When Simon & Garfunkel released "The Sounds of Silence" in 1965, I hadn't even been on a date yet. Not because I was awkward with girls, which I was, but because I wasn't quite 12 years old. A few years later when I was learning to play "The Sounds of Silence" on my guitar, I was "going steady" with Phyllis, my first girlfriend, and for $2.50 a bunch of us were able to fill the gas tank of Bob Brown's flower-bedecked VW Beetle and drive to the Home of Champions on Route 17 in Paramus, N.J., to bowl a few games. So, it was with some nostalgia and considerable astonishment that I recently found myself listening to Simon & Garfunkel at the FleetCenter with my wife of 14 years in a pair of seats that cost $250. The times they are a-changin', that's for sure.
There was something enormously reassuring about seeing Simon & Garfunkel together on stage. They've had their ups and downs since they met in the sixth grade (who hasn't?), but they have endured, both professionally and musically. Tunes like "The Boxer," "Mrs. Robinson," and "America" stitch together the fabric of time for those of us now receiving our AARP cards. It was David Crosby who once said, "Anyone who claims to remember the '60s wasn't there." But we do remember, and it's the music that helps us remember. Together with a few well-chosen video clips from "The Graduate" and of civil-rights marches and antiwar protests shown on a big screen, we remembered a more tumultuous, but more idealistic time.
No song in Simon & Garfunkel's repertoire seems as relevant today as it did when it was written in 1973 than Simon's "American Tune": Still, when I think of the
Road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong
Down in Crawford, Texas, perhaps not much seems wrong, but from where many of us sit the Statue of Liberty is indeed sailing out to sea. I turned 50 this year and celebrated with a case of thyroid cancer, so just seeing Art Garfunkel in that familiar pose -- shirt tails out, hands thrust into the front pockets of his jeans, head tilted back to hit the high notes -- was a balm. Like a bridge over troubled water Simon & Garfunkel did ease my mind, and from the response of the 20,000 enraptured souls at the FleetCenter, they eased a few other minds, too.
Sharing the music you grew up with with your spouse, or an old friend, or a new friend of your own generation, is a bittersweet experience because it reminds you of how, as Joni Mitchell once sang, "We are captive on the carousel of time."
From a distance, which is to say Loge 3, they looked almost the same, but when you watched Simon & Garfunkel on the big screen suspended above the stage, you could see the time that had passed on their faces.
It's eerie how such famous faces can seem so familiar and yet so different. It's like going to your 30th high school reunion. There is no more accomplished songwriter in America than Paul Simon. Think of all the musicians whose careers began 30 years ago, and who, now in their 60s, can still fill a hall or whose music remains popular -- and I'm not just talking about performers who pack the house with dewy-eyed PBS donors: the Stones, the Boss, the Temptations, Bob Dylan, James Taylor (OK, maybe Sweet Baby James brings tears to their eyes on Channel 2). About the only discordant note of the evening was during the final ovation when instead of candles or lighters a few miscreants held up the illuminated LED faces of their cell phones in tribute. What kind of a long strange trip have they been on?
-By Peter Zheutlin