PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Simon & Garfunkel: Live 1969

Though certain themes and feelings still ring true, the poor quality of these recordings make the compilation come off as more of a patchwork affair.


Simon & Garfunkel

Live 1969

Label: Columbia Legacy
US Release Date: 2008-03-25
UK Release Date: 2008-03-25
Amazon
iTunes

Critics lauded the first four Simon & Garfunkel records as great folk rock achievements. Each album was considered a masterpiece by the duo’s fans, and each LP was considered better and more artistically advanced than its predecessor. Then several of their songs found their way on the soundtrack of the hit movie The Graduate, including one written specifically for the film, “Mrs. Robinson”. As a result, tremendous expectations and pressure were put on S&G to create another tour de force when they went in the studio to record a new disc in 1969. However, the two men had creative, political, and personal differences. Despite the tensions, they did complete the album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and went on tour before the LP’s January release. The duo split up soon afterwards, but the record went on to become S&G’s most successful.

Live 1969 features 17 tunes from S&G’s tour in October and November recorded in six separate cities (Detroit, Toledo, Carbondale, St. Louis, Long Beach, and New York City). The material comes from all five records, and the duo is joined by the session musicians who played on their studio albums. The live versions of the songs do not sound much different than they do on the studio recordings. It’s unclear why these particular tracks were chosen and why they were ordered this way on the disc. It seems unlikely that these recordings were the best from each of the shows, as the compilation comes off as more of a patchwork affair. The inclusions are not chronological in order of when the songs were first written or when these recordings were taped. The set begins with “Homeward Bound”, an odd choice to start off a live album with, and ends with a quiet rendition of an older track, “Kathy’s Song”. The “Mrs. Robinson” track is marred by a high-pitched keyboard sound that disturbingly floats in and out of range. There is not much stage patter here; a few songs are given short introductions, but that’s about it. The conversation that is included suggests a certain amount of tension between Simon and Garfunkel, as they rarely interact with each other.

There are other reasons for stress as well. This is America in 1969, the time of Woodstock, President Richard Nixon’s first year in office, the moon landing, Vietnam War protests, etc. There are no mentions of what is going on in the world, although Simon had written several political songs. In fact, segments of the 1969 tour that were broadcast on television were often unable to find commercial sponsors because of the music’s political nature. This compilation was originally scheduled for release at a time nearer to its original recording date, and it seems the producers wanted to refrain from controversy for financial reasons.

Knowing this gives the lyrics a potency they had at the time, but might not be realized by a contemporary audience. What innocent lines like “Pigeons plot in secrecy” or “Feelin’ groovy” might have meant to an audience back then could be different for current listeners. Although the central political lesson of “Mrs. Robinson”, “Laugh about it / Shout about it / When you’ve got to choose / Anyway you look at it you lose” still remains just as potent and true.

This is also true for the healing nature of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. This would have been the first time audiences heard the song, and the crowd responds enthusiastically to its offering of comfort. The words speak of when rough times, when pain is all around. There is a collective acknowledgement that they were living in hurtful times. The saccharin nature of the solace might be too much to bear for more contemporary, cynical listeners who believe this is the way life always is and has been. But for those children of the '60s who once believed in the dreams of a better tomorrow, the sounds of silence could only be redeemed by the sound of music. This new song gets the most positive group reaction. No wonder the future studio release of the album with this name became one of the best selling discs of the next decade.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.