Tag Archives: simon & garfunkel

1001 Songs – 1970: Part Three

This is it, the final batch of songs from 1970. This year has taken a weirdly long time to make my way through, but at least we’re here now.

Into the Mystic – Van Morrison

It’s been two and a half years since I listened to Moondance for the first time, and it’s a downright shame that I haven’t played it anytime since. With ‘Into the Mystic’ I felt myself being immediately being transported back to that sunny day when I listened to this album on my commute.

It’s a great example of folk done right. It tells of a mystical journey and uses the guitar and the horns to unfurl the feeling. It’s weirdly soothing and helps remind me why I liked the parent album so mucn.

Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine – James Brown

“You just don’t like him, do you?” That’s what my husband said to me as I was losing patience with this song as we reached the three minute mark. He’s right.

Whilst I can appreciate that in person James Brown had charisma, on a recording I find a 5 minute song that is just so repetitive to be pretty much unforgiveable. If this song was released now I would wager it would be seen as not even worthy of radioplay.

I know, I know, historical context. James Brown was a big influence and a pusher of his genre. However, when I think back to the work done by Sly and the Family Stone done back in 1969 on their album Stand!… well there’s no comparison.

Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

“Four dead in Ohio” is the refrain at the end of this powerful song about the Kent State shootings; where four students were gunned down by police during a protest against the Vietnam War.

This song was on the radio within a few weeks of the shooting, the lyrics really demonstrating the sense of anger and loss over what happened. At the end you can hear David Crosby breaking.

There are a number of protest and counter-culture songs on the 1001 list, but none so far have felt as raw as this one.

The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon & Garfunkel

It’s interesting that of all the songs on the iconic Bridge over Troubled Water album it is ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ that appears on the 1001 songs list. I mean, there’s the obvious choice from that album… maybe even two. Then again, this is one of the great classic albums so you are spoilt for choice.

One thing that this list does well is find the songs that act as bridges between eras. You have ‘The Boxer’ and ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ which are very much Simon & Garfunkel songs; then there’s ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ which is where Simon & Garfunkel becomes Paul Simon.

It’s a beautiful song to end such an iconic duo on. Looking back is nice to see this bridge, but at the time the idea of going solo must have been terrifying for both of them. At least it worked out for both of them.

In a Broken Dream – Python Lee Jackson

Why is this on the list? Well, it’s an example of an early song with the vocals of Rod Stewart in a song that is a soft metal. Interesting to note that despite being first released in 1970, ‘In a Broken Dream’ didn’t chart until a re-release in 1972 due to the success of Rod Stewart’s later singles like ‘Maggie May’.

Rock at this time was in an awkward phase. It was still trying to cling on to the organs of the 1960s whilst bring in the guitar solos that would become a staple in the years to come. Makes for an interesting listen when doing this chronologically.

Oh Lonesome Me – Neil Young

After the Gold Rush is such a well received album that it perplexes me that they pick the only cover to appear in this list. The book itself says that this is the standout track from the album. They’re wrong. That song is ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and that’s all there is to it.

54-46 Was My Number – Toots & The Maytals

The moment I heard the ska beat starting I was ready to pack in any attempt to write about this song. But something weird happened, I actually started to like this song.

It’s about the wrongful imprisonment of the lead singer, who was framed by a promoter who didn’t want the tour to go ahead. The song tells this in a traditional call-and-response with the ska beats playing underneath. I don’t know why, but this song actually did this for me.

Working Class Hero – John Lennon

When I first heard ‘Working Class Hero’ last year, it struck me that he’s not a man who I could imagine swearing. Now I listen to this again… it’s fairly dull.

The emotions don’t work because he’s so far removed from who he is trying to connect with. He’s a man of priveledge who, whilst growing up in a working class family, has not been part of that demographic for most of his life. It’s like a Christian writing a song about the Holocaust – it all just rings false.

Box of Rain – The Grateful Dead

Here I am at the end of 1970. It’s a song that I would not have expected from a band whose name feels like it would make for an amazing metal band. Book, cover and all that jazz.

