Released:

March 1968


Rating:


Genre:

folk rock


Quotable:

--


Album Tracks:

  1. Bookends Theme
  2. Save the Life of My Child
  3. America
  4. Overs
  5. Voices of Old People
  6. Old Friends
  7. Bookends Theme
  8. Fakin’ It
  9. Punky’s Dilemma
  10. Mrs. Robinson
  11. A Hazy Shade of Winter
  12. At the Zoo

Sales (in millions):

2.0
--
--
6.5


Peak:

1 7
1 7


Singles/Hit Songs:


Notes:

--


Awards:


Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel

Review:

“By 1968, it had become obvious that there was a dark flip side to the sunny ideals that characterized the first half of the decade – the boundless optimism of the Camelot era and the intoxicating freedoms ushered in by the psychedelic explosion. With riots in the streets, the mounting toll of a bloody war and a flurry of assassinations filling the headlines, it seemed as if the center wasn’t holding, as New Journalist Joan Didion famously observed. America was lost and ‘getting loster,’ and few artists captured that vibe of anxious uncertainty better than genteel crooners turned melodic folk-rockers Simon & Garfunkel.” JD

“Simon, who wrote the vast majority of material, was always capable of crafting a memorable melody…and Garfunkel’s high-tenor harmonies were never short of amazing. But the pair could also be annoyingly twee and cutesy…or unbearably smug, pretentious and self-important.” JD

“The duo recorded Bookends, their “fourth and best album,” JD “with producer Roy Halee, a trumpeter who had become a staff engineer at Columbia Records, recording ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ among other Dylan songs. ‘It was never a challenge to get that blend as long as they were singing on one microphone,’ Halee said in 1990 of working with Simon & Garfunkel two decades earlier. ‘The blend of their sound hitting that microphone was very unique; it changed it, and it sounded separated when they didn’t do it together. It was never quite the same’.” JD

“Though Bookends was, in fact, a collection blending previously released singles with new material, the album…was perceived as a concept effort – at least through the first half” JD – that “chart[s] the life cycle.” JD

The album kicks off with “the most minimal of openings.” TJ “with the quiet Bookends Theme,” JD “an acoustic guitar stating itself slowly and plaintively.” TJ The song “also closes what would have been Side 1 in the vinyl days.” JD

The opening “erupt[s] into the wash of synthesizers and dissonance that is Save the Life of My ChildTJ which is about “birth and childhood.” JD With its “odd synthesizers…[it is] one of the weirdest songs the duo ever recorded.” JD

From there, the duo travel through “the teenage years [on] ‘America’ and Overs, which finds the couple portrayed in the previous song splitting up) through old age (Old Friends).” JD

America is “one of several standout tracks.” JD It is “a folk song with a lilting soprano saxophone in the refrain and a small pipe organ painting the acoustic guitars in the more poignant verses. The song relies on pop structures to carry its message of hope and disillusionment.” TJ It “can be heard as a baby-boomer’s update of the central crusade that was the theme of many of the Beats’ best writings, starting with Jack Kerouac’s immortal On the Road.” JD

The song “quietly introduces two playful, daydreaming lovers” JD who “travel the American landscape searching for” TJ “‘the heart of America’ by hitchhiking through Michigan and taking the Greyhound bus out of Pittsburgh.” JD The “tune builds to a beautiful, tastefully orchestrated climax as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s vocals join together for the ultimate verse” JD in which “it dawns on them that everyone else on the freeway is doing the same thing:” TJ “‘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 come to look for America’.” JD

“Nothing is resolved, but the musical coda of Garfunkel’s amazingly pure and soaring vocals and Simon’s soothing guitar and organ indicate that maybe, just maybe, our heroes and their many peers will eventually find what they’re looking for.” JD

“The album’s most famous track…[is] the rhythmically galloping and wildly hummable Mrs. Robinson became a smash hit after it appeared on the soundtrack for The Graduate. But even beyond the theme of sexual tension, it is timelessly poetic in its evocation of lost innocence: ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?’ Simon sings of an icon from the previous generation. ‘A nation turns its lonely eyes to you’.” JD

“The notoriously cantankerous baseball legend was said to have been offended by the line, but Simon has disputed this, citing a meeting several years after the song's release. "I said that I didn't mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply," Simon wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. "He accepted the explanation and thanked me’.” JD

“The…undeniably great…A Hazy Shade of Winter…stands not only as an indelible East Coast answer to ‘California Dreamin’,’ but as a production tour de force, with electric rock instruments joining symphonic touches to create a psychedelic-rock classic. Psychedelic popsters the Bangles recorded a memorable cover in the ‘80s, just as progressive-rockers Yes claimed ‘America’ as their own in the '70s – two diverse testaments to the enduring strength of these tunes.” JD

“Simon’s flair for surrealist wordplay flourishes on Punky’s Dilemma (‘Wish I was a Kellogg’s cornflake/Floatin’ in my bowl, takin’ movies,’ he sings while banging on a toy piano).” JD

Voices of Old People serves as a pointless collage of sounds and conversations that Garfunkel taped on the street, and Simon’s tendency to overreach as a lyricist comes to the fore on the album-closing At the Zoo, a wannabe Orwellian allegory. (‘Zebras are reactionaries /Antelopes are missionaries /Pigeons plot in secrecy/And hamsters turn on frequently’).” JD

“‘Mrs. Robinson’…, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’, and …‘At the Zoo’ offer as tremblingly bleak a vision for the future as any thing done by the Velvet Underground, but rooted in the lives of everyday people, not in the decadent underground personages of New York’s Factory studio. But the album is also a warning that to pay attention is to take as much control of one’s fate as possible.” TJ

“After Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel began to drift apart. Halee was heartbroken when they started insisting on recording their vocals separately. Simon wanted to strike out on his own without a collaborator, and Garfunkel was branching out into acting. After one last great studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), they took a "break" that has been interrupted only occasionally for reunions…On Bookends, though, the strength of their collaboration is apparent, and neither has ever topped it.” JD


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Last updated May 5, 2011.