Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wednesday Evening 10 PM

This is a foolish post to write, but I'm going to write it anyway. I saw the commercial above, for the latest model Honda, on TV the other night, and was stunned to recognize as its soundtrack the bridge from "The Only Living Boy in New York," one of Paul Simon's haunting farewells to Art Garfunkel on their final album together, Bridge Over Troubled Water. At first I was startled and pleased just to hear those lovely chord changes one more time (that seeming chorus is actually just Paul and Art, re- and re- and re-recorded).  But minutes after the commercial was over I began to feel my heart sinking for reasons I couldn't quite describe.

I left the TV, went to the computer, and called up "The Only Living Boy in New York."  Listening to the silvery harmonies of the full song, I felt a little better, but somehow that nagging sense of despair just wouldn't go away.  I began downloading other Simon and Garfunkel hits from the same album - "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright," "Cecilia," "The Boxer," "Keep the Customer Satisfied" (the album is basically one long hit) -and then more songs began to come back to me in droves, as I thought about the LPs in their battered sleeves that I slowly wore down in the late 60's as I played them again and again, night after night, on our family stereo.  "Homeward Bound" and "Kathy's Song" and "Old Friends" and "To Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" and "America" and "Scarborough Fair" and "I Am a Rock" - and then I began thinking about other albums I wore down, playing them night after night on the family stereo too, albums like Blue and Court and Spark and "The White Album" and Pet Sounds.

I know, the music is still out there.  In a way, it's more accessible than ever.  But there just doesn't seem to be any more of it, now does there.  And I know that while Simon and Garfunkel once sang about being "Old Friends" sharing a park bench, they were eventually at each others' throats.  (And eventually they let their music be turned into a jingle.) But somehow that only means that, like their whole generation, they couldn't live up to what was best about themselves.  And it certainly doesn't dispel the feeling that the beauty and tenderness and intelligence that groups like Simon and Garfunkel brought to pop music is gone from the public sphere for good.


  1. Ah, sweet nostalgia. But I agree, S&G fuelled my youth (alongside the other usual suspects), they might have hated each other but they made gorgeous music.

  2. I don't suppose it's much of a consolation, but: the field of new classical music has experienced this reverse:

    in the 60's/70's/80's if you didn't compose the 'right' way, you were considered to be the enemy. (The right way being whatever your professor taught you, of course.) This has, in the last decade, changed so completely that interactions of widely different types of composers--many of whom have outlived their martinet teachers--has recharged 'New Music', classical division, as a creative community.

    Maybe the fact is that the public are so little interested in New Classical, that it's difficult to even envision someone selling out with it; and that has something to do with that (new) sense of community.

    Of course, this isn't the first time in the history of the arts that this has happened.