Monday, January 26, 2015

bridge over troubled water

Simon and Garfunkel sailed on to their greatest success with the pristine pop perfection of their sublime swansong.  The duo had seen their previous three albums 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme', the soundtrack album for Mike Nichols' film The Graduate,  and 'Bookends' all reached the top five of the US album chart as their music developed from acoustic folk to a more sophisticated studio sound.  Both of them had been asked to be a part of Nichols' adaptation of Joseph Heller's 'Catch 22'; but Simon's part was written out of the script by Buck Henry who felt that there were too many characters.  Garfunkel spent eight months in Mexico for the production, during which time Simon wrote "The Only Living Boy in New York"  Garfunkel considers:  "Our way of working was for Paul to write while we recorded. So we'd be in the studio for the better part of two months working on the three or four songs that Paul had written, recording them, and when they were done, we'd knock off for a couple of months while Paul was working on the next group of three or four songs. Then we'd book time and be in the studio again for three or four months, recording those ... rather than wait for Paul to write the next bunch of songs, I went off and did this movie."

'Bridge over Troubled Water' was co-produced by Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, and engineer Roy Halee over the course of a year.   The sessions featured Paul Simon on lead vocals and guitar;   Art Garfunkel on lead vocals;    with Joe Osborn on bass guitar;  Larry Knechtel on piano;  Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar;  Peter Drake on dobro and pedal steel guitar; and Hal Blaine on drums.  Jimmie Haskell and Ernie Freeman did the strings;  Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, and Alan Rubin handled brass;  and the Peruvian instruments were performed by Los Incas.  

Simon remembers:  "That was a great little unit - Hal [Blain], Larry Knechtel, and Joe Osborne. It was a great, great band out of LA. And of course until they got really tired because everybody used them, they were fantastic. Very musical...very musical guys. They made life easy. I preferred to work with them, and that's probably why I was recording in California. I preferred working with those guys rather than what I had to work with in New York...The snare drum on "The Boxer": It was recorded in the elevator shaft of the CBS studios in New York at 52nd Street. That was a pure Roy [Halee] sound. He situated the drum in the elevator shaft and he hit it and he recorded that.  It was just huge ... Roy's brilliant. He's a brilliant sound guy. He was great with echoes, he always had a great sense of echo. The drum from "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was recorded in the echo chamber of a studio in LA, but it was recorded on one machine and played back on another machine to create the effect of a misalignment so that's what created that feeling of (sings drum delay sound - "tututu-tu-tu").  It was because the heads of the machines didn't match up. It was a fortuitous thing...[The blending of our voices] was the double. As soon as everything was doubled, then the blend was there. It was there without doubling, but if we doubled it exactly - then there really was a blend. We really didn't have to do anything - just sing it, double it, there it was...basically you're looking for as long a take as you can get, one that has continuity and feeling. That's all.  But if you get that and then you've got some passage or some notes that are either not phrased right or are out of tune, maybe you try and repair it. But basically you're looking for as long a take as you can find. I wasn't looking to make up words...What it comes down to is a sense of musicality.  If something feels musical and right to me then I leave it. I don't feel like it's all about being perfect. But, you really don't want to hear too much out of tune - out of tune is hard to take. A little bit can be nice."

'Bridge over Troubled Water' went to number one in eleven countries including Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK, the US, and West Germany.  It was the biggest selling album of that year (and the two to follow), becoming the best selling album ever up to that point, and eventually selling over twenty-five million copies worldwide.  'Bridge over Troubled Water' won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Engineered Recording.   Despite the massive success and accolades, it would be the final studio album that the duo would record together.  After the album was completed, Garfunkel went to work on another Mike Nichols film 'Carnal Knowledge', while Simon studied songwriting at New York University and began working on his eponymous solo album.  Simon says:   "Partnerships… are destined to break up, as are most business partnerships,  And just after a while, everybody gradually changes, and has their own agenda of what they want to do in life, and it doesn’t coincide with the way it did in the very beginning. And so, you’re naturally inclined to go your separate ways."

The gospel inspired title song became an international smash, going to number twenty-three in Belgium; seven in Norway; five in the Netherlands and Switzerland; four in Austria and South Africa; three in Germany; two in Australia, Ireland, and Spain; and number one in Canada, France, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.  It went on to win Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Contemporary Song, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.  

Simon admits:  "I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career ... 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is something of a mystery to me; because nothing prompted me to write it. I was listening to a lot of gospel quartets, particularly the Swan Silvertones and the Everly Brothers album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. I was stunned and I thought, 'that’s a lot better than I usually write.'"

Garfunkel convinced Simon to add a third verse to the song:  "You can look at songwriting, at which Paul Simon is clearly a master, and you can look at singing, the Frank Sinatra part of the thing, which we both did. In between the two is record making. I heard "Bridge over Troubled Water" first as this two-verse beautiful hymn of peace. But I thought it had the possibility to go into high gear, do this Phil Spector thing, and take off...[Paul] is like a purist, in that way. "No Artie, I wrote it as a hymn." But he did open himself up to it and wrote the third verse…When I did the vocal I did the big last verse first and nailed it. But the first verse required a delicacy that was maddening. I couldn't get it. So it was, just: Lord help me relax. Help me find that lovely place as a performer when you believe you get a visitation from higher powers, and it passes through you."

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

"The Boxer"


'Bridge over Troubled Water'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Paul Simon except where noted.

Side one
00:00 "Bridge over Troubled Water"   4:52
04:56 "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" (Daniel Alomía Robles, English lyrics by Paul Simon, arranged by Jorge Milchberg) 3:06
08:05 "Cecilia"   2:55
11:00 "Keep the Customer Satisfied"   2:33
13:37 "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright"   3:41
Side two
17:23 "The Boxer"   5:08
22:36 "Baby Driver"   3:14
25:53 "The Only Living Boy in New York"   3:58
29:55 "Why Don't You Write Me"   2:45
32:41 "Bye Bye Love" (live recording from Ames, Iowa) (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) 2:55
35:40 "Song for the Asking"   1:49

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