The Bookends Poster Saga

Today would’ve been Record Store Day, but just like all other notable “holidays” that I usually celebrate around this time of year—Pi Day, April Fools’, Charlie Chaplin’s birthday—it was overshadowed by this pesky global pandemic and I very nearly forgot about it. (Technically, Record Store Day 2020 has been postponed to June 20, so hopefully we’ll get another chance to partake in crate-digging soon.)

Anyway, in celebration of what was supposed to be RSD 2020, today I donated to my favorite San Francisco record shop, spun some vinyl while reorganizing piles of paper in my work-from-home office (Paul and Linda’s Ram and the Stones’ Goats Head Soup, because I will never grow out of classic rock Saturday mornings), and then wrote a rambly homage to my favorite record album poster, this absolutely iconic image of Simon & Garfunkel from Bookends:

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…featuring a Coop butt

I still catch myself marveling at the presentation of the record album in general: the fact that every cover is a mini work of art, every vinyl disc contained in its own sleeve, and every once in a while, they’re accompanied by a full sized poster folded up neatly inside, an added bonus you didn’t even ask for. And yes, I’ve blogged about this before, but here I go again!


We bought our copy of Bookends on a brisk spring day in Lausanne, Switzerland, at a used record shop called Belair. I say “our” copy because I seem to recall upon sliding the record out of its sleeve and seeing the folds of a mint condition poster inside, Alex and I looked at each other in immediate and mutual recognition, making a silent decision that this was something we had to have. This was our first international trip together, a Genco family vacation to Venice and Tuscany with a little bit of Switzerland and France sprinkled in—and my first international trip, period—so I’m sure my memories are colored in a bit of a rosy tint. I’m not actually certain at all if that’s really what happened that day in the record store, but that’s what I remember. It was 2011.

We exited the record shop, which was located at the top of a graffitied flight of stairs. Back outside, a group of street musicians sang and played guitar in a plaza that overlooked a sea of terra cotta roofs. Kicking down the cobblestones in my coat and scarf and boots, newly acquired record tucked under my arm, I felt exactly like the type of person who would buy a Simon and Garfunkel record in Switzerland.

Back in our hotel room, we pulled out the poster and admired it in its full glory: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel floating in nothingness, their bodies becoming the 59th Street Bridge and East River at sunset (or is it sunrise?), a sprig of flowers artfully placed above Art’s shoulder. The bridge, the flowers, the turtlenecks: it perfectly embodied the aesthetic of late-1960s folky New York, a time and place I desperately wish I could’ve experienced.

When we returned from our trip to our little San Fernando Valley apartment, the carefully packed record and poster were waiting for me in my suitcase. Instead of buying a new frame, I repurposed a cheap plastic frame I was using to display another favorite poster: a black and white photo of the Beatles from the Mad Day Out session, the one of them huddled together in the London wind, their signatures scribbled below the photo in gold. The frame was very slightly too big for the S&G poster, so instead of having the cardboard backing peek out around the edges, I put the Bookends poster directly on top of the Beatles poster, which from far away made it look like it had a nice white matting. The bottom of the T in the Beatles logo peeked out from behind, along with pen strokes from Paul and Ringo’s signatures, but they were hardly noticeable.

Simon & Garfunkel, sandwiched between the Beatles and cheap plastic, have graced the walls of four apartments and one house since then. They presided over my cinderblock-and-wood bookshelf in the LA house Alex and I shared with three musicians, in a bedroom of Ikea furniture and tablas and a boxy TV with a rabbit-ear antenna. Then when Alex got a job in San Francisco and we moved into a tiny studio in Cole Valley, they were the first thing you saw after climbing up our stairwell, greeting each visitor to our cozy one-room home. They followed us to our Inner Richmond apartment, hanging prominently from a picture hook and fishing wire in our sun-filled Victorian living room. And when we moved to the top of a foggy hill in the Outer Richmond, they took up residence on a wall in our “dining room,” named that only because it’s where the dining table was, not because we ever ate there. They’ve made their way into the background of so many photos I’ve taken over the years that Google Photos includes both Simon and Garfunkel in the personalized “People & Pets” album that it created for me:

