spoon recording where he feels all adult because he asked a girl out ('I held you all night, talk about delight!') All that boasting makes you want to punch him though to be honest as he cares not one iota about the girl he's just met at all (did she even want him to hold her?!) Don't blame Paul for once though - Andy Halmay wrote this one. Paul sings this one like Cliff Richard (no comment!) Find it on: 'The Wobble' (2012)
If [ ] 'Laurels' is a new song then I'm Oliver or Thomas Hardy (take your pick); this is clearly just the instrumental version of earlier Jerry Landis track 'Shy' with the words removed. Admittedly removing those words is rather a good thing but this track still sounds unfinished. Paul la-las along like the Spanish entry at the 1968 Eurovision song contest (and kudos to you if you're bothered to look that one up!) Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
Paul and his girl have [ ] 'Hearts On A Chain'. They each bear the other's name. But could he really afford to get 'Paul Simon aka Jerry Landis aka Tico aka True Taylor' engraved and could he get all those words to fit? This is another familiar sounding sub-par doo wop song by songwriter Denise Saub that's about as romantic as a double maths lesson. Paul sings it like Romeo in a really bad school production of 'Romeo and Juliet'.Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
'The boy they're looking for me is me!' laughs Paul at the start of [ ] 'Hiding In The Chapel', but he's wanted not for his talent but for criminal songwriting. No sorry - he's run off after a fight with his girl and wants some alone time (interesting that the creator of so many future religiously themed songs should end up in a chapel - especially as Paul had been brought up Jewish). More clumsy-footed stuff, but you have to say Paul's energetic vocal really catches the ear (he sings this one like The Barron Knights, straight-facedly laughing at the stupid words).Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
Talking of which, [ ] 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' usually means the Bible but in this case it's actually a sweet tale of how Paul was so devastated by being dumped that he sobbed his eyes out and took comfort from a passing girl who turned out to be his soulmate instead. Now why does that never happen to me? This is great, deeply catchy and with a great chorus and so of it's period, right up to an unfortunate spoken word middle ('Every day we hear stories, some new some old, but the story of love - yes the story of love - is the greatest story ever told!') Paul finally sounds like himself at last. Find it on: 'Jerry Landis - Works In Progress' Volume Two' (1995)
[ ] 'The Wedding Waltz' is rather lovely too (is Paul getting the hang of this at last?), offering up a sweet and pure vocal over a slow waltz and some tender years about wanting to care of his girl until they're both old ('For time will only make me more beloved'). The song is one of a handful Paul did for songwriter Ouida Mintz, who clearly recognised Paul's talent as he gave him several songs to sing (sadly most of them as yet unreleased). It's intriguing to hear Paul imagining growing old while he's so young (time has always been such a theme of his work) and he sings this lovely slow piece impressively straight. If this was a later record this would be Art Garfunkel's big moment on the record - Paul sounds not unlike his old partner here. Impressive piano work too. Find it on: 'The Wobble' (2012)
Paul is also searching hard for his soulmate on [ ] 'That Forever Kind Of Love', another successful song that blends doo-wop and rock and roll better than any other track in this article so far. The answer? You don't find it, it finds you as Paul sings like Jerry Lee Lewis if he'd owned too many Penguins and Everly Brothers records. Find it on: 'The Wobble' (2012)
Yikes, though, [ ] 'Little Doll Face' is a step backwards. Paul is in love with a young freckled girl whose 'eyelashes flutter' who he tries to get the courage to chat up (and if I ever spoke to you I think I'd stutter!') This song is tweeness personified, played on what sounds like a tinny musical box and with Paul sounding as if he's about to be sick at any minute. Officially no writer's credit is given to this awful track which is listed as 'unknown'. Surely it isn't one of Paul's?! Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
[ ] 'It Says In The Horoscope' by Sy Soloway finds Paul in an unusually superstitious frame of mind. His horoscope tells him not to go out and meet girls and the next minute is telling him he'll meet his soulmate. What to believe? More simple doo-wop-pop but one with a decent tune this time and some nice double-tracked Simon harmonies in the background. By the way Paul is not a 'Gemini' as he sings here (he's a Libran) and being a Gemini does not is not a legal requirement that 'baby you gotta love me!' as he sings here. Funnily enough though his worry about a Saggitarius falling out of love with him is right given Arty's sign! Paul sings this one like Russell Grant's doo-wopping younger brother. Find it on: actually good luck tracking this one down!
