Tag Archives: Simon & Garfunkel

Rocks In The Attic #698: Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits’ (1972)

RITA#698Put something happy on next, my kids said. I can’t blame them. Making them listen to Jerry Goldmsith’s Alien score first thing on a sunny Saturday morning doesn’t exactly scream golden childhood memory.

Who doesn’t like Simon & Garfunkel? Surely it’s impossible to like their brand of impossibly cheerful folk-pop. They should pipe this album into the waiting rooms of psychiatrists and mental institutions. I predict the world suicide rate would drop off a cliff overnight.

RITA#698aSpeaking of Simon & Garfunkel, I’ve finally got around to finishing the excellent BBC comedy Detectorists, written and directed by Mackenzie Crook. Two of my favourite characters are the antagonists played by the always excellent Simon Farnaby and the wonderfully underplayed Paul Casar. The recurring joke that the pair look like a poor man’s Simon & Garfunkel is one of my favourite things in the show, and it’s a shame – although completely understandable – that Crook won’t be bringing it back for a fourth series.

Hit: Mrs. Robinson

Hidden Gem: America

RITA#698b

Rocks In The Attic #578: Peter And Gordon – ‘Peter And Gordon’ (1964)

RITA#578Having Paul McCartney as your ­almost­ brother-in-law can’t be anything other than a good thing, especially if you’re trying to break into the music business.

In 1963, the Beatles left Liverpool for the Big Smoke of London town. John Lennon rented an apartment with wife Cynthia, while George and Ringo shared a flat together. Paul however moved into the house owned by the parents of his then-girlfriend (and later, fiancé) Jane Asher. Understandably, Paul was not allowed to sleep in Jane’s room, and so shared a room with her brother, Peter Asher.

In 1963, Paul offered the song A World Without Love to Peter and his song-writing partner Gordon Waller, after the duo were signed up by Columbia Records. The song had been written by Paul when he was a teenager, but had been deemed unsuitable for the Beatles. It would appear it was John who held the veto, as he could never get past Paul’s opening lyric. “The funny first line always used to please John,” Paul told Barry Miles in 1997. “’Please lock me away…’ ‘Yes, okay.’ End of song.”

You’d be wrong in thinking that Peter And Gordon were a one-hit wonder. McCartney’s kindness did help them establish their name – it was a number one on both sides of the Atlantic – but they didn’t stop there. They released a number of singles that charted in the Top Twenty, and their approach as a sort of English answer to Simon & Garfunkel would have been quite a refreshing change given that the charts would have been filled with pop, and rock and roll.

This debut album is really strong, and while it’s clear to see that Lennon and McCartney’s A World Without Love is the centrepiece of the record, there’s plenty of highlights along the way, whether it’s their own material, or covers like Little Richard’s Lucille or Ray Charles’ Leave My Woman Alone.

Hit: World Without Love

Hidden Gem: If I Were You

Rocks In The Attic #562: Various Artists – ‘Less Than Zero (O.S.T.)’ (1987)

rita562I watched this film for the first time recently. I’d always been aware of it because it’s one of a handful of notable soundtrack appearances by Aerosmith from around this time. The Aerosmith completist in me searched this record out long before I had a chance to watch the movie.

The soundtrack opens strongly with a Permanent Vacation-era Aerosmith rocking out to a cover of Huey “Piano” Smith’s Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu. Drummer Joey Kramer is on fine powerhouse form, and the band really sound as young and energetic as anybody else, enjoying their second lease of life in post-rehab sobriety. The record was released by Def Jam, and many of the songs were produced by Rick Rubin, so I can only presume Aerosmith are included as a result of the Run-DMC connection.

The rest of the record – mostly cover songs – is a patchy affair. Poison’s weak attempt at Kiss’ Rock And Roll All Nite belies the whole glam rock movement’s claim to artistic merit, Slayer’s version of Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is fun, while the Bangles’ version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade Of Winter sounds like they’re on autopilot.

So I sat down to finally watch the film I knew the music of so well. I really wish I hadn’t. If anything, Less Than Zero resembles the awful St. Elmo’s Fire in terms of its shallow posturing, although it is slightly harder-edged coming a couple of years after that earlier film. As an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s debut novel, I have trouble seeing any of his satire on the screen as it seems to have been overwhelmed by big gloop of late-‘80s Hollywood sheen that engulfs the film.

