29
Sep 06

SIMON AND GARFUNKEL – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

FT + Popular100 comments • 11,165 views

#283, 28th March 1970

Eurosleeve shows S&G as cop show rejectsThe most celebrated track on the biggest-selling album of the 1970s in Britain, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has become a marbled standard and it’s hard to step back from that and listen to the thing. Maybe it’s useful to leave it in its immediate context and compare it to “Wan’drin Star”, especially as I’m about to give it the same mark.

Both are carefully arranged showcases for their singer. Both are slow, thoughtful records that work to capture a particular emotional frame of mind. Both dramatise that frame of mind using their arrangement: in “Star”, Lee Marvin sounds uncomfortable and impatient, keen to saddle up and be off down the trail again. In “Bridge”, the structure and arrangement hark back to earlier and ancient ways of religious comfort-giving, lending the recording the feel of a secular hymn. Oh, and both records botch it towards the end – Lee’s vocal goes completely off-track, and Simon and Garfunkel bring in the drums and love poetry, threatening to turn their austere statement of devotion into a particularly high-handed, passive-aggressive come-on.

There’s no question that “Bridge”, like “Sugar, Sugar”, is a supremely well-crafted record. The Archies track hides its craft, though, using it for the – perhaps sinister – purposes of getting you hooked on a dumb pop choon. “Bridge”‘s craft is obvious in every bar. The gradual introduction, interplay and build of piano, voice bass and drum is beat-perfect, with even Garfunkel’s (yes, very beautiful) voice ultimately another component to be precisely tweezerdropped into place. If I find this delicacy wearying, or oppressive, or even cold, that’s a reflection of the gap between what the record asks of its listener – concentration and solemnity – and what I’m prepared to give it. I never liked real hymns much, either.

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  1. 51
    Chris Brown on 30 Sep 2006 #

    I bought the album a couple of days ago (told you Popular was taking over my life) and I was thinking that relative to how successful the song was at the time you (or at least I) don’t seem to hear it on the radio much. Perhaps the increased volume at the end messes up their limiters or something. There’s also a demo version with a slightly different third verse, though the “silver girl” is still there.
    Thanks to my higher tolerance for actual hymns, I’d rise to at least a 6 – but then I’m sorely tempted to deduct a mark for Paul Simon’s moustache on that cover image. Sorry Art.

  2. 52
    blount on 30 Sep 2006 #

    that moustache > this song! i think the only moment in almost famous i halfway liked was when the mom won’t allow her son to bring a simon & garfunkel record into the house – MOM OTM!!!

  3. 53
    GeorgeB on 30 Sep 2006 #

    Love this overblown monstrosity and will admit to getting a crumb of comfort from it in some shitty times – so there! I always felt people took against Paul Simon because he’s not a pop/rock product, so much as one of those guys who would have been writing songs in Tin Pan Alley, the Brill building or somewhere whatever the circumstances. Sure, people think he’s too clever and earnest for his own good, but this is great and he wrote American Tune for chrissakes.

  4. 54
    koganbot on 1 Oct 2006 #

    Would like to report that cool kids were sneering at Simon & Garfunkel back in 1968, when I was in junior high school (were probably sneering at ’em back in ’66, but I didn’t know of S&G’s work then so would not have brought them into sneering range). Paul Simon is clearly a teacher’s pet, made skin of both hoods and freaks crawl. He also got utterly mawled, stomped on, eviscerated by Xgau in 1967, the same year that Paul Nelson panned Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme in the pages of Sing Out! (though I only saw those several years later).

