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Nov. 13, 2003
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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Feelin' groovy about Simon & Garfunkel
The duo's music bridges generations, appealing as much to Gens X and Y as to boomers.

Score! Annaliesa Redfield, 27, of Fullerton proudly displays her precious S&G ducats for the Pond, below.
Photo: MARK AVERY, THE REGISTER
MORE PHOTOS

The Orange County Register

They are not too bootylicious for anyone.

They are both in their 60s. They haven't toured in more than 20 years or released a studio album in more than 30. Their voices, so tight in harmony back in the day, are showing signs of age.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel aren't what they used to be, and yet that won't stop throngs of boomers from descending on the Arrowhead Pond on Friday night to see these musical icons. They won't be the only fans there, however.

Simon and Garfunkel, the duo whose heyday came in the thick of the 1960s, are hip to an entire new generation of fans. Lindsey Bright, an 18 year-old sophomore at Vanguard University, is one of them. She, of course, wasn't even born when their last album was released in 1970 - or when both singers had a lot less forehead showing.

She was a junior high school student when, digging through her mother's old stuff, she came across a tape. She popped it in, and one of the songs caught her ear - and her heart.

"It was 'I am a Rock,'" said Bright. "I felt that way a lot. Everybody feels a little different, especially in junior high, like you're so odd. But the song said you can never really be alone. It was a comforting message."

That song was from the 1966 album "Sounds of Silence," which propelled the two into stardom. Bright now owns all of their music - on CD, not vinyl - and finds meaning in the songs written for another time.

To her, the music is much more meaningful than what many of her friends are listening to.

"Their lyrics really have something that they stand for and really mean something," Bright said. "A lot of today's lyrics don't really have much meaning behind them. They're just words that rhyme and are fun to sing.

"People my age included, when you hear something that has truth behind it, it really catches your attention."

That's why she's going to the show tomorrow, even though she couldn't find a pal who wanted to go with her - and pay the pricey charge that started at $55 a ticket and ranged up to $250.

"I'm just very excited about it," Bright said. "I think I'm going to be so much in awe and just blown away. It's going to be such a great moment in my life."

Annaliesa Redfield, 27, of Fullerton does not have a lot of extra cash. She's working, attending Fullerton College and planning a wedding. That didn't much matter when she heard her favorite group was going to be in town, touring for the first time since 1981.

"I told my fiancÚ, 'I'm getting tickets, I don't care how much they are, I am going,'" Redfield said.

The grand total was $155. Redfield expects to be crying like the 16 year-old she was when she first heard "I Am a Rock." She moved on to "The Boxer" and "Bridge over Troubled Water" and was completely hooked.

"They're timeless," Redfield said. "Kids nowadays are going to fall in love with them, too, if they're in the right mind-set. They apply to everybody.

"I don't think there's any group out there that can match them with their harmony. It'll be interesting to see whether age and time affect it."

The duo's