Monday, 27 March 2017

The Byrds "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (1965)

The Byrds "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (1965)

Turn! Turn! Turn!/It Won't Be Wrong/Set You Free This Time/Lay Down Your Weary Tune/He Was A Friend Of Mine//The World Turns All Around Her/Satisfied Mind/If You're Gone/The Times They Are A Changin'/Wait And See/Oh! Susannah

'The times they are a-changin' runs one of two Bob Dylan covers on this second album, but actually what's so odd about 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' is how much of the same there is. The Byrds would go on to become a band who never repeated themselves under any circumstances, so it's odd to hear them structuring an album to be as much like their debut as possible. The fact that most people - including the five in the band - feel that the sequel was never a match for the original might perhaps explain why they never bothered to repeat themselves again. But just take a look at that track listing: is this really a worse LP than its illustrious predecessor? There are less Dylan covers, three classic Gene Clark songs that improve even on his first batch, Roger McGuinn waxing lyrical about JFK, David Crosby's first professional writing credit, the first country Byrds song and a far greater sense of scope all round. Not bad for a group who only had six months since the last LP to get everything ready, interrupted by c0onstant touring (although in a sign of just how quickly things moved back then, Derek Taylor's sleevenotes complain about the length of time and that this album 'was as long in the making as a president'. What, Trump?!)  The band aren't quite turn turn turning yet, maybe, with half an album full of filler, but the wheels are in motion for greater things and this is, along with 'Untitled', the most under-rated album of the band's entire run, full of good things bordering on great.

Most of those greater things will happen despite the fact that most of the 'heroes' of this album - Gene Clark, manager Jim Dickson, producer Terry Melcher - will be long gone by the time The Byrds next return to the studio. Most of these departures will be down to pure old fashioned jealousy of the sort that can only happen in young and hungry groups that have suddenly taken off before the ground beneath their feet was properly established (the five-piece have only been together as a unit for a year after all). Manager Jim Dickson is jealous of how close producer Terry Melcher is growing to his protege Jim McGuinn. David Crosby is jealous of the fact that Jim Dickson is more interested in McGuinn than him. The rhythm section of Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke are jealous of the attention the band's frontline always seem to be getting. And everyone is jealous of Gene Clark who, as by far the band's most prolific writer, is suddenly swimming in royalties - the irony being that the more spiritual Gene is the Byrd least disposed to actually caring about the money and ended up giving quite a bit of it away or giving in to rash advice. Crosby is particularly annoyed that Gene and Jim suddenly have amazing cars (the latter a 'gift' from Terry when McGuinn's broke down and he was forced to get the bus to the sessions) when he can't afford even a basic car himself. Suddenly all the fissures and cracks that have been lying under the surface before Mr Tambourine Man was even a boy have suddenly exploded into wild backstabbing, arguments and egos. Before the next album is underway Gene will have walked, suffering a Brian Wilson-style breakdown during an aeroplane ride (an irony for a 'Byrd' not lost on Crosby and damning outtake 'Psychodrama City') and paranoid about the four band members either trying to make his girlfriends split up with him every time they needed a new song (because that's when he wrote the most and hardest) and ogling his money. Melcher will have been pushed. And Dickson will have come out worst from a fist-fight with Crosby during a photo session that went disastrously wrong. If the first album was all about feathering the bands' nests then this second one has the band flying away from home. In many ways this is from now on a band on borrowed time, the end simply delayed album by album until everything finally collapses - here is where the band start needing a turn-turn-tourniquet.

We may be only six months on from the debut album but already there's a sense that the band's time is up and change is on the horizon. Perhaps that's why it's an album that seems to be mostly about parting, unusual and unique for the generally upbeat trends of music in 1965. The album opens with the admonishment that 'to everything there is a season' and The Byrds play in gloomy splendour, despite the Beatley backbeat and massive harmonies, the end in sight. 'It Won't Be Wrong' pleads for a second chance as a lover is halfway to the door, because a chance to be loved can never be wrong. 'Set You Free This Time' is a devastating song about agreeing to let a loved one go even when it hurts. 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' is the ultimate goodbye, of death. 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' continues the theme by mourning Kennedy. 'The World Turns All Around Her' has Gene reflecting on how he never quite realised just how much a certain girl meant to him. 'Satisfied Mind' sighs 'When my life is over, when my time has run out...' 'If You're Gone' is yet another tortured Gene Clark ballad about loss. 'The Times They Are A Changin' recognises how nothing is ever stable. Only the last two songs sit rather outside this album's collection of farewells, with 'Wait And See' a 'Tambourine Man' style 'hello' song and 'Oh! Susannah' arriving from Alabama with a banjo on its knee (although even this track has a girl weeping goodbyes). By and large, though, this album is a sea of partings and there's a sense of palpable loss across the album, an unspoken feeling that the band actually won't meet again some sunny da-e-ay, a dark world where romances are doomed to fade and fall apart, where tunes (and singers) are laid to rest and where presidents pay for their liberalness with their lives. So much for being just another teenybopper mid-1960s album!

Which is a particular shame because the first Byrds line-up sound as if they've just cracked out what to do with all the disparate talents in the band. The first album, was to a greater extent, all about McGuinn, his Rickenbacker singing its way through the few songs he wasn't singing lead on even if, in composition terms, The Byrds were already largely Gene Clark's show. Here everybody gets a say: Crosby's harmony vocals are all over this album which features far more uses of the full Byrd three-part harmony, Gene gets an even greater share of the songwriting credits having hit a particularly rich seam of songs and Chris Hillman, the band's quiet bassist, starts to get noisy here and pushes the band towards a country sound for the first time with his song choice 'Satisfied Mind'. There are some terrific performances across this album as The Byrds grow in confidence from their first album without the occasional self-indulgences of their future work. The title track, for instance, took 78 takes to get right but it's worth it, with a rock-solid drum beat, a walking bass and McGuinn's smiling Rickenbacker going in three different directions at once but somehow ending up in the same place anyway. 'The World Turns All Around Her' beats even that song, being the tightest, most streamlined rocker the band ever put together (the bootlegs of the tracking session are some of the most thrilling moments in the Byrds canon, released or unreleased, with their criss-crossing guitars a prototype for 'Eight Miles High' a few months later). There's an almost unbearable tension across 'Set You Free This Time' and 'If You're Gone' which also suggests that even if the rest of the band didn't always understand or share Gene's vision they were content to fly with him while searching for it. In short The Byrds sound like a 'band' in a way they really won't until the White-Battin-Parsons line-up really gets going circa 1970 - despite the fact that, behind the scenes, The Byrds had never seemed less like a band (I would of course have loved to have been in all of the AAA bands just to see the music being made firsthand, but the more I read about The Byrds the more I realize this is the one band that I really wouldn't have wanted to be a part of, with new line-ups every other record and power struggles galore - at least CSN made a point of how much they respected each other before breaking up, while The Who blew up on stage but bonded by destroying hotel rooms together! This era Byrds seems to have largely spent their down-time from making records and playing concerts sulking).

What's more there are some pretty inventive and brave decisions across this record. We forget it now we've heard it so many times on the radio, with that Rickenbacker part exploding out the speakers, but everyone involved with 'Turn Turn Turn' as a single was slightly edgy. Second single 'All I Really Wanna Do' had been a flop and this first release that wasn't a Bob Dylan single struck many people as 'wrong'. Would soon-to-be-hippie teenagers really buy a single made up of Bible quotes? Was the idea of everything having a natural end really a message American teenagers would flop towards? Was the Bach-style guitar solo really as ear-catching as 'Tambourine Man'. In a way these fears were well places - the single flopped badly in Europe (with a peak of just #28 in the UK charts, perhaps on the back of a disastrous UK tour when the band were sloppy and out of tune and being billed as 'America's answer to The Beatles' to a nation's youth still mourning the fact the fab four never seemed to be at home anymore these days) and only really sold well in America. 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' was perhaps the least suitable Dylan song the band could ever have chosen - it's a dirge (that's not me being rude, that's what it is being a slow ballad about grief, but dirges had to get their bad reputation somewhere) that's slowed down even further in The Byrds' interpretation. While there had been country-rock songs before (most of them on 'Beatles For Sale' in December 1964) none had ever been quite as traditional sounding as 'Satisfied Mind'. Back in 1965 'The Times They Are A Changin' still sounded vaguely like a threat to mums and dads, instead of a bit of vintage folk trotted out on 1960s documentaries - you had to be a rebel to sing it back then, even if singing it didn't always make you sound rebellious. gene Clark is at least a thousand light years ahead of anybody (Dylan included) beating even the better Lennon-McCartney songs on 'Rubber Soul' with his oh so real aching interpretations of love in all its many dimensions. And, hey, you have to be brave to try and make a folk song as clich├ęd as 'Oh! Susannah' sound hip (although McGuinn reportedly suggested it as a joke and waited, shocked, for either his band or his manager or producer to shoot his idea down in flames; taking him at face value that the song would be a 'hip' and trendy thing to do, in the end only Michael Clarke laughed at the idea and openly mocked the song in his marching drum pattern). That's 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' in a nutshell. Even when things are going wrong, even when the band are deliberately making mistakes and doing things any other band would have been laughed at, in their magical first year of 1965 The Byrds still have the street-cool to get by. Well, everywhere except the album cover.

The one thing that doesn't quite work on this album is the packaging. We've already commented on Derek Taylor's uncharacteristically flung together sleevenotes that don't really capture the spirit of this album at all, complaining about the delay and offering apologies rather than praising the band in cryptic self-deprecating comments the usual Derek Taylor way. The front cover isn't much better: a posed shot of an obviously bored band against a blue background where they've never looked odder (or less like a band - I'd never realised there were five very different ways of pulling the same blank expression but The Byrds have this down pat on the sleeve). 'Mr Tambourine Man' screamed cool, what with McGuinn's then-new granny specs, Crosby's then-new cape and a fish-eye lens shot that seemed hip and modern. Here The Byrds seem like yesterday's news story already, with even the glasses and cape beginning to look like props. The time they are a changin' - so why is this sleeve harking back to the past? Just compare to The Beatles' decidedly more creative and groundbreaking sleeve for 'Rubber Soul', out the week before, which seems to come from another dimension altogether (a fifth one?)

