It's almost Valentine's Day: a time of love and mushy feelings. So I found it rather appropriate to talk about one of my great loves in life. Are we talking about James? Nope (but he is pretty great). Nor are we talking about some long-lost boyfriend of mine. So what are we talking about?
Simon and Garfunkel.
Simon and Garfunkel.
Yes, that’s right: I was totally and completely obsessed with a folk duo from the late 1960s/early 1970s. Let me take you back to the very beginning…
When I was a kid, my parents listened to a whole lot of country music. I was fine with it… for a while. I eventually figured out that – wonder of wonders! – there was more out there than just country. While I started off listening to pop radio (which is what you had to listen to in order to be cool, which was of utmost importance), I found that my preference was oldies radio.
It was the late 90s/early 2000s when I switched to the oldies, and the first thing I did was make a whole ton of mix tapes. I had a radio/cassette player in my room, and I would tune it to the oldies station as I went about my day. It was always loaded with a blank cassette tape, and if I heard a song I liked, I would dash over and hit “record.” This resulted in me having tons of recorded songs without their beginnings. I also had tons of duplicate songs because I either a.) couldn’t remember if I’d attempted to record it before, or b.) was trying to get more of the song than I’d previously managed to record. It was kind of a mess.
But it was through this mix tape recording process that I was first introduced to Simon and Garfunkel. The song that was playing “Scarborough Fair,” and I was entranced by the haunting guitar and the way the two voices weaved perfectly together. I snapped out of it long enough to record a portion of the song onto one of my cassettes.
As I continued through my oldies mix-tape phase, I managed to record a number of other Simon and Garfunkel songs without actually realizing that they were Simon and Garfunkel songs. “Mrs Robinson” made it to a mix tape, and so did “The Boxer” and “The Sounds of Silence”: the biggies. It wasn’t until I heard a DJ read their names at the end of a set that I finally knew that Simon and Garfunkel were the two whose music I had been admiring all this time.
Once I knew their names, my research commenced. I had recently become the proud owner of a CD player (well behind everyone else, but better late than never), so I had allocated some of my precious allowance money for the purchase of CDs. I was about thirteen at the time of my budding interest in Simon and Garfunkel, so I had to beg a ride off my parents in order to get to the WalMart CD section. There, I bought my third-ever CD: Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.
The greatest hits compilation that I bought contained twelve
songs, and I recognized about a third of them from the radio. The rest of the
songs opened up a whole new world for me. I had never heard anything as
beautiful and mournful as Art Garfunkel’s voice, and Paul Simon’s lyrics and
melodies were so powerful and raw. When you’re thirteen, you think your life is
really hard, and I felt like they GOT me. (I can’t tell you the number of times
I listened to “I Am a Rock” in fits of teenage angst.)
It didn’t take long until I knew the lyrics to every song on
that greatest hits album, and I was thirsty for more. I had utilized our
painfully slow dial-up internet and had done my research: I learned that Simon
and Garfunkel had released five studio albums, and I was on a mission to acquire
them all. And one by one, I did. The most elusive of the albums was the very
first Simon and Garfunkel studio release: Wednesday
Morning 3 AM.
|I know you're curious: my first two CD|
purchases were the Beatles' 1 and Styx'
|They had angst down pat.|
|They released it back when they were young and super adorable.|
After I had collected all the CDs, I moved on to the LPs. I had asked for a record player that Christmas, and I joyfully used it to play my mom’s old copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water. There was something about listening to Simon and Garfunkel in their original format that made it seem just a little bit better. (Maybe I was a fourteen-year-old hipster, but, you know, minus the skinny pants and ironic tattoos... so not really a hipster at all.)
By this time, I had developed a full-blown obsession. Any mention of Simon and Garfunkel would set my heart all a-flutter.
after my fourteenth birthday, I began working at a small ice cream shop on the
lake not too far from where I lived. The owner of the ice cream shop (who was
the GREATEST) kept the radio on oldies, and I mentioned one day that I really
liked Simon and Garfunkel. From that point on, whenever a Simon and Garfunkel
song came on the radio, he’d serenade me. What a great job.
|And pictures like this - where they are so cute but still have|
that troubled genius look about them - just fanned the flame.
However, when you’re a fourteen-year-old in the year 2001, and your favorite band broke up on 1970, you are by far in the minority. A couple of my friends listened to Simon and Garfunkel from time to time, as did one of my cousins, but no one had the deep and abiding love that I did. So no one was really interested in talking to me about the individual albums and which songs totally spoke to me and so forth. That, my friends, is what led me to chat rooms.
That’s right: I went to Simon and Garfunkel chat rooms.
In that Simon and Garfunkel chat room, I met all sorts of people across the world who loved Simon and Garfunkel just as much (if not more) than I did. This was the conversation that I’d just been dying for – all Simon and Garfunkel, all the time. Now, when most fourteen-year-olds go to chat rooms, it’s not Simon and Garfunkel that they want to talk about, but I – needless to say – was not your normal teenager.
