I stumbled upon this fantastic image in an extremely thoughtful and well-written article by Richie Unterberger on “folk-rock findings” that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posted a few days ago. After assessing some fascinating magazine ads featuring Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Gene Clark, and Janis Ian, Unterberger ends with a real corker, a full-page magazine ad from March 1967 promoting Simon & Garfunkel’s then-new single “At the Zoo,” off of their album Bookends, complete with cute little “panda-Paul” and cute little “lion-Art” in the foreground.
Here’s guessing Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel did not see or approve this ad before it got printed in March 1967. Maybe Garfunkel wouldn’t have minded being cast as the lion, but it’s hard to see Simon being pleased to be the panda.
I suppose Unterberger could have a point here, but I don’t think so. First of all, the song ain’t exactly “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” it’s “At the Zoo,” one of their more whimsical, not to mention kid-friendly, ditties. Second, Simon & Garfunkel weren’t idiots: they were and are creatures of commerce as well as of art, and they probably weren’t all that opposed to whatever approach would land them the biggest hit. (For the record, it reached #16 on the U.S. charts.)
Third, and most important, that image wasn’t limited to print advertising by any means—it was the cover of the single! Did they have no control over this image, after three successful albums and the Graduatesoundtrack?
Well, either way you should still read Unterberger’s article. He makes a lot of good points about the evolution of the marketing of folk-rock during that period.
Here’s a wonderful clip from the UK of S&G performing “At the Zoo” for what seems like a TV audience, but it’s obviously being performed live, not lip-synced.
Simon and Garfunkel’s 1969 television special “Songs of America” shows the two on stage, in the studio and on a concert tour across a turbulent country. Their ambitious Bridge Over Troubled Water album had yet to be released and the glorious title song was heard here by the general public for the very first time. The program showed news clips of labor leader/activist Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, the Poor People’s Campaign’s march on Washington, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, JFK and Robert Kennedy and other events that were emblematic of the era.
“Songs of America” was originally sponsored by the Bell Telephone Company, but the execs there got cold feet when they saw what they’d paid for—legend has it that they looked at the footage of JFK, RFK and MLK during the (powerful!) “Bridge Over Troubled Water” segment (approx 12 minutes in) and asked for more Republicans! (Not assassinated Republicans, just more Republicans...you know, for balance!) The special was eventually picked up by CBS.
It was directed by the comedic actor, writer and later talk show host Charles Grodin, a friend of the duo. Grodin had already been in a bit part in Rosemary’s Baby (he was the obstetrician), but had yet to gain notoriety with his role in Catch-22.
Songs heard include “America,” “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright,” “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Scarborough Fair,” “El Condor Pasa (If I Could),” “Punkys Dilemma,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Mystery Train,” “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” “The Boxer,” “Homeward Bound,” and “The Sound of Silence.”
Back in the day, like when the Internet was first a thing, one of my unexpected joys was discovering that Art Garfunkel, who had a very well-developed website early on, dedicated a section to updating the books he was reading. Not just the books he’d been reading lately, but every book he had read since 1968. (Here’s how it looked on November 3, 1999.) The guy went through a great many books a year, and his preferences were pretty high-minded for the most part, like Voltaire and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lord Chesterfield and cats like that. And he’d mix it up too, there wouldn’t be any runs of every Philip Roth book in a single year or anything like that, he’d jump around from Thomas More to E.L. Doctorow to Martin Heidegger as it pleased him. At the time I thought that the idea of a famous musician like Art Garfunkel parading his erudition in public like this was high-larious, but in retrospect (I’m older too) I find it rather sweet and admirable. He has good taste and he clearly enjoys his reading. In truth I probably wasn’t all that nice to ol’ Art, having an inherently funny name like “Art Garfunkel” and being a prominent example of someone who hadn’t been that productive musically in the recent past and all.
It’s something a shock, then, to discover lo these fifteen or so years later that Art has kept the list current through 2012—and presumably will keep updating it. I noticed that Art keeps a separate list of “Favorites,” which list currently has a substantial 157 selections on it, just to give you an idea of just how much the man reads—those are just the favorites.
Looking at the list, it’s hard not to notice that the most recent entry is E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, and some British journalist must have noticed too because there’s audio of him talking about it:
I love that book. Unlike so many people, I think it’s quite well written. It’s not only spicy, this writer can write. I thought it was a very well written, hot book. It’s spicy!
The quote sounds spliced together and I wouldn’t trust it for a second, but Art’s enthusiasm does sound legit.