    And at age 14 I absolutely loved Simon & Garfunkel. I thought “Sounds of Silence” was the greatest song ever written (well, it was either that or “Spring Hill Mine Disaster” or “A Day in the Life”). I probably would have placed “The Dangling Conversation” and “I Am a Rock” in my top twenty. I thought those songs were beautiful and thought those songs were profound. I copied out the lyrics to “I Am a Rock” and gave them to one of my teachers. I probably lied to myself and believed that I believed that “The Dangling Conversation” was better than “I Am a Rock,” but actually “Rock” rocks harder, and in my viscera I preferred it. Also, I got what Paul Simon was saying, so – contra Xgau – I know damn well that Paul wasn’t saying nothing. He was layering gobs of pseudoideas and pseudopoetry atop everything, but he had messages that were coming through loud and clear: To be smart and sensitive is to be desperately lonely; that not only is suicide an option, a way of choosing one’s fate, it’s a form of social commentary and social protest; that whether anyone understands or is understood by anyone else is something of a crap shoot; that the words and social rituals that mainstream culture bequeaths us are contaminated and dysfunctional, that something needs to break through from somewhere else (words of prophets on subway walls and all that). And of course in retrospect I don’t see Simon’s themes as being much different from those of certified cool cats like Dylan and the Velvets and the Stooges: “Heroin” is “I Am a Rock,” “Sister Ray” is “The Dangling Conversation,” albeit in less kitschy, bullshitty form.)

    I was disappointed by Bookends because it seemed so emotionally toned down. Of course later I was to realize that this was Simon’s actually becoming competent and no longer ridiculous or full of shit as a lyricist. But, for what it’s worth, I’ll stand by my original aesthetic judgment: for all the posturing and psuedointellectualism of “I Am a Rock” and “Sounds of Silence,” those are the two best things those guys ever recorded, separately or together; and this is because they’re the most deliriously emotional, the most beautiful, the ones that rock (“Sounds of Silence” being best in the hit version where Columbia simply pasted drums and guitar onto the original S&G vocal tracks. The Bloomfield-imitation guitar was by Fred Carter, Deana’s dad). I think that “Mother and Child Reunion” and “The Boxer” are great songs, but they don’t carry anything like the electric thrill of those two early S&G hits.

    OK, so, the song in question, when I heard it previewed in some Simon & Garfunkel documentary, I think in 1969. I hated it. Thought it was sentimental shit, vast empty goo goo. Couldn’t stand the melody, which reminded me of these long slow love ballads that “legitimate” singers would foist on the world. The central metaphor was dumbfounding. “Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down.” What? Into the raging river? That’s sure comforting. What the fuck is he talking about? (I still can’t make heads or tails of it.) I doubt that I even noticed “Sail on silver girl” until today. It’s not so bad. It’s – I don’t know – pretty. It may not be saying much, but at least it’s not saying something stupid.

    As for what I think of the song now? Don’t really know. Still boring after all these years, maybe. Or maybe I can appreciate the beauty of the godawful ballad. I’m trying to come to terms with ballads, since Kelly and Ashlee sing ’em, occasionally. Compared to all the indie glug I’m listening to for Paper Thin Walls, I might appreciate “Bridge”‘s sonic professionalism. Or might not.

  5. 55
    koganbot on 1 Oct 2006 #

    Oh, that version I linked of the Xgau article is not the full thing, and it suffers ’cause of its cuts. The Dylan section is way way better in the version that I’ve got in Jonathon Eisen’s Age of Rock anthology. And the S&G section is expanded there to take in later and less ridiculous songs like “Fakin’ It.”

  6. 56
    Tom on 1 Oct 2006 #

    I have just listened to Graceland for the first time since 1986. I realised three things:

    1. I know every note of the first side thanks to it always being played at school.

    2. The boys who played it didn’t play the second side so much, and even when they did they always skipped “Homeless”.

    3. The song I was most looking forward to hearing again turns out to be “Graceland” by Boo Hewerdine and The Bible. :(

  7. 57
    Chris Brown on 1 Oct 2006 #

    Maybe part of the problem is that he doesn’t seem as uncomfortable with pop stardom as is normally assumed of a singer/songwriter type? I don’t necessarily think of him as a very likeable person, but then that’s no more the case for him than for many or even most rock stars.
    It does also have to be said that he’s not the most consistent of writers, which is thrown into sharper relief by the fact that he’s hardly prolific. But this always seemed more of a personal thing.