For such a well known band it is interesting to note that this album track is their only entry on the list. A song that is sung by their regular bassist Phil Lesh rather than lead singer Jerry Garcia.

‘Box of Rain’ is a touching folk song that feels like where Neil Young meets Simon & Garfunkel. It’s about Lesh’s father who was dying of terminal cancer and contains lyrics intrpreted from Lesh’s scat singing.

I wish I could say that this song had some profound effect on me… but it didn’t. Nice enough and it does make the connection, but that’s pretty much where this ends.

Progress: 319/1021

1001 Songs – 1968: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

I Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin

I had never understood that this song is about a woman living her life whilst her boyfriend/husband is off fighting in Vietnam. When viewed through this lens ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ becomes a lot less of a throwaway song.

It’s hard to deny the great vocalist and a force of musical nature that Aretha Franklin was. In the late 1960s it feels like she was almost untouchable… and a work horse considering she was releasing 2-3 albums a year by this point.

The Snake – Al Wilson

Staying with the theme of soul music we have ‘The Snake’, which is basically a musical fable.

I only heard of this song because of Donald Trump using it to back his views on immigration. Because, well, the kind-hearted woman takes in and saves a snake that was near death for it to turn around and kill her because, after all, he’s a snake.

It’s a brilliantly entertaining song that’s now been coloured by modern usage.

Oh Happy Day – The Edwin Hawkins Singers

From soul we segue into one of the most famous pieces of gospel music. Whilst I haven’t heard this particular version of ‘Oh Happy Day’, I have heard this in a large number of American versions whenever they go into a gospel church.

At over 5 minutes long this song is just LONG. I mean I get that this would be in a church and there would be other things going on… but this doesn’t translate to a set of earphones as you are making a stir-fry.

Israelites – Desmond Dekker & The Aces

Oh god. It looks like reggae is starting to come into this list. I have mentioned this many a time before, but not only do I not get reggae – I find it annoying.

Especially ‘Israelites’. It’s a big piece of musical history since it was the first reggae song to get to #1 in the UK and one of the first to get a high placement in American charts.

It’s a piece of musical history, but can we move on now.

Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell

A bit of a different song here as we head into the world of country music. It tells the story of a man’s loneliness as he works on the telephone lines and misses his lover.

It’s actually a rather sweet song that feels like an early attempt at country-pop. The production makes the whole song feel ethereal and otherworldly. I am not sure how they managed to get some of the effects in (to make it sound like Morse code), but it really made for a great song.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

We’re back with soul and in the presence of one of the biggest soul songs of all time by one of the biggest soul singers of all time.

In the Marvin Gaye timeline we are still before he went political with What’s Going On and before he went full sex with Let’s Get It On.

Speaks to the longevity of his career that he had where this song is comparatively early and has become such a classic. His voice, the slow tempo and the charisma sells it utterly.

America – Simon & Garfunkel

‘America’ is not the first Simon and Garfunkel song I would think of for this list (that would be ‘The Boxer’, ‘The Sound of Silence’ or ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’… none of which are on this list).

It’s a beautiful song, don’t get me wrong, about a road-trip undertaken by a man and his girlfriend. The storytelling in the song is on the extreme when you consider the short runtime. Then again, that was always Paul Simon’s strong-suits.

I guess I can see how this song signifies what the Bridge Over Troubled Water album was going to become. And it did give that lovely seen in Almost Famous.

Still, would have loved to have had ‘The Boxer’

Ain’t Got No/I Got Life – Nina Simone

I forgot there was another Nina Simone song on here after ‘Sinnerman’. I have been listening to Nina Simone for years, she was a huge part of the soundtrack of my summer of 2009.
And yet, I had no idea that this was neither a song of her creation nor that is was a medley of songs from the musical ‘Hair’. I just figured that this was a song dedicated to the civil rights movement.

Guess that’s the beauty of a good song (and the true genius of Nina Simone). Multiple ways to listen to it and to enjoy it.