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Now, in Bernal Heights, we’ve leveled up to a two-bedroom apartment. The second bedroom was originally intended to be a recreation room/guest room but now serves as a work-from-home office. I had grand ideas for the rec room when we first moved here, which involved framing and hanging all of our Fillmore concert posters, the enormous 2001: A Space Odyssey poster Alex got from an executive at his company, and the six Star Trek posters we bought online: one for each TOS movie. I didn’t get much further than the Fillmore posters, and then the record player got finicky, so we ended up spending less time in the rec room than we originally thought we would. In an effort to fill up blank wall space and keep the room from looking too depressing, I put our trusty Bookends poster above the futon, where it’s been hanging slightly askew for the past year and a half. As a result, S&G now watch over me every day while I work, occasionally making an appearance in a Zoom meeting, always there to transport me—even if for a second—back to another time and place where my nostalgia can run free.

It’d been a long time since I’d actually listened to the Bookends album itself, but one recent night (pre-quarantine) when I was home alone and accidentally got too high, I put on Side A and let “Save the Life of My Child” rattle my eardrums as I lay on the futon in a daze, staring up at the 59th Street Bridge and the East River as “America” morphed into “Overs” morphed into “Voices of Old People,” which seemed to carry on forever until I found myself in a silent room, the record having stopped 10 minutes prior. Listening again today, the album feels like a collage: snippets of sounds cut and pasted, images of park benches and Greyhound buses and Kellogg’s cornflakes, all of it glued together with the simple and heart-wrenching “Bookends” theme. I had forgotten how lovely it is.

I’ll be forever grateful to that record shop in Lausanne for gifting us with this album and poster. It’s not a rare album by any means (although it can be tough to find with the original poster in good condition), but something about the circumstances in which I came across it makes it feel more special than most records I own. I hope Belair is doing ok these days, and that record stores everywhere are able to come out of this in tact. It’s been a quieter RSD than usual, but I’m still thankful to be able to celebrate it.

Bonus material, thanks to Google’s People & Pets album:

Favorite Things of All Things

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert (still can’t find a good way to abbreviate that) was on TV the other night, and naturally I had to re-watch/re-live it.

ESPECIALLY this:

Oh my gosh, we were all so nervous for Artie when they starting singing this song (his voice is not so magnificent these days) but he nailed it! I love this version…Paul’s verse is great, AND THEN THE HARMONIES. I can barely handle it. And then Paul being so happy for Art at the end, AWWW.

[Side note: Do you think they consulted each other about their outfits that night? Did Art Garfunkel see Paul Simon in a blazer and say, “I think I’ll go with the Hawaiian shirt, then”?]

The whole thing made me realize that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching S&G’s performance from that night. It is one of my favorite things of all things, a phrase that Lauren introduced me to on the drive down from the bay area.

It being the end of the year and all, I’ve had some time to ruminate on it lately, and wanted to share a few more of my Favorite Things of All Things. Such as…

And since it’s the end of 2013, here are some of my Favorite Things of 2013:

I’ll come back and add more if I think of them. Anyone else have any favorites (from 2013 or all time)?

We’ll marry our fortunes together

My blog has been quite lacking in the S&G department lately, which I just won’t stand for.So here, have a video of what is probably my favorite Simon & Garfunkel song ever, America:

Not sure why this is my favorite…maybe because it’s one of the few songs I can play on guitar, or maybe because certain lines remind me of drum corps tour and/or roadtripping through the mid/southwest (…and the moon rose over an open field…), or maybe because every time I hear counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike I always hear the cheers of the 500,000-person crowd at Central Park.

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Also including a 2003 version because in many ways, I think it’s better than the one above. I love when it’s just the two of them with no backing band. Plus, those harmonies just get even more beautiful with time.
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Time for folk music

Autumn is in full swing and the leaves are falling and that means it’s Simon & Garfunkel season (ok, to be honest, it’s always S&G season for me, but *especially* the fall). I could literally listen to this music every day…it just makes me feel so warm and cozy and inclined to make tea even though I don’t even like tea that much.