Paul gets cross on another Elvis-style track [ ] 'Haven't You Hurt Me Enough?' with a catchy riff as he asks a girl to forgive him after a row and apologising over and over. At least that's what we're meant to think: is this Simon original trying to make up with Arty after the 'True Taylor' bust-up? If so then recording another Elvis-style track was probably not the nest way of making amends. Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
Paul seems awfully young to be having such a strong attack of nostalgia on a song that's clearly meant to be sung by someone older, but actually [ ] 'Too Many Memories' seems like another step closer to the inherent sadness and wistfulness of many Simon and Garfunkel recordings. Sweet backwards lyrics about looking through pictures of old loved ones sound like a first draft of Sonny's yearbook from 'The Obvious Child', but the tune is sadly rather ordinary and sounds like blooming 'Shy' again. Paul sings Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
The delightfully silly [ ] 'Lighthouse Point' is a natural extension of Paul's love of sound effects as he tries to remember all the noises going on around him at his favourite meeting point (you can't call yourself a true Paul Simon fan until you've heard him sing the chorus line 'Bong! Bong! Bong!' with a straight face). It's quite a strange place to be actually with church bells ringing every few minutes and waves going swoosh. Paul sings this one like a CBBC presenter. Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
More sleepy doo-wop as Paul tells us that even though he's fallen in love with an [ ] 'Everygirl' he knows this love will be forever. Yeah, right. This is one of the ore ordinary examples here but at least Paul's singing is nice, with a 'Dion' (of 'Runaway' fame) vibe. Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
Paul is trying hard to be cute on [ ] 'Funny Little Girl' as he meets his sweet on the street and his heart feels like an elevator ride that 'scares me half to death!' However he's not a natural at cute and this re-make of 'Flame' is silly in the extreme. Oddly this slight song gets a fuller production than most of these demos. Paul sings like every child star you've ever known (and wanted to strangle). Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
Things are much more serious for [ ] 'The Beginning Of The End', a ballad in the Elvis style. Paul feels that a break-up is on the cards but is relieved that it isn't actually here yet. Most of the lyric is depressingly ordinary, but it's nice to hear Paul playing one of these songs just on an acoustic guitar and that alone makes this piece sound like a step towards Simon and Garfunkel. Paul, then, sings this song like his future self. Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
A rather treacly doo-wop song, [ ] 'Sleepy Sleepy Baby' is one of those period teenage songs where teenagers are kissing goodnight while they're very tired. Interestingly Paul adds a high harmony that sounds awfully like Arty's (or was his old friend even making a rare guest appearance? Sadly that voice is too low in the mix to tell for certain). Sadly the song itself is pretty basic, with Paul sounding like every pop wannabe this side of Memphis Tennessee.Find it on: 'Work In Progress Volume Three' (1996)
[ ] 'Tell Tale Heart' reveals Paul's debt to Motown with a track that's playing around with his vocals again, with his vocals apparently vari-speeded up a semi-tone or so on a track that's actually meant to make him sound butch in the style of The Drifters. Instead he sounds a bit like Mickey Mouse. Find it on: You'll be lucky!
Paul turns aviator on [ ] 'Aeroplane of Silver Steel', one of the few bandwagons he hadn't jumped on so far. Paul imagines himself to be a an American jet pilot/war fighter whose come bearing gifts to woo all the ladies of Europe. This song is by itself pretty terrible but it does demonstrate an early version of the sort of Latin American rhythms that will prove handy in another decade's time or so with 'Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard'. Paul, meanwhile, sounds like Biggles. Find it on: You'll be lucky!
Paul is again going all country and western on [ ] 'The Tables Are Turnin', another song that I'm convinced has Arty guesting unbilled on the backing vocals. naturally this sounds even more like Simon and Garfunkel, with the harmonies the highlight of a gently pretty song about heartbreak and revenge. Paul sings his lead like Willie Nelson! Find it on: You'll be lucky!
There's [ ] 'Only One You' apparently - although we've heard a lot of songs akin to this track already, a return to the early doo-wop/rock and roll of Tom and Jerry. The melody is nice though and there's a nice sense of tension leading up to the chorus which makes for a catchy and memorable song. Paul sounds like Pat Boone! Find it on: You'll be lucky!
One of the last demos Paul made., right on the eve of 'Wednesday Morning 3AM', is another step towards greatness. [ ] 'Forever and After' finds him wondering how long he'll have to wait for the girl of his dreams to return in his life, imagining a diet of heavy drinking and cigarettes. Paul strains at the leash of this country and western song while his gentle guitar picking appears to hold him back. I don't know whether it's just the diet of what's come before, but this is awfully good. Find it on: You'll be lucky!
Finally, where better to end than with Paul/Jerry Landis' take on the song that's surely inspired by our own AAA mascot dog [ ] 'Bingo', star of our many Youtube videos. This Bingo sounds more sober and belongs to a farmer rather than a blogger, with Paul singing the children's song with gusto and double-tracking. He clearly liked the track as he returned to it when his son Harper was born, with some priceless footage of father and son together recording the song. It's fun in a way so many of these songs aren't and is a good place to finish. Paul sings this one like Burl Ives! Who'd have guessed though that the next thing either Simon or Garfunkel would record would be 'The Sound Of Silence'? Find it on: You'll be lucky!
Later (and better known) Simon and Garfunkel recordings reviewed on this site include: