Monday, December 24, 2012

Silence Night

So let me see if I got this straight: Back in 1964, Simon and Garfunkel released their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., which contained a spare little track called "The Sounds of Silence." The record stiffed, S&G went to England for a while, and, as everyone knows, Dylan producer Tom Wilson invented the remix by overdubbing a rock band onto the original acoustic track. This version became a hit, so much so that it became the title track of the next S&G album.

Well, almost. That album was called Sounds of Silence, with no The. That's not such a huge change, but still.... Can you think of any other albums that are almost named after the hit single? I can't.

But Paul Simon (I presume) wasn't done tinkering with the title. By the time of 1972's Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits, the name of the song had been tweaked as well, and was now listed as "The Sound of Silence." It's also listed that way on the track listing for 1982's The Concert in Central Park. According to the official Simon and Garfunkel Web site, the phrase "sound of silence" is used three times in the song, while "sounds of silence" is used but once. So that would explain it.

I guess that's more or less the official title now. The single sleeve you see above is completely obsolete.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's a Long, Long Road

One morning last week, I was listening to an American standards station out of Garland, Texas - many of you probably were as well - when the announcer noted that the date was the anniversary of the opening of Boys Town, the home for orphans in Nebraska, back in 1917. (The town it's in is actually now known as Boys Town, Nebraska, just outside of Omaha.)

The announcer went on to describe a scene in the 1938 Spencer Tracy movie, in which a boy carried his little brother for miles to bring him to the home. When he arrived, someone - possibly even Spencer Tracy, although I haven't seen the movie - asked the boy if it was difficult to carry the boy all that way. He replied, "He ain't heavy. He's my brother."

Now, you probably recognize that as the title of a popular song recorded by the Hollies, which went to Number Seven in 1970. Did you know that phrase dated back to Boys Town? I sure didn't, although there are many things in this world that I do not know. I apologize if I'm telling you something familiar. The phrase fits in well with that 1970, Room 222, hippie generation; those people loved to sling around words like "heavy" and "brother."

Most of the Hollies' early hits has been written by Graham Nash, but he had departed by that point, to be replaced as lead singer by Terry Sylvester of the Swinging Blue Jeans. "He Ain't Heavy" was written by the team of Bobby Scott (who had earlier composed "A Taste of Honey") and Bob Russell, who had primarily written lyrics for songs used in films. Russell was no hippie; he was 55 by the time the Hollies recorded his song, and dead before it came off the charts. Elton John played piano on the track, which I find hard to believe, but there you go.

Neil Diamond took his own version to Number 20 later that same year. But it was the Hollies' version that sounded so sweet coming out of the AM radio on a cool Texas morning:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Babys by the Numbers

Number of Top Forty Hits for the Babys: 3

Total Number of Words in the Titles of Those Hits: 14

Average Length of Those Words, in Letters: 3.36

Length of the Longest Word in Any Babys Hit-Song Title: 5 (in alphabetical order, "Again," "Every" and "Think")