Simon & Garfunkel 50th Anniversary Of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ Recording
Today their acclaim is universal but in 1964 Simon & Garfunkel’s debut LP Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. … only sold about 2,000 copies. A mix of Paul Simon originals, folk covers and traditional tunes, its highlight was a Simon composition recorded on March 10, 1964, “The Sounds of Silence.”
…Simon and tenor Art Garfunkel honed the song in Greenwich Village coffeehouses before they recorded “The Sounds of Silence” with producer Tom Wilson. Backed by just two acoustic guitars and an upright bass, ‘The Sounds of Silence’ was drowned out by the wave of Beatlemania that swept America in 1964. Discouraged, the long-time friends split up. Simon moved to England and Garfunkel returned to college in New York.
In an interview with NPR, Simon explained the appeal of the song, retitled “The Sound of Silence” on later compilations. “The key to ‘The Sound Of Silence’ is the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation. It’s a young lyric, but not bad for a 21-year-old. It’s not a sophisticated thought, but a thought that I gathered from some college reading material or something. …It was a post-adolescent angst, but it had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people. Largely because it had a simple and singable melody.”
“Ahhh, what a tune!” Garfunkel told MusicRadar in 2012. “‘Sound Of Silence’ has more melodic, genius, simple power than I ever realized. As the years go by, there’s something extraordinarily hooky about that simple melody – I didn’t know that. I knew it was a good-sounding record when it emerged…It was the sixth song Paul ever wrote.”
…By June 1965, folk-rock had its first number one hit with the Byrds’ amped-up version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” That month Tom Wilson produced “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan’s landmark electric rocker. When Wilson learned that the “The Sounds of Silence” had gotten some East Coast airplay, he had an idea. Without the knowledge of Simon or Garfunkel, Wilson hired session players – bassist Joe Mack, drummer Buddy Salzman and guitarists Vinnie Bell and Al Gorgoni – to overdub an electric backing track onto “The Sounds of Silence.”
Released in November 1965, the single raced up the charts and within months reached No. 1. …In recognition of its importance in music history, the Library of Congress in 2013 chose ‘The Sound of Silence’ for long-term preservation in its archives.