Art Garfunkel

I’ve always felt sorry for Art Garfunkel because its always felt like he’s gotten a raw deal from the music world. While Paul Simon has basked in the limelight for decades, poor Art could probably walk down the street and go completely unnoticed by the majority of Americans. On further examination though you see that he’s lived the typical rock star life, with both ups and downs.

He teams up with his friend from childhood, Paul Simon, and made their first record that went nowhere. So he and Simon broke up, Simon moved to the U.K., and while he was overseas some stations started playing a song, “The Sounds of Silence”, off of their first album, but instead of the way that they’d written it their producer took Bob Dylan’s band and overdubbed it with electric guitars. “The Sounds of Silence” went to #1.

So to capitalize on their success Simon came back to the U.S. and they toured and made a lot of money but it all came crashing down when Garfunkel’s solo efforts (Simon also was doing solo material) didn’t chart as high as Simon’s and he started to drop out of the spotlight. That was followed by more albums that failed to hardly chart and he dropped into fits of depression. Even after teaming back up with Simon he was mixed out of an album that was supposed to be jointly released by the two of them (Simon’s Hearts and Bones) and before long he was scraping for what seemed like Simon’s table scraps.

The worst part about his whole musical career? He never wrote any of the songs he and Paul Simon sang together; he was just a singer, a good one, but not a songwriter. It wasn’t until 2003 that he released his first album of songs that he wrote (Everything Waits to Be Noticed).

He’s tried acting, poetry and he’s gone through the suicides of several people close to him. Probably in spite of all of what’s happened to him we ought to call him a semi-failed Renaissance man, albeit a semi-failed Renaissance man whose made a truckloads of money.

So Art, after all these years I salute you. You’ve never given up. Keep on truckin’.

Wilco at the Palladium and the Perils of a Band Giving Their Third Album a Goofy Name

When I was 19 I got to see one of my favorite bands of all time, Uncle Tupelo, play at a club in Dallas called Trees. I was a DJ at the Baylor University station and had heard that they were going to be in Dallas opening for Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, which I didn’t really like, but gladly paid the $20 to see that night. My friend Kathleen and I drove the 90 miles northward to go to the show and I was blown away. Jay Farrar broke more stings on his guitar than I could believe and Jeff Tweedy was cool in a doughy kind of way on bass. They ripped through track after track and ended their set after about 30 minutes. It was amazing.

After that Kat and I left. Like I said, I didn’t like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, so I didn’t stay, but I followed the band I went to see for the next several years. I didn’t see them live anymore, but I got all of their albums and watched their progression from country-rock (starting with “No Depression”) to a mixture of bluegrass and country-folk (“Anodyne”). I didn’t know about all of the internal turmoil that was going on within the band at the time, I just thought they were great. And it hit me hard when I heard that they’d broken up. Great bands break up every other day, but this one hit me rather hard. I really liked them and now I had to stop being lazy and find something new to listen to.

Of course, I didn’t have to wait long. Farrar went out and formed Son Volt and Tweedy formed Wilco.

And if I’d been looking for a band to like after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Wilco was real love.

Their first album “A.M.” is fantastic. It continued an already established sound that Tweedy and begun with Uncle Tupelo and carried it a step further, in more of a Rolling Stones direction. If CDs could wear out I would have worn out “A.M.” by now. It is still one of my favorite comfort albums to listen to.

Their second album is less than perfect though. “Being There” has great moments, but interspersed through it are tracks that I could have done without (‘Outta Mind, Outta Sight’, ‘Kingpin’, ‘Hotel Arizona’) and that made me not love it as much as I wanted to. Not saying it isn’t good, it is, but I didn’t have that total unconditional love that I’d felt with “A.M.”.

After that a year or so went by and they came out with “Summerteeth”. And I thought, “Hmm…that’s a stupid album title.”

And my love for them stopped there. It was like people who like kids from TV shows in the 70’s. Peter Billingsley never aged beyond A Christmas Story. Mark Hamill never aged past Star Wars. Cryogenically frozen, my love for Wilco stayed. And that was 1999.