It's a shame, then, that we didn't get a third album featuring the original Byrds because that would have been quite something, with the band growing in confidence and ideas. Just imagine what a full album of the next song made by the five Byrds in a studio ('Eight Miles High') would have sounded like, before Gene's departure robs the band of their lead songwriting voice. In a way even this second album is robbed of their songwriting voice. At least two songs (probably 'Satisfied Mind' and 'Oh! Susannah', maybe 'Wait and See') were added to the album at the last minute in place of two extra Gene Clark songs recorded at the sessions, again out of pure jealousy. Even the song's composer couldn't remember writing or recording 'The Day Walk' when the tapes were unearthed for the 'Never Before' compilation in 1987 (Gene giving the song that same title until discovering what his younger self had intended to call it on Columbia paperwork), but he should - it's unforgettable, even for this period of Gene's songwriting, with its paranoid air and reckless use of the Rickenbacker and harmonies that till now had usually been used for sunshine and colour. Ditto 'She Don't Care About Time', relegated to a B-side, even though its complex words about a Miss Haversham-style character trapped in a loneliness of her own making were perhaps the most revealing of Gene's entire career, full of pathos and despair that hint at how badly being sidelined was making him feel. We've said it before and will no doubt be saying it again soon, but Gene Clark really was The Byrds in these early days, with the best songs, the most committed vocals and the charisma to be the band's front-man - the only things he didn't have were the confidence or, indeed, the support of his bandmates and managers. For now, though, he's in a whole stratosphere ahead of everyone else - though in time Crosby will out-flank even him for boldness and originality, with McGuinn and Hillman not far behind either, for now Clark is King and The Byrds will never be the same again without him. Add those two songs in instead of the Beatley-crib 'Wait and See' (Crosby's first hour is not his finest), the so-slow-it-hurts 'Satisfied Mind' and that joke finale with the banjo and suddenly you have a near-perfect second record (equally Crosby's other three songs attempted for this album but rejected for being 'too weird' - the backing track to 'Stranger In A Stranger Land' being the only one that still exists - would have made for a far more interesting album).

Even so, 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' isn't a bad record. While it was never going to be quite as influential as 'Mr Tambourine Man' simply through doing the same thing a second time round rather than the first, in terms of track-on-track action it's probably better. Gene's songs are sharper, there are less wimpy Dylan covers, less uncertain cameos from McGuinn and Crosby and a much tighter and more disciplined band sound as well as a far more adult subject matter of loss and moving on. The Christmas market of 1965 was flooded like perhaps no other season with oodles of AAA classics to enjoy: as well as 'Rubber Soul' The Rolling Stones were 'Out Of Our Heads', The Kinks had a 'Kontroversy' and The Hollies released their third eponymously titled album. Arguably only The Who's 'My Generation' (this album's polar opposite, all about noise attitude and cynicism, not calm cool and optimism) and The Searchers' 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' (it's twin sister, full of folk-rock with production forward glances) really matched 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' which more than held its own in very illustrious company. For now the band are around seven and a half miles high, surely peaking with their very next single, before suffering a free-fall that's going to last pretty much for the rest of this book. Often overlooked between better selling, more respected albums, 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' isn't just better than reputation suggests, it's one hell of a lot better than reputation suggests - perhaps the band's finest until 'Notorious Byrd Brothers'. Especially once Gene Clark is given the microphone and songwriting pen, although even without him McGuinn is on top form too with the title track and 'He Was A Friend Of Mine'. Slowly, bit by bit, this album's reputation is growing too although most people still tend to rate the albums either side of it. But them to everything these is a season including this album - I swear it's not too late! 

'Turn! Turn! Turn!' itself is quite a watershed moment for The Byrds in many ways. Back in 1965 most bands were still chasing the tail of The Beatles in 1964, when music was largely frivolous and fun. There certainly wasn't another band around in 1965 setting bible extracts to music but that's exactly what's happening in this adaptation of The Book Of Ecclesiastes, section III to be exact (the most musical and rhythmical of the Bible chapters - so much so I've often wondered if it was always meant to be set to music even at the time). 'Mr Tambourine Man' was a clever choice as first song (by manager Jim Dickson) precisely because it allowed the band to do anything - but hitting the halfway point between Beatles and Bob it allowed the band to go cute or deep. At first the band chose 'cute' with 'All I Really Wanna Do' (perhaps the silliest of Dylan's 1960s songs) but it never really suited them and when the single crashed and burned (beaten by a Sonny and Cher cover released the same week with unfortunate timing) the band had a re-think and McGuinn remembered a song he'd liked and arranged for Judy Collins while working for her third album (sensibly titled 'Judy Collins Three') in 1963. What impresses most about this Byrds song is how solemn the band sound. There are no shortcuts here: McGuinn's snazzy guitar line sounds centuries old with a real weight and power behind it, while this rare example of true three-way harmonies sounds magnificent, The Byrds' frontline taking it in turns to shine: Gene nails the verses, Jim McGuinn (as he still was then) the choruses and Crosby shines on the last falsetto line of each chorus. You can tell that the band have worked long and hard and indeed this song nearly stretched them to breaking point across 78 takes (the most they ever reached in their career without giving up). Between them The Byrds capture the chill of the weighty words about the inevitability of loss and what little choice mere mortals have in the matter, with a sense of something bigger and grander going on behind the scenes (this is a band that sound impressively in command given the many problems and power-plays behind the scenes in this era, not to mention the sheer doubt in the studio control-room about whether making what was essentially a musical Bible reading the band's third single was a good idea or not). In context of 1965, the stepping stone year when the 1960s when from being fun to being serious with a growing anger about Vietnam and teenage curfews, it's plea for peace and tolerance by youngsters with long hair using words that everyone would have known from Bible school (something the 'adults' still insisted on) was perfectly timed and more than a little moving, with a sense of togetherness and unity that could never have been found from just writing a new song about current trends.

Many people, then and now, rightly praised the band for their courage and effort - but it should be remembered that actually what the Byrds demonstrate most here is their ability to colour and shape someone else's vision rather than their own. The band copied this song wholesale from an arrangement of Pete Seeger's which the folk singer had been performing since 1958 (though not on album until 1962 as part of the LP 'The Bitter and The Sweet').  Everyone who'd ever played in a folk club - like the frontline of Byrds all had - would have know the song well and all they really do is 'fill in' the gaps with electric noise (McGuinn's Rickenbacker and the harmonies mostly). The band keep things simple too, adding to what was already there rather than twisting it a new way, which in terms of pure musicality makes this less of a Byrds song than the re-sculpted 'Tambourine Man' ever was. People who talk about this as The Byrds' greatest moment perhaps the fact that this is Pete Seeger's greatest moment, given a Byrd boost (arguably King Solomon deserves credit too for writing the original verse - or at least, that's who we're meant to think wrote it!) Incidentally Seeger always considered this an 'interpretation' too in his version and waived his co-writer fee which went to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions charity, including the sudden spike in funds when The Byrds covered this song. However, it's still a brave choice for a single and The Byrds (especially McGuinn) were clever enough to pick up on the fact that this was a song that would suit their burgeoning band sound well enough to follow Dylan covers into the charts (had the band gone with their other choices, an aborted outtake of Bob's 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' turned into a rock song or this album's 'The Times They Are A-Changin' as their third single, their audience might have got bored and we'd have never heard from them again!) It's a real shame that this founding Byrds line-up didn't stay together long enough to make a fourth folk-rock cover because it would have been fascinating to see where they might have gone next (Woody Guthrie? Bert Jansch? Joan Baez? Jim, Gene and David singing Peter, Paul and Mary?!) As a piece of trivia as well, whilst bands like Pentangle covered songs that were older, this is easily the 'earliest' #1 hit for an AAA band (or any band?), thought to date back to at least 3BC (possibly up to 10BC!) And you thought the 1960s were a long time ago!...

McGuinn wrote 'It Won't Be Wrong' in 1964 when he returned to folk-clubs as a solo act after years touring America as the guitarist for various other acts (most notably Bobby Darin). His folk singer pal Harvey Gerst helped finish the song off for him, with some folkie tunings, but Jim's melody is clearly Beatle-influenced and, without knowing it, this simple song is in many ways the genesis of The Byrds' sound, mixing folk and rock long before McGuinn met Jim Dickson and was asked to cover 'Tambourine Man'. It seems odd The Byrds should have passed this song over for their first album (especially as the band had already arranged it, as heard on 'Preflyte') and it's notable just how rocky they do this song, removing most of the folk elements from it. A song that takes its cue from 'Please Please Me', with the long stretched out lines of a folk number, it features an oddly emotional lyric for McGuinn (maybe because most of it was written by Herst?) and has him pleading with a loved one to take him back. It's all very physical: the three singers (with Gene, oddly, the loudest) really out their all into an ever-moving song so that we really feel the 'weight' of the liver 'in my arms' and the promise 'I'll never do you harm' sounds almost painful to sing, with its upward lift in the middle of 'harm'. Most of the song is doomy and gloomy by Byrds standards, so much so it sounds far more like one of Gene's songs (which might be why he's effectively 'given' the lead here), with a McGuinn rickenbacker part that starts off playful and ends up serious and desperate, turning from light plucking to an 'Eight Miles High' style drone. The chorus, though (or middle eight or whatever it is - we hear it twice but not where you would normally stick a chorus!) sounds like the sun coming out, a promise that 'you'll see' if only the un-named girl in the song can surrender to the narrator's wishes and he can sweep her off her feet instead of always fighting her. It's a breathless performance, wrapping up three verses and two choruses in not quite two minutes and one the band took a long time to get right according to the bootlegs, especially the tricky opening which nearly stretched their patience past breaking point (no wonder they all end the song with such an audible sense of relief!) One of the band's better rockers and one of McGuinn's better songs.

