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.


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.


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.


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




January 21, Pt. 2 – Simon & Garfunkel, Canned Heat

Simon and Garfunkel – The Graduate (Soundtrack)

My LP collection, when I last saw it, was not very impressive.  My first albums as a child were hand-me-downs from my brothers when they replaced worn out and scratched copies of Beatles and Elton John records (What?  I’m part of the reason they were worn out and scratched?).  To this day, there are certain songs I hear on CD or the radio, and I expect it to skip at a certain point in the song.  As I got older, I received LPs for birthday and Christmas gifts, and I purchased a handful during adolescence.  But I mostly bought cassettes.  I’ve since replaced all the Beatles albums on CD (twice), and all the Elton.  I never did replace those KISS albums.  My first exposure to Bob Marley was the greatest hits LP Legend, which I bought in 1986 out of curiosity after repeatedly coming across his name in various publications, namely Rolling Stone, discussing the late, great Rastafarian.  (Keep in mind I grew up in flyover USA, and I just wasn’t exposed to a lot of this stuff at a younger age.)  I owned most of the early U2 and REM LPs, a Hendrix hits album here, the Pretty in Pink soundtrack or a random Windham Hill sampler record there, and that’s about it.  All told, I owned maybe 50 pieces of vinyl, give or take.  Not much, but I wish I still had it.  And it’s my own fault I don’t.  I took for granted that it would be in its last known location when I was ready to lug it to Texas.  When I thought to do it, it was gone.  Que sera sera

One LP in my collection that I always thought was interesting but didn’t fully appreciate at a younger age was the original copy of the soundtrack to The Graduate, released this day 50 years ago, which I absconded with from my mom’s collection.  I can still see the clean, barely played, thick vinyl, and the sturdy jacket which was its home.  It still had the original shrink-wrap on it, for crying out loud.  But at 15 I didn’t care much for the instrumental music by Dave Grusin mixed in with the Simon and Garfunkel songs.  It was easier to just listen to one of their “regular” albums.  Having watched The Graduate movie (which was released in December of ’67) for the umpteenth time the other night, I can now say I do enjoy the instrumentals just as I do those from the original soundtracks to A Hard Day’s Night and Help.  Not so much as individual pieces, but because of their importance to the films which I’ve loved for so long.


Side One:

  1. The Sound of Silence
  2. The Singleman Party Foxtrot
  3. Mrs. Robinson (version 1)
  4. Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha
  5. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Interlude)
  6. On the Strip
  7. April Come She Will
  8. The Folks

Side Two:

  1. Scarborough Fair/Canticle
  2. A Great Effect
  3. The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine
  4. Whew
  5. Mrs. Robinson (version 2)
  6. The Sound of Silence

There’s so much trivia surrounding this film that I won’t bother getting into it, other than to mention my surprise to learn the other day that Anne Bancroft, a.k.a. Mrs. Robinson, was only 35 years old when that movie was made.  Dustin Hoffman, the young, recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, was 29.





Canned Heat – Boogie with Canned Heat

In my “January 21, Pt. 1” post I mentioned a vague interconnectedness of important historical events and pop culture.  What I’m referring to, as it relates to these posts, is the fact that soldiers in Vietnam, or the Resistance in Prague and many other places around the globe, listened to much of this music for a respite, for inspiration, or both.  To some extent it has been glorified in films over the years, but I’ve yet to see a documentary or read an account that debunked it in the least.  Sadly, much of the music was divided along racial lines in the military at the time.  In 2018 it’s hard to imagine James Brown or The Temptations as music for “those” people, while “these” people listened to the Doors, the Stones, or Johnny Cash.  It’s all such great music.  If ever there was a band that crossed those lines, it was Canned Heat.

When Canned Heat were at the peak of their power in the late 60’s/early 70’s, there may not have been a more fun band to hear live.  There were no costumes or stage antics, just great rockin’ blues n’ boogie.  Nothing pretentious about them.  See their performance at Woodstock, for example.  Boogie with Canned Heat, also released this day, and its followup later in the year, gave us some of the most quintessential Woodstock-era music.  But remember kids, SPEED KILLS!


Side One:

  1. Evil Woman
  2. My Crime
  3. On the Road Again
  4. World in a Jug
  5. Turpentine Moan
  6. Whiskey Headed Woman No. 2

Side Two:

  1. Amphetamine Annie
  2. An Owl Song
  3. Marie Laveau
  4. Fried Hockey Boogie