On this day in music history: October 19, 1964 – “Wednesday Morning, 3AM”, the debut album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Tom Wilson, it is recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from March 10 – 31, 1964. Recorded in just two weeks, the acoustic folk album is released to little fanfare, and attracts very little attention. As a result of the albums’ initial failure, Art Garfunkel returns to his studies at Columbia University, while Paul Simon travels to England and writes numerous songs, many of which end up on his first solo album “The Paul Simon Songbook” in 1965. Almost a year after its release, producer Tom Wilson uses studio musicians (originally hired to back Bob Dylan) to overdub electric guitar, bass and drums on to the track “The Sounds Of Silence”. The newly released “electric” version of the song shoots to number one in January 1966, prompting CBS to re-promote the duos’ debut. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with three bonus tracks added. “Wednesday Morning, 3AM” peaks at number thirty on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1966 – “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme”, the third album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Bob Johnston, it is recorded at Columbia Studios in New York City from December 1965 – August 1966. Their first full album since breaking through with the revamped and remixed version of “The Sound Of Silence” in late 1965, many of the songs are written while Paul Simon is traveling through the UK by himself in the Fall of 1965. Several are re-recorded by the duo (including “I Am A Rock” and “Patterns”, and later “Kathy’s Song”) after Simon records his solo project “The Paul Simon Songbook”, not released in the US until 1981 on the box set “Collected Works” and reissued again on CD in 2004. The album is proceeded by the single “Homeward Bound” (#5 Pop), also written during Simon’s trip to England in 1965. The full length is met with critical and commercial success upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best albums. It yields several classics including “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” (#11 Pop) (released as a single belatedly in 1968 when it is featured in “The Graduate”), “The Dangling Conversation” (#25 Pop) and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with two bonus tracks. An exhaustive search through Sony Music’s archives is conducted for the original first generation master tapes, which had been misfiled and lost for years. The classic title is also reissued on vinyl by Sundazed Records in 2008. “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 1, 1968 – “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Paul Simon, it is the second chart topping single for the folk-rock/pop duo from New York City. In mid 1967, director Mike Nichols contacts Paul Simon about writing some new songs for his second film “The Graduate”, as he happens to also be using several Simon & Garfunkel songs as a temporary soundtrack while filming and editing is in progress. When Simon initially writes the song, it is titled “Mrs. Roosevelt” (after former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt), with nostalgic remembrances of times past, also name dropping New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio. Playing the song for Nichols, Simon says that it isn’t for the film and that he hasn’t been able to come up with anything else (as S&G are on tour at the time). Eventually the director persuades Simon to change the title to “Mrs. Robinson” and allow him to use it in the film. When the soundtrack to “The Graduate” is released, it contains two alternate versions of the song that are heard in the finished film. The hit version is released as a single and on Simon & Garfunkel’s album “Bookends” in the Spring Of 1968. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on April 27, 1968, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. The single wins two Grammy Awards including Best Contemporary-Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group and Record Of The Year, with “The Graduate” Soundtrack earning an additional award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special in 1969. “Mrs. Robinson” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 6, 1968 – “The Graduate – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 9 weeks (non-consecutive). Produced by Teo Macero, the album serves as the soundtrack for the Mike Nichols film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. It features new and previously released songs by Simon & Garfunkel as well as film score pieces written by Dave Grusin. Many of the previously released songs were originally used as “temporary tracks” chosen by director Mike Nichols, and remain in the film when Paul Simon (who is busy touring with Art Garfunkel at the time) is unable to come up with more new material. Released on CBS Records’ Columbia Masterworks label (reserved for film, Broadway cast, and classical releases that feature a grey label instead of the standard red Columbia label), the soundtrack includes two versions of S&G’s current hit “Mrs. Robinson” featured in the film, though neither is the hit single version which is included on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends” album, which temporarily bumps the soundtrack from the number one spot. “The Graduate” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 3, 1968 – “Bookends”, the fourth album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Simon & Garfunkel and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Studios in New York City from September 1966 – February 1968. The first half of the album contains songs about life from childhood to old age, while the second half includes songs originally intended for “The Graduate” soundtrack but were rejected by the film’s producers. It spins off four singles including “Mrs. Robinson” (#1 Pop) and “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” (#13 Pop). Original pressings also come packaged with an over sized poster of the duo with an image of the 59th Street (aka Queensboro) Bridge and flowers superimposed on top of the portrait. The albums iconic cover photo is taken by legendary photographer Richard Avedon, and becomes one of the most parodied and imitated album covers of all time. It is also the last Simon & Garfunkel album to be issued with separate mono and stereo mixes. The mono LP has many noticeable differences from its stereo counterpart, and is pressed in much smaller quantities, making it a heavily sought after collector’s item among fans. