#229: Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel (Or: I'm Habitually Feelin' Kinda Blue.)


Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel (1968)

Favorite Track(s): "Bookends Theme" and "America" and "Overs" and "Old Friends" and "Bookends" and "Fakin' It" and "Mrs. Robinson" and "A Hazy Shade of Winter"

Thoughts: Ahhhhhh.  Let's all breathe a sigh of relief.  Simon and Garfunkel are here.  And everything that hurts will GO ON HURTING because it's effing Simon and Garfunkel!  I have a friend who refuses to listen to them, due to how depressed their music makes him.

I had a really awful night last night (self-loathing coupled with the desire to never leave my house again) and I actually comforted myself with the knowledge that I could listen to Bookends the next day, and that would help.  And it does.  Except writing about it has proved more difficult than expected.  (Blah, blah, blah I'm such a drama queen.  SELF-LOATHING!)

"Bookends" ended up on most mixes I made in late 2009/early 2010.  I'd say it was a perfect song...if "America" didn't exist.  They're my favorite songs off the album, hands down.  I usually listen to albums on this list with youtube because I like to see people's comments and the view counts, etc.  This is one of the first that I've listened to on my own iPod, because I need to just replay "Bookends" and "America" over and over until I have something worth saying about them.

Posting the lyrics might help. "America":

"Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together"
"I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America
Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bow tie is really a camera"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

This song hits so many levels: it makes me proud and mystified to be an American (I remember David Bowie singing it as the opening song of The Concert for New York City after 9/11).  It's romantic in the most hopeless way.  It's full of little details about suit fabrics and snack foods and then hits you with a massive image like "the moon rose over an open field" (and the way they sing that line feels like it's really ascending), much like one of the great American pastimes: the road-trip.  Lots of little details (what songs you listen to, your feet on the dashboard) coupled with HUGE images (rolling landscapes, canyons, a giant horizon).

It's easy to have an instant connection with anyone who loves this song.

And then there's "Bookends":

time it was and what a time it was
it was a time of innocence
a time of confidences
long ago it must be 
I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they're all that's left you

It's SO sad.  It's so, so, so sad.  So sad.  It starts with these piercing strings, that fade away to simple acoustic guitar.  And then when they sing it's so soft and quiet and nostalgic.  The lyrics are open-ended enough that you could apply them to almost any loss or grief.  Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.  UGH.  OOF.  *SOB*

If those two songs weren't enough, we have the rest of the album!  The bastards!  "Overs"--an incredible break-up song ("there's no laughs left, 'cause we laughed them all"), which was one of the tracks that was rejected for the soundtrack of The Graduate.  The effing string arrangements in "Old Friends" that lead into "Bookends."

Side two!  Even listening to it on Mp3 you can hear how brilliant the opening of "Fakin' It" is (or would be) on vinyl.  BOOM: you're in 1968.  "Mrs. Robinson."  If you meet someone who doesn't know the lyrics to that song, they might be an alien (or just not fluent in 1960s American Popular Music).  It's a wonderful sing-along song.  You could even sing it at Christian camp!

"Hazy Shade of Winter" was another Graduate reject, which is shocking because it's fantastic.  The horns!  THE LYRICS.

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say, 

but if your hope should pass away
It's simply pretend
That you can build them again

AHHHH! I can't begin to even.... (I also enjoy the Bangles' cover.)  Finally, the adorable, sweet "At the Zoo."

This album...timeless, gorgeous, iconic, accessible, varied, poetic.

Is This Better Than The River?:  Yes.

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