Monday, November 25, 2013

Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits

Some albums you just don't need to own, because...well, everyone out there seems to own it, and you can just listen to their copy. At least, that was how the logic went circa 1990, when CDs and tapes were all the rage. In this case, my sister, who left a fair bit of her music collection behind when she went to college, was my unknowing benefactor whenever I snuck to her room and borrowed her copy of Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.

My music collection back in 1990 left a fair bit of testosterone to be desired, and this album certainly didn't contribute to the cause. What it did do, though, was to allow me to work on my voice on some of the most poignant and beautiful songs from the 1960s. Anoretic ol' me couldn't rumble down low quite yet, and for some reason, I idealized a high tenor, so I did what I could to nurture said tenor. (It certainly came in handy a year later when I began my choral career.) And I tried to ape Simon and Garfunkel's straight, unobtrusive, simply declarative singing. Any high notes sounded effortless, and that was my goal...regardless of how much my neck muscles and jugular veins would pop out, I would make those high Fs perfect, and not in falsetto, either!

I still point to Art Garfunkel's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" as a crystalline example of how tender and touching singing can be. (I don't care that Paul Simon wrote the song...Art owns that damned thing.) The imagery is beautiful, and virtually every phrase is an impressionistic reverie ("I heard cathedral bells/Tripping down the alleyways"; "What a dream I had, dressed in organdy, clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy"; "We walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight"). Say what you will about Simon's precious poesy, he gets it perfect. The delicate and pointillistic accompaniment is gorgeous and perfectly suits the mood.

I also jibed with "I Am A Rock," Simon's declaration of emotional independence from all around him. Friends and lovers be damned, he was going it alone...and as an alienated teenager who found little of emotional sustenance to be had around me, so would I. Again, his fascination with poetry came to the forefront, where he intentionally contradicted John Donne's famous poem "No Man Is An Island."

Such was my resonance with this album and its melancholy that by mid-high school, I could sing anything on it, with memorized lyrics and the correct key, at a moment's notice. But as I grew older, so did this album, and we began to part ways during the latter years of high school. By mid-college, I had little use of it. The only reason I returned to it now was based on the 50th anniversary of JFK's death. I had mistakenly thought that "Mrs. Robinson" was the #1 song at the time of his death (actually, it was some song about a flying nun or something), when actually it was around RFK's death. Either way, I had remembered reading about how the lyrics seemed to echo America's sentiment at the time. ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.") So I decided to revisit the album...and on the recommendation of many others, ended up getting its more expansive and sonically-updated relative, The Best of Simon and Garfunkel. It's nice to have more songs here, particularly from Bookends, an album I never had. But much like people sometimes complained about the sterility of CD sound vs. the warmth of vinyl, I feel like something has been lost in the upgrade somehow, and I miss the familiarity of the original audio. Oh well. It still is good to have these guys back again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"What's that I smell?" "Burning nun, darling. Cheers."

Random comments about last night:

  • When a new gayby (young, either newly-out or new to the scene gay man) says he has not seen The Sound of Music after 21 years on this plane, what do you do? Of course. You devirginize him. With said movie. And lots of friends. And lots of drinks and nibbly things.
  • Don't be too bummed if he decides he really won't go out of his way to see the movie again, despite allowing as how he liked it.
  • The St. Germain gin and tonic is utterly delightful. I wish I had begun drinking it about six months ago. It makes the perfect summer drink. (Don't belabor it. One gin and tonic, a half shot of St. Germain.)
  • Forgive me, for I have sinned. Of all the gawdawful, socially, politically, environmentally, and hygienically repugnant things I could have done last night, this takes the cake: ordering Papa John's.
  • Superman: Man of Steel - (Spoilers, natch.) Not a bad movie. I appreciated the story behind why General Zod was so hell-bent on taking over Earth. Not that it particularly made me like him, but it certainly made me understand his impulses better; I could almost sympathize with him. (Compare it with Superman II, where Zod just plain wanted to rule the planet and subject its peons to cruel dictatorship because...well, you know...just because.) But many buildings did those two lovers need to throw each other into? And in the end, all it took was a good old-fashioned neck-wrench to send Zod hurtling into the void? What a disappointment.
  • Combine the gin and tonics, the pizza, and the hyperkinesis of MOS, and you have yourself one soon-to-be-sick puppy on your hands. Cold sweat, that sudden sense of impending doom if you don't do something know the feeling. And so:
  • Enter my favorite herb of all time: gentian. Insanely bitter - and insanely awesome. I keep a tincture of it on hand at all times. It has often made the difference between puking my guts out and feeling miserable for hours afterward and feeling clean, cool, and calm. Three squirts of this in a cup of water, sipped over a few minutes, and here was the progression. Five minutes after starting: something is happening. Ten minutes after that: I'm definitely on the mend. Not sweating, stomach is moving, and this noxious brick in my stomach feels like it's dissolving. Within a half hour: completely out of the woods. Not just that, but I feel like I could SOAR, I'm feeling so great. I normally don't have quite that dramatic a response to gentian, but I was in a world of hurt last night.
  • Want an aural approximation of this progression? Listen. Start at about 7:30 (just before feeling sick), and go until the vocals kick in at about 13:40. Thank God for prime Floyd.