My Little Town by Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia, 1975)

When the decade of the 70s dawned, many popular groups from the Supremes to the Beatles, changed leaders or completely split. Simon & Garfunkel decided to the same, but at least they went out on a high point. Their LP, Bridge Over Troubled Water, hit #1 as well as title track, which spent 6 weeks at the top and became a worldwide success. But as much as we knew they hated each other, we knew they couldn’t stay apart.

S&G would get back together many times, but in the early 70s, no one knew when and if they would perform together at all. Then, the first reunion happened merely by accident. Paul was visiting Art in the studio while he was recording his 2nd album, Breakaway. Rhymin Simon broke out his guitar and played Art a tune that he wrote specifically for him. It told the story of a young kid growing up in the middle of Nowheresville, with nothing to do but ride your bike past the factories which belched filth into a sky filled with monochromatic rainbows. The boy tells this story as ‘twitches like a finger on a trigger of a gun’, ready to leave his boring town for a better life. The chorus would reveal, ‘nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town‘. Art’s sweet tenor would be juxtaposed against a boy’s boring, mindless, ignorant life he yearned to flee.

But I guess those two started singing together and thought, ‘Let’s do this one together, like the old days.’ They released it as a new Simon & Garfunkel, but released in their respective solo albums as it hit #9 in late 1975. It would be their final Top 10 hit and a weird one to go out on. Musically though it was top-notch. The choral refrain may have been one of the most depressing ones to hit the Top 10, but the music gave you no hint to that. Starting off with a low piano lick, S&G softly take us through their ‘little town’ building their climactic muscle with the Mussel Shoal Horns, until their screaming about the dead & dying with an insistent downbeat snare hit.

Light years from the Sounds of Silence and a nice coda to their career…

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon (Columbia, 1976)

Diddly-bum. Dit. Dit-dit-bum. Diddly-diddly-bum. Dit. Dit-dit-bum. Bom. That sweet opening drum roll that could only be played by Steve Gadd. Crisp, to the point, just enough funk to make Garfunkel’s fro frizz but not curl. It’s those kinds of details that separate Paul Simon from being just a mere singer-songwriter to being a pop music craftsmen. But then again maybe Paul & Steve were passing a J around and Paul said,” Man I start off all my songs the same way with guitar. I need to do something different on this one. Maybe something groovy, for the kids.” And Steve blows out the smoke and says, “How bout this?” and plays the infamous riff. 11 hours later, after they have both passed out and woken back up, Paul says “Cool, let’s lay it down.”

The lyrics are Paul at his most Woody Allen. In fact it’s like listening to an outtake from Annie Hall before it was even filmed. What sounds like the girlfriend/lover talking to Paul about what’s inside his head could easily be his own shrink calming down a neurotic patient. She rambles on & on to Paul who seems to be used this yakking and has grown numb to it. Until she talks about the 50 ways to leave your lover. Hey, you mean there’s a way out? Now I’m listening. He even interrupts her consolations and has her repeat the 50 ways.

Ah but that all went over my head as a kid. When I heard that drum lick on the radio, I settled in and got ready for the fun part: the Rhymin’ Simon game. I know you know what I’m talking about. My wife is the same age, grew on the other side of the country and did the same thing. When The chorus comes and he talks about slipping out the back, Jack & to make a new plan, Stan, your job was to think of other things he could do and rhyme it with a someone’s name. Such as, buy a new hat, Pat, ride your bike, Mike, pretend that your dead, Fred, etc. This would thrill me to end as I’m sure it did you. Funny thing was I read recently that Paul came up with the chorus while playing and singing with his 3-year old son, Harper. I was 5. What was your excuse?

This ended up being the biggest hit of his solo career and only #1 without Garfunkel. Many thought that Paul hit his peak with this song and the LP, Still Crazy After All This Years. Who knew that his peak wouldn’t be for another 10 years?

Now watch the Muppets tear it up! Animal has some trouble with the drum lick, but then so would Keith Moon.