It’s time to play some Paul Simon music.
But first: this there biography of Paul Simon was unleashed officially today, meaning you can find, flip through and purchase it, hurl it through a loved one’s window and/or club a spider with it starting today. You can also buy it online at the following fine retailers:
But now it’s time to get to some music.
I’m going to post a few playlists to go along with the book, and we’ll start here with Paul’s earliest recorded work, along with some of the music that surrounded it.
HEY SCHOOLGIRL: Paul and Artie Garfunkel had signed a holding deal with another independent record company in the early months of 1957 but they were free agents when they wrote and recorded a demo for this song, the co-written pop tune that would in November 1957 launch their brief career as Tom & Jerry, everyday teen high schoolers who just happened to sing like the Everly Brothers:
DANCIN’ WILD: And here’s the b-side.
OUR SONG: Released in the early weeks of 1958, Tom & Jerry’s follow-up single flopped, setting the standard for every other single the teen rockers would release:
TRUE OR FALSE: Contracted, recorded and released by Tom & Jerry’s record label without Artie Garfunkel’s knowledge, Paul’s first solo single “True or False” was written by his professional bassist (and rock ‘n’ roll-hating) father Louis Simon (a/k/a Lee Simms) and performed by Paul, Lou, and a couple of session players. Paul sings as a kind of Elvis Presley type, complete with lascivious slurs, gurbles and audible smirks. It’s actually a lot more charming than it sounds. “True or False,” credited to the pseudonym True Taylor, was a horrific flop, selling less than 100 copies (according to Paul’s testimony in 1967) as well as creating the first fissure in the foundation of his friendship with Artie.
ANNA BELLE: Unbeknownst to his friends at Queens College, Paul spent his off-campus hours continuing his work in the pop music industry in midtown Manhattan. Along with recording demos of new songs for other songwriters he released songs under the name Jerry Landis, his pseudonym from the Tom & Jerry days. “Anna Belle” came out in 1959 and was, again, a flop:
JUST A BOY: Another Landis single, this one from 1960, and a prime example of his romantic pop ballad style. Note the female chorus behind him, and the whispery-cooing vocal style. Note also how distant this all sounds from everything that would follow. Another flop, and deservedly so:
MOTORCYCLE: Credited to Tico & The Triumphs, a young doo-wop group Paul met at a talent show in his family’s neighborhood in Kew Gardens Hills, Paul wrote, produced and sang lead on this rockin’ track about the thrill of two-wheeling. Note the engine sounds (actually the engine of Paul’s sports car) and the Vroom-boppa-boppa background vocals by Tico and company. The song made an early splash, then sank to the bottom when the record company went bankrupt. Still, a regional hit in some northeast cities and a solid #1 in Puerto Rico. And no wonder: it rocks.
MORE TO COME!