'Set You Free This Time', however, is a masterpiece. An oddball choice as the band's fourth single, it was never going to sell in a month of ecclesiastical Sundays, but as a song it's pure genius. Poor Gene has had his heart broken again, 'replaced' by a lover just as the narrator was beginning to feel comfortable and 'safe'. Unable to cope full-on with his emotions yet, Gene tries to think about this rationally and sets up one of his most erudite lyrics, full of surreal imagery of girls standing by doors and memories that 'tear me out of my mind' every-time Gene thinks he's forgotten and moved on. However there's nothing lacking in the emotion of Gene's vocal which is one of his best, a little boy lost whose suddenly turned into a man and taking the brave decision to let his loved one go for her own good, even though it breaks his heart. In may ways this song is an update of Arthur Alexander's 'Anna (Go To Him)' (a song The Byrds would have known well after a cover appeared on The Beatles' 'Please Please Me' album) but the mood is all Gene: grief wrapped up in intelligence and philosophy. The best line comes in the second verse when Gene sighs about not making the most of this love when he had it, that he'd 'never been so far out in front that I can ask for what I want and have it, anytime' - a classy summary of a character whose not used to things working out for them anyway. Then there's Gene's heartbreaking realisation that his ideal relationship he has in his head probably doesn't exist: ('Now whose wondering...why it cannot be arranged to have each thing work fine'). The girl starts the song by saying that she's 'not blind', but oh she is: she doesn't realise any of these deep thoughts are running through her exes' head or how much her casual dismissal of him is going to deeply wound him. Impressively free from anger or bitterness, though, Gene simply shrugs that 'this wasn't how it was set up to be' and that there's no point hanging onto something that's moved on. Gene ends the song on a mournful harmonica lick, but musically the star role here is McGuinn's Rickenbacker which is impressively on the money, the echo which usually brings so much brightness and hope to Byrds arrangements now a mocking hollow echo of everything that used to be so hopeful. Crosby's harmonies are also note-perfect, his more naturally emotional singing voice making a good double act with Clark's solemn lead. Even by Gene's standards this song is brilliant, so far ahead of its time and one of the greatest things any line-up of The Byrds ever did. But it's not a single and it's failure in the charts (even though its author didn't want it to be a single) damaged Gene's standing with his fellow Byrds.

Bob Dylan's 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' was intended for his January 1964 album 'The Times They Are A-Changin' but his version didn't come out on record until 1985's 'Biograph'. You can kind of hear why: it's unusually one-note for a Dylan song and feels more like a hymn, repeating a chorus over and over and using just one simple metaphor throughout the song - a musician narrator dying and laying his songs to rest. Dylan says he was trying to write a song to match a Scottish folk song he particularly liked though he's never said which one (perhaps 'Auld Lang Syne') and the piece does feel as if it has the drone of a bagpipe throughout the song even though there isn't one on either version (which is perfect for The Byrds in their early psychedelic phase, given how similarly bagpipes work compared to sitars). Offered to The Byrds as an 'exclusive' following their success with 'Tambourine Man', this was often said to be the only Byrds cover that Bob actually liked. However if this song was an oddball creation for Dylan its way out of The Byrds' usual style and a bit of a slog to sit through. McGuinn tries to liven the song up with his usual take on Dylan covers (sarcasm, basically) but he's a fish out of water and his bitterness seems at odds with the song's feeling of weary resignation, the narrator's health failing as he fades away like the dying notes in the air (is this song set during a battle? There are bugels blowing which suggests a civil war, be it English or American). Crosby too adds a gormlessly cheery falsetto part that's right at odds with the sheer frustration and torment in the song and - almost uniquely for Dylan - the choruses is irritating and twee, repeated too many times for comfort. Only Gene sounds at home here amongst the shadows and he's mixed far too low. Not one of The Byrds' better covers and one of their worst Dylan ones, whatever its author thought about it.

Another instance of McGuinn electrifying folk comes with 'He Was A Friend Of Mine', although this time his adaptation was far more hands on,. The song has existed for centuries in various forms, written by an unknown folk-writer about the death of his friend 'Shorty George' sometime back in the Middle Ages. McGuinn's version though doesn't so much adapt the song as totally re-write, turning it from a general song about grief to a song about specifics. In The Byrds' hands it's a tribute to JFK, the president having been shot around two years before this recording, although McGuinn later said he wrote it the very night Kennedy died on November 23rd 1963 (which must have been a peak day for songs, what with Brian Wilson doing the same with 'Warmth Of The Sun' the same night over in California - in Britain of course everyone was watching the first episode of Dr Who that night!) You can tell that this song was originally written in anger; like Paul Simon's very similar 'He Was My Brother' it makes its mark thanks to long held notes that sound like stabbing (especially the elongated 'Heeeeeee') and the occasional bitter lyric ('His killing had no purpose, no reason or rhyme!') Two years later, though, and that sense of emotion has killed enough for Crosby to wrap around his partner's wobbly lead with a vocal of warmth and love and for the main sense to be one of loss of someone the narrator felt close to. Some of the lyrics are inspired and sum up JFK's spirit well, if not the truth of what he was really like ('though I never met him, I knew him just the same'). Some are just clunky and journalistic and don't belong in a tribute song ('From a sixth floor window a gunner shot him down'). Caught between heartfelt sincerity and parody, this 'feels' like a song written when the band were younger and didn't quite know what they were doing yet and one wonders why McGuinn brought it back into his repertoire at this point (The Byrds had oodles of songs left over from their 1964 'Preflyte' sessions they never used and don't seem to have attempted this song back then). Sung with new venom during the band's performance in Monterey in 1967, it was the only McGuinn song that Crosby allowed in the set, suggesting he liked it, though during the performance he was using it to very much make a political point about assassination and cover-ups; here there's no such underlying motive, just sadness. Sweet as it is, Brian Wilson's tribute was better.

Over on side two Gene Clark has just realised that maybe he shouldn't have set his girl free, anytime. He's only now realised after parting that 'The World Turns All Around Her' and he's reminded about her in every single little things he does, kicking himself for not realising how much she meant to him before. It seems safe to say that this song was inspired by the same girl and Gene's shock at seeing someone he thought was only made for him with another man, although we don't know who this person was (most of the relationships we know about for Gene happened long after this, with romances with Mama Michelle Phillips and actress June Fairchild while it's too early for it to be about his wife Carlie Lynn). Here once again Gene doesn't feel bitterness or anger so much as shock, offering advice to his successor to treat her right and make 'the world turn all around her' or he too will end up as heartbroken and lost as he feels. This gorgeous song tries so hard to look on the bright side and makes good use of everything The Byrds once stood for (at least on their debut album): McGuinn's bright and breezy Rickenbacker (especially the Bach-ish part that bookends the song), killer Beatley harmonies (with nobody apparently having told Crosby this is a sad not a happy song) and a great drumming pop hook from Michael Clarke. However this is all window dressing: Gene's narrator is clearly devastated and every time the song tries to pick itself up and start again, bouncing back from defeat, a sudden unexpected memory knocks him off his feet back to a minor chord. 'Now whenever I see her with you I realise how much I didn't know' he sighs to himself in a most melancholy middle eight, desperate to correct his mistake. Simple as this song is by Gene's 1965 standards, it's all tremendously effective and your heart breaks along with him, even while you're tapping your feet and enjoying one of the best Byrds band performances. Even Gene's desire to write a 'pop' song like people want him to is overshadowed by the fact his world turns all around his girl - this should have been the single, not the more worthy but more wordy 'Set You Free This Time', Gene proving that he could be as commercial as the next Byrd if he wanted to be but, with heart broken, he usually didn't want to.

'Satisfied Mind' is perhaps the album's weakest cut. Chris Hillman's first love was bluegrass and he was forever trying to interest the rest of the band into his large stock of LPs. They tended to prefer his country songs and eventually decided, as they were short on material, to let the bassist have his own slot on the album. Chris chose a former country hit for Portener Waggoner by Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes, which paid tribute to the former's parents (his dad asking him to name some millionaires and claiming they were all less happy than a man with a 'satisfied mind', alongside some comments from his mum on similar lines). Hillman's shaky vocal debut is rather overshadowed by McGuinn's sneer and Crosby's sweetness and while The Byrds will later do this sort of country song in their sleep they all sound a tad uncomfortable here, tourists rather than inhabitants the way the band will be from 1968 onwards. Only Gene's harmonica really captures the country feel of the song which isn't really suitable for the band or for a rock and roll treatment, being too ponderous and slow. It seems an odd choice given how many far more suitable tracks Hillman knew inside out (and had indeed arranged for the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers and Hillmen albums, the second of which was at the time still unreleased and available for use), chosen perhaps for its slightly Biblical air in the wake of 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' However this is a sermon, not a hymn, a lecture on how it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. The lyrics urge caution against not only money but jealousy of people with money, which is treated as a red herring in the mystery of life: 'It won't buy you back your youth when you're old, a friend when you're lonely or love that's grown cold'. But this isn't brotherly advice, it's patronising and The Byrds sounds oddly cold-hearted and flat-footed here. Who, buying this album in 1965, would have guessed that this of all recordings is the closest thing to a future Byrds template sound?  