    Oh, and a resurrection update: I’m sure I remember Phil Cool releasing a version of this – I don’t particularly recall seeing a 45 of it, but I do remember a video where he did his famous Rolf impression.

  8. 58
    koganbot on 1 Oct 2006 #

    I read it on the Interweb so it must be true:

    The line “Sail on, silver girl” is often reputed to refer to a needle (meaning the song is about heroin) but it actually refers to Simon’s girlfriend and later wife who found a few gray hairs and was upset. The lyric was meant as a joke. (thanks, Helen – York, England)

  9. 59
    Mark M on 2 Oct 2006 #

    I know it’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and not Graceland we’re discussing, but following Mark G and Mark S’s comments above, and considering that some of the readers have been brought up in a world where Nelson Mandela is a kindly old duffer and not a revolutionary/terrorist leader, maybe it’s worth trying to explain why some folks were so angry with Paul Simon. The core ANC plan, supported by the anti-apartheid movement, was to isolate South Africa. The idea was not to make the existing South African government treat the majority population better – it was to bring down the whole system. If a company like Ford argued that they were employing black managers in the RSA, the protesters’ response was that was irrelevant: they had to pull out of South Africa all together. It was Reagan-Thatcher who argued that only by keeping the lines of communication open could change come about – “constructive engagement is Ronald Reagan’s plan” explains Joey Ramone on Sun City. In that context, whether Simon was aiding or exploiting the musicians he used on the record was entirely besides the point: by recording in South Africa he was breaking the boycott, and by doing so – if you took the argument to its extreme, which I probably did at the time – he was suggesting that he knew better that the African National Congress what the interests of the South African people were.

  10. 60

    mark m is largely korrekt

    however the line simon’s attackers (those who were not ANC) SHOULD have taken is
    i. OK this LP is possibly GREAT and
    ii. yes he has helped these particular musicians
    — NEVERTHELESS THE CULTURAL BOYCOTT MUST BE UPHELD, even for such ostensibly good purposes

    however mostly they took the opposite line on i. AND ii., which totally muddied the position. Tactically they shd have conceded all points not relevant to the position being taken: not to do so appeared to be allowing a future get-out clause for a Great LP which Helped Black Musicians (even if Graceland wasn’t yet it to these quasi-punkers)

    (nor was ANC position as clearcut as it should have been — difft officials in fact took different positions in difft interviews) (not hugely difft but enough, again, to switch the debate from one of tactical urgency to a vague bigger question of the politics of culture — viz when does commodity art stop being “just” commodity art usw — which they were ill-equipped to prevail within, and which, frankly, they should not have ended up in)

    (a key side issue was this: should non-combatant supporters of the ANC cede all judgement on all issues to the ANC?)

  11. 61

    one of the matters difft anc spokespeople were disagreeing about was “HAD SIMON IN FACT TECHNICALLY BROKEN THE BOYCOTT?”: difft officials in difft territories interpreted the rules differently — there was a “spirit vs letter” debate on top of this, which inflected differently depending on variant attitudes towards pop and cultural imperialism

  12. 62
    Mark M on 2 Oct 2006 #

    (a key side issue was this: should non-combatant supporters of the ANC cede all judgement on all issues to the ANC?)

    Well, indeed: it’s always a big punt: not all self-appointed national liberation movements (Indian National Congress v Iraqi National Congress) turn out to be the real deal.

  13. 63
    Lena on 2 Oct 2006 #

    I was too young to know about S&G’s albums (I grew up hearing them on KRLA, so I just heard the singles). In a very simple way, this is the answer, I think, to “Sounds of Silence” in many ways. Instead of the alienated ‘lonely crowd’ masses in the night, we have one person showing care and concern for another, empathy even. “I’ll take your part.” Like “Sounds” it is a nocturnal song, but now there is another to sing to, and not just darkness itself; if it a hymn, it is a hymn to this one person, and not one of praise only but of promise. I hate to bring “Reach Out I’ll Be There” back in but in many ways, it shares the same urgency and sentiments, though it is slower, and more solitary.

