Monday, 16 July 2018

Simon and Garfunkel: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

You can now buy 'Patterns - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Simon and Garfunkel' in e-book form by clicking here

1)  Where: Gerde’s Folk City, New York When: March 31st 1964 Why: First Gig Setlist: Unknown

Mere days after completing work on debut album ‘Wednesday Morning 3AM’, Columbia persuaded Simon and Garfunkel to make their live debut. Promoting them as ‘local lads done well’, Paul and Arty performed a run of shows across the next few weeks to an increasingly bemused folk audience who had never heard of them. The album itself won’t be out until October, thanks to endless tweaking with the cover and recordings, while the last minute decision to use the duo’s names meant that anybody who still remembered them from their days as ‘Tom and Jerry’ were none the wiser. The concerts didn’t go down well: the folk movement wasn’t prepared for so many new songs and the likes of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ were, fittingly, greeted with silence, while many felt that the folk standards were better done by other people. Columbia, who had such faith in the duo, got nervous and this is probably the point at which Simon and Garfunkel decided to split (again), Paul leaving for a solo career in London and Arty going back to college. We don’t have much of a record of this first concert (some sources have it happening at the same venue six weeks earlier, on February 19th 1964, although that seems unlikely given that the first album hadn’t been made yet and Columbia wouldn’t have been promoting a band they hadn’t even auditioned) and we don’t know what the pair played. Chances are they just sang the ‘Wednesday Morning’ album and didn’t play any of their older teenage material to distance themselves from their past. Simon and Garfunkel will get better and though their first audience, curious as to why this duo are being hailed as the best thing to come out of New York’s folk scene may have been surprised to learn it, will soon  be famous around the world.

2)  Where: Monterey Pop Festival, California When: June 16th 1967 Why: Biggest Gig Setlist: [  ] Homeward Bound At The Zoo 59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin’ Groovy) For Emily Wherever I May Find Her The Sound Of Silence Benedictus Punky’s Dilemma

So famous in fact that it’s only three years until Simon and Garfunkel are one of the hottest acts on the planet, chosen to end the first Friday night of the three-day Monterey Pop Festival and with Paul famous enough to be a part of the Monterey panel deciding what acts should appear (although his nomination, ‘Melanie’, won’t be a cult name for another decade yet). Simon and Garfunkel, traditionally towards the nervier end of AAA performers, sound oddly relaxed during the show where they played to easily their biggest crowd of people (some 90,000 ish?) Paul jokingly sings his demo version of new song ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ which catches his partner off guard before he laughingly joins in (‘A bowl of Rice Krispies ain’t what it used to be!’) and laughs about the red lights glaring at him from the side of the stage with a risqué joke (‘I always associate red lights with rather a good time!’) Paul and Arty, caught halfway between ‘Parsley, Sage’ and ‘Bookends’, broke off a holiday to play this gig, which comes pretty neatly in the middle of a ten week gap between tours. They debut two new songs which don’t really go with the hippie mood (the surreal ‘Punky’s Dilemma’ catches the crowd off good, while the sardonic and bitter ‘At The Zoo’ just sounds wrong, even if it also sounds great played with just an acoustic guitar). The old songs, though, sound beautiful: Arty never sings ‘For Emily’ better than he does here, while ‘Feelin’ Groovy’ is the perfect singalong song for the stoned crowd (odd they don’t do [  ] ‘Scarborough Fair’, their other big song of the moment). It’s ‘The Sound Of Silence’ though that impresses most. Suddenly turning solemn, with the lights dimmed, you can hear a pin drop as Paul and Arty get to sing their ‘in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more’ in front of a crowd that are really that big for the first time. At the time Simon and Garfunkel were greeted as the festival’s highlight, but the appearance of Otis and Janis and Jimi the following two nights rather take away their crown. Still, it’s a good gig, available officially in part in the rare ‘Monterey Pop’ film(‘Feelin’ Groovy’) that we still keep saying needs a decent re-issue on these pages, while The Sound Of Solence’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ appear on the three DVD set. Oddly no songs were released in audio form on the four disc ‘International Monterey Pop Festival’ box set, suggesting some contractual wrangling going on somewhere.

