Political Beats podcast

Episode 126: Rory Cooper / Simon & Garfunkel

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Introducing the Band:
Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Rory Cooper. He’s a partner at Purple Strategies, a corporate reputation and advocacy agency in Alexandria, Va., a former George W. Bush and Eric Cantor aide, and a longtime Republican strategist. He’s on Twitter at @rorycooper.

Rory’s Music Pick: Simon & Garfunkel
If you enjoyed Political Beats’ episode on the solo career of Paul Simon with Rory Cooper from a year and half ago, then kick right back after the Labor Day weekend and start feelin’ groovy while listening the epic George Lucas/Peter Jackson prequel extravaganza that is our discussion of Simon & Garfunkel! Yes, Rory has returned to discuss a pop duo formerly known as “Tom & Jerry,” whose music dominated both American and U.K. airwaves in the late Sixties. 

With three #1 hits, nine more top 20 singles, two #1 albums, and their names attached to one of the decade’s most beloved films, we think it likely that you’re already somewhat familiar with Simon & Garfunkel. But this, like our Paul Simon episode, is the rare episode in which neither of your two esteemed hosts were actually deeply familiar with the albums (as opposed to the radio hits). How could this have happened? All is explained while we are rejoined by Rory Cooper, a guy who knows all the stories and loves Paul Simon’s music so much he named his kid after one of these songs. 

In this episode, we explore the origins of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel as schooldays choirboy friends in Queens, their brief “teen idol” phase as Tom & Jerry, and their -- rather awkward -- rebirth in the early Sixties as folkies on a Greenwich Village scene that resolutely disdained them for purported inauthenticity. Simon & Garfunkel’s 1964 debut album flopped so badly that Simon went to England and Garfunkel simply went back to school, until a Columbia producer desperate for a hit overdubbed electric backing onto a forgotten song from that debut called “The Sound of Silence.”

And the rest is history. Simon & Garfunkel’s career resumed in a haste as “Sound of Silence” hit the top of the charts in January 1966, and what followed was a series of increasingly assured acoustic folk/pop/rock hits that culminated by the late Sixties in immortal and gnomic songs like “Mrs. Robinson,” “America,” and “The Boxer.” From being a pale imitator of Bob Dylan’s “intelligent folk” music, Simon & Garfunkel had evolved into a different, singular sound, anchored around Garfunkel’s peerlessly pitch-perfect high tenor voice and Simon’s insistently rhythmic sense of guitar-work and arrangement.

Although the pairing did not -- and could not, for many reasons -- last long, it ended in a supreme achievement: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), a record whose commercial dominance and omnipresence in its day has been exceeded only by its subsequent critical reputation. And that was it; Garfunkel left for an acting career, and Simon for a solo one. (A brief reunion in the early Eighties went nowhere.) And that was for the best: They will forever be remembered for going out on the highest possible note. What happened next has already been discussed, but for now, enjoy the groovy Sixties and Paul Simon’s orthogonal, acutely self-conscious place within them as we count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, all gone to look for America. 

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