    “Sail on silver girl” – I always took it as a moon metaphor, the moon shining in the sky (what song is that which has the lyric about looking at the moon and seeing you?) in the singer’s darkness, full and glowing.

    I don’t think this is hysterical as much as passionate, chivalric even. (“I will lay me down” not being a literal statement, but more like throwing down one’s life for another’s – sacrificing – in order to show how serious the singer is about what he feels. It’s a lot more than putting a cape on a puddle.) The ending is the weakest part of the song, I agree, and yes, it’s brilliant technically – building and building as the singer lets more and more emotion show. It builds up to the pitch of “Soul and Inspiration” and is as bold and unironic as that song.

  14. 64
    Doctor Mod on 2 Oct 2006 #

    KRLA? KRLA! My fave radio station during the British Invasion years!!

  15. 65
    wwolfe on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Lena, I think that’s “I’ll Be Seeing You”: “I’ll be looking at the moon/But I’ll be seeing you.” One of Johnny Carson’s two favorite songs, by the way (the other being “Here’s That Rainy Day”). And your take on “Bridge” is as good a defense as the record could get, I suspect.

    Appropos not much, except the passing reference above, I’ve always wanted to hear the Troggs do “Dangling Conversation.” Musically, it’s surprisingly like their type of three-chord wonder, and perhaps only Reg Presley’s voice could do justice to the couplets about Dickinson and Frost. Reg, in my version, would add “And the silence in the stairwell/And the shadows on the wall/And the morning sun is shining/Like a red rubber ball,” followed by a general musical freak-out to end things.

  16. 66
    Lena on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Thanks, wwolfe!

    Doctor Mod, When I lived in Los Angeles I listened to KRLA a lot, KFI too. I must have listened to some fm station, but I can’t remember which…probably the one that had Dr. Demento on Sunday nights (and for all I know, still does).

  17. 67
    Doctor Casino on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Bravo to Lean for encapsulating what I was trying to get at praising this song. S&G’s body of work as a whole is decidedly geared towards existential-crisis-suffering, alienated collegiate bohemians in their late teens or early twenties, in the winter. Music that speaks to their anxieties can be painfully specific and smarmy (again, our favorite whipping boy “The Dangling Conversation”) and certainly will never be the bottom-line of hip. But when Simon makes things just a little bit vaguer he can capture a larger “mood of a generation” (as on, say, “Still Crazy After All These Years”) or just simple, clear moments of emotional crisis point. The supportive, interrupted-suicide-in-December vibe of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a logical approach to this. I think Simon nails the same idea much better on the same album with “The Only Living Boy In New York,” which is more approachable, more human-scale, more vulnerable in its blend of cavernous loneliness and unbreakable friendship.

    Or something like that, anyway.

    (And thanks to all who’ve discussed the Graceland/boycott issue, which I now understand WAY, way better than ever before.)

  18. 68
    Doctor Mod on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Lena,

    KFWB was the big LA rock station in the early 60s, but it turned to an all-news format by the end of the decade after being outdone first by KRLA and then KHJ. In the early 70s, I listened to KNAC (a small progressive station out of Long Beach), KRTH, KLOS, and KROQ. I’ve been on the East Coast for the past six years, so I don’t know what the stations are like today. KRTH became an oldies station–a latter day simulacrum of KHJ in the 60s and 70s (the more things change the more they stay the same). KROQ became one of the top alternative pop/rock stations of the 80s and 90s.

  19. 69
    Lena on 4 Oct 2006 #

    Thanks Doctors Casino and Mod!

    I vaguely remember KLOS and KROQ, and I think Dr Demento was on one of them, can’t remember which one though.

