Sunday, 30 June 2013

Musical discovery of the year: Simon & Garfunkel

We've all got those musical interests that grab you by surprise. You know what I mean, those that creep up ever so subtlety. We've all got them. Yet before you know it - you're listening to their records on loop. And then, you wonder why on earth it took you so long to find this gem of an artist. For me, Simon & Garfunkel have become a foremost example of that.

It's especially funny, because if ever someone asked me was I a folk fan my response would be "not at all". In fact it's a genre of music that I'd consider one of my least favorites. And therein lies the beauty of Simon & Garfunkel. They had such beautiful harmonies and exceptional lyrics, that I don't need to be a folk fan to appreciate them. Excellent songwriting is excellent songwriting and it will transcend the confines of categorisation. In short - it's timeless music.

Perhaps rather unusually, I've listened to Paul Simon years before Simon & Garfunkel. Since about fourteen or fifteen. I've got to thank my father for that. He introduced me to his work, and I particularly loved Graceland. The African rhythms created quite a sound-scape for me. It practically transported me into another world. One that served as a complete contrast to my native Belfast.  Some further exploration followed suit and I came to really like Paul Simon's solo work. But Simon & Garfunkel? I wasn't so sure if they were for me. I mean - they're folk music. As I said earlier, I don't care much for folk music.

That view began to alter a few months ago. I was in the car with my parents: and Bridge Over Troubled Water came on. I know, overplayed but it is still a beautiful song. Besides, whilst I've always liked it I've never killed it with repeated listening. This time though, it hit me differently. It'd been a good few years since I last heard it, and I could appreciate more. All those little fine nuances lost on my younger ears. Like I could appreciate just how much of a beautiful voice Art Garfunkel had. And also, how his harmonising with Paul was equally as beautiful. Even the lyrics left more of an impression on me. "Hey, maybe I should think about checking them out!" was a thought that started to look quite appealing. After all - at an older age I could now appreciate the solo lyrics of Paul Simon better too. As we all know, Paul Simon was the songwriter of Simon & Garfunkel. Surely Simon & Garfunkel could offer me something then?

Amazingly, something rather remarkable happened. Maybe it was fate or destiny, I honestly don't know. Although it was quite a coincidence. Within days of hearing Bridge Over Troubled Water, my mum said she had a little something for me. It was a random surprise. It turned out, a family friend had been in and for whatever reason had bought mum a gift. What was it? Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. You couldn't make it up! Mum knew I wanted to investigate them, so she gave the album to me. Time to try them out properly...

I heard Mrs Robinson. Liked it. Wasn't blown away, but I wanted to keep listening. The next track was called For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. It was also a live version of the track. Again, I liked it. Until I got to the ending. The last lines when Art Garfunkel sings "I love you girl, oh I love you" knocked me for six. Seriously - I knew he could sing already, but that.... totally unexpected and unlike anything I've ever heard before. Angelic vocals. And I mean every syllable of that. That was the song that demonstrated to me just how good they were. Following that, I started to see just what I'd been missing out on all these years.Then, I was hooked.

From then on, I've been completely converted. I heard all their albums and loved them all. Bookends; Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and Bridge Over Troubled Water becoming particular favourites. I've already purchased The Columbia Studio Recordings boxset which has all of their albums. I've listened to them on a daily basis since becoming a fan. The last time I was this enamoured with a band was The Clash. And we all know how much I love The Clash and Joe Strummer, right? Honestly, I don't know why I took so long to listen to Simon & Garfunkel. They are just that good. The moral of this story? Always be prepared to challenge yourself musically and try new styles and artists. I did it with Simon & Garfunkel and I've never looked back.

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