Some personal favorites to kick off the season:

 

I love how one of the the top ranked comments on this video is just a copy of the lyrics. Because really, do more beautiful lyrics exist?? Paul, why must you be so poetic and Art, how is your voice THAT OF AN ANGEL? Honestly.

 

The way they sing this song so effortlessly never fails to amaze me. I love the breaking of the fourth wall, and the overall vibe of this video, which is Simon & Garfunkel surrounded by very serious-looking 20 year olds during a time when there was a lot to be serious about.

Also, Bleecker Street (no live performances, sad). Sigh…I want to go back to New York.

More S&G to come, for sure. In other news, I just found out what “crinoline” was…

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when evening falls so hard

This song is prone to parody, and easy to exaggerate for sure. One time Alex and I blasted it out the car windows as we drove slowly down frat row at UCLA, just to be ironic.

But tonight I’m listening to the words. Reading them, actually, from my Paul Simon lyrics book [/nerd]. Because they really are beautiful words, and need to be recognized every once in a while.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you 
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.



Dancing to zydeco

Et toi!

In case you weren’t aware, Simon and Garfunkel are scheduled for another tour this year! And in case you weren’t aware (I certainly am), the tour dates got postponed from May to July, due to poor Garfunkel’s vocal cords. Sad day! But they still performed at the New Orleans Jazz Fest last month, which produced some great videos (Paul Simon dance party ftw!). One of my favorites is “That Was Your Mother” from Paul’s solo set:

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Man, he loves to dance. I especially love the air-accordion, haha.

cool instruments, pt. 1

So I TOTALLY did not catch this at the concert, but there is a theremin solo two minutes into “The Boxer”!! How did that get there? “Hey Artie, you know what would sound great in this instrumental break…?” Haha, I love how S&G always add subtle (and apparently not-so-subtle) changes when they play live:

The theremin is fascinating to me. We talked about it a lot in film class, because it’s always associated with the strange or mentally unstable (Spellbound, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)…even though its most famous player Clara Rockmore hated that connotation and used it solely for classical pieces. By the way, if you’ve never seen a theremin being played before, definitely watch the Clara Rockmore video, it’s insane. The player never touches the instrument, but instead moves his or her hands in relation to two antennae which generate pitch and volume. It’s wicked cool.

and it’s the same old story….

You know what I love about Simon and Garfunkel? Their songs never get old. In fact, the more I listen to any given S&G song, the more I love it. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the more obscure ones (Keep the Customer Satisfied!!) or one that everyone knows…for example, today while driving to work I had Sounds of Silence on repeat and switched off between vocal parts each time because I just couldn’t get enough of the amazing harmonies (don’t worry, on Wednesdays I don’t carpool, haha). I love that there can be just two voices and a guitar and still so much to listen to.

And now, video time! For some reason, I always assume that videos taken from the crowd are not going to be worth watching. But that’s not the case with this one, from New Zealand earlier this summer. Right at the end of the second verse, Paul Simon’s mic goes out, and the audience takes over for the chorus (love the accent from the guy holding the camera, haha :) …awesome.

I also hardly ever watch recent videos of bands I like, but I have to keep reminding myself that the Simon and Garfunkel I’m going to see aren’t 25 years old anymore, haha. However, these videos give me faith that they’ll be just as amazing – maybe even more so – than 40 years ago. AHHHH I CAN’T WAIT!!

Your weekly (daily? hmmm…) Simon and Garfunkel video

In the parts where they’re running down the street, they totally remind me of When the Blood Comes Home (a reference that maybe two people will get):

87 DAYS!!!!

Oh and when I was home on Friday night, I discovered we have all S&G albums on vinyl (except Bookends, the one everyone else seems to have) and 3 Paul Simon solo albums. It made me so very happy. I thought the liner notes for Wednesday Morning 3 AM – which were written by Art Garfunkel – were cute, so I saved part of them by taking a picture with my phone:


How great to be a college student with a hit record, haha. I love the fact that “cubbies,” finals, and scooters are just as important/relevant as record production and Kafka analogies.

AND GET THIS (totally unrelated): this is the most exciting news I’ve heard in….at least two weeks: Keith Richards to publish autobiography, due Aug. 2010!