  20. 70
    intothefireuk on 4 Oct 2006 #

    Jeez that was a painfully long read (the whole thread). Sticking to just this song I agree it’s difficult to analyse such an over familiar song. In its original context (ie. 1970 on the radio) it didn’t move me and sounded too staid, unexciting and indeed hymal for me. However in the intervening years I have gradually warmed to it’s charms and I can appreciate the sentiment and style a little better. Whether this is due to my search for deeper meaning in my advancing years or due to its better standing against the increasingly banal content of the singles chart is debatable though. The production is excellent and Art’s vocal is exceptional & beautifully delivered. If I listen to it now it’s usually as the last track on an S&G compilation where it seems to fit perfectly.

    To the earlier comment about hysterical men – surely we are all entitled to the whole range of human emotions.

    As regards Graceland – I can’t stand it. It’s smarminess knows no bounds. I find Simon’s use of ‘world music’ to enhance his own far less appealing than say Peter Gabriel. I don’t believe the success of the album ultimately helped African music in general (although a couple of artists did benefit).

  21. 71
    Doctor Mod on 12 Oct 2006 #

    surely we are all entitled to the whole range of human emotions

    Perhaps. But the people who must bear witness to unseemly emotionality are entitled to finding it unbearable.

  22. 72
    James Parke on 1 Feb 2007 #

    There is live video footage of them recording it together. You guys are just plain fucking stupid.

  23. 73
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Feb 2007 #

    Tom, can you ban the troll please?

  24. 74
    Tom on 1 Feb 2007 #

    Random sweary googlers aren’t trolls! I’ll ban abusive types who stick around (or politely direct them to the Pink Floyd album covers thread).

  25. 75
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Feb 2007 #

    The Floyd comments boxes have their own peculiar yet entrancing magic, it has to be said.

  26. 76
    Al Ewing on 1 Feb 2007 #

    Frankly, it’s time for an article saying that Pink Floyd were Emo.

  27. 77
    enitharmon on 22 Aug 2009 #

    Why is this one dated 1983 instead of 1970?

  28. 78
    admin on 22 Aug 2009 #

    Fixed. Thanks!

  29. 79
    Waldo on 4 Sep 2009 #

    “Bridge” is a pop/rock masterpiece from an album which is a pop/rock masterpiece also. The ambivalence shown here by some for this extraordinary record genuinely staggers me. I would not, however, suggest that “you guys are just plain fucking stupid” for sponsoring such a view. One reason for this is that I am tolerant and urbane. The other reason is that I have taken my medication today.

  30. 80
    grimley on 28 Sep 2009 #

    My biggest memory of this is Flick Colby dancing to it on TOTP. I’m not sure if was the de facto head of Pans People or the choreographer by this time but it has certainly stuck in the memory. I love the song but The Boxer was always my stand out track on the album

  31. 81
    punctum on 23 Feb 2010 #

    For those interested, my extended thoughts on the album.

  32. 82
    Sam on 14 Sep 2010 #

    See, this is why I couldn’t do this exercise. I could not bring any semblance of fairness or objectivity to this one.

    Some commenters have touched on Simon being ‘odious’ or ‘creepy’. That would be a very mild way of describing the aversion I have always felt to anything bearing his imprint. Hatefully smug, cloying, self-satisfied – if I heard this record at an emotionally vulnerable time I would probably start smashing things. It physically distresses me (though not as much as Mrs Robinson).

    And I know it ain’t the Art, because I own and enjoy ‘Bright Eyes’.

    Tom is to be highly commended for giving every entry a fair shake, even if he ends up handing out a 1. I’m reading from the beginning, and I’m yet to find one where I feel he has prejudged it.

    And Let It Be was at number 2?! Glory was it in those times not yet to be alive…

    To those who like this, I apologise if my comments seem excessive. I’d be interested to know if others have songs, singers or sounds that actually distress them to the extent that they feel acute psychic or physical pain. I can think of at least one other number one I find even more hideous than this, too.

