Nobel Special: When Bob Dylan laughed at Simon & Garfunkel


When Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature on Paul Simon’s 75th birthday it’s fun to remember how linked their careers have been over the years. Along with the same record label, producer and musical backdrop they also shared a reflexive suspicion, even antipathy, for one another. Paul would go on to criticize Dylan regularly during the 1960s, most memorably in his sarcastic homage, “A Simple Desultory Philippic,” recorded first for his UK solo album The Paul Simon Songbook, then re-recored for Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Here’s part of the reason why:

The night before the final recording session, Paul and Artie played their first scheduled show at Gerde’s Folk City. It was their first major appearance since they started recording for Columbia and to stir up excitement (Columbia producer) Tom Wilson rallied some of his hipper friends and colleagues to the show. The producer was there, of course, as was Barry Kornfeld and some of his living room regulars. But the real prize was Bob Dylan himself. He came a little late, perching at the bar next to the influential New York Times music critic Robert Shelton. They’d had a few drinks. Maybe they’d blown a little grass. Whatever, he was laughing. Hand in front of mouth, head down, shoulders heaving. Haw-haw-haw, ohmygod. And you could hear it. Paul and Artie played in a hush. One guitar, two voices and delicate strands of melody and harmony. The power was as much between the notes as in the notes themselves and it begged close listening. And everyone knew that beaky high plains honk.


In a career whose every twitch and twang has been anatomized for personal, literary, political and Biblical magnitude, the meaning of that Dylan guffaw remains cloaked in mystery. Shelton went to his grave insisting that the laughter — he was giggling too, only more quietly — had nothing to do with what was happening on the stage. That whatever had spurred the giggle fit was completely detached from Paul and Artie’s performance. It was just bad timing that whatever they were talking about, and Shelton never identified what it was, had popped their corks.

But there was more to Shelton’s story. Dylan and Paul had met for the first time only days earlier, and the encounter had gone badly. Despite having so much in common, including extended visits with the same folk musicians in London, Paul and Dylan couldn’t find anything to say to each other. So they traded the smallest of small talk. Neither pretended to be delighted, or even all that interested, in meeting the other.

Oh yeah, how’s it going, I heard you were around, you’re Kornfeld’s friend, right? So, yeah. Hi. Okay.

Then back to their separate corners, separate friends and separate visions of the world and their rightful position within it. And maybe it was the same place. And maybe there was only room for one of them. Which may be why Shelton described that fast-approaching night at Gerde’s as “an encounter typical of New York’s paranoia and instant rivalries.” Which makes his claims of innocent snickering seem a wee bit less convincing.

Homeward Bound
The Life of Paul Simon

Buy the Book:


“Homeward Bound” trailer #1

Portland radio host/actor/writer/filmmaker/cool dude Mikel Chase is producing some promotional clips about “Homeward Bound,” and here’s the first one…

Homeward Bound
The Life of Paul Simon

Buy the Book:


HOMEWARD BOUND: THE LIFE OF PAUL SIMON to be published by Henry Holt, October 11, 2016

4paul simon-201 copy

What have I been doing since BRUCE came out in 2012? The cover is just to the left.

Much more about this to come, but for now here are a few words from Kirkus Reviews:

“[A] nuanced, fascinating portrait…Carlin expertly tracks Simon’s professional career, from the earliest days with Garfunkel when they were finding their footing as performers, through the climax of their career as a band with their 1970 album ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ to Simon’s solo artistic peak with the 1986 release of ‘Graceland.’ Simon’s music career defies easy categorization—much as his relationship with Garfunkel does—but in Carlin’s portrayal, his legacy as an innovative songwriter and musician is undeniable. An absorbing and layered study of ‘one of the most influential voices in Western popular culture.’”

Pre-order it here:
And also here:

Paul & Artie’s holiday latkes!

Oh so you’re back from your big rock ‘n’ roll party, huh? Do they feed you there? You look so thin have a little latke and say hello to your aunt Betty, she loves you so much you can’t be friendly for a moment?

S&G latkes

Is this Simon & Garfunkel’s only live performance of “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”?


I’m not sure if this is the only time they ever performed the ‘Canticle’ part of the recorded ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’ outside the studio (solo performances of ‘The Side of the Hill’ by Simon in the UK don’t count, wise guy) but this rendition with the host of the Andy Williams Show, of all people, is the only one I’ve ever seen. And it’s lovely.