Gene's 'If You're Gone' - his last song to be released with The Byrds - gets overlooked in his catalogue compared to his other great songs on the band's first two albums. But this track too is one of his best, taking McGuinn's jangly bouncy Rickenbacker and turning it into a weapon on another atmospheric song about love and loss. It sounds like a postscript to the same split in Gene's love-life, a list of surreal images that capture his feelings of desperation and hopelessness now that a great thing in his life is over. For a third song in a row, though, gene isn't as angry or as bitter as most songwriters would be, instead coming to terms with just how great a part of that life this was now it's over. He sees the brightness now he's no longer 'blinded by the sun' so close to his proximity and has worked out how much he genuinely loved the mystery 'her' now she's gone, concluding finally that 'if you're gone there's nothing that remains'. This is a very oddly structured song even for Gene, with one long verse and a shorter one and no chorus  and even though the main signature line is very Byrdsy with its McGuinn guitar breaks, it never settles down into the pattern you're expecting and you spend your time waiting for a chorus that never arrives (or perhaps in gene's case a reprieve from his departed lover that never comes either). It sounds the most emotional song of the three though, with its emphasis on the cracks in Gene's gorgeous voice, Jim and David's ghostly wordless harmonies that sound like a harbinger of doom throughout and a general sweeping air of passion and wild fury that's only just kept in check by McGuinn's oddly aggressive guitar work. Gene is the peaceful eye in the centre of this hurricane, rock solid even though everything else in the song is trying to blow him over and yet still he 'loses', the song ending with those ghostly, angry harmonies. It seems ridiculous to say a song as strong as this is the weakest of Clark's three but the fact that it is merely shows how brilliant the other two songs are. 'She Don't Care About Time' and 'The Day Walk' might have had the edge, however.

After all that power, 'The Times They Are A-Changin' sounds like an awkward backwards step. Which is ridiculous given that this is a song about change and moving forward, with Dylan's song still just about retaining shock value almost two years after its release. After all, had any song before this ever been quite so damning of adult, parental figures? 'The battle outside raging' claims one of Dylan's better lyrics as he depicts a world where parental authority figures and maybe even capitalism itself is a river that's become flooded and about to bring the population misery. It's too late for the 'father and mothers throughout the land' who in a classic couplet shouldn't 'criticise what they can't understand' and the feeling of rage against an authoritarian, war-mongering culture that the young hippies want to change. Instead Dylan invites 'writers and critics' to join him in a revolution 'while the wheels' still in spin', to unite and make things right. Notwithstanding the fact that this revolution will end up with the brakes on for the most part or however many similar songs on a similar theme came out afterwards, this song is still astonishing, up there with 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere' as Dylan's strongest lyric. So it's a shame that The Byrds, pioneers of that same youthful spirit and change, treat this song as being merely ordinary. Everything about their arrangement is perfunctory: McGuinn doesn't live this song the way he did 'Tambourine Man' and simply reads out the lyrics in a typically McGuinn type voice; Crosby and Clark's harmonies are there for colour and sweetness in a song that's about not having either of those things and the backing is slapdash and hurried, ending with a 'ta-dah!' guitar riff and cymbal crash that sounds like a bad musichall act. It speaks volumes that this cover version won't be performed at all in the band's setlists despite its near-single status (nor will 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' for that matter, though the Dylan covers from the first album will all be played regularly down the years). A bit of a mess.

On any other album McGuinn and Crosby's collaboration (their second and last after 'The Airport Song') 'Wait and See' would shine out with its lovely riff, pure harmonies and sweet chord progression. But this is an album that's just starred Gene Clark and Bob Dylan and this return to Beatley pop feels a little silly and lightweight. Chances are McGuinn wrote the jangly riff and Crosby the song that came with it - the song features elements of both men's work which has lots of room for both to shine, especially the audible twinkle in Crosby's eye as he tries to chat a girl up! My guess is this song started life as a cross between two Beatles songs, 'You're Gonna Lose That Girl' (the same tempo and the fact she 'belongs' to someone else at the start of the song, probably poor Gene!) and 'Run For Your Life' (which has a similar chord structure). The narrator paints this as an ideal romance between soulmates, but compared to what gene's just been through it sounds generic: walking, talking and hand-holding. There's no sense that if and when this relationship is over the narrator is going to have his heart ripped out or that it's going to inspire him to write poetry - it's just a way to spend the time. The rhyme of 'over' and 'gonna love her' is also cringeworthy. Perhaps the only straightforward Crosby song in his entire canon, this is second-rate Beatles enlivened only by the ending when the song lurches to an awkward full-stop (a section that has Gene's fingerprints written all over it). The other weakest song on the album.

Or maybe that's 'Oh! Susannah', a joke that went too far. McGuinn figured that if what The Byrds were meant to do was combine folk and rock then he may as well plunk for one of the most famous examples in history. However he fully expected to be shouted down or stopped by somebody - the other Byrds didn't exactly back down from a fight while both Melcher and Dickson were strong figures in their own right. Nobody, though, seemed to understand McGuinn's humour and his dead-face pan that a modern-day cover of this traditional piece would be 'hip' and 'happening' was treated at face value (only Michael Clarke harrumphed and his mock military playing is hilarious, doing to Roger what Keith Moon used to do to 'his' Roger, sending him up no end). The song was, of course, written by Stephen Foster and is a 'Minstrel' song from 1848, generally played in blackface, and which would surely have been a number one hit had America had charts back then (it broke the record for sheet-music with 100,000 copies sold, which must count for something). I've never been quite sure why: even its author admitted the lyrics were 'nonsense' and that it was written as an Americanised spoof of the polka, currently all the rage in Europe. Had the song been about a Rickenbacker rather than a banjo it would have made more sense, but The Byrds have nothing in common with this song and only McGuinn is in on the joke so they pitch it all 'wrong'. Less convincing even than 'We'll Meet Again' (another deliberately 'wrong' choice picked to end a record), I'd even take the sound of McGuinn's hoover on next closing Byrds number 'The Lear Jet Song' over this one!

Overall, then, 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' sinks fast during its last turn turn turn, but the first three-quarters of the record is as strong as anything else in the band's catalogue. general consensus at the time was that The Byrds were standing still after the newness and freshness of their debut, but that's a patchy record with several mistakes - this is the early Byrds album with the great triumphs including all of Gene's songs and a couple of others along the way too. The early Byrds catches the biggest worms, then and the title track alone was hit enough for this album to sell well. But already there's a feeling of change in the air and a sense that the band's peak period is over and running out of steam. Gene's departure should have been a devastating blow to the band, given that without him the band are basically a covers act with the odd song that had been lying around for years. Instead they seem to have shrugged their shoulders and reckoned they could do better without him - which is half-true, as the equally patchy and even more rollercoaster ride between greatness and ghastliness on '5D' will demonstrate. Never again will The Byrds sound quite as much of a 'band' either (or at least not until 'Untitled' in 1970 when things calm down once more), which is a tragedy. But to everything there is a season - and we fans are simply overjoyed this season lasted at all, even with oddball songs about banjos, Beatle throwbacks and weak Dylan covers. 

Other Byrds articles from this site you might be interested in reading:

'Younger Than Yesterday' (1967)

'The Nototious Byrd Brothers' (1968)

'Sweethearts Of The Rodeo' (1968)

'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' (1969)

‘The Ballad Of Easy Rider’ (1969)

'Untitled' (1970)

'Byrdmaniax' (1971)

'The Byrds' (1973)

Surviving TV Appearances

Unreleased Songs

Non-Album Songs (1964-1990)

A Guide To Pre-Fame Byrds Recordings

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One (1964-1972)

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two (1973-1977)

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Three (1978-1991)

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Four (1992-2013)

Simon and Garfunkel: Live/Compilation/Film Soundtrack Recordings Part One: 1968-1988

"Live In New York 1967"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded January 1967, Released July 2002)

He Was My Brother/Leaves That Are Green/Sparrow/Homeward Bound/You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies/A Most Peculiar Man/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Dangling Conversation/Richard Cory/A Hazy Shade Of Winter/Benedictus/Blessed/A Poem On The Underground Wall/Anji/I Am A Rock/The Sound Of Silence/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/A Church Is Burning/Wednesday Morning 3 AM

"It's a still-life watercolour of a now-late afternoon"

The earliest surviving concert we have of Simon and Garfunkel dates from three months or so after the release of 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme'. Like all Simon and Garfunkel concerts (until the reunions at least) it's a low-key affair and features just two voices, one guitar and an already pretty classic songbook to choose from even though S and G were quickly becoming one of the biggest acts on the planet. Fans of the complex, densely arranged studio records might be in for a shock as detailed full-band and often orchestral-based arrangements of songs like 'Dangling Conversation'  and 'I Am A Rock' are delivered with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Simon and Garfunkel clearly weren't built to be a live 'band' - their perfectionism and eye for detail make them a natural in-the-studio-for-months act if ever there was one and you can almost hear the pair's frustration as they make the occasional mistake other acts simply wouldn't notice, coming in a split-second too early or fluffing the odd line. You wonder what the mid-twenties Simon and Garfunkel would have said over their older 70-odd selves letting some of these recordings out the vaults (or, it has to be said, why they were recorded at all: knowing Simon and Garfunkel it was probably to monitor their performances to see what areas they could 'improve' on and nothing more).

