Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting There: America

Simon & Garfunkel: America (live bootleg, 1968)

[purchase studio version]

One of my big dreams is to one way travel coast-to-coast through the US, maybe in a camper van. At least in part, the seeds for that dream were planted many years ago by the Simon & Garfunkel’s “America”. Of course, the subjects of the song — Cathy and the singer — did not travel in a motor home, but by Greyhound bus (boarding in Pittsburgh, among the passengers is a “spy” in a gabardine suit whose bowtie is really a camera) and by thump, hitch-hiking from Saginaw. But by the time he starts counting cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, all the travelling seems to have become a bore. Which should put me in two minds about ideas of an itinerant journey across the USA.

This recording comes from the excellent Live At The Hollywood Bowl bootleg from 1968 (also known as Voices of Intelligent Dissent Bootleg, based on something Paul Simon says in response to an audience interjection after “Feelin’ Groovy”), which was engineered by Al Kooper. It seems likely that the concert at the Hollywood Bowl on 23 August 1968 was recorded for possible release (why else have Kooper engineer it?). In the end, it obviously wasn’t issued; indeed, no live album was released, except some tracks on the Greatest Hits collection, until the Concert In Central Park reunion gig more than a decade after Simon & Garfunkel had split.

This recording of “America” has an amusing introduction by Paul Simon about the recording of the Bookends LP, on which “America” originally appeared. But that sound at the beginning: is that Garfunkel burping?

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