Fast forward to a week and a half ago.

My friend Jimi has an extra ticket to their show at the Palladium, his wife doesn’t like the experimental guitar work of current Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, and they can’t get a babysitter, so a free ticket is mine for the taking if I want it. And I do. So we go.

And the show was great. They played for about 2 hours plus and, strangely, didn’t play much off of the 2 albums that I love so much. Mostly from “Summerteeth”, “A Ghost is Born” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. So now I’m catching up on my education by listening to their other albums.

And I have one thing for Mr. Tweedy. Please, Jeff, no more goofy album titles. I’d rather we didn’t break up again for such a long period of time. Thank you.

Paul vs. John: Who’s the Better Songwriter?

I first heard the Beatles way back when I was a Boy Scout. Our scoutmaster had brought some tapes on the campout and he played them in the car as went back and forth to the campsite and I have to admit that at the time I thought they were just…okay. But, much like This is Spinal Tap, with repeated hearings they got better and more interesting. I don’t remember now what those first tapes were, probably “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The White Album”, but I don’t know. Maybe it was those, maybe not. Since then though I think that “Revolver” is probably their best, and as with most everything, everyone has their own opinion about the band.

Everyone who’s anyone, on first hearing, just knows that John is the better songwriter. 1And everybody was cooler than Ringo. He was much cooler than Paul since Paul had gone on to be in that lame band Wings. Then Paul did “Ebony and Ivory”, which immediately disqualified him in the cool category. Paul was the pretty one that all of the girls loved while John was the rebel and resident weirdo. Who would have thought to have a bag in for peace? John. Would Paul have thought about having a bag in for peace? No of course not, because Paul was the good one.

So time passes and I see the film Imagine, starring the rebel himself, and you come away with only one thought: Man, John was a jerk. And not just a small-time jerk. His jerkiosity could have caused an eclipse. Or sank the Titanic. Or crushed the Third Reich. At one point there is a fan hanging around outside of John’s home, so John goes out to the gate and talks to the guy. He is less than friendly and actually insults the man several times.

John was a tool. But that shouldn’t discount his ability to write cool songs. “The Ballad of John and Yoko”? Genius.

And now when I listen to the Beatles albums 2And I own and have heard all of them. Least favorite? “Yellow Submarine” I hear the songs that Paul sang and how their much more…singable…than John’s songs. “Eleanor Rigby”, “For No One”, “Let it Be”, Paul is the winner on my scorecard. John’s got some great ones to his credit, and Paul did sing “Back in the USSR”, which I think is terrible and knocks Paul down a few notches, but the same album has “Happiness is a Warm Gun” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”, which are awesome. But they don’t make John the winner. John wrote some very strange songs, which I’m sure some people like, but for me, the walrus is Paul.

Why Does Robert Smith Still Wear Makeup?

A long time ago, in a country far far away (England), a man named Robert James Smith started a little musical group called The Cure. They started out small with no one knowing who they were or what they were doing. In the 1980’s they started wearing makeup and dressing in black, mirroring their goth-influenced music that they were making at the time. They started getting famous, releasing their breakthrough album from 1987, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Songs like “Just Like Heaven” and “Why Can’t I Be You?” propelled them into the American Top 40. After that they just got more successful until it all crescendoed with Wish, and you could say they’ve had a steady decline, much like R.E.M., ever since.

For the whole time the band never really changed, appearance-wise – makeup, black clothing, teased hair. Smith, who’s approaching 50, still pretty much has the same look that he acquired in the early 1980’s.

Why does he still look like this?

David Bowie had his glam phase and he outgrew it. Michael Stipe of previously mentioned R.E.M. even wore makeup for awhile but then he gave it up. What gives, Robert?

Well, maybe he’s a better looking man WITH makeup. Not that he’s a good looking guy to begin with, but yikes, if the makeup improves your look, then continue on, sir. If not, grow up. You just look silly now.