Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence and Mrs Robinson

Writing yesterday about the wonderful song I Only Have Eyes For You, got me thinking about Art Garfunkel who also had a big hit with that song in the 1970s. His most successful period however was the 1960s, when he and high school friend Paul Simon formed a duo. They first started recording music as teenagers but got back together in their early twenties to record their first album which featured a simple, pared-down, folk version of The Sound of Silence. Sadly the album was not a great success and the pair went their separate ways. Fortunately for us however, the song’s producer revisited it in the wake of increased airplay, remixed it and transformed it into the kind of folk rock record that was being produced by the Byrds and Bob Dylan at the time. By 1966 The Sound of Silence had become an international hit and needless to say Art Garfunkel headed back from college, and Paul Simon from working in England, in order to capitalise on the renewed interest in their music.

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel:

I don’t think I really would have remembered them from that era as I was too young but in 1967 the film The Graduate was released and rather than use a specially written soundtrack, the director chose to use Simon & Garfunkel songs such as “The Sound of Silence”,” Mrs Robinson” and “Scarborough Fair”. The film was a massive success and unlike other film songs I have written about, these are carefully woven into the storyline to great effect, adding another dimension to an already compelling screenplay. Benjamin Braddock has returned home to Pasadena, California after graduating from college. Unsure what he wants to do with his life, he spends his days lounging in the swimming pool of his parents’ very luxurious home. Enter Mrs Robinson, the wife of one of his father’s colleagues who is similarly bored and and disillusioned with life. Of course the inevitable happens and the affair she draws the inexperienced and clumsy Benjamin into, leads to moments of great two-handed dialogue.

Benjamin: For god’s sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You… put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won’t be home for hours.
Mrs. Robinson: So?
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.
Mrs. Robinson: [laughs] Huh?
Benjamin: Aren’t you?

The-Graduate-5111_9.jpg

I really only appreciated the music of Simon & Garfunkel properly after watching the film in the ’70s when it first appeared on television. (Was I too young for it I now wonder? – Doubt it as adult themes but never anything too blatent or disturbing.) I don’t think there was another film which made such good use of the soundtrack until Saturday Night Fever came along in 1978 featuring the music of The Bee Gees.

art 2

Yet again I am writing about music from film or television. The soundtrack to my life has most definitely been heavily influenced by what I used to watch on screen. As a teenager I had a Saturday job in our village newsagents. In my lunch hour I used to go to our local electrical retailer (otherwise known as The TV Shop) which had a small rack of vinyl albums up near the back. Nothing there had ever been near a chart but lots of Greatest Hits (Simon & Garfunkel), Easy Listening (Burt Bacharach) and Film Soundtracks (The Graduate, West Side Story etc). All my welfare needs were already catered for by my parents so the Saturday job wages were used to buy vinyl from this shop. Walking back to the newsagents one Saturday for the afternoon shift with a carrier bag obviously containing an album (they were a very distinctive shape), I bumped into a friend. She immediately asked what I had just bought – “G-Gary Glitter” I quickly replied, embarrassed to admit it was actually a Glenn Miller album as I’d fallen in love with his music watching The Glenn Miller Story with my dad the previous Sunday. Funny how the passage of time has rendered that answer wrong on so many levels – I am proud however to say that I was never, ever again embarrassed to admit that I loved Mr Miller and his unique “sound”!

The Sound of Silence Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon)

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know.
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.”

graduate13.jpg

Postscript:

I feel I can’t finish today’s blog without mentioning the sad passing of Sir Terry Wogan – I can’t remember a time when he hasn’t been around on television and radio bringing joy to so many people. It is akin to losing a favourite uncle (or great-uncle depending on your age). It is appropriate to note on this day therefore, that the guest who caused him most difficulty, during his long run of early evening chat shows was indeed “Mrs Robinson” herself, Anne Bancroft – She apparently sat in a catatonic trance and refused to answer his questions.

RIP Sir Terry.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

6 thoughts on “Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence and Mrs Robinson”

  1. Reblogged this on What's It All About, Alfie? and commented:

    There have been a few hiatuses in my little corner of the blogosphere recently – CC had his holiday hiatus and Jez is having a thread hiatus. My hiatus is more to do with catching up with all those things I have let slide this year whilst spending (far too much) time blogging.

    Today it’s the big garden tidy up and a lovely day here in the North of Scotland so enjoying being in the great outdoors. During my break I am going to reblog some of my early posts which at the time got no views as I had no followers yet – Here is one that featured a song from one of my favourite films, The Graduate.

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    1. I left a comment on the original post just now, I don’t know if that means it will still show up as a comment on this one, so just to let you know!

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  2. I love your memories here. Yes, the electrical shops which had a box of records at the back somewhere, often the ones round my way seemed to stock a very random selection and I’ve no idea how they got to have what they had, sometimes finding quite obscure and unlikely treasures tucked away in them. Loved your “G… Gary Glitter” moment, oh how times change! And the film is of course a classic. I also remember that Terry Wogan interview with Anne Bancroft, where she actually seemed to be extremely nervous and tongue-tied. I suppose being an actor doesn’t automatically mean you’re comfortable in an interview situation; I wonder if she’d just have been more comfortable with a script?!

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    1. Thanks for the comment – Yes if we are around the same age these memories will be oh so familiar! I think the village TV shop is long gone now but happy days of lunchtime browsing there. I also remember that interview with Anne Bancroft but how strange she was so nervous – As you say with a script she would have been fine. I always feel sorry for comedy actors who are then expected to be just as funny in real life. Everyone expected Cary Grant to be suave and amusing but he was apparently very dull in real life!

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Marie – As for the writing, I wasn’t that great at the start of January so am going back and editing some of my older posts to bring them up to scratch! I can see that I’ve improved over the months so really glad as that was one of the main reasons for doing this. Reblogging is cheating a bit but I felt it was a shame that some of the early posts had never been viewed!

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