It was through this chat room that I met my friend Sue. Sue and
I initially exchanged messages through this chat room, and I found that she was
by far the most interesting and pleasant person to talk to. We eventually began
exchanging direct emails and talking about more than just Simon and Garfunkel –
I remember her being completely amazed that I was only fourteen, as my grammar
and punctuation suggested someone older. (That was the ultimate compliment for
a budding grammar aficionado like me.)
|Most teenagers' favorite bands do not look like this.|
The story of my friendship with Sue is an interesting one that deserves a blog post all its own, but allow me to give you the shortened version: Sue and I both loved to write, and we ended up writing some Simon and Garfunkel fan fiction together. You read that right: Simon and Garfunkel fan fiction. We’d choose a goofy Simon and Garfunkel photo and take turns writing chapters in a story about it, and we’d incorporate lines from songs as often as we could.
The stories were crazy and off-the-wall, but we had a blast writing
them. I still have every one of them saved in a binder at my parents’ house.
|I'm fairly certain this was one of the photos.|
A couple of years into our correspondence, Sue came to visit me in South Dakota. We had a wonderful time, and it took until I was 22, but I eventually made it to see her in Connecticut. Sue and I still write to each other on a regular basis, and we exchange Christmas gifts every year. So who would’ve thought that a venture into a Simon and Garfunkel chat room almost thirteen years ago would evolve into a long-lasting friendship?
Thanks to the miracle of the internet, my Simon and Garfunkel craze continued full speed ahead. I tirelessly sought out articles, interviews, and pictures. Oh, the pictures – I had a GIGANTIC Simon and Garfunkel picture folder on my parents’ computer, and it took up an awful lot of space on that old Gateway laptop. My room was covered in printouts of those pictures, along with a poster that had come with one of my CDs.
And there were the videos! The Brookings Public library had an old VHS copy of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1981 reunion concert in Central Park, which I checked out ALL THE TIME. Thanks to PBS, I eventually caught an airing of that concert on TV and was able to get a gritty recording, which I watched until my ancient VCR ate the tape. I watched The Graduate because its soundtrack was predominantly Simon and Garfunkel music. (A blessing in disguise: The Graduate is still one of my favorite films.) I scouted the old SNL reruns on cable and dutifully recorded any episode in which either one of them was a host or musical guest. Sue sent me copies of some of Paul Simon’s solo concerts, as well as a movie that he wrote, produced, and starred in (which wasn’t very good, but it was better than anything Art Garfunkel was in: see below).
Oh, and did I mention that I’d developed a major crush on Art Garfunkel?
Whenever I heard him sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," I was weak at the knees. I began gathering all of Art Garfunkel’s solo albums, and even
though I knew they weren’t very good, I was still smitten. I requested an
autographed photo from his official website, and when it arrived (inscribed “to
Calla” and signed “with love”! SWOON!), I was practically giddy. At one time,
Art Garfunkel decided he wanted to be an actor (hahaha!), so he was in a number
of fairly terrible movies, all of which I sought out and watched.
|But not present-day Art Garfunkel: mid-to-late 1960s|
Art Garfunkel. That makes it a lot less weird.
Of course, Paul Simon had a much more successful solo career than Art Garfunkel did, and I collected his albums, too. I loved Graceland, and I still think that that the “You Can Call Me Al” video with Chevy Chase is one of the best things ever.
This Simon and Garfunkel mania went on for – and I swear I’m not exaggerating – YEARS. In 2003, it was announced that Simon and Garfunkel would be going on a reunion tour. The last time they had done a concert together was 1981. 1981! I HAD TO SEE THEM IN CONCERT OR ELSE I WOULD POSITIVELY DIE.
Luckily for me, Simon and Garfunkel were coming to St Paul. However, they would be there on a Monday night: October 27, to be exact. That meant missing some school, which might be hard to get past my parents. When I pleaded my case, I was surprised to find out that my parents were totally ok with me missing some school to go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert. Mom and Dad may not have known just how obsessed I was with Simon and Garfunkel, but they certainly knew how much going to this concert meant to me.
Mom, my friend Sarah, Sarah’s mom Sharon, and I would all go to the concert together. Sarah was on the internet as soon as the tickets went on sale, and even though they were something like $100 apiece (a hefty amount for a sixteen-year-old like me whose only employment was in the summertime), it was money I was happy to spend. The four of us went to St Paul and saw Simon and Garfunkel at the Xcel Energy Center, and I was walking on air.
My passion for Simon and Garfunkel inevitably cooled – I don’t remember when, but I eventually realized that there’s more music out there than just Simon and Garfunkel. Don’t get me wrong: just because my obsession downgraded to just a strong appreciation, that doesn’t mean I ever stopped listening to them… it just meant that I listened to more music than JUST them. When it came time to write my senior thesis for high school English, I said to myself, “Self, what do you know more about than anything else?” Simon and Garfunkel, obviously.
Now, here we are: more than a decade has passed since my Simon and Garfunkel craze reached its fever pitch. But a good deal of it has still stuck with me. When I had my radio show on KUMM, Simon and Garfunkel songs would make frequent appearances on my playlists. I can still tell you all sorts of weird facts about Simon and Garfunkel and their songs. (Did you know that Garfunkel was a math teacher? Did you know that they found out “Sounds of Silence” had hit #1 when they were smoking pot in Simon’s car? Did you know that "Mrs Robinson" was almost a throwaway song called "Mrs Roosevelt"? I could go on.)
|Did you know that there are some|
truly bizarre Simon and Garfunkel
pictures out there? Thanks, Google.