I can hear the soft breathing of the girl that I love, as she lies here beside me, asleep with the night, her hair in a fine mist, floats on my pillow, reflecting the glow of the winter’s moonlight,
I’ve got to creep down the alleyway, fly down the highway, before they come to get me I’ll be gone, somewhere, they can’t find me.
Simon & Garfunkel
Somewhere They Can’t Find Me
Regular followers of The Alder Fork know that I tend to look backwards a lot, in the hopes of embracing the feeling of nostalgia, and resurrecting creative ideas that remain relevant. In today’s post I am tackling one of my all time favourite albums (as mentioned on a recent podcast episode) Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 classic Sounds of Silence. This was the group’s second album under that name, having previously released music as Tom and Jerry, and as solo artists. It was the first album to feature tracks that were virtually all written by Paul Simon, as their previous LP featured a number of covers and traditional tunes. At the time of the album’s release, the title track was already extremely popular as an overdubbed version of the acoustic original. It later appeared in the film The Graduate several times.
I first listened to this album from front to back when I picked up a CD copy at a used music store in high school. I took it along with me on a trip to Europe because I loved it so much. To me the most interesting thing about Simon & Garfunkel in general is that in a time where rock & roll, psychedelic rock, and rebellious folk rock were popular, they were receiving widespread acclaim for songs that, while folky, touched on a wide variety of themes. Sounds of Silence was certainly in the Bob Dylan tradition, but April Come She Will, I am a Rock, and Blessed were a little off kilter from a lot of other mid-sixties popular music. Yet they fit in beautifully and found themselves playing to appreciative audiences across America, and at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival.
Musically, the album ventures in directions that had recently been pioneered by Bob Dylan in the folk genre. For their first effort, and the solo Paul Simon Songbook of 1965, the music arrangements were simple and centred on the acoustic guitar. This album contains multiple instruments and sounds supporting the trademark vocal harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
The one track I will expand on is quoted at the start of this entry. Somewhere They Can’t Find Me began life as Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. the title track of the groups debut album. I actually don’t enjoy that version very much, it is far too slow for my liking. The reworked version on Sounds of Silence moves along at the speed you’d expect from a song about running away after committing a crime. The story of a young man abandoning his love after robbing a liquor store is the type of vignette that Paul Simon excels at writing (see A Most Peculiar Man and Richard Cory for other examples on this album). The opening riff, which seems isolated from the rest of song, reappears later on the album in Anji, an instrumental cover. Unlike other Simon and Garfunkel tracks this one relies less on vocal harmonies than rock & roll power. Again this is fitting given the theme of the song. The contrast of this song with most of the others on the album is very noticeable.
Sounds of Silence is a classic album that has been critically acclaimed and widely loved. Paul Simon’s songwriting had come into it’s own with his earlier work and would only get better over time. The group was still climbing towards its musical peak, and would play some fantastic live shows in the next few years. A couple of those are available on CD, and I’d recommend checking them out.