Coming down from Bob Dylan’s performance at the Vector Arena on Saturday night, it seemed only right to spend Sunday morning with the 40th Anniversary Edition of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water (the album was released in early 1970, but who’s counting).
So, while there was no wallowing in nostalgia at Dylan’s concert, there’s plenty of opportunity here. (I’m not opposed to a bit of sentimentality every now and then, after all, I travelled to London to see my favourite band, Mott The Hoople reunite and play five shows).
Most everyone reading this will be familiar with just about every song on this album. In addition to the title track, there’s El Condor Pasa, Cecilia, The Boxer, Baby Driver and Keep The Customer Satisfied. The album marked the highpoint and the end of Simon & Garfunkel’s creative career together.
So, along with the music, what makes this package special is the accompanying DVD. It features two programmes. The first, Songs For America, was initially broadcast on American television in 1969 and never been seen again, until now. Directed by Charles Grodin, it begins with iconic and sentimental footage from 1950’s American culture and eventually shifts to scenes of JFK, RFK and MLK and their funeral trains, all with Simon & Garfunkel’s America playing along with it. For someone like me, an American raised in the late 50s and 60s, it was very moving, even (or especially) 40 years later. The programme also features each of the performers ruminating on the Vietnam War, poverty and civil rights, all political flashpoints at the time (actually not much has changed). There is also footage of the duo recording in the studio and performing live. As a documentary, it’s a bit unfocussed, but as a cultural artefact, well worth watching.
Also included is a newly-produced documentary called The Harmony Game, a “making of Bridge Over Troubled Water” film featuring new interviews with Simon and Garfunkel along with engineer and co-producer Roy Halee, drummer Hal Blaine, bass player Joe Osborne and others who were instrumental in putting the album together. Garfunkel’s quotes are the most revealing…he seems intent on making sure we know that he had a hand in the musical creation of many of the tracks and this aspect of his personality must have rubbed Simon (who has his own ego) the wrong way back in the day. It’s subtle, but you can tell why they stopped working together.
The two-disc package also comes with plenty of informative liner notes and photos and, of course, there’s the music, which is timeless.
Listening to this album reminded me of one of the most amazing live concert moments I have ever witnessed. Simon & Garfunkel performed at Auckland’s Vector Arena on June 13, 2009. In the middle of Bridge Over Troubled Water, just after Simon sang the line, “when darkness comes”, the power went off on stage and the sound and lights went dead, leaving the duo stranded, mid-song. Within seconds, the audience picked up the song and sang it for them until the power returned a minute later for the “sail on silver” line. It was, in a word, magical.
The 13th Floor has a recording of that moment, so check it out here. The power goes off about 2 minutes into the song.