Yet if you know the original records really well and have those as a basis to compare these concerts to then these live performances can be a fascinating parallel world where Simon and Garfunkel made every record the same way they made their first album, simply directly and with nothing to sustain them more than clever lines, memorable tunes and belief. In many ways it's like a longer version of 'The Paul Simon Songbook' with Art guesting. On this concert especially their telepathy and synchronicity is exceptional: all those pre-fame years' worth of practice staring at each other's mouths so they could work out the exact second to come in on the same line is extraordinary. Arty never sounded sweeter or purer than here, where his vocal is a 'leading instrument' no longer buried by elaborate productions while Paul is free of all the 'calcium deposit' troubles that will limit his guitar playing in later years proving himself to be a player of real skill. Though five concerts by the duo are now available, to differing degrees (three in their prime and two reunions) this is by far the most essential, with Simon  and Garfunkel still very much good friends by this point and still hungry enough to do their material justice.
The concert is impressively long considering that it is literally two men and a guitar throughout, with nothing to take the pressure off them. The show was in fact too long for a single CD so a song had to be cut out (a fun version of 'Red Rubber Ball' sadly, which had already appeared on the 'Old Friends' box set in 1997 alongside 'A Poem On The Underground Wall' 'Blessed' 'Anji' and 'A Church Is Burning'). The material is pretty evenly split between each of their first three albums: six tracks from 'Wednesday Morning 3 AM' (highlighted by a swinging 'He Was My Brother' at the very start), six from 'Sounds Of Silence' (highlighted by a sparse, slower lamented version of 'I Am A Rock') and oddly only four from most recent album 'Parsley' (where period single 'Dangling Conversation' works best, freed of the pretentiousness of the orchestral arrangement and a rather more 'heartfelt' performance in this version). There's also a rare chance to hear a Simon and Garfunkel version of the 'Songbook' tune 'A Church Is Burning' (which would have fitted onto the 'Wednesday' album nicely) and it's one of the highlights of the set (as is 'Ball' if you can find it, a silly Paul Simon original given away to 'The Cyrkle'). It's not all great: rogue single 'Homeward Bound' is a little perfunctory and a preview of a new single 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' is rather down on power compared to the full band recording and a rare version of its B side 'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies'  is nice and bluesy, but a little rambling. This is also perhaps the weakest of all the multiple versions of 'Sound Of Silence' around, a little too rushed and thrown away (the duo will do it better justice when they see just how much the song means to people on tours like this one). However for the most part Simon and Garfunkel are on-form this January New York night and get a lot more things more right than they get wrong.

It's not just the songs though that make this concert special, as odd as that might sound. Arty especially, reveals a talent at speaking to the audience (usually to cover his partner's tuning) and is a great story-teller, informing the audience why 'A Poem On The Underground Wall' was written (after a rather lurid graffiti message was discovered on the wall behind the 'tube train' shot of the duo for 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' 'which was precisely what we wanted for the cover of our LP!') The interaction between the two is also genuinely warm and full of affection, in contrast to the rather more barbed atmosphere of the next couple of tours. This is a welcome souvenir of a time when Simon and Garfunkel really were 'old friends' and a highly impressive addition to the five Simon and Garfunkel records.

"The Graduate" (Film Soundtrack)

(Columbia, January 1968)

The Sound Of Silence (Electric)*/The Singleman Party Fox Trot/Mrs Robinson*/Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha/Scarborough Fair-Canticle (Interlude)/On The Strip/April Come She Will*/The Folks//Scarborough Fair-Canticle*/A Great Effect/The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine**/Whew/Mrs Robinson (Reprise)**/The Sound Of Silence (Acoustic Re-Recording)**

* = Simon and Garfunkel performances taken from earlier recordings

** = Simon and Garfunkel performances unique to this album

The rest is incidental music written by Dave Grusin for the film

"Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes"

'It's very comfortable, just to drift'. 'The Graduate' is a game-changer in more ways than one, the 'graduation' of Simon and Garfunkel from cult figures to musical heroes. The duo had been getting along quite well anyway: two charting albums, respectable sales for singles 'The Sound Of Silence' 'I Am A Rock' and 'Homeward Bound'. But the release of the film 'The Graduate' in late 1967 helped their music appeal to a whole new audience who had never heard of them before, turning them into chart regulars and household names everyone knew rather than a band whose talents were spread by word of mouth. Many many fans joined in with the Simon and Garfunkel story here and still view the pair through the filters of the film: as a voice for disaffected youth told to work hard at college but offered only the worst role-models to aspire to when seeking jobs and where their lives are laid out for them. For a million college kids of a certain generation who'd spent the 1960s learning how to do things separately to their parents and yet were still expected to toe the line anyway graduation was a make or break moment - and the Graduate film and soundtrack tapped into a growing unease about 'us' and 'them' that had never really been explored in film or music before. Or at least not in this sort of a way before: perhaps the biggest change 'The Graduate' made to the film world was that the younger messed-up characters (represented here by Dustin Hoffman's put upon Benjamin) are the ones morally in the 'right', led astray by their elders (portrayed superbly by Anne Bancroft's cougarish Mrs Robinson). This is more than just your average teen exploitation flick though and one of those films where everyone comes out losing, with no real monsters or villains, just frustrated lonely middle aged people preying on messed up youngsters. It clearly needed a better soundtrack than your average generation gap band could offer and a rare group who could afford to be kind to both sides. Cue Simon and Garfunkel.

It wasn't their idea to be heard in the film at all but director Mike Nichols, who'd fallen in love with the duo after hearing 'The Sound Of Silence'. A keen collector of all their LPs, he referred back to their music time and time again to get the 'mood' of what he was shooting just right and used their music in place as a 'holder' in the soundtrack before hiring the 'proper' people in to make the music, choosing older songs from their first three albums he sensed fitted best. You can see why too: who better than Simon and Garfunkel to fit what the original album sleevenotes describe as the film's main dramatic thrust: 'That the young now seem to be so much more severely serious than the old'. As time went on, though, he grew more and more fond of S and G's recordings and realised that he was going to struggle to replace them, so he got in touch with Columbia to see about licensing the songs. This was pretty much unheard of at the time, when rock and pop music was only used sparingly in films, heard over end credits or seen over title sequences - certainly no other act had ever dominated a film that they'd had no hand in writing or starring in. Columbia were enthusiastic and already talking about a soundtrack album if the film proved to be a success, but figuring that people might not buy the 'new' material negotiated with the duo to provide three new songs for the film. For a while this was a sticking point: S and G had moved on a little too far from the teenage angst and alienation of their earlier years and the music Paul offered Nichols was reluctantly rejected (to be fair he'd have had a hard time fitting 'Punky's Dilemma' into the film). In the end he took just one new song: a track named 'Mrs Roosevelt' that Paul had just written about former president Franklin D Roosevelt's wife, a bitter sideswipe at nostalgia and how former first Lady Eleanor had lost her influence over politics and activism, dying virtually un-noticed in 1962. Paul hadn't yet decided on the name completely and as with most of his early songs was swaying between lots of different names and ideas during the early drafts. Nichols heard one of them where Paul was playing around with names and chanced upon 'Mrs Robinson' and pleaded with him to keep his leading character's name. In the end it was a lucky accident: the final 'Mrs Robinson' single shares very little with the character in 'The Graduate' but the sense of generational decay and falling from grace once out of the limelight reflects well Mrs Robinson's jealousy at her daughter's relationship with Benjamin and her struggle to step aside for another generation. It's the perfect souvenir from the film and an instant success when used as a single, even if in truth it lacks the depth or power of most of Paul's earlier songs.

Simon and Garfunkel were contracted for two more new 'songs' but in the end agreed to provide two new 'recordings' instead: re-recordings of 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' originally heard on 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' and given an added screaming backwards guitar lick and a looser, bluesier feel. It's sense of something 'wrong' in the machine of the business world makes it a decent fit for the scenes early on in the film when Ben is being 'headhunted' by companies he doesn't want to be a part of though it doesn't quite match the sheer roar of the original. The duo also re-record 'The Sound Of Silence' yet again, making this the fourth version of the song around following the 'acoustic' 'electric' and 'Paul Simon Songbook' versions. This new version, used powerfully over the closing scene of Mrs Robinson's daughter getting married to someone else as a broken Ben tried to stop the wedding, is another acoustic version performed perhaps a little too fast compared to the 'classic' versions and by a duo who clearly know the song so well they can sing it in their sleep compared to the real feeling of any of the originals. They even start humming over the fade, which seems the antithesis of the song's dark brooding alienation. Still, it's hard to go wrong with a song as classic as this one and 'Silence' works well as the thoughtful conclusion to the film. Elsewhere Nichols chooses to use the 'Sounds Of Silence' album version of 'April Come She Will', adds some flutes to the finale of 'Scarborough Fair-Canticle' and there's a final minute long burst of 'Mrs Robinson' in its early stages as a song with a single verse, sing slower and less sarcastically, which soon breaks down into ragged guitar chugs (useful for placing in the film during a 'chase' sequence'. However that only resulted in half an album and half an album's worth of material.

One of the great unsung things about the 'Graduate' soundtrack album is the bit everyone always skips - the classical interlude pieces by Dave Grusin. However these too represent something of a breakthrough in film soundtrack terms as around half of his seven pieces are based around existing recordings by Simon and Garfunkel rather than the other way around, as had been in the case in almost every other soundtrack. Much like the story in the film, the 'older' generation's music is deemed subservient to the 'younger' generation' and the classical reading of 'Scarborough Fair' in particular (pure and innocent, but contrasted with 'Canticle's alternating melody line played by some scratchy horror movie strings) is awfully good. However it remains a sad fact that the modern Simon and Garfunkel fan who already owns the duo's five albums (including the finished 'Mrs Robinson' re-used on 'Bookends' later in the year) are effectively buying a full album for songs they already know, recordings they already know (barring two lesser re-recordings and a minute long 'Mrs Robinson' fragment) and half an album of incidental music. There's a reason you still see this soundtrack album in the bargain bins quite so often: it's not quite as essential as many fans have been led to think it is in purely musical terms.