3)  Where: Clark Gymnasium, SUNY-Buffalo, New York When: May 2nd 1969 Why: Weirdest Gig Setlist: [  ] ‘Hey Schoolgirl!’ [  ] The Sound Of Silence

The weirdest gig Simon and Garfunkel ever played took place after a chance meeting between Paul and Frank Zappa in a New York music shop. Asking why Paul looked so unhappy, he groaned that he was about to start another tour with Arty and was getting really sick of the old songs. ‘I wish we could just go on somewhere without the pressure, where nobody knew who the hell we were man, like we used to’. Zappa, in need of a support act after another pulled out at the last minute, offered him the slot at a local gif The Mothers Of Invention were due to play the next week and after consulting with Arty the pair agreed on the condition that they could pick their own material and would be billed as ‘Tom and Jerry’ for the first time since 1959. The shocked audience were none the wiser when Paul and Arty sheepishly walked on and said ‘hello’ and promised to play their ‘hit’ before playing a twelve year old song pretty much no one in the audience could remember: ‘Hey Schoolgirl!’ We’re not sure what else they played, but Paul and Arty performed at least a few of their other ‘Tom and Jerry’ collaborations and may well have thrown in a few ‘Tico and the Triumphs’ ‘True Taylor’ ‘Jerry Landis’ and ‘Artie Garr’ songs too. We also know that the duo threw in one of the songs that got them interested in making music named ‘Earth Angel’ by The Penguins – and given that it will have a slot on the coming tour I would be mighty surprised if the duo didn’t do their old favourite [  ] ‘Black Slacks’ in this gig somewhere too. After a shocked half an hour of ‘is it? Isn’t it?’ Simon and Garfunkel came back for an encore that nobody asked for and played ‘The Sound Of Silencre’, just to prove to the crowd that it really was them. The reception was hostile, but more against Zappa than the duo. ‘Very funny’ most of the letters went. ‘You got a duo with the brilliance of Simon and Garfunkel and wasted their talents singing corny 1950s songs for a joke – how could you!’ But for once in his career Zappa was innocent and helping out a duo who had grown fed up and stale touring the same old songs with a chance to recapture their youth.

4)  Where: Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, New York When: July 18th 1970 Why: Last Gig Before Split Setlist: The Boxer 50th Bridge Street Song (Feelin’ Groovy) America El Condor Pasa ‘Rose Of Aberdeen’ Fakin’ It For Emily Wherever I May Find Her The Leaves That Are Green Scarborough Fair-Canticle ‘Put My Little Shoes Away’ ‘A Teenager In Love’ Homeward Bound Punky’s Dilemma So Long Frank Lloyd Wright The Only Living Boy In New York A Poem On The Underground Wall I Am A Rock Bridge Over Troubled Water

The last Simon and Garfunkel show for eleven years (‘The Concert In Central Park’), nobody in the audience knew that it would be a farewell and the duo themselves only had an inkling. By now final album ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is six months old and the disunity felt when the band were making it in 1969 has, if not entirely evaporated, then dissipated. The last tour in 1970 sounds a much funner tour than the slog of 1969, the only difficulty coming when Arty objected to Paul’s political song ‘Cuba Si, Nixon No’, vetoed from the album on the condition he could sing it on stage (with Arty pointedly leaving at this point). Notably that song has been dropped entiurely by this late stage, replaced by a cute ‘retro’ set that featured one two or three rock and roll standards; this final gig’s improvised choices are a bonkers Everly Brothers song from their 1962 album ‘Songs Our Daddy Taught Us’ about a dying son and a 1959 hit for Dion and The Belmonts. Elsewhere ‘The Boxer’ is an impressive opener, grandiose but building from a tiny humble beginning, while the last song the pair sing on stage together is the alienated ‘I Am A Rock’, followed by Arty alone singing ‘Bridge’ (Paul’s interviews later reveal just how unprepared he is to end the gigs this way, staring off-stage at the fans screaming for Arty and thinking ‘no, I wrote that, yell my name!’) Sadly nobody thought to record this gig for posterity but two bootlegs from the start of the tour in May 1970 (‘Welcome To Holland’ and ‘Live In Paris’) are easily the two best that survive and according to the critical responses this gig wasn’t any worse. As it happens the two men thought they were only taking a break from each other at first, before making the split official a year later. How odd that the Simon and Garfunkel partnership should end at a stadium best known for its tennis; this is the point where most reviewers would be making some joke about this being Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘matchpoint’ where they ‘served’ their last ‘set’ with a [  ] ‘red rubber ball’, but we’re above that on this site, of course we are!