  33. 83
    Snif on 14 Sep 2010 #

    “…if others have songs, singers or sounds that actually distress them to the extent that they feel acute psychic or physical pain.”

    I find the “off” switch to be a painless remedy.

  34. 84
    Conrad on 9 Nov 2011 #

    on last night’s documentary about the making of BOTW, Paul Simon said he’d originally envisaged the title track as a more low key 2 verse only, and was persuaded by Artie (who saw the first two verses as merely the runway), that the song needed to take-off. And take off it did with the monstrously overblown third verse and symphonic denouement.

    What a shame. I’ve realised that my own selection of S&G tracks totally eliminates the ones where they go heavy on the drums and drama. I hate that drum sound on The Boxer!

    S&G work much better for me in an intimate, acoustic setting, with subtle embellishments – give me America or April Come She Will any day over Bridge….

    But 2 verses voice/piano only – that would have been lovely.

  35. 85
    wichita lineman on 10 Nov 2011 #

    “A little hymn” was how Paul Simon described it, which is at the root of why I find it a hard song to love. I really like the “sail on silver girl” transition myself; the third verse sounds more human-sized than the purple-robed verses (conversely, I might like it a lot more if it had a Jewish influence). BOTW is just too aware of its own greatness, something Simon said several times in the doc.

    The doc* didn’t mention the story about Paul McCartney hearing the song, rushing home, and dashing out Let It Be in ten minutes; Paul and Artie were thus convinced BOTW would get stuck at no.2 behind a guaranteed Beatles no.1 and, worse, people would think Macca had the “little hymn” idea first. I read this in David Browne’s Fire And Rain**, his take on 1970 as a hinge year, which has a bunch of great anecdotes whatever you make of his analysis.

    America is pre-tty epic, Conrad, but agreed it’s a subject matter that warrants the Spectorian scale.

    * the tagged-on ‘Imagine’ intro included the Yentob line, apparently filmed in his car on the way to work, “and the rest, as they say, is history”… TRY HARDER for our license fee, Botney!

    **The New York Times’ sniffy review of the book (and Browne is one of its own writers) is more cliched and dim than even Yentob’s pat words:

    “While Mr. Taylor, Mr. Simon and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have returned to fashion, we shouldn’t forget that their music made punk necessary. Could the story of the transition from the ’60s to the ’70s be better told with Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, David Bowie or Gram Parsons as its protagonists?”

    Nick Drake as a protagonist. Yup, that would’ve made for a lengthy and intriguing read.

  36. 86
    swanstep on 10 Nov 2011 #

    Mad, possibly downright evil Canadian/American right-winger Mark Steyn had a good piece on BOTW about a month ago here. May contain right-wing cooties.

  37. 87
    Ed on 10 Nov 2011 #

    @86 That’s a great piece. Steyn started his career as a music / theatre / film critic, and was a pretty good one all round, I seem to remember. When he cropped up ranting about politics, I took a long time to realise it was the same guy. I wonder what combination of psychological and financial incentives pushed him in that direction. Do you think we could have a whip-round to get him writing about music again?

  38. 88
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2011 #

    So he’s like a Leftpondian Garry Bushell then?

  39. 89
    Ed on 10 Nov 2011 #

    Ha! A pretty good analogy, although I don’t remember Bushell being that great a music writer, either. Wasn’t he a big cheerleader for meat’n’potatoes “real punk”, and Oi?

    Browsing around Steyn’s site, there is quite a bit of music writing there, most of it very good. Even his take on Neil Young’s ‘Let’s Roll’, from an explicitly neo-con viewpoint, hits the mark quite a few times. Sadly, there seems to be more of a market for the sort of stuff that he is better-known for these days.

  40. 90
    thefatgit on 10 Nov 2011 #

    Yes, unfortunately there’s a lot of money to be made, banging the gong for the Tea Party over there.

