Simon & Garfunkel
Live From NYC - 1967
1. He Was My Brother
2. Leaves That Are Green
4. Homeward Bound
5. You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies
6. A Most Peculiar Man
7. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
8. The Dangling Conversation
9. Richard Cory
10. A Hazy Shade Of Winter
13. A Poem On The Underground Wall
15. I Am A Rock
16. The Sound Of Silence
17. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
18. A Church Is Burning
19. Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
All songs written by Paul Simon except “Benedictus,” Traditional, Arranged by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and “Anji,” Written by D. Graham
All Songs Recorded at Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City on January 22, 1967
Original Recordings Produced by Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Roy Halee
Produced for Compact Disc by Bob Irwin
Mastered by Vic Anesini at Sony Music Studios, New York
Legacy A&R: Steve Berkowitz
Project Director: Lisa Buckler
A&R Coordination: Patti Matheny, Darren Salmieri and Kyle Wofford
Art Direction: Howard Fritzson
Design: Skouras Design
Photography: Don Hunstein/Sony Music Archives
Packaging Manager: Abe Velez
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Not only the room, but the stage itself was packed when Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performed at Philharmonic Hall on January 22, 1967. Seats were set up behind the duo for this sold-out hometown performance, and that element of intimacy, at once relaxed and intense, pervades each moment of Live From New York City, 1967. Everything about this show and its time feels delicate in retrospect, a transition masking itself as permanence. This is a performance that epitomizes an era that, for a variety of reason, was about to disappear.
By this time Simon and Garfunkel had released three albums, and while they were stars, certainly, they were not yet superstars. (That word, in fact, had not even come to be used about musicians.) Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme, the album that would prepare the two men for that rise, had come out just three months earlier, and had not achieved its full impact. At this point, Simon and Garfunkel, from the great borough of Queens, still belongs in some essential way to New York City.
In early 1967, before the civil rights movement would splinter in violence and factionalism, songs of social protest like “He Was My Brother” and “A Church Is Burning” could still evoke the righteous passion of unified ideals – and provoke a clueless Wall Street Journal reviewer to complain, “When is the whining and whimpering going to stop?” Bob Dylan had retreated to Woodstock, shrouded in the mystery of his motorcycle accident and having left behind Blonde On Blonde, which was released in May of 1966, as his swirling, enigmatic departing note. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band would appear four months after this concert. One month after that, Simon and Garfunkel would perform at the Monterey Pop Festival, and the Summer of Love would be in full swing.
But this show took place just before that overwhelming cultural flood, at a time when innocence, conviction and a wide-eyed, literary wistfulness could bind an audience of believers together, and bind two performers to each other. We hear this album now when so many live performances are about lighting cues and spectacle. This concert, however, rests on a profoundly Romantic sentiment: the notion that an artist can speak directly and honestly to people without the mediation of stylized theatrical effects. It is an approach that breaks down the boundaries between performers and audience, that assumes a fundamental connection among all human beings. There is plenty of wit in the songs and the stage patter, but little irony and no detachment. As much as Simon and Garfunkel’s early work – most famously, “The Sound Of Silence,” “The Dangling Conversation” and “I Am A Rock” – is about alienation, the two men created a deeply bound community in concert. In representing that problem so compellingly, they defeated it.
If you had to characterize the sound of the audience on this night at Philharmonic Hall – the ready laughter, the quiet as Simon and Garfunkel are playing, the rush of energetic applause – you might convincingly say that it is the sound of people feeling that they are not alone. Far more than in most concert recordings, the audience is part of this performance, and not because its members are doing anything in particular to call attention to themselves. Quite the opposite: they are making themselves receptive, opening themselves to the songs being presented to them. Indeed , they seem to be participating most fully in the concert when their attentive silence fills in the spaces of the songs. That is the sound of silence not as the paralyzing distance between people, but as the expression of an intent, gripping focus, a desire to experience and comprehend something significant. These days, when even great popular music is marketed as if it is disposable, to feel the sense of importance these listeners have brought to this event.
And Simon and Garfunkel return that generosity of emotion. On the one hand, their performances on this night could not be sparer – just two voices and Simon’s acoustic guitar. But the nuances and textures within that simplicity – in the depths of Simon’s lyrics, in the sheer aural beauty of Garfunkel’s singing, in the richness of the vocal harmonies – eventually make the songs as large as life itself. For all the loveliness in the ways their voices blend, Simon and Garfunkel’s singing communicates with the grace and ease of a late-night conversation between friends. And the portraits here of the suicide in “A Most Peculiar Man,” the desperate thief in “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” and the lonely vandal in “A Poem On The Underground Wall” testify to a stirring empathy, so characteristic of that period, with people who live along life’s margins, and suffer as a consequence.
Finally, there is Simon’s eloquent guitar playing. Most obviously, of course, you hear the bluesy lyricism of his reading of Davy Graham’s instrumental “Anji,” as articulate a statement as any of the songs on this disc. But the playing he does accompanying himself and Garfunkel summons worlds of sound within his single instrument, and lifts their singing to vivid heights. At the same time it suggests the musical ambition and reach that would characterize his work in the future – just as Garfunkel’s bravura turn on “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” looks ahead to his magnificent rendering of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
The fold revival of the early Sixties that initially brought Simon and Garfunkel to national attention was about to fade. Simon would begin to explore other styles of writing and composing – you can hear that already here on “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” – and he and Garfunkel would soon become icons of the era, as they still are. Then the partnership between them would dissolve. Like so many relationships of that time, their friendship and collaboration would revive on occasion, the pleasures and sorrows of it would be recapitulated, and those fitful beginnings would once again come to an end.
Live In New York City, however, finds these two men and their audience in perfect union, linked soul to soul. To this day, when people think about Simon and Garfunkel they are thinking about nights like this – nights that brimmed with the promise that so much was possible, that seemed as if they could last forever, and that survive in this music and all it continues to mean.
– Anthony DeCurtis
Anthony DeCurtis is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and author of Rocking My Life Away: Writing About Music and Other Matters. His liner notes for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads won a Grammy award in 1989.