We have the chance for you to win a copy of this mighty fine reissue of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. For your chance to grab the set, send Michael Parr an email with “John Parr” in the subject line and ask him why he’s scared to interview the ’80s pop icon who happens to be a distant blood relative? Feel free to be creative with your emails – we’ll pick a winner on Friday!
You know, we dissect a lot of new releases and reissues from classic artists around these parts including more recently, Live at Shea Stadium by Billy Joel. While there is often quite a bit of debate about these releases, I don’t think you’ll find much argument regarding the recently released 40th anniversary edition of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel – it’s awesome.
At first look, one wonders where the bonus tracks from the previous reissue went, but then if your eyes wander towards the contents of the second disc, chances are good that you’ll be drawn in by the DVD containing 132 minutes of bonus content, including the 1969 Songs of America television special and the brand new 2010 documentary The Harmony Game.
This, my friends, is the reason you should be picking up the new reissue of Bridge. Both Songs of America and The Harmony Game are equally compelling for different reasons. Songs of America originally aired on CBS in 1969 and hasn’t been seen (officially) since then. On paper, it’s described as “footage of the 1969 tour, intimate backstage conversation, historic news footage and more.” While it certainly is all of those things, Songs of America is not only a document of where Simon & Garfunkel were at musically at that point, it also encapsulates the issues and concerns relating to both politics and society that were troubling an entire nation.
The film features imagery of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, all three assassinated in recent years (plus additional footage covering subjects like the Vietnam War and the Poor People’s March on Washington). It was a state of the union address as seen through the eyes of Simon & Garfunkel, brought to television with the help of Charles Grodin, who was the co-director for the project and also the person who conducted the interviews seen within the film. And it was all too much for Bell Atlantic (a division of AT&T) who insisted that there needed to be extensive edits made to the film before it would be shown on television. The pair refused, found a new sponsor and Songs of America aired on CBS as it had been intended with no edits.
The Harmony Game is the other piece of the DVD, a new documentary featuring 2010 interviews with both Simon and Garfunkel and album producer Roy Halee. Incorporating archival footage from Songs of America and other sources, The Harmony Game paints an expanded picture of the creative process that led up to the birth of Bridge. Between the two films, it’s interesting to note the level of tension that was visible during the time Songs of America was filmed and that same tension was still very present 40 years later during separate (key word: separate) interviews with the pair for The Harmony Game. Sure, they candy coat it and speak with affection of each other during the interviews, but the underlying current and occasional things that are said by each suggest otherwise.
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While Garfunkel gives credit to Simon for “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the song, he notes that he was the one that actually delivered the game winning performance in a fashion that’s meant to sound humble but comes off like a reminder to Simon – as if he’d ever be able to forget. There are moments like this that are sprinkled through the documentary that make you wish they would have been able to sit together with Roy Halee as a trio to discuss the record – and not knowing the behind the scenes stuff, perhaps there were things logistically that prevented that from happening.
I enjoyed both films immensely though – they paint combined pictures of Simon & Garfunkel as artists and the inner workings of the creation of Bridge Over Troubled Water that are thought provoking and enlightening. I won’t spoil those for you except to say that it was really fascinating hearing them explain how they captured the sounds for songs like “Cecelia” and “”The Only Living Boy In New York.”
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I bought Bridge Over Troubled Water for a dollar on vinyl a few years ago and it took me back to the first time that I heard the album. My dad shared his vinyl copy with me when I was a kid and at the time, it was all I could do to wrap my head around and comprehend what I was hearing. All of these years later, Songs of America and The Harmony Game filled in the rest of the story – and it’s a good one that you won’t want to miss.