‘Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.”
So goes the opening line from Simon & Garfunkel’s elegiac hymn America.
It’s a simple song, young lovers on a road trip across and into the heart of an America that no longer exists, maybe never truly existed.
The playful storytelling lyrics of the lovers on their adventure – the stories they create of fellow travellers, the cities and towns, the buses and trains, the hopefulness of a brighter future together, betrayed by the pervading sadness laced through the music. This is quintessential Simon & Garfunkel – a song of the sixties. A song of its time and yet a song without time – somehow managing to both create a sense of the era whilst regaling themes that live through the ages.
It’s a song that resonates personally with me; lyrics that speak to me and remind me of my own youth, my own adventures and the divided mind that pervaded and lingered. The optimist and the merchant of doom upon my shoulder, fighting a battle for supremacy neither would ever truly win.
For me, Simon & Garfunkel represents a time of life, a time on the road. Young and vibrant, looking for adventure and romance, love and lust. A young Brit on the highways of America and the byways of Australia. As I listen with forty-year-old ears to The Boxer, crystal clear on the iPod, my mind drifting back and away from the rain and the gloom of another South Wales November night, drifting to that other time of life; a bus in Newport, Rhode Island, head resting against the cold glass window as I stared out at a golden sunset, shining across the bay and bathing the autumn reds in its soft light, with the harmony of the singing in my ear
“When I left my home and family, I was no more than a boy.
Lie-la-lie, drum, crash, lie-la-lie-lie-lie-la-lie-la-la-lala-lie
I travelled the states with some friends by car. Friends now lost to time and the changes of life, faces that have slipped from view, lost in the congestion of my mind.
I was one of four young lads from the UK, twenty-one and facing a future as clear and bright as the Wyoming sky at which we marvelled. Driving through long, hot days. Late nights on empty, dark freeways and interstates, watching neon signs and golden arches pass us by. Hello darkness my old friend, they sang, Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, through the tinny stereo as our bleary eyes and weary minds searched for a motel, the non-drivers nodding heads and drifting towards unconsciousness and the Sounds of Silence.
Different journeys, different days, different places. New York nights in a bar on Amsterdam Avenue, bowls of chilli and bottles of Heineken, a story on the news about a man stealing women’s shoes in Central Park as the first flurries of winter snow drifted across the window. The night before Thanksgiving. Bleecker Street the obvious choice, the New York cliché. But it’s Wednesday Morning, 3am that brings this back to me – the opening bars, the opening lines:
I can hear the soft breathing of the girl that I love,
As she lies here beside me, asleep with the night.
The song on the walkman as I slipped into drunken sleep in the hostel dorm we’d checked into to save money, the song that blocked out the wails and yells of those more inebriated than me.
El Condor Pasa – a recurring soundtrack to a dream. Men in ponchos on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, the day we went to Alcatraz. It came back to me repeatedly down the years, these poncho wearing pipers, appearing on planes and street corners, at football matches and weddings. Weird dreams, strange symbolism for the psychoanalysts.
I listen to Simon & Garfunkel still, among other things, other music. For me it’s night-time music, forever attached to driving lonely roads where their harmonies accompany the tired eye staring beyond the glare of the headlights. I catch a tune, a melody or a lyric and I’m transported, travelling through time to those other periods – neither better nor worse than today, but vastly different.
Different times, different versions of me. Each version smiling, nostalgic and Feeling Groovy.
Like this? Why not take a look at my short story ‘Last Day of Summer’ available for just 99p to download onto iphone, kindle and all other smart devices or e-readers from cutalongstory
Last Day of Summer – the new short story by Gareth Hill