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001, with two additional bonus tracks including the non LP B-side “You Don’t Know Where Your Interests Lie” (flip side of “Fakin’ It), and a demo version of "Old Friends”. It is also reissued on vinyl by Sundazed Music in 2008, also replicating the poster inserted into original pressings. “Bookends” spends seven weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 21, 1969 – “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Written by Paul Simon, it is the eleventh single release for the folk-rock duo from Queens, NY. 1968 is a landmark year for Simon & Garfunkel. After “The Graduate” soundtrack, “Bookends” and their second number one single “Mrs. Robinson”, their popularity is at an all time high. In the Fall, the duo begin work on their next album. The first session for “The Boxer” takes place at Columbia Records Nashville, TN studio on November 16, 1968. The song draws from a number of sources, with Simon writing about his early struggles as a musician, persevering in spite of loneliness and the inability to make a living at his craft. Also drawing inspiration from The Bible come the lyrics about asking for only “workman’s wages” and “seeking out the poorer quarters”. The final verse depicts a boxer taking relentless beatings, but keeping his fighting spirit. An extra verse written for the song is excised before the first session. The repeated refrain of “lie-la-lie” stands in place of a final lyric that Simon simply leaves it as it is. Cutting the basic track, engineer Roy Halee records Paul playing a Martin D-18 and Fred Carter, Jr. on a 000-18 Martin, miking the musicians from multiple angles, capturing the unique sonics of the instruments and the room itself. Charlie McCoy plays bass harmonica on the track, and Curly Chalker on pedal steel guitar. Work continues at St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University (vocals), and Columbia’s East 52nd Street studio in New York City. Drummer Hal Blaine plays the signature “thunder clap” effect, achieved by hitting his snare, and recording the sound echoing down a hallway into an empty elevator shaft. Cut before CBS acquires their first sixteen track tape machine, the strings are recorded on a separate eight track machine. This proves to be nightmarish when it comes time to mix, with Halee “flying in” the strings eight bars at a time, then splicing the pieces together so they are in sync with the rest of the track. In all, more than one hundred hours are spent on the song before it’s completed. During the same period, the track “Baby Driver” is also recorded. Both songs are the first taste of Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The epic five minute plus single quickly becomes a hit, after hitting the airwaves in mid-March of 1969. Entering the Hot 100 at #51 on April 19, 1969, “The Boxer” peaks at #7 on the Hot 100 on May 17, 1969. With Art Garfunkel off making his acting debut in the film “Catch-22”, another seven months go by before the duo finish recording the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, which is released in late January of 1970. Over the years, “The Boxer” has become one of S&G’s most enduring, popular and frequently covered songs, with versions by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Bruce Hornsby and Mumford & Sons.
On this day in music history: February 28, 1970 – “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Written by Paul Simon, it is the biggest hit for the Queens, NY based folk rock duo. In mid 1969 Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel begin work on what becomes their final album. While Art Garfunkel is away working on his first film “Catch 22”, Simon and his then wife Peggy are living in Los Angeles. They rent the same house where George Harrison was inspired to write the song “Blue Jay Way” two years earlier. During the time they are living there, he writes “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on guitar, later being transcribed to piano by arranger Jimmie Haskell. The song is inspired in part by gospel singer Claude Jeter’s lyric “I’ll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me”. Paul works with a group of studio musicians in L.A. that includes keyboardist Larry Knetchel, bassist Joe Osborn, drummer Hal Blaine and percussionist Gary Coleman. Simon initially writes the song with only two verses, but adds a third at the suggestion of Garfunkel and co-producer/engineer Roy Halee. Released on January 26, 1970, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #49 on February 7, 1970, it rockets to the top of the chart only three weeks later. The single wins two Grammy Awards including Record and Song Of The Year in 1971. An iconic song of the era, “Bridge” is covered numerous times over the years, including versions by Aretha Franklin (#1 R&B in 1971), Elvis Presley, Linda Clifford, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to name a few. In spite of its message of friendship and support in difficult times, it ironically marks beginning of the end of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s musical partnership, as the duo split in 1971. The single release is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: February 12, 1966 – “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Written by Paul Simon, it is the second US top ten hit for the New York City based folk/rock duo. The song is recorded on December 14, 1965 at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio in New York. Simon is inspired to write the song while sitting in the Ditton railway station in Widnes, Cheshire, UK, waiting for a train back to Liverpool. Issued as the follow up to their breakthrough hit “The Sounds Of Silence”, and issued as the first single from their third album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme”, it is an immediate hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 26, 1966. Years later, a commemorative plaque is placed in the waiting room of the railway station where Simon wrote the song. “Homeward Bound” is reissued as a limited edition 7" single with its original B-side “Leaves That Are Green” for Record Store Day in April of 2015. Packaged in a picture sleeve using the same photo featured on the “Sound Of Silence” LP, both songs are issued in their original mono mixes.
