RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: November 2016

“Looking For The Right One.”

I told you Art For Art’s Sake would come back. We’re working our way through Art Garfunkel’s Seventies output, one song at a time.

9,637 days, including this one, have passed since my 17th birthday.

Some rough back-of-the-envelope math (after all, how precise can we get in matters of theimg_2617little heart?) suggests I have spent 9,064 of those days — or 94 percent — as part of a long-term romantic relationship.

And in those remaining days when I wasn’t tied down, I was generally content to be young, footloose, and free to spend all my money on records and beer without reproach.

In short, I do not have a hell of a lot of experience being truly lonely.

That might explain why Stephen Bishop’s “Looking For The Right One,” which sits smack in the middle of Side Two of Breakaway, leaves me cold. Could be I lack the life experience to connect with it.

Or, maybe it’s just another of those soggy self-pitying vulnerable soft-rock ballads whose heart-wounded narrators come out with lines like, “Somewhere in this lonesome city is the woman for me.”

Of course it’s melodically pretty and well-constructed; the bridge is concise and particularly effective (“yes, I really know”); and when Art takes the melody higher in the last chorus, things take off a little bit.

I still can’t help but think that, in the singer-songwriterly Seventies, you would get handed a song of equivalent quality when you opened a bank account or bought a Happy Meal in L.A.

I just don’t get the spark in this one — I don’t see what sets it apart from the world’s glut of romantic-troubador material. And as much fun as it is to listen to Art Garfunkel’s voice, it helps when he’s got material that’s more interesting or distinctive than this.

(The song did get placed as the B-side to Art’s hit version of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which makes for a mildly funny ocular contrast if nothing else.)

whizzzzupthehill

Art Garfunkel will be back at some point.

I’m still lumbering out for a run every other night. And when I’m done, I still use MapMyRun.com to track how far I’ve gone, as I have done for at least five years now.

Each time I map and save a new running route, the site prompts me to give that route a name.

And each time, I cough something out of my subconscious, usually one word and all lowercase. Sometimes it’s a bit of lyric, sometimes it’s my mood at the time, sometimes it’s a phrase I’ve encountered in my reading, and sometimes it’s complete gibberish at random.

These names do nothing to help me identify which run covers what streets, or at what length. If I were intelligent I would figure out some way to make them do that.

Instead they just sort of hover in time … disembodied blurts from a tired mind, signifying nothing.

Here, then, after a leisurely review, are the best names I have given my saved running courses on MapMyRun. No prizes for guessing which were the good nights, and which were not:

ifailed
funkygibbon
boyitseemedlikealotlonger
whizzzzupthehill
illrunlongerwhenimoffcall
isleepwithmisterwilliams
unfaithfulservant
notreallywhereiran
viciouslyfuckingdepressed
boatsinthesky
prettygoodrunthis
mygodiranthehill
fucksgivenzero
afiendishlyconstructedoutandback
falseturnsallovertheplace
hangingwithbiancajaggeratstudio54
filetofist
iatetoofuckingmuchrice
truetotheirlimitations
themonstersaredue
owmyleftcalf
bloodcomingoutofmywhatever
eatinglikeafatpeeeeglately
dude
notverynice
foolifyouthinkitslonger
yourflowsoundsused
thatsonofabitchvanowen
poordears
everyrunidoisthreepointsixone
thiswasshortandthenmytoestartedhurting
aliveandwellandjoggingin
timelovesagyro
takepainsbeperfectadieu

“I Only Have Eyes For You.”

1975 was a long year but I’m getting through it as fast as I can. Continuing the Art for Art’s Sake series; still on Breakaway …

In which Art balances the disaffectedness of “My Little Town” with a Fifties-style slow dance that says:

Don’t take that Simon fella too seriously. The family could be a drag but growing up suited me img_2617littlejust fine. Here’s one we used to dance to. Seemed like we could stay under its spell for hours.

Of course, “I Only Have Eyes For You” isn’t just a Fifties song; it’s a standard going back to the Thirties, and perhaps by performing it, Art is staking a further claim to his spot in the Great Hall of American Croonerhood.

Whatever his reason for performing the song, it works well enough.

