Half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where

OK, it’s not Everything But the Girl, it’s the original, Simon and Garfunkel. I recently acquired the Bridge Over Trouble Water CD, and listened to it about a dozen times back to back. My mom had this album when I was a kid, and I listened to it all the time back then. Released in 1970, this is one of the all-time great albums.

The title track, Bridge Over Troubled Water, was a huge hit back in 1970, and still holds up really well today. There is a bonus track on the new CD, with different lyrics and arrangement from the original release. I like the original the best.

But that’s not even the best part of the album. The other songs on here are all just as good, and very different from each other. Baby Driver is an interesting song about a person growing up with music around them, but their focus was on going fast in cars – “They called me Baby Driver, and once upon a pair of wheels I hit the road and I’m gone.” The main verses use the singer’s parents as comic foils as life progresses: the father was “the family bassman”, “a prominent Frogman” and finally, “got a big promotion”. The mother was “an engineer”, “in the Naval Reserve”, and “got a raise in pay”.

The Boxer is one of my favorites. and one I still play today. I used to play it like the record, on acoustic guitar, but recently I created a fuzzed-out high-speed rocker with shouted vocals. It works well, especially with the “Li La Li” chorus in it.

So Long Frank Lloyd Wright, El Condor Pasa, and Keep the Customer Satisfied are other great tracks.

But the crowning achievement, for me, is The Only Living Boy in New York. This song uses one of Simon & Garfunkel’s old nicknames, Tom, as the protagonist. He is to “fly down to Mexico”. The other person in the song (the singer, presumably Jerry) “gets the news he needs from the weather report”. This person is the “the only living boy in New York”. The song starts with acoustic guitar and vocal, and just builds and builds. It also has the line “half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where.” Supposedly, the song is about a drug smuggler going to Mexico to score, and his partner is waiting back in New York. It could also be about an audition for a movie part, too. It’s not completely clear, and that’s also the beauty of the song.

If you’ve never heard this record, I highly recommend it. If you have similar great memories of Simon & Garfunkel, please share them in the comments section.

Peace – Chester

UPDATE:  This album won all kinds of Grammys in 1971, including Best Engineered Album. Listen to it! It is really well recorded and engineered. Apparently Paul Simon and the other guitarist he hired do an excellent job on the guitars. Also, The Only Living Boy in New York is about Art Garfunkel going down to Mexico for a part in the movie Catch-22, and Paul stuck back in New York working on the album by himself, hence the feeling of being “the only living boy”. Still a great tune.


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