On this day in music history: January 26, 1970 – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, the fifth studio album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA and New York City from November 1968 – November 1969. After a triumphant year in 1968 with the back to back successes of the soundtrack for “The Graduate” and their fourth album “Bookends”, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel begin work on what is their final studio album in the Fall of 1968. Progress on the album is slow at first with Simon having little new material written at the outset. Then work is further hampered when Garfunkel leaves the sessions to work on his first film (director Mike Nichols’) “Catch-22”, spending eight months on location in Mexico. The first track emerge from the album in progress is the single “The Boxer” (#7 Pop) in March of 1969, and is the duo’s only release during year, with nothing else to follow for several more months. In the interim period, Simon writes the rest of the songs and recording resume in the Fall of 1969. The ambitious breadth of material pushes the boundaries of what the duo has done previously, and though the sessions are productive, there also tension between the life long friends as relations between the two begin to break down during this period. The two argue over what is to be the twelfth track on the album. Simon prefers a song he’s written called “Cuba Si, Nixon No”, while Garfunkel favors a Bach chorale influenced song called “Feuilles-O”. When they cannot resolve the argument, the album is released with eleven tracks instead of twelve. When “Bridge” is finally completed, it is released to near universal acclaim from both fans and critics alike. At the time of its release, it is one of the biggest selling albums in the history of Columbia Records. It spins off four singles including “Cecilia” (#4 Pop), “El Condor Pasa” (#18 Pop), and the epic title track (#1 Pop). The album also sweeps the Grammy Awards in 1971, winning six prizes including Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Album Of The Year. In March of 2011, Sony releases a 40th anniversary edition of the album which also includes two DVD’s featuring the long unseen “Songs Of America” TV special (which previewed songs from the album before its release), and a documentary titled “The Harmony Game”. In late 2017, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab announces they reissuing the classic title as part of their acclaimed “One Step” vinyl LP series in 2018. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” spends ten weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: January 1, 1966 – “The Sounds Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks (non-consecutive). Written by Paul Simon, it is the first chart topping single for the Queens, NY folk/rock duo. Simon writes the song in early 1964, and is originally released on Simon & Garfunkel’s debut album “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM”. The acoustic based ballad along with the album attracts little attention upon its initial release. Sometime later, a Boston area DJ begins playing “The Sound Of Silence” off the album and receives a positive reaction. Word of this gets back to executives at Columbia Records who think the spare acoustic song could become a hit if the song had more instrumentation on it. While in the studio recording Bob Dylan’s classic “Like A Rolling Stone” (on June 15, 1965), producer Tom Wilson asks some of Dylan’s musicians to stay behind and record one more track. Wilson overdubs electric guitar, bass and drums on to Simon & Garfunkel’s original multi-track of “Silence”. Released as a single in September of 1965, “Silence” begins making in roads on US radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on November 20, 1965, it quickly climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. After one week at number one, it is pushed back to number two for two weeks by The Beatles “We Can Work It Out”, then regaining the top spot for one more week on January 22, 1966. The song is also prominently featured in Mike Nichols film “The Graduate” in 1967, along with several other Simon & Garfunkel songs. The single is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2004. In 1980, the band Rush make a sly reference to “Sounds” in their song “The Spirit Of Radio” with the lyric, “For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall, concert hall, and echoes with the sounds of salesmen”. “The Sounds Of Silence” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.