Piece of My Heart – Big Brother & The Holding Company

It took me ridiculously long to get that this was Janis Joplin. That’s an amazing set of very distinctive pipes on her.

As covers go it is nearly indistinguishable from the soul original. Instead it is a loud psychedelic rock song with shredding vocals by Joplin. It’s not a sweet song about longing anymore the “take a piece of my heart” is a defiant dare to those who would hurt her. That, unlike in real life, she would bounce back and remain invincible and undeterred.

I really need to listen to Pearl at some point…

Progress: 257/1021

1001 Songs – 1965: Part Two

And now the thrilling conclusion to 1965. If you think this is a lot of songs just wait until 1966 – that’s going to end up being split in 3.

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan

Our first track sung by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. This song would have had more effect on our listening if it hadn’t ended up being the first of the second half. This is so unbelievably different to whatever had come before (in terms of the 1001 songs list and music in general).

The big shock, at least for me, is just how successful this was. It isn’t like Bob Dylan was this artist that was appreciated by music-lovers only and not as much the mainstream. This song managed to get to the top reaches of the singles charts. That’s incredibly when you actually think about this cynical, biting poem set to music was able to reach the same notice as girl groups and the Beatles.

People Get Ready – The Impressions

I’m missing something with this one. I get that the imagery in this track is making reference to the Underground Railroad movement that helped to free slaves in the Southern states. I get that this was written at a time where the Civil Rights Movement was making tracks and that this was a good rallying cry that could be used in the churches. However, this is ranked so highly in so many best of lists… and I just hear a fairly generic gospel song from the 1960s.

Looks like this might just be me.

Who Do You Love – The Preachers

Well. That was different.

This is described as being a ‘high energy’ version of a Bo Diddley song. Not sure if that’s an adequate description. This is not on the list because it’s one of the best songs, but because of what it represents: proto-punk.

What we have here is a band trying to take the rock and roll sound and play it harder, faster, rawer and screamier (okay not a word). It’s not punk as we know it, but in the context of what was around at the time this is something very different.

Now to rescue my eardrums before moving on. Ouch.

The Carnival Is Over – The Seekers

This is more of what I expect from a 1960s song. A hugely successful pop-folk hybrid that sold over 1.4 million copies in the UK alone.

With this level of nostalgic melancholy it is unsurprising that this track originates from an old folk song – specifically a Russian folk song. It’s melody has been adapted by the brother of Dusty Springfield who also composed lyrics that were vastly different to the original Russian ones (which were about a peasant uprising… cheery).

This is just one of those nice inoffensive songs that just sounds good. Middle of the road, but good.

Psycho – The Sonics

This is another one of those songs where we are starting to see rock and roll morph into something harder and a bit punkier. It doesn’t hit the screamy heights of ‘Who Do You Love’, but this is most definitely part of the evolution.

The genre at this stage is garage rock (a bit of a Ronseal name there for a type of rock and roll kids would play in the garage) and we are not yet at the stage of punk.

It’s interesting to think that it would take 10-15 years before the definitive punk albums start to be made (Ramones, Never Mind the Bollocks etc) and yet we are starting that evolution in 1965. Makes you wonder what music is brewing right now only to explode in a decades time.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now) – Otis Redding

Otis Redding is another one of those talents from the 1960s where there is a great sense of a ‘what if’ about them. Dead at 26 in a plane crash.

This song is most definitely soul, but it just feels that tiny bit more nuanced. There’s something in the vocals here and the light arrangement that leave you wanting just that little bit more.

Stop! In The Name of Love – The Supremes

This is very much the other side of soul. More upbeat and intertwined with pop sensibilities.

As much as this song is incredibly famous you can not hear that chorus without seeing the simple (yet legendary) choreography of the girl group simultaneously raising their hand as they say ‘Stop’ with their hand squarely placed on their hips. Classic.

Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan

Back again to the Nobel Laureate. Where you can’t think of ‘Stop! In The Name of Love’ without the dance move, you can’t hear ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ without the mental image of the music video where Dylan is dropping cards with the lyrics on them.

It’s annoying that this song is later on the list than ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ as this was the earlier song. You can tell this song is earlier as, for Dylan, this song feels just that bit more mainstream. It’s a protest song with a vein of blues rock running through.

Seriously, why wouldn’t you make this list completely chronological rather than chronological just by year. Honestly.

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Damn it ‘Arrested Development’ I had to restart this song because I started laughing at the image of a depressed Will Arnett.

This is one of the great Simon & Garfunkel songs (although ‘The Boxer’ remains my favourite) and is one of those incredibly recognised pieces of folk rock. In part this is probably due to it’s use in ‘The Graduate’.

It’s a weird song as it is about isolation and yet it feels strangely uplifting. To think, Simon and Garfunkel had already disbanded before this had become successful!

My Generation – The Who

Easily one of the most famous rock songs from this era. Like the Rolling Stones from earlier in the year this is very much the pulling away of the harder rock from the rest of the genre.

It’s an interesting structure of the ‘call and response’ that we would have seen more in the RnB songs from earlier years. Also interesting to listen to is the implied swearing – which works remarkably well and helps to make this song radio friendly.

Between this, the Stones and the Kinks it is very clear that Britain was leading the way in this new sub-genre of music.

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

Now to end on something remarkably vanilla that simultaneously makes you think of Demi Moore having sex on a potter’s wheel.

Whenever you listen to this song, remember that this was a throwaway B-side. This was not the song that DJs were meant to be playing. This was not meant to be the hit. This timeless and powerful recording was just an afterthought.

I know I called this vanilla, but it is a spectacular song in its own right. Bobby Hatfield delivers the best vocals of any song in this batch and, aside from Nina Simone, possibly even this year.

Sure it is incredibly easy to dismiss this song as being easy listening… there’s nothing wrong with easy listening done this well.

Progress: 186/1021

Music Monday: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 33/250bridgeTitle: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
Year: 1970
Position: #122

The way that an artist develops over the years is fascinating. Previously I have looked at Paul Simon’s solo magnum opus Graceland which, whilst it still contain much of his original folk roots was heavily painted with African beats. When compared to Bridge Over Troubled Water which is, by far, the most acclaimed album whilst he was teamed up with Art Garfunkel you can see the beginnings of his turn to world music but here folk is the primary focus.

The thing is, you can not talk about this album without talking about the opening song ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. It is an all time classic with Art, reluctantly, taking the lead vocals over Simon, something he apparently regrets. It’s hard to talk about a song everyone views as a classic since everything has been said by those far more eloquent than I; it’s a beautiful song that leads into a big ending, let’s leave it there.

Then you have ‘The Boxer’ opening up the second side of the record which is easily the most interesting song on the album. Yes, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ is a beautiful song viewed by many as one of the best songs ever made…  but ‘The Boxer’ does it more for me. 100 hours of recording and a placeholder chorus that was meant to be replaced and never was (for the best since it is really what makes the song) leads to five tender minutes where it is just best to stop and listen. Then again, you can say that about the title track too… two truly great side openers.

One song that feels slightly out of place is the penultimate track ‘Bye Bye Love’. On an album of studio recordings is does feel slightly odd to have one live recording that is not a bonus track. There is nothing wrong with their singing or the backing track supplied by the in-time clapping of the audience (in fact it is one of my favourite songs on the album) but it does stick-out somewhat.

An interesting fact is that this is one of those rare classic albums that was recognised as such by the awards of the time. Looking at the list of albums in this Top 250 against the list of Grammy Award winners for Best Album (not the best list in the world but it’s the only one you really have for a long-running contemporary Best Album of the year) you can count the cross-references on two hands. Yes, albums like this, Graceland, Rumours and The Suburbs got an award but then you see albums like The Bodyguard OST and River: The Joni Letters which do make you wonder about who they have voting on this award nowadays.