April 3 – A Simon & Garfunkel Classic

Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of one of those generation defining albums, Simon and Garfunkel’s sometimes deceptively whimsical Bookends.  Not including the soundtrack to The Graduate released earlier in the year, this was the first studio album by the duo in a year and a half, an eternity for in-demand acts in those days.  Sporadic work on the album began in 1966.  Hazy Shade of Winter was recorded during sessions for the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album, but was released as a single at the time instead.  The following year the duo helped organize the Monterey Pop Festival, where they also performed, while Fakin’ It was released as a single.  Recording proceeded slowly throughout the fall and into 1968, with finishing touches in early March.

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As part of their recording contract, Columbia Records picked up the tab for their sessions, giving Simon and Garfunkel free rein to take their time and be as meticulous as they wanted to be, which they were, at least on the conceptual first side of the record.  Side two, other than Mrs. Robinson, is comprised of previously unused tracks recorded for possible inclusion in The Graduate soundtrack.  Surprisingly, Simon seems to have had little regard for those tracks at the time.  Not unlike Sgt. Pepper the year before, the concept portion of Bookends ends rather quickly with the rest being a collection of songs.  But also like Pepper, it works.  In all, the whole thing lasts a very concise 29:51.

This is among the albums that fascinated me during childhood.  It didn’t occur to me then that this was from the same period as some of the other late 60’s music I was familiar with from my brothers’ collection or the radio.  The stark, black and white cover, the turtlenecks, and Simon’s short hair all suggested another time and another sound to me, although I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it.  But of course it is a quintessential 1960’s record, as much so as any of its contemporaries.  And, it reached number one in both the US and UK.

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The album has always made me imagine bleak 1960’s winters in New York City, of tiny apartments there with clanking radiators blasting out heat, of a bottle of milk and a bruised apple in the fridge and not much else, of hanging on to that one remaining friend in old age, of loneliness.  But in my young person’s mind, that was someone else’s reality, not mine.  When I would hear Voices of Old People as a child, I was always relieved to know that I would never grow old and never be so sad and grumpy.  If there was ever any doubt, it would be erased by the more lively side two which winds up at the zoo, where it was all happening and always would be.

But before visiting the skeptical orangutans, the album’s journey detoured out of the city and into America.  As I’ve grown to middle age, this song remains a bit of a personal lament for that road trip out west I never took as a 20-year-old, with a best buddy along the Pacific coast.   Or wherever.  I guess that’s what Kerouac and Steinbeck are for, to fill in those gaps.  Them, and albums such as this.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Bookends Theme
  2. Save the Life of My Child
  3. America
  4. Overs
  5. Voices of Old People
  6. Old Friends
  7. Bookends Theme

Side Two:

  1. Fakin’ It
  2. Punky’s Dilemma
  3. Mrs. Robinson
  4. A Hazy Shade of Winter
  5. At the Zoo

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bookends_(album)

-Stephen

6 thoughts on “April 3 – A Simon & Garfunkel Classic”

  1. Simon & Garfunkel is among the earliest music I recall listening to when I was 10 or 11 years old. My six-year older sister had their Greatest Hits compilation, which includes Mrs. Robinson (always loved Simon’s guitar-playing in that tune), Bookends and America.

    The latter also always made me feel like traveling the U.S. by Greyhound. Some 18 years later during summer break from grad school, I ended up going from New York to Chicago on a Greyhound bus. It was a very long trip but quite a cool experience.

    To this day, I feel the best experience to travel the U.S. is by car or by bus. In fact, traveling all the way cross country to California is one of the items on my bucket list – in some cool car!

    Liked by 1 person

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