'The Graduate' remains, however, a key moment in the Simon and Garfunkel canon. If nothing else the release of 'The Graduate' finally gave Simon and Garfunkel the one thing they'd hadn't had since 'The Sound Of Silence' became a hit: perfect timing. Once again an outsider had stepped in to present Simon and Garfunkel in a way that they'd never imagined before and delivered exactly the right Simon and Garfunkel product when they needed it; no more arriving unfashionably late to metaphorical folk or rock parties or missing the bus that over bands were riding; suddenly Simon and Garfunkel were the party and their sense of polite intelligent rebellion is perfect not just for the film but the times. People who'd never bought a Simon and Garfunkel record, put off by their marketing as overgrown choir-boys or folk-rockers suddenly 'got' it and couldn't wait to go back and find what else they'd been missing (in this album's wake all their back catalogue began to double in sales figures, with 'Wednesday Morning 3AM' actually making the charts for the first time).The sudden instant success for nothing more than a slight tweak in the lyrics to 'Mrs Roosevelt' to make her become film protagonist 'Mrs Robinson'  and the recycling of some old songs must have seemed crazy to Simon and Garfunkel though, who'd been fighting hard all their lives for a sliver of this album's instant success, whose easy money and the extra pressure that comes with fame they seemed to resent more than appreciate. It's notable that they will never do a film soundtrack together again (or apart until Paul's own 'One Trick Pony' a decade later, despite Arty's secondary career as an actor across the 1970s) and that the clock to their demise starts ticking in earnest from this point on. 'The Graduate' was just too big a deal for them to cope with in the end, but it was too perfect a 'fit' for them to say 'no' to either.  

"Live In Vermont 1968"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded October 1968, Released as part of the 'Old Friends' Box Set November 1997)

Overs/A Most Peculiar Man/Bye Bye Love

"Now there's no more time, just The New York Times..."

The second of the mini-concerts included on the 'Old Friends' box set is a three track concert  recorded at pretty much the mid-way point between 'Bookends' and 'Bridge'. As be-fits this rather bleak period there's less 'fun' in this mini-show, with Simon and Garfunkel performing sparse acoustic versions of two of their bleakest songs before showing off an early version of Everly Brothers singalong 'Bye Bye Love', a different live recording to the one used on 'Troubled Water' a year late (but using the same arrangement). This is the only live recording we have of 'Overs', Paul's acerbic break-up song that sounds aimed very much at Arty tonight, who still sweeps in oblivious in the second half of the song, starting off-mike as if he was as far away on stage as possible and had to rush back for his cue (neither singer ever returned to it on the stage). On that score it's interesting, though as the 'Bookends' version of that song was just the pair with a guitar it's not that different either. 'Peculiar Man', a setlist regular, sounds particularly good tonight though played at a very slow moody tempo that brings out the best in the pair's harmonies if not the tune. 'Bye Bye Love' is a little bit low-key though, with the audience only joining in with the hand-claps halfway through (were the band wildly trying to excite them from the stage?) and taken at a slower less fun tempo than the version that made the album. Though not as strong as the S and G gigs from the previous year, this is still a nice mini-show to have and leaves you hoping that the full show might be released one day. 

"Live 1969"

(Columbia/Legacy, Recorded October-November 1969, Released March 2008)

Homeward Bound/At The Zoo/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/Song For The Asking/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/Mrs Robinson/The Boxer/Why Don't You Write Me?/So Long Frank Lloyd Wright/That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine/Bridge Over Troubled Water/The Sound Of Silence/I Am A Rock/Old Friends-Bookend Theme/The Leaves That Are Green/Kathy's Song

"Like a memory it falls, soft and warm, continuing..."

Who in the audience back in 1969, attending what turned out to be the last Simon and Garfunkel tour for twelve years, listening to their heroes discuss teenage anxiety and philosophy, would have guessed that their heroes would sanction a release of this live recording just shy of forty years later, not through record shops but through a coffee chain? Aside from the rather odd marketing gimmick which so many of our AAA artists seemed to follow at the time (where buying a CD was regular cheaper than buying a coffee), this compilation of six separate live shows finally makes good on the promise shown by the handful of live tracks released on 'Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits' twenty-seven years earlier (be wary in fact: if you own that set and the 'Old Friends' box of 1998 you own nearly half of this set already, but it's nice to hear it expanded into a mock-up of what a full gig would have been). By and large it's another excellent S and G archive live release, with this one's big selling point the chance to hear the pair sing songs from the soon-to-be-released 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' together rather than apart. Many of these tracks are the best here: a slow and lazy 'So Long Frank Lloyd Wright' with Paul offering a 'gruff' counter vocal, a muted 'Song For The Asking', a slightly shakey and rather Everly Brothers-like 'The Boxer', a slightly more 'with-it' version of 'Why Don't You Write Me?' which is less ska and more music hall plus a soaring rendition of the title track which Arty says is his 'current favourite song'. The one truly 'exclusive' song, meanwhile - a cover of Everly Brothers standard 'That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine' - had already appeared on the 'Old Friends' box set a decade earlier. As for the older songs, they're now split in two with S and G playing a typically intimate opening set of six songs with two voices and a guitar and thirteen using a 'full' band for the first time. Though this 'works' in the case of a gloriously messy 'Mrs Robinson', which is about as rough and funky as S and G ever become, the rest of the band tracks feel like they lose something compared to the scruffy majesty and intimacy of past S and G gigs released as 'Live '67' and the half-heard tour of '68. Though it might just be a quirk of whoever's editing this set, it also seems as if S and G are less chatty on this tour, spikier during their few chats to each other ('I feel happy to have finally got near to the end of it' says Arty about the soon-to-be-released 'Bridge' while Paul snaps back 'It's about time') and with a sense of gloom hanging over the CD (then again, bootlegs of a full show in Miami recorded on this tour reveals that the pair were having as much fun as ever - in fact most of that set is better than anything used here, which makes you wish the duo had gone for a 'full' recording of one show rather than a compilation of lots). Still, this is a nice souvenir for fans to have, with S and G sharing that spooky vocal symmetry one last time and providing classics versions of most of their old favourites and a few new ones too.

 S/G "Greatest Hits"
(Columbia, July 1972)

Mrs Robinson/For Emily Wherever I May Find Her/The Boxer/59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Sound Of Silence/I Am A Rock/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/Homeward Bound/Bridge Over Troubled Water/America/Kathy's Song/El Condor Pasa/Bookends/Cecilia

"We'd like to help you learn about yourself, look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes"

For Paul Simon this release was an unwelcome distraction from his recently released first album. For Art Garfunkel it was a reminder of just how hard he might he might find it to escape the shadow of Simon and Garfunkel as a solo act. And for the rest of the world it was a reminder of why we didn't want the duo to split up in the first place, with the first ever Simon and Garfunkel compilation reducing their five glorious albums to a mere fourteen songs and setting the standard for the same old songs that have appeared on every compilation since. An instant big seller, just eighteen months on from 'Bridge', what surprises most is how many fan favourite album tracks are here ('America' 'Bookends El Condor Pasa') over bonafide hits, with 'Fakin' It' 'A Hazy Shade Of Winter' and 'The Dangling Conversation' all missing. Four of the songs here are then-exclusive live recordings from the concert later released in full as 'Live 1967', though oddly the record doesn't list this on the sleeve (the tracks are 'For Emily' 'Kathy's Song' 'Feelin' Groovy' and 'Homeward Bound' for the record). The running order too has been messed around with - 'The Sound Of Silence' has never sounded more out of place between the bounce of 'Feelin' Groovy' and the self-pity of 'I Am A Rock' - and in fact none of these tracks feel like they 'belong' together somehow. Still, if this compilation was inevitable then at least it was made with some care and actually features Simon and Garfunkel on the cover this time, with a lovely unseen shot from their late period (which believe it or not is more than you can say about the sequel 'The Simon and Garfunkel Collection'!) Later compilations are better, simply because they're longer, but if the basics is all you want then you can't do better than this really. In an S and G starved world this compilation went on to out-sell all other S and G LPs (yes even 'Bridge' and 'Graceland') and remains the highest selling album ever released by a duo.

Paul Simon "Live Rhymin'"

(Columbia, March 1974)

Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Homeward Bound/American Tune/El Condor Pasa/Duncan/The Boxer//Mother and Child Reunion/The Sound Of Silence/Jesus Is The Answer/Bridge Over Troubled Water/Loves Me Like A Rock/America
CD Bonus Tracks: Kodachrome/Something So Right

"I am leaving, I am leaving'...Yet the fighter still remains (and even sings an encore)"

Paul's first live album - the first, in terms of release date, by either of Simon and Garfunkel together or apart - is a typically understated concert that works best on the first half when Paul sits, alone, with his acoustic and his voice – the audience is so quiet and respectful you can hear a pin drop and at last the emphasis of the songs is placed on their greatest aspect: the words. Few people can turn a phrase like Paul Simon and this album is a good example of that, containing pretty much all the best lyrical songs Paul had written up to that time. Unlike some artists going solo Paul isn't afraid of digging deeper into his back catalogue and there are no less than five Simon and Garfunkel songs on this album - and not just the hits either, with fan favourites 'America' and 'El Condor Pasa' making welcome appearances. The joy of this album is hearing these familiar songs delivered in new arrangements so that they sound more like 'Paul Simon solo' songs; the odd thing is you don't miss Arty as much as you might expect, even on the latter's signature piece 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.

That song is the centre-piece of the much bigger and rather less successful second side. Sensibly figuring that he can't sing that song as well as Arty in the same way, Paul re-invents one of his greatest works, taking it right back to its original inspiration as a 'gospel' song (it's how 'Bridge' might well have sounded without Garfunkel's input and suggestions). While 'Bridge' would never have been as big a hit or had the same impact in this incarnation and this arrangement has divided fans ever since, I for one really like it: special guests The Jesse Dixon Singers add just the right vibe of comfort and hope without turning the track into too much of a religious sermon and the final two minutes of ebbing and flowing to 'I do believe, I really do believe, that I will ease your mind' is quite lovely, perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the song. The other songs featuring the Jesse Dixon Singers fare less well though: 'Loves Me Like A Rock' really is a preaching sermon, an overly gospel 'Mother and Child Reunion' sounds like nothing less than mother-and-child abuse and Paul sounds deeply uncomfortable on both, seemingly regretting every moment, while the less said about the Singers' cameo on their own 'Jesus Is The Answer' (on which Paul is inaudible) the better. Frankly the gospel chorus are too big and too in-your-face for a concert this intimate. Urubamba, the Argentinian troupe (except for Uruguayan drummer Emilio Arteaga) that are used here to fill in Los Incas' role on 'El Condor Pasa' and 'Duncan', are a much better fit and the latter especially works very well with Paul getting into character. Chances are Paul met them through Michelberg, the 'alleged' co-writer of 'El Condor Pasa', who also had strong links to the group and plays as a member of them to this day. The biggest surprise is their role they play on 'The Boxer', giving the song a certain joyful glee that couldn't be less like the record and yet still work very well. Paul continues to offer up the extra verse Simon and Garfunkel played on tour in 1969 too: 'I am older than I once was and younger than I'll be, that's not unusual, after changes upon changes we are more or less the same'.

