Simon & Garfunkel

TrackAlbum
AmericaBookends
The BoxerBridge Over Troubled Water
Bridge Over Troubled WaterBridge Over Troubled Water
CeciliaBridge Over Troubled Water
Fakin’' ItBookends
Homeward BoundParsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…
I Am A RockSounds Of Silence
Mrs. RobinsonThe Graduate / Bookends
Scarborough Fair/CanticleParsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…
The Sounds of SilenceSounds Of Silence

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Elimination is necessary. I decided to ignore the later live versions on Concert In Central Park in spite of Paul Simon’s great band, and so also joint versions of post-1970 Paul Simon solo material. There’s the Toppermost ten. Not much argument, written straight down with no reference, no agonizing, and I’d argue that the vast majority of Simon & Garfunkel fans are going to come up with eight to nine of the same tracks. When I saw them in Hyde Park on a balmy summer night in 2004 it was hard to hear past 50,000 people singing along and word perfect. At least eight of those ten songs are so powerfully embedded in the public consciousness as to be unshakeable. Fakin’ It and Cecilia are the two I think might fail to make some lists, and I reckon The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) would be the popular replacement for one of them.

But let’s not leave it with the best-known. I’m going to suggest ten others that you should hear, even if knocking America, The Boxer or Bridge Over Troubled Water off any list would be impossible.

Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m. was an LP in the USA, initially only an EP in Britain, but I’ll take the title track.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme contained Scarborough Fair, controversial for years because Paul Simon borrowed the arrangement from Martin Carthy’s version, though he did write the middle section (and the basic folk song had been copyrighted by Oxford University Press in the late 1920s). At the time, I had the single The Dangling Conversation / Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine and thought The Dangling Conversation sophisticated in its orchestral backing, and erudite in its mentions of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Paul Simon never does it live, thinking it juvenile and pretentious, and indeed it is a tad. But I’d still include it. The 59th Street Bridge Song is like Kylie Minogue: short, but lovely.

In the summer of 1968, Bookends was on constant replay. I was doing lights on a summer show, and the session guys in the house band all had copies too. We marvelled at the production. Why it’s not a perfect album is clear. They really only had eight tracks. All of side one, plus Fakin’ It and Punky’s Dilemma. The other three were squeezed on to fill it out. Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate OST was a major boost, but Hazy Shade Of Winter and At The Zoo are singles, and definitely lesser Paul Simon songs. In a personal playlist I would have to have Fakin’ It, Save The Life Of My Child, Old Friends and Punky’s Dilemma (as well as America and Mrs. Robinson).

Fakin’ It is an extraordinary song, one of Simon’s all-time best, and I put it in the first list. The song was released as a single, and they faked it. It was 3m 14s, so too long for some radio stations. Paul Simon was too honest to lie about the length, but it’s printed as 2m 74 seconds. When writing the song, Paul Simon discovered his great-grandfather was called Paul Simon and was a tailor in Vienna. The voice of the girl is Beverley Martyn (of John & Beverley Martyn). ‘Good Morning, Mr Leitch …’ is a little nod to Donovan who they were friends with.

Save The Life Of My Child has the Moog / synth bits that later graced The Boxer and it is very, very much of its time, but even now the bass part and the chaos chorus is great. In the 70s we had a singer who could imitate Art Garfunkel, and we discovered that the complex Moog thump / twang in The Boxer could be reproduced by the drummer bringing his fist down hard on a running Watkins Copicat echo machine. (We take no responsibility for Copicats broken by readers following this suggestion. Consult a professional drummer.).

Punky’s Dilemma gets it on the lyric and the shuffling rhythm.

Bridge Over Troubled Water was a problem album to me. When it was new, a friend recruited me to help him cut a band’s Hammond organ in half for transport. It took us nearly three days without sleep, and the only record we had was Bridge and we left it on repeat throughout. For years after that over-exposure, the only song I could still take was Cecilia, though I loved Marsha Hunt’s version of Keep The Customer Satisfied but I fully realize now that the original is best. El Condor Pasa has become what that Peruvian group is playing in your local town centre, so I’d take The Only Living Boy In New York.

Live ’69 is an excellent live album, but nothing gets replaced because of it.

My Little Town comes from 1975 when they were getting together for an episode of Saturday Night Live. It was issued as a single, and appeared on two LPs simultaneously: Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon and Breakaway by Art Garfunkel. It was written specifically for Art by Paul. Definitely an important track.

The Concert in Central Park? I want the version of The Late Great Johnny Ace from the DVD, so you can see their faces.

So another ten:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Keep The Customer Satisfied (Bridge Over Troubled Water)
My Little Town (CBS single, 1975)
Old Friends (Bookends)
Punky’s Dilemma (Bookends)
Save The Life Of My Child (Bookends)
The Dangling Conversation (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
The Late Great Johnny Ace (The Concert in Central Park DVD)
The Only Living Boy In New York (Bridge Over Troubled Water)
Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m. (Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.)

(We also need an 11th, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, if only so we can feature the video above … it’s beautiful. Ed.)

Official Simon & Garfunkel website

Simon & Garfunkel biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #69

3 Comments

  1. Colin Duncan
    Sep 13, 2013

    A ration of great music. I wouldn’t have Cecilia in my top twenty. The 59th Street Bridge Song would move into my Top Ten – the words ‘Feeling Groovy’, great drumming and the two interweaving voices at the end of a song. A lot going on in such a short song. I really like The Dangling Conversation because it reminds me of a time when education was seen as an end in itself, with many people being the first person from a family going onto higher education. Hope that last comment does not seem pretentious. And, Peter, For Emily , Whenever I Find Her would be high on my list. Like our ed I think it’s beautiful.
    ‘we walked on frosted fields
    of juniper and lamplight’

    I’m going to listen to Bookends and check out Fakin’ It and Punky’s Dilemma.

  2. Rob Millis
    Sep 17, 2013

    Can’t argue with Peter’s Toppermost 10 at all, and especially pleased to see El Condor Pasa omitted for that most factual observation that Peter made on it.

    If you think town centres are bad for it, try travelling from Earls Court to Wimbledon Park on the District Line.

    I’ve even known one pan-pipe band get off at Parsons Green, and the carriage would breath a collective sigh, if a short lived one as another identical combo would board at East Putney. Joy.

  3. Roger Woods
    Mar 3, 2014

    Great list. I’d rather have Only Living Boy than Cecila. But then again I think Hazy Shade is a greater song. Bookends is a Desert Island album for me – probably as much to remember times and places as for the music. But it was the album when they really came together. America is perfection.

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