God bless Tara for putting up with me because when I get obsessed about a certain artist, I can play the shit out of their albums. As I have previously written about, my darling, smart, funny gorgeous wife has put up with an ultra intense reggae jag (the soundtrack to the first two years of our marriage was Big Youth, Alton Ellis, Joe Higgs and King Tubby), as well as additional “phases” (that’s what she calls them) where In the past six months, I’ve practically worn out CDs of the second Faust album, Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes set, various Zappa, Kinks, Joni Mitchell records and scores of things from lesser-known bands that I won’t bother to list. I’m one of those idiots who can play the same album ten times in a row for ten days in a row. I wrestle it to the ground and pin it. Suffice to say, my girl has the patience of a saint and a very open mind about music!
For the past week, I’ve been playing a lot of ‘70s Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel albums. I don’t feel like that’s so much of a hardship on Tara because, hey, practically everyone likes Simon & Garfunkel and 70s Paul Simon, don’t they? (And if they don’t they’re idiots and they can go fuck themselves! And if you want to know how I really feel…).
The two things I’ve been listening to the most are the Quadraphonic versions of Bridge Over Troubled Water and Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. Both albums are justifiably considered classics and to hear them in a surround sound mix is simply stunning. Mind you, you can’t exactly pick these up in stores.
As I posted about last year when I was guest blogger at Boing Boing, there is a coterie of professional and amateur audiophiles who have been, um, liberating the quadraphonic mixes heard on 8-track and reel to reel releases in the mid ‘70s. They get pristine copies on Ebay (reel to reel tapes are obviously more desirable than 8-tracks for these purposes), play them on refurbished decks capable of handling split tracks, then take the tracks into ProTools and clean them up. Then they take those files into a DVD authoring software and create (often professional looking) menus. Then ISO files are made and uploaded to torrent trackers. All you have to do is download them, burn the files in Toast and now you have a multi-channel DVD-A discs you can play in your DVD player.
This is music that in many cases is literally being lost to time and technological change. Some classic rock albums that came out in the quad format have been put out as legit DVD-A releases (Tubular Bells and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid come to mind) but not most of them. These underground music enthusiasts who are recreating these buried treasures are doing a tremendous favor for deep fanboys and audiophiles, allowing them us to hear some truly incredible things that would have otherwise been trapped in obsolete formats.
Hearing Bridge Over Troubled Water in quad is something akin to a peak religious experience. I stand in the middle of the room—the “sweet spot”—and I CRANK IT UP. Soaking up the intense beauty of that song—and Art Garfunkel’s angelic voice—coming at you from all directions is almost overpowering. So gorgeous. So amazing.
Art Garfunkel must have the most comforting voice I’ve ever heard. Every time I get sick—I mean really sick, puking, feeling like you are going to die and feeling really, really sorry for yourself sick—I usually reach for Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (and for whatever Freudian reason a bowl of “Life” cereal). Only Neil Young’s Harvest or Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks have the same calming effect on me. I can’t think of a single singer whose talents rival the purity of Garfunkel’s tenor voice. You can’t top him. He’s the very best of the very best. Paul Simon’s songs are great—some of the greatest American musical treasures—but they are much, much greater because of what Garfunkel brings to the table. Paul Simon is wonderful on his own, don’t get me wrong, but with Artie in the mix his music becomes transcendent.
Take My Little Town. If you’re reading this far(!) then chances are you’re probably planning to track this stuff down on the Internet. DO look out for the quad version of Still Crazy After All These Years. Obviously, this is a classic album, every track is a gem, with no filler at all. But… the BEST track is My LIttle Town. When Garfunkel is around Simon is just better and even in the stellar setting of this classic album, My Little Town proves the point. And it’s mind-blowing heard in surround sound.
When I was a kid, wanting desperately to be someplace where things were happening and where I’d meet interesting people, My Little Town spoke to me. No one wanted to get out of their town the way that I did. I have loved this song since I was 10-years-old, but man, lemme tell you, the multichannel mix of this song a powerful revelation.
Having “new” versions of these classic albums helped me get into them again and appreciate them anew. Why hasn’t Columbia or Warners ever reissued BOTW or SCAATY as a surround sound DVD-A releases? Because no one would buy them?!? BOTW was only a number one album in every country in the free world, selling over 25 million copies! SCAATY won a Grammy for best album. These multichannel versions obviously exist in their vaults. It seems crazy to me that the labels wouldn’t jump on the fact that—based on the evidence found on torrent trackers—fans would love to hear these. It’s just leaving money on the table, but even more importantly, most music fans won’t get to experience these Simon & Garfunkel classics as they can best be appreciated on modern sound systems.
From Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 TV special sponsored by Kraft, here’s a great version of Patterns:
And I had to include this, too. Witness Simon and an extremely cute—and highly exuberant—little girl on Sesame Street duetting on Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard. Like I say, Simon’s at his best with Artie, but he’s aces with little Linda here, too! “It’s against the law!”