5)  Where: New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival When: April 24th 2010 Why: Very Last Gig Setlist: A Hazy Shade Of Winter I Am A Rock America Keep The Customer Satisfied Slip Slidin’ AwayEl Condor Pasa Mrs Robinson-Bo Diddley-Not Fade Away Scarborough Fair-Canticle Homeward Bound Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes The Boy In The Bubble That Was Your Mother The Only Living Boy In New York My Little Town Bridge Over Troubled Water The Sound Of Silence The Boxer Cecilia

My hope growing up was that as I got older all the AAA bands would realise the threat of mortality on their shoulders, come to term with their legacies and reunite peacefully, putting petty squabbles of yesteryear aside. And then I realised that I was a fan of CSNY, The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd so that really easn’t about to happen. Simon and Garfunkel came closer than most though: they played a hundred and fifty eight reunion gigs in total from ‘The Concert In Central Park’ in 1981 up to this show (actually more than the one hundred and twenty three they played between 1964 and the breakup in 1970), which looks increasingly likely that it will be the very last. The 2009 tour went well, with seventeen gigs played in Australia and Japan, but it was this American homecoming after a six month rest that spelled the end. Arty lost his voice that year and is audibly struggling to get to the end of the gig, something corrected only by the intervention of surgery. But it wasn’t this that spelled the end but a growing feud between the pair that had bickered for years. I’m not quite sure why it exploded here the way it did. The real ending came in 2015 when Arty declared that Paul had a ‘Napoleonic complex’ and that he felt sorry for his talented froend in high school because he was short, before declaring that by praising his friend’s talents ‘I created a monster’. Paul replied when asked about a reunion tour that it would be ‘hard given that we aren’t on speaking terms anymore’. Arty has since debated openly who will sing at which one’s funeral as that it likely to be the only time they are together again. The human comedy rolls on…This show from 2010 exists in part by the way, shot by various members of the audience, but has so far only been released on Youtube. The duo don’t look at each other much (but then when did they ever?) and seem a little weary, but they don’t seem like better enemies either. If this is the end then it’s a sad one for a duo who defied all the critics of their early days to become one of the biggest box-office draws of them all.