Paul still works best when singing on his own, though, as heard mainly on the first half of the record, where he turns generational band standards like 'Homeward Bound' and 'America' into cosily intimate affairs. This is despite the fact that Paul assumed early on in the planning stages of this tour that nobody would put up with a full show of just him playing guitar and admitted to being a nervy performer, something that comes over a couple of times here (in the slightly rushed feel of some of the songs - 'Me and Julio' turns from upbeat rhythmical song into a Keystone Cops routine it's played at such high speed - and his lack of interaction with the audience, reduced to a 'few words' following America when a wag in the audience asks him to speak something: his hesitant 'Let's hope we all continue to live...' speech is often hailed as Paul's speed and cleverness, not giving us the punchline we expect and it is a very Paul Simon moment as he makes us concentrate not on how we continue to live but that we continue to live at all, but to be honest it just sounds as if a scared Paul got stage-fright and couldn't think how to end his sentence.) This is, after all, his first time on stage in five years: which might not seem like long now Paul only gives us an album 5-8 years anyway, but seemed a lifetime back then.

Look past  the sometimes too obvious stage fright though, skip the most OTT Jesse Dixon moments and - if you can - buy this set on CD where two extra songs from the same tour which really should have been on the original LP flesh out the running time and you have one of the two best Simon/Garfunkel live album out there. Though the 1991 solo all-singing all-dancing  'Concert In Central Park' is hard to beat, this polar opposite low key and intimate set still cuts it close, capturing for posterity the moment when Paul first learnt to be a 'frontman' (after years of letting Arty do most of the talking) and discovered, to his surprise, just how much audiences still loved him. No it can't match up to the polished perfection of the studio records, but Paul has learnt how to deliver his old songs in a new way for a new age and most of these experiments into the unknown are spot-on.  

Paul Simon "Greatest Hits Etc"

(Columbia, November 1977)

Slip Slidin' Away/Stranded In A Limousine/Still Crazy After All These Years/Have A Good Time/Duncan ('Live Rhymin' Version)/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Something So Right//Kodochrome/I Do It For Your Love/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/American Tune (Live Rhymin' Version)/Mother and Child Reunion/Loves Me Like A Rock/Take Me To The Mardi Gras

"Let the music wash your soul"

Here's a tip for any of you thinking of setting up your own record companies to release compilation albums. Well, first of all, don't: I already review  enough of these darned things as it is and I'd rather fans be listening to rarer, obscurer, possibly greater material that never gets heard. But secondly and more importantly, don't ever call your new release 'Greatest Hits Etc'. There's nothing more designed to put hip and trendy record buyers off than buying a 'greatest hits' album which doesn't just contain greatest hits. Of course, you can understand why. Paul, suffering from writer's block, was realising that he wouldn't have a new record ready until long after his customary two year gap so it seemed a sensible time for a compilation album - especially one including both sides of his recent and under-rated single 'Slip Slidin' Away' and 'Stranded In A Limousine' (which seem rather incongruous here at the start). The trouble was, Paul Simon had only released three studio and one live albums up to1977 and wasn't about to revert back to using Simon and Garfunkel recordings after spending so much of the decade fighting to put them in the past so that left Columbia needing to do something. Most of this album is more 'Etc' than 'Greatest Hits' to be honest, although this is probably a benefit: songs like 'I Do It For Your Love' and 'Have A Good Time' deserved to be better known than most of Paul's actual hit songs anyway. But fans looking just for the cream of the crop understandably felt a bit short changed, especially with a couple of key decisions such as not including these songs in anything even close to resembling a proper order and offering only the 'Live Rhymin' versions of standouts 'Duncan' and  'American Tune' (soon to be rated 'song of the decade' by Rolling Stone Magazine). A curio then, long outclassed by later longer compilations, but still useful for a few album tracks and a rare chance to hear the period single.

"The Simon and Garfunkel Collection"

(Columbia, November 1981)

I Am A Rock/Homeward Bound/America/The 59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/Wednesday Morning 3AM/El Condor Pasa/At The Zoo/Scarborough Fair-Canticle/The Boxer/The Sound Of Silence/Mrs Robinson/Keep The Customer Satisfied/Song For The Asking/A Hazy Shade Of Winter/Cecilia/Old Friends-Bookends/Bridge Over Troubled Water

"You're breaking my heart! You're shaking my confidence daily!"

This, dear readers, is how not to make a compilation. Released in a hurry across Europe in November 1981 to cash-in on the Central Park reunion gig of just a couple of months before (and released far ahead of that live LP), it's horrifically ill-conceived and mis-judged. Admittedly if you had to pare down the Simon and Garfunkel discography to just seventeen songs then this is as good a selection as any, but why do they have to be included in such a random scattershot order? Why is the packaging so short and blunt it veers on rude? And why did Columbia think it proper to ignore six year's worth of Simon and Garfunkel publicity photos (thirteen if you include the 'Tom and Jerry' years)  in favour of a 'new' photograph of Simon and Garfunkel walking along a beach - a photograph that, if you pay close attention, doesn't even feature the duo but two flipping actors?!  Well, to be fair, Columbia called this is a 'collection' rather than another 'Greatest Hits' - they just didn't say a collection of what. No substitute for the first compilation back in 1972 and outclassed by everything that's come sense, the lack of decent Simon and Garfunkel records in Europe back in the early 1980s still led to this album becoming a far bigger success than it warranted, peaking at an impressive #4 in the UK (in fact it was the 36th best-selling album for the whole year in Britain, which probably says more about the charts of the day than this album). If only 'Keep The Customer Satisfied' or 'Fakin' It' had been included on this LP they would have made for the perfect quote...

"Collected Works"

(Columbia, 'Late' 1981)

CD One: Wednesday Morning 3 AM/The Sounds Of Silence
CD Two: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme/Bookends
CD Three: Bridge Over Troubled Water

"And the moon rose over an open field"

A sensible and cheap if slightly dull way of re-buying all the Simon and Garfunkel albums in one go. At first, in 1981, this meant a straightforward five-vinyl-replica set; however this set was also released on CD as an early fore-runner of 'The Collection' set on three CDs with two albums on each of the first two. There were no bonus tracks and the set was missing the 'My Little Town' reunion single. However, if you were unlucky enough to have missed or not yet been born when the albums were out the first time this was an invaluable way of getting hold of the original records at an affordable price. 

"The Concert In Central Park"

(Warner Brothers, Recorded September 1981, Released March 1982)

Mrs Robinson/Homeward Bound/America/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Scarborough Fair/April Come She Will/Wake Up Little Susie/Still Crazy After All These Years/American Tune/Late In The Evening/Slip Slidin' Away/A Heart In New York/Kodachrome-Maybelline/Bridge Over Troubled Water/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/The Boxer/Old Friends/The 59th Street Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)/The Sound Of Silence

"We talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years"

Simon and Garfunkel had reunited before 1981 of course, with a 'comedy' moment in 1972, a bona fide reunion single in 1975 and Paul Simon cameos on the Art Garfunkel records 'Angel Clare'  'Watermark' and 'Scissors Cut'. However, in typical Simon and Garfunkel fashion, you had to be quite a fan to even know about these low-key tracks. In contrast the 1981 onstage reunion was to be a big glitzy showbusinessy affair: not really what Simon and Garfunkel were all about in terms of scale and spectacle but which made more sense when you realised that the duo had set the gig up as a New York 'home-coming' and that they'd decided to play to their fans for free, with the money made from a TV broadcast and this soundtrack going to pay for a much-needed renovation of the park. At the time the gig was meant to be a stepping stone to greater things with plans for a full tour (it's not often remembered that Simon and Garfunkel did play a handful of gigs again after this first one, into 1982 and 1983 though never with quite the same impact) and a full record (which ended up reverting back to the solo Paul Simon record 'Hearts and Bones' in 1983). Though by S and G standards this reunion was the longest and most substantial of all their attempts to come back together again, the live album remains sadly the only souvenir we have  of this period.

As a result, fans have rather a soft spot for it - especially those who thought they'd never ever live to see Simon and Garfunkel play on the same stage again. The gig was huge news at the time (bigger than the duo expected: there's a sweet story where they'd been glumly wondering before the show if anyone would turn up when they caught the news at their hotel and saw they were the first item on the news, with the biggest crowds Central park had ever seen already in place hours before the show - this probably didn't help with the nerves!) and the live concert was received with much affection and joy and open weeping in the streets. It remains the seventh most attended concert ever on American soil, with a 500,000 strong crowd even bigger than the one the pair had played to at Monterey in 1967. The live album too, 'rush-released' into the shops just six months later (that's quick by S and G standards) was a huge seller even though the pair sang nothing that couldn't be bought in better form on record.
The trouble is, S and G were never a natural live act and in this period Paul's physical ailments left him unable to play the acoustic guitar for long periods, with only a sweet final encore of 'The Sound Of Silence' played the way the old S and G concerts had always worked best, with just two voices and one guitar. Arty especially was devastated that the duo had to bring a whole big band out on tour with him (and that the band was so heavily weighed to musicians his partner preferred to him), but sadly the sort of cosy intimate half-hour gigs the pair had once enjoyed were no longer practical anymore. Instead the pair played for some eighty minutes, double their old sets, with this soundtrack originally a double album set (though most people today know it better from the DVD, included in favour of a soundtrack album in 'The Collection' box set). You can tell that the pair are already clashing backstage, with tension high throughout and the pair barely looking at each other across the night, never mind speaking to each other and at times Arty looks quite miserable as sound problems, a lack of rehearsal and the loudness of the band all add up to missed cues, the occasional flat harmony and general discontent. He later commented that he'd regretted ever going along with it, while even Paul considered the concert as something of an anti-climax compared to all the fuss. If it's sheer technical perfection you're after then the later 'Live 1967' album is a much better way of hearing Simon and Garfunkel in concert, while Paul's solo reprise of the Central Park free gig idea in 1991 is far more planned and better performed in pure musical terms.