Something terrible happened as I watched the final act of the film. I got a slap in the face from déjà vu when Andrew McCarthy’s character narrowly prevented Robert Downey, Jr.’s character from taking part in a gay tryst. Then, in the final shot of the film where McCarthy, Downey, Jr. and Jami Gertz are driving off into the sunset, and McCarthy realises that Downey, Jr. has died from a drug overdose, I had a realisation myself. I had seen this film before. I just hadn’t remembered it because it was so forgettable.

Hit: A Hazy Shade Of Winter – The Bangles

Hidden Gem: Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu – Aerosmith

Rocks In The Attic #452: The Everly Brothers – ‘Love Hurts’ (1984)

RITA#452Now these boys could write a tune…

It’s funny how some talent seems to be easily forgotten. The Everly Brothers’ close harmonies influenced the likes of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel – yet, their catalogue of songs seems to be stuck in the ‘50s, isolated from the commercialism of the ‘60s. The fact that their greatest hits end up coming out on a cheap K-Tel compilation such as this in the ‘80s speaks volumes. They just don’t seem to get the respect they deserve, probably as a result of their material endlessly changing hands and ending up with a record company that doesn’t really know how to present them as culturally significant and relevant songwriters.

Don and Phil were such an influence on John and Paul that they even get a namecheck on Wings’ Let Em In (from 1976’s Wings At The Speed Of Sound): ‘Sister Suzie, Brother John, Martin Luther, Phil And Don, Brother Michael, Auntie Gin, open the door and let ’em in.’ It’s hardly poetic. In fact, it’s McCartney at his laziest best, but there they are, the Everly Brothers, knocking on his door. Or ringing his doorbell actually.

Hit: All I Have To Do Is Dream

Hidden Gem: So Sad

Rocks In The Attic #236: Badly Drawn Boy – ‘About A Boy (O.S.T.)’ (2002)

RITA#236I love this. I was a fan of Badly Drawn Boy before Damon Gough’s debut, The Hour Of Bewilderbeast came out, and when that album was eventually released – to much acclaim – I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t follow through on the promises made on his early EPs and singles.

I disliked Bewilderbeast so much when it came out that I started to lose interest (even though I still bought all the 7” and 10” singles that were released off that album).  I think I bought the soundtrack to About A Boy, his sophomore effort, to give him one last chance. I’m glad I made that decision, as this is a modern classic.

I remember reading in the music press about this album before its release. A lot was said of the similarities of this to Simon & Garfunkel’s soundtrack to The Graduate – but I always put that down to the fact that it’s simply a film soundtrack put together by acoustic-based folk musicians, nothing more and nothing less.

This soundtrack avoids the usual pitfalls because it’s essentially one artist’s voice. Sometimes soundtracks built around one particular artists will jar slightly if their material is then complimented by orchestral score or similarly unrelated instrumental and incidental music. Here, Badly Drawn Boy’s songs fit perfectly with the shorter instrumental pieces that he also created for the film. It therefore doesn’t sound like you’re listening to a soundtrack (in fact, some of the more disjointed, bizarre moments of The Hour of Bewilderbeast make that first album sound more like what you would expect from a film soundtrack).

I’m not sure why, but this was the last Badly Drawn Boy album that I bought. Even though I think it’s firmly the stronger of his first two albums, I then didn’t bother to check out album number three, or beyond. Perhaps I didn’t want to be disappointed as this promised so much.

Hit: Something To Talk About

Hidden Gem: A Peak You Reach

Rocks In The Attic #215: Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ (1970)

RITA#215I prefer Bookends, but as a piece of work I’m very confident this is the pinnacle of Simon & Garfunkel’s achievements. It’s their Abbey Road, and who knows what they would have gone on to do throughout the ‘70s if this hadn’t been their swan song. I’ve heard it said that this album sounds ‘effortless’, and that’s a very good word to describe it. Paul Simon makes these eleven songs sound like they’re falling out of him, and they’re put across with very little in the way of fuss.

In the space of just a couple of years, the pair progressed from a folk duo, into a folk-rock duo, and finally arrived at this album which traverses a number of different musical styles. You can hear elements of Paul Simon’s future solo career in some of the more world-music sounding songs – in the same way (but not as nearly as foreboding) as you can hear Sting’s impending solo warblings in the last couple of Police records.

There’s a nice house across the creek from my house – it’s mustard coloured and looks very Frank Lloyd Wright-esque. It’s a house to aspire to and I’ll always think of it when I hear the Simon & Garfunkel track at the end of side one.

Hit: Bridge Over Troubled Water

Hidden Gem: The Only Living Boy In New York