Simon and Garfunkel: A soundtrack for old friends

“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”

I look out of the window watching the rain fall. A cup of coffee, my thoughts and Simon and Garfunkel playing through my headphones.
Like many I listen to music all the time. It’s my hobby, my pleasure, my first love.
And I have so, so much love for Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel but at the moment the love is tinged with sadness.
Whenever I listen to them I am taken back to the summer of 1976. That glorious, glorious summer when everything was changing, when everything was wonderful. Seventeen and learning to drive. Learning to drive to the soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel and Al Green. For my dad had an old 8-track cassette player and just two tapes. The greatest hits of these three magnificent men.
And to this day hearing Simon & Garfunkel or Al Green – but especially S & G – takes me back to those country roads around Crank and Rainford and the roundabouts of Skelmersdale! Singing along to some of the most beautiful music ever created.
Nowadays it is MP3s rather than 8-track tapes and I pretty much have the whole of the Simon and Garfunkel catalogue; not just the greatest hits and it really is quite remarkable.
It is of course nostalgic – it was nostalgic when they or more specifically Simon wrote it – but it is also tinged with sadness, regret and pathos. They are also beautiful storytellers. This is America. An America that we all secretly love. It is all there. The beauty, despair, hope, love, hate and tenderness. All wrapped up in the most marvellous musicianship, harmonies and Garfunkel’s beautiful voice. Songs like The Boxer, Mrs Robinson, The Only Living Boy in New York and scores of other classics sit atop the pinnacle of musical genius.
And while the songs may be about America they are also relevant to all and for me they will always be about 1976. Punk may have been kicking off in the Kings Road, London that summer but it would be another six months before King Street, Wigan would reverberate to the sounds of that punky reggae party. Then it was learning to drive. Swimming in Orrell reservoirs, getting brown, mucking about with your mates and getting to know and love the girls.
Now I listen to Simon and Garfunkel. I don’t really sing along to them/with them any more. Now I listen to the words. Listen to the harmonies. Listen to the genius and of course think about back then. This last week I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘back then’.
Last week I heard the saddest, saddest news and it’s knocked me back somewhat. As I think back to ‘back then’. Those glorious days ‘back then’ when we had such a marvellous, innocent time. And of course since then much (troubled) water has flowed under that bridge and at our age we get so much more reflective but they really were wonderful times…
However we move on. We must, we have to and we still listen to music. We still discuss it as we always did. Still love it but when you’re on your own and your listening, listening intently you can allow yourself to look back to those wonderful days. While – when I listen to Simon and Garfunkel – I’ll still think about that summer and going up and over Billinge Hill, ‘putting my foot down on the two-mile stretch’, fooling about with my mates I’ll also think about how life has changed and how some of those mates I fooled about with are no longer with us. For me, Simon and Garfunkel is the soundtrack to all that. They may have soundtracked the America of the late sixties and seventies but for me Simon and Garfunkel are my soundtrack to Orrell in 1976. A time that I’ll always look back on with great fondness. However after last week’s news that fondness is now tinged with gut-wrenching sadness…

“Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

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