  41. 91
    punctum on 11 Nov 2011 #

    His politics don’t bother me when he can write a piece as good as that.

  42. 92
    Mark G on 11 Nov 2011 #

    Yeah, I’ll second that.

  43. 93
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Nov 2011 #

    A very enjoyable doc. Personally, I think the third verse of “Bridge..” was pivotal in making it the masterpiece it is. Indeed the whole album is sublime. I must admit, though, this is the first time I realized that Artie was the Tom in “The Only Living Boy In NY”, although it seems so obvious now. Loved the “So long already, Artie!” plea from the control box at the end of “…Frank Lloyd Wright” too. This was also news to me. It was just a pity they never got around to discussing “Keep the Customer Satisfied”, “Baby Driver” and “Why Don’t You Write Me?”. They touched on everything else, I think.

  44. 95
    Lena on 12 Apr 2012 #

    Strange feelings: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/who-is-who-mary-hopkin-knock-knock-whos.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  45. 96
    swanstep on 14 Oct 2012 #

    In case anyone (like me) hasn’t seen it, Howard Goodall’s 2004 series How Music Works is up on youtube in its entirety starting here with melody. That first episode closes with BOTW. For me at least, it was a bit of a revelation: being primed over the course of the preceding 45m 30s with all sorts of earlier melodic developments allowed me to hear the different parts of BOTW afresh. Recommended.

  46. 97
    mapman132 on 22 Feb 2014 #

    Love this record: 9/10 from me. In fact I’m a minor S&G fan: their Greatest Hits album is one of only two CD’s I own that consists entirely of music recorded before I was born (Beatles “1” is the other). S&G had two #1’s in the US prior to this: “Sounds of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson”. BOTW was #1 for six weeks and Billboard’s biggest hit of 1970.

    The last stat leads into another interesting personal phenomenon that I’ll attempt to articulate here. Of Billboard’s five year-end number ones of 1970-1974, four of them used to sound to my ears less like actual pop hits and more like standards that had “always been there”. In other words when I was first getting into music charts in high school (1988-1991) and started looking into the old list of number ones, it was surprising to me to see these old-sounding songs as big hits on the same chart that I listening to on American Top 40 every week. The records in question: BOTW, “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, and “The Way We Were”. Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World” was the exception for some reason. I wonder if was because they were softer A/C-type songs or more likely because I associated them with what my decidedly non-rock parents listened to in my very early childhood. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (obviously I gave BOTW a 9/10) but it is an interesting phenomenon. To clarify further, it’s worth noting the major hits of the 60’s (Beatles, Stones, etc) did NOT feel like this to me.

    One final note to bring in a non-musical hobby of mine: in my experience, BOTW has by far inspired the largest number of geocache names of any major pop hit.

  47. 98
    hectorthebat on 8 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 6
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 71
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 47
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 48
    The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 30
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 28
    BBC Radio2 (UK) – Sold on Song, a Celebration of Great Songs and Songwriting
    HarperCollins GEM (UK) – Single of the Year 1949-99 (1999)
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 74
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time (2000) 65
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 661
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 13
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 3
    Zounds (Germany) – The Top 30 Songs of All Time + Top 10 by Decade (1992) 26
    STM Entertainment (Australia) – The 50 Best Songs Ever (2007) 4
    Toby Creswell (Australia) – 1001 Songs (2005)
    Mauro Ronconi (Italy) – The Best Song from the 200 Best Albums (1998)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Grammy Awards (USA) – Record of the Year Winner

  48. 99
    Larry on 27 Oct 2014 #

    Then (1970)- hated it, too un-rockist for the 12 year old me.
    Now – Garfunkel’s voice, and all the musicians, are truly wonderful. But would I listen to this song again? No.

  49. 100
    phil6875 on 12 Apr 2015 #

    Simon & Garfunkel are one of only six artists to have simultaneously held the top spot in the U.S. and U.K. singles and albums charts and this is the single they did it with.

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