9:38 pm– I check Wikipedia and find the essential information. This is Simon and Garfunkel’s 5th and final studio album together. It won a Grammy for album of the year and reached number one on the Billboard charts.
9:41 pm- Bridge Over Troubled Water
The piano entry sounds like an old church hymn. I’m listening on YouTube, because I only have the live version in my iTunes library. I can’t help but recall Elvis’ soaring rendition. “Sail on silver girl”- this song is masterfully written- sung beautifully by Art Garfunkel’s tenor voice. I read this on the video’s comments: “My grandma is in the hospital, I failed a test, the love of my life is with someone else, I’m just having a hard time…Simon and Garfunkel give me 4 minutes and 52 seconds of reassurance that everything is going to be okay”
9:48 pm- El Candor Pasa (If I Could)
This traditional Andean folk tune from Peru enters with wooden flutes. I see on the Wikipedia page that it was released as a single along with the B- side “Why Don’t You Write Me.” Paul Simon’s crooning reminds me of his song “Duncan” from his self titled album that would be released two years later.
9:53 pm- Cecelia
One of the songs I remember from my childhood- and perhaps one of the most recognizable S&G songs. It sounds like a parade with the wild hand claps and air flutes. Certainly Paul Simon’s experiments with “world music” didn’t begin with Graceland. I see from Wikipedia that it is in fact Simon’s song. I also see that it reached #4 on the Billboard charts.
9:57 pm- Keep the Customer Satisfied
I’ve never heard this song before. I think of the Everly Brothers, the early Beatles, and a recording I heard of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Tom and Jerry” recordings before they hit it big with Columbia. Feed Your Head Music in East Atlanta has a copy and it’s amazing to hear S and G sounding like predictable radio fodder for the late 50s. This sounds like a nod to that era of music amended with the big band sounds of the 40’s.
10:03 pm So Long Frank Lloyd Wright
This is another new one for me. The chord structure sounds something like “Girl From Ipanema.” I can’t tell how tongue and cheek this song is meant. I’ve certainly never written a song about an architect. This seems like an odd choice for the album. Congas, thick strings, floating woodwinds- all with a loungy, bossa nova feel with heavy reverb on the vocals. This is my least favorite so far. I wonder how it will be covered on Sunday.
10:09 pm The Boxer
Ahhhh. This song is iconic. Simon’s classic wanderer’s lamentation told from the first person about poverty and struggle for acceptance. The chorus is a placeholder. “Lie lie lie”- he uses this instead of a finished chorus. When a musician records a scratch track of a half finished song, you might here something like this. Simon never came up with the words, so “lie lie lie” became the chorus.
10:20 pm Baby Driver
This melody just keeps moving. Sounds a little Blues Brothers- a little Honky Tonk. One poster on YouTube said that it reminded him of his first time. This is a toe tapping song. “I wonder how your engines feel?”
10:24 pm The Only Living Boy In New York
I’m ashamed to say that my history with this song comes from the Garden State Soundtrack. I can’t separate my vision of this song from the memory of Zach Braff and Natalie Portman yelling into the a bottomless pit. I was a freshman in college- living far away from home. The winters in Northern Kentucky were different from those in West Georgia, and I remember this song being played over and over during those first dark snowy months of utter freedom.
10:30 pm Why Don’t You Write Me
This sticky sweet song reminds me of the Beach Boys. It also makes me reflect on that point in a relationship where it could go either way. I know that place more than I would like to.
10:33 pm Bye Bye Love
Written by Felice and Boudleax Bryant, most know this song as a classic Everly Brother’s song- or The Cars perhaps. This recording is live and features a wicked electric rhythm with lots of tremolo, and lots of hand clapping from the audience.
10:37 pm Song For The Asking
Though I’m not sure, I would bet good money that this is Simon’s songwriting. These chord changes follow his solo projects for the next five years or so, specifically on “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.” It’s a short and sweet farewell. This makes me think about the duo’s relationship with the other folk troubadour of the day- Bob Dylan. I wonder if, given Dylan’s predisposition to write difficult, sometimes inaccessible songs, this is S and G going out of their way to remind the audience that they are there to entertain and to enrich. They make “songs for the asking.” Who knows…
This album was recorded in November 1969- two months after Abbey Road was released by The Beatles and seven months after Nashville Skyline by Dylan. It is fitting that it is the last album by the two. Woodstock is over- the folk revival has passed its prime, the Beatles have broken up, and there seems to be a vacuum surrounding the world of popular music. The next decade will see Paul Simon forge new territory into commercial music, but this is it for the duo- the golden age will morph into something new.