However, for all the teething troubles, there is plenty of magic within this set, usually when Simon or Garfunkel are 'guests' on the other's solo work, offering us familiar songs with new harmonies and hinting at what the 1970s Simon and Garfunkel records might have sounded like if the pair had stayed together post 'Bridge'. Arty sounds impressively at home re-living his wayward youth on 'Me and Julio' (now with an added 'salsa break'), gets a whole verse to sing on 'Still Crazy', turns 'American Tune' into even more of a sequel to the classic 'America', has fun on 'Late In The Evening', has even more fun on the silly '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' (now given a brass arrangement) and turns the finale of 'Kodochrome' into a bit of rocking nostalgia with a cover of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline' thrown in for free. Best of all is 'Slip Slidin' Away', the troubled Paul Simon solo single that had long called out for harmonies and which fits Arty's regretful melancholic air to perfection. In return Paul adds some nice guitarwork to a crowd-pleasing 'A Heart In New York', sadly the only 'solo Arty' song played the whole night (and another source of contention: 'Paul got nine songs on that record! Is Paul really nine times more successful than poor old Arty?!' Garfunkel complained a decade later). Paul Simon harmonies on 'Bright Eyes' 'I Only Have Eyes For You' or 'All I Know' would have been terrific, as would a reprise of their genuine reunion songs 'Mary Was An Only Child' 'What A Wonderful World' or the just-out 'In Cars'. It’s almost as if Paul, still reeling from  the pair’s breakup, is asserting his authority over the partnership all over again, often leaving Art on stage with nothing to do. Paul only gets the one 'truly' solo song, although you won't actually hear it on the album: the biggest moment of drama across the whole set came when Paul was trying to preview a new song he's written, 'The Late Great Johnny Ace', in honour of adopted local hero John Lennon who'd died just nine months before and a few blocks away from where the show was taking place. Paul only gets halfway, though, before a man in the crowd rushes up to him pleading 'I need to talk to you!' before being ushered off stage; a badly shaken Paul, with assassination still in his thoughts, is visibly shaken for the next few songs and will never perform the song live again (cut from this soundtrack LP but available on the DVD). Oddly the duo don't even perform their highest profile reunion single, 1975's 'My Little Town', perhaps fearing that it's pessimistic mood was at odds with the largely upbeat show (which is a shame because sad wistfulness is where this show works best on 'Slip Slidin' Away' 'Old Friends' and 'The Sound Of Silence'; this set is less strong when in 'carnival' mode).

The pair do have some sort of a bond still, however, otherwise they could hardly have got the spine-tingling harmonies on ‘Sounds Of Silence’ or ‘Scarborough Fair’ so spot on.  However it has to be said that, away from the 'newness' of the 1970s material the older songs fare less well than the 1970s tracks, generally speaking. Simon and Garfunkel still sound beautiful when they sing together but they've long ago lost the innocence and vulnerability that made songs like 'Homeward Bound' 'April Come She Will' and 'Mrs Robinson' such fun. Epics like 'The Boxer' fare even less well and are very sloppy by S and G perfectionist standards, while several key songs feel missing despite the longer running time: no 'At The Zoo' 'I Am A Rock' or 'El Condor Pasa' for example.  Arty still sounds great on 'Bridge' and the pair shine on 'America'  and 'Silence', while the old-age imagination piece 'Old Friends' sounds more poignant now that Simon and Garfunkel are in their late thirties. They also throw in a sweet nostalgic Everly Brothers cover in 'Wake Up Little Susie', which suits them far better than 'Bye Bye Love' ever did. There's a lot of reasons to buy this set then, just don't expect the perfection of the records or for Simon and Garfunkel to suddenly become bosom buddies. The Concert In Central Park was billed by fans at the time as a 'miracle' and the most important live document ever made. It clearly isn't that, but even a flawed reunion is welcome to have when reunions are so rare and this is a fitting 'extra' to the five Simon and Garfunkel records, though no substitute for what they created together originally. If nothing else, though, I'm glad the pair got to see that the world and especially their local fans still held them in such vast affection, something that will help spur both men on in their solo careers after a difficult few years. 'We were told we weren't allowed to have any fireworks' quips Paul at one point - 'So let's have our own fireworks!' With the audience's help they certainly do.

"The Art Garfunkel Album" aka "My Best By Art Garfunkel"

(Columbia, December 1984)

Bright Eyes/Breakaway/A Heart In New York/I Shall Sing/99 Miles From LA/All I Know/What A Wonderful World/I Only Have Eyes For You/Watermark/I Believe (When I Fall In Love)/Scissors Cut/Sometimes When I'm Dreaming/Traveling Boy/The Same Old Tears On A New Background

"It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn"

Arty's first solo compilation suffers from being released perhaps a tad too early. Garfunkel's work load meant that he only had five albums to pull this album from and leaves quite a lot of room for padding even with all the hit singles included. To be honest the track selection seems at time to have been made at random: few fans would rate 'Sometimes I'm Dreaming' or 'I Shall Sing' as the real peaks of Arty's career when top quality songs like 'She Moved Through The Fair' and 'Mary Was An Only Child' are missing. However the inclusion of darker material like the 'Scissors Cut' title track and '99 Miles From L.A.' does give the set a certain gravitas that not all Garfunkel solo collections have. Art's American label passed on the chance to release it, but this set was a big hit in Europe (peaking at an impressive #12 in the UK charts and #4Germany) and has become a regular on CDs around the world. Personally I'd go with the longer career overview 'Simply The Best' which spends more time covering Garfunkel's range than here. but this is an adequate one-stop shop for curious fans who only want the hit singles.


 (CBS, May 1988)

When A Man Loves A Woman/Break Away/Bright Eyes/What A Wonderful World/All I Know/Scissors Cut//I Only Have Eyes For You/So Much In Love/99 Miles In LA/Second Avenue/A Heart In New York/I Have A Love

"Guess my friendly old grin must have started to dim, somehow"

Had things really changed enough within four years for CBS to offer another Garfunkel best-of to the world? Well, there were two extra albums out since 'The Garfunkel Album', 'The Animals' Christmas' (which is, perhaps mercifully, ignored) and 'Lefty', which is thankfully here a lot and represented by its better tracks like 'I Have A Love' and 'When A Man Loves A Woman' too. The problem is, though, the need to make this compilation 'different' to the last one without anything that much new to offer means that most of Arty's semi-hits have been given the push this time around, leaving just the 'core' hits of 'Bright Eyes', 'I Only Have Eyes For You' (what is it with Art Garfunkel and eyes?!) and 'All I Know'. At least CBS think to include the rare single-only 'Second Avenue', with this album still the easiest way to track down this rare song. That's all though: there really isn't enough here that's new if you bought the first volume to make this worth your while and if you didn't then you'd most likely be disappointed at all the Art Garfunkel songs you'd vaguely heard of that aren't here. Give this one a miss.

PS "Negotiations And Love Songs"

 (Warner Brothers, October 1988)

Mother and Child Reunion/Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard/Something So Right/St Judy's Comet/Loves Me Like A Rock/Kodachrome/Have A Good Time/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/Still Crazy After All These Years/Late In The Evening/Slip Slidin' Away/Hearts and Bones/Train In The Distance/Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War/Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes/You Can Call Me Al

"Why am I soft in the middle? The rest of my life is so hard!"

A mere five months after Arty's second solo compilation comes Paul's second as a solo artist, one that cashes in on the recent success of Graceland and celebrates the arrival of the CD with its extended running time. In fact the set is clearly intended as an 'introduction' for all newcomers who have arrived to the party since then, given that there's only two songs from Graceland tucked away at the end - even the most recent sets tend to include four or five. The problem is the same as with Arty's set: given that Paul had only technically released three new albums since his last best-of (represented here by just six songs) this set seems premature somehow and takes all the 'safe' options, largely reducing earlier albums to just their respective singles and ignoring lost classic 'One Trick Pony' almost entirely. Though the packaging and clever album title (a line from 'Hearts and Bones' title track) are a huge improvement on 'Greatest Hits Etc', actually this compilation loses a little bit of the previous set's fun and unexpected discoveries (such as exclusive B-side 'Stranded In A Limousine', though thankfully A-side 'Slip Slidin' Away' is here) leaving a set that has a distinct sag in the middle. Frustratingly too the tracks 'Mother and Child Reunion' and 'Loves Me Like A Rock' have both been trimmed of a few seconds each to fit them onto an 80 minute CD and it's usually these shorter edits that find their way on to future CDs too (we could easily have lost 'Have A Good Time', the one 'unknown' song still here which feels very much like the odd one out). Later compilations expand on this album's running time and the earlier set was a more detailed career overview leaving 'Negotiations'  sounding rather like it's title, a 'negotiation' over what tracks should be here rather than what a compilation should be: a perfect introductory guide to what an artists is really all about. There's a great cover shot of Paul Simon looking like an extra from 'Bugsy Malone' on the front cover though.

Other Simon and Garfunkel articles from this site you might be interested in:

'Sounds Of Silence'

'Angel Clare' (1973)

‘Breakaway’ (1975)

'Fate For Breakfast' (1979)

'The Animals' Christmas' (1986)

'Songs From The Capeman' (1997)

'You're The One' (2000)

The Best Unreleased Simon/Garfunkel Recordings