“The Sound Of Silence” has made our FH topics list a couple of times recently …
… so you can consider this Part Three of the trilogy, I guess!
I recently had the occasion to listen to “The Paul Simon Song Book” again and felt compelled to share some thoughts with you.
By now, I’m sure most, if not all, are familiar with the story of how Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence” became a hit.
When the duo were first signed to Columbia Records in 1964, they cut an album called “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM,” a very folk / acoustic reading keeping with that folk music market that was so successful here in The States prior to The Beatles landing on our shores and opening the door for the rest of The British Invasion.
As such, this LP consisted of fairly stripped down versions of some of Paul Simon’s early compositions, much in the vein of Bob Dylan’s recent successful LPs for the Columbia record label.
When that LP failed to register with the public, Paul Simon
took off for England to seek his fortune there.
While there, he recorded a solo album entitled “The Paul Simon Song Book”
(which also failed to make much of a mark.) Truthfully, it took on even MORE of a Dylanesque sound.
Also while there, in late 1965, Columbia re-released “The Sound Of Silence” (what they deemed to be the most promising track on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM” LP) as a single … this time adding drums, electric guitars and bass … not unlike what The Byrds had done, “electrifying” the sound of Dylan with their rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” (Dylan himself was so impressed that he, too, soon “plugged in,” much to the chagrin of his loyal fans.)
All of a sudden, Simon and Garfunkel had a huge, soon-to-be #1 Hit … with Paul Simon still out of the country!
Naturally, he was flown back post-haste to set to work on their follow up album, quickly titled “The Sounds Of Silence” to cash in on their newfound popularity. (The new electric version accompanied this LP, giving fans TWO versions of the song to choose from for their collection.)
The London sessions ran quickly (mid-June thru the first week of July, 1965) and virtually all of the songs Paul Simon recorded solo there would later be rerecorded by the duo (probably just as much for expediency's sake as any other reason) to get the new album out to the public as quickly as possible.
The music we are featuring today is as follows …
“The Sound Of Silence” - this is the original album version from “Wednesday Morning, 5 AM” – all acoustic
“The Sound Of Silence” - this is the hit single version with electric instrumentation added. (This record would go all the way to #1, knocking The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” out of the top spot in the process in January of 1966)
“The Sound Of Silence” – Paul Simon’s solo version, cut anew as a solo recording in London in 1965. Upon listening to this now with a fresh set of ears, one cannot help but wonder if this stronger, more intense vocal in some way inspired Disturbed’s version released in 2016.
“The Sound Of Silence” – the Disturbed version – one of the most powerful recordings I’ve ever heard – also rivaling Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” as Best Cover Version Ever!!! (kk)
Another powerful tune recorded when Paul was across the pond was a track called "A Most Peculiar Man." (It, too, would be given the Simon and Garfunkel treatment for their second album.)
And then, just because it seems to fit in some obscure way, here are The Monkees, singing "Mr. Webster" from their 1967 "Headquarters" album. (Once again, the punchline is a bit unexpected.)