That passing on of the musical baton works the other way too and there are lots of acts who were in turn inspired by Paul. Many of them even recorded his songs and we have three of the best examples here, from the very first back in 1964 when nobody knew who the hell ‘Paul Kane’ was (Paul’s pseudonym back then) to one famous and one obscure cover of his material. For the purposes of this article, by the way, covers of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ have been banned – no other versions could possibly compare (although we did toy with including Disturbed’s heavy metal thrash version of the former, purely for being so very different and yet oddly in keeping with the original).
1) [   ] Carlos Dominguez (Val Doonican, ‘The Lucky 13 Shades Of Val Doonican’, 1964)
What with the pseudonym and the fact that Paul’s own version of this song is so hard to find, I wonder how few of the people who owned this highly popular record even realised that it was a Paul Simon record? Certainly not my mother, who didn’t know till I pointed it out (of course I did, that’s what the AAA is there for! Never have an anorak for a kid though folks). ‘Carlos’ is, as far as I’m concerned, Paul’s ‘breakthrough’ song. His first ‘serious’ song, written before ‘The Sound Of Silence’, it’s a very overlooked piece in Paul’s canon as an ‘unhappy man’ with a Spanish name looks for truth and finds only lies, before looking for love and finding only hate. Paul’s interpretation is also his first song influenced by Dylan, with a quiet acoustic intensity, but Val Doonican’s bigger budget version picks up on the South American feel of the name and runs with it. A Samba beat, flamenco horns and a faster tempo all contribute to the ‘Spanish’ feel of the song while Val croons over the top the way he always does. The result is a quiet triumph that must have been a huge boost to Paul’s reputation at the time – it seems strange he never mentions it. The royalties would also have given Paul’s finances just enough of a boost to enable him to stay in England playing tiny clubs and pubs for another year.
2) [  ] Save The Life Of My Child (The Family Dogg, ‘A Way Of Life’, 1969)
What links Hollies hit ‘The Air That I Breathe’ and Paul Simon? Well, ‘The Family Dogg’ was an early project by Mike Hammond and Albert Hazlewood before they realised they were better off writing songs than singing other people’s. Their poor-selling debut record under an odd name features many weird versions of obscure contemporary songs, but the best by far is this big budget make-over for what was always one of Paul and Arty’s more basic recordings. The original is a collage of ideas and lines spoken by characters but all are by Paul or Art. This version replaces them with a choir who intone all the sounds of the ‘crowd’ downstairs or singing a burst of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ in protest at the suicidal teen’s alienated background. The backing is also played not just on fuzz guitar bass and drums but with a squeaky orchestra that’s big and noisy. Do listen to the guitar-bass-drum interplay buried under it all though, as that was made by a pre-fame pre-Robert Plant Led Zeppelin back when they were all session musicians. The best touch of all though is the siren that drifts lazily across the opening verse and perfectly sets the tone (a surprise it wasn’t there in the original) while you also hear more developed background chatter (‘What happened?’ ‘Christ!’ ‘I don’t know…’).

3)  [  ] A Hazy Shade Of Winter (The Bangles, ‘Less Than Zero’, 1987)
I always loved this song, but Simon and Garfunkel’s version is clearly rushed – by their standards in 1968 it features a very light production (just the ‘usual’ plus a snatch of a ‘Salvation Army Band’) and a backing track that’s perhaps another rehearsal or another take away from perfection (not the vocals though, those are spot-on as always). I longed for a re-recording, but those reunions never lasted long enough to make one – instead 1980s girl group The Bangles had a hit with it instead. Completely revising the song, they open with a slow prog rock ghostly opening full of whispering voices before the main part of the song goes all punk in keeping with the urgency of the song, softening again for a choral middle eight. The vocals are, compared to the original, atrocious, but the performance is a good one with snazzy drumming and a gutsy electric guitar part that goes well against the unusually quiet 1980s synths. It’s like a fight between a gorilla and a sloth as the arrangement manages to be simultaneously regretful over wasted youth and desperate to make up for it now time is running out. One of Paul Simon’s most thoughtful songs finally got the performance it deserved – and its notable that the 2010 ‘Old Friends’ between Simon and Garfunkel revives what is to all effects and purposes this version of the song (minus the opening) rather than their own. A shame The Bangles miss out the final ‘ha!’ but they did well enough to deserve their best-selling single behind the eternally popular ‘Eternal Flame’ with this cover, peaking at #2 in Billboard (Simon and Garfunkel’s only made #13).


'The Paul Simon Songbook' (PS, 1965)

'Sounds Of Silence' (SG, 1966)

'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (SG, 1970)

'Paul Simon' (PS, 1972)

'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' (PS, 1973)

'Angel Clare' (AG, 1973)

'Watermark' (AG, 1977)

‘Scissors Cut’ (AG, 1981)

'The Animals' Christmas' (AG, 1986)

'Songs From The Capeman' (PS, 1997)

'Stranger To Stranger' (PS, 2016)

Every Pre-Fame Recording 1957-1963 (Tom and Jerry, Jerry Landis, Artie Garr, True Taylor, The Mystics, Tico and The Triumphs, Paul Kane)

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

Landmark Concerts and Key Cover Versions

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