Rather than strip it down, Art opts for a Seventies take on the Flamingos’ shimmering ambience, with heavily reverberant Fender Rhodes, a carefully deployed string section and some phased guitar. And of course, Art delivers it with charm and grace, ’cause that’s what he does.

If you happened to be 14 years old and on a high-school dance floor in 1975, you could probably get lost in it OK.

It’s possible the song made more negative impressions in other settings.

The record hit Number One in the U.K. in October 1975, as the punk movement was beginning to percolate. Nostalgic and well-groomed, this is precisely the kind of record, or one of the kinds of records, the punks would have loathed. The Sex Pistols played their first gig the week this song fell from Number One, and it’s easy to imagine them sitting together in some filthy London squat, spitting insults at the radio while the record played.

(American buyers were better-behaved, sending “I Only Have Eyes For You” to Number One adult contemporary and No. 18 pop.)

Anyway: You know the song; you know how it goes; you might even remember this version; it does what it sets out to do.

“My Little Town.”

We’re starting to drag here; I gotta keep pushing onward. The song-by-song revisit of Art Garfunkel’s Seventies recordings continues with another of the ones you’ve probably heard.

Two songs after Art breathed life into Bruce Johnston’s idyllic reminiscences, here we img_2617littlehave Art and an old classmate singing a considerably darker song about memories.

By Art’s telling, “My Little Town,” while a Paul Simon composition, is based on his own childhood as a budding singer and artist being pushed by his family to take up a more stable career.

It can be read as a sequel to some of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sixties songs, too, with a hint of curdled petulance around the edges.

The narrator of “My Little Town” could be the same character who sang “I Am A Rock,” more or less ten years on, explaining that, yeah, his parents really didn’t understand him and his youth really was crappy and he really did have to get out and get his degree and move across the country, and it’s not his fault he doesn’t feel particularly nostalgic.

Simon provides enough light touches to keep “My Little Town” from descending into self-pity, though. Like the line about pledging allegiance to the wall, or the line about “flying my bike past the gates of the factories” — both great images, and the latter, at least, suggesting that childhood wasn’t all torture.

Garfunkel, reputedly the more arranging-minded of the duo, might have contributed some of the song’s equally charming musical details. Such as:

-The way their voices split softly and somberly on the line “God keeps his eyyyyyye on us allll”
– T
he way the instrumental backing slips its bonds and goes into three-quarters time on the word “imagination,” only to force itself back into boring old four-four as Simon sings, “Everything’s the same back / in my little town.”
The ominous pocket of wordless backing vocals that overhangs the transition into the last verse (the haunted “ahhhhh” heard at about 2:15 of the video below.)

These touches and the pure beauty of the voices are enough to rescue the narrator from sanctimony, and convince those on his side of the generation gap that maybe he really was entitled to his angst.

S&G cemented this impression in October 1975 by performing the brand-spanking-new “My Little Town” on Saturday Night Live, perhaps the definitive TV show for those on their side of the generation gap.

By the start of November, the single was hitbound on stations across the country, headed for a peak of No. 9 on the pop chart and Number One on the adult contemporary chart. For most intents and purposes, it was S&G’s last commercial and artistic hurrah — their eighth and final Top Ten hit, and their last original Top 40 hit (followed only by a live cover of “Wake Up Little Susie” in 1982).

The invaluable ARSA database of local radio airplay charts tracks the song’s path to the Top 10 in such diverse local markets as Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Show Low, Arizona.

Conveniently, “My Little Town” broke big just in time for Thanksgiving, the holiday when people all over America go back to their little towns. There are probably a bunch of Americans of a certain age who think of uncomfortable reunions with their now-deceased parents when they hear this song .. people who didn’t know at the time what “nothin’ but the dead and dyin’” really meant.

Having missed the generational conflicts of the Sixties and Seventies, my own perception couldn’t be more different.

My dad used to play this song a lot when I was a kid (off Simon’s Still Crazy, not Garfunkel’s Breakaway), and I’ve always liked it a lot. Quite possibly my favorite S&G song, even. I bear none of the narrator’s ill will toward my own past, but the song speaks to me anyway.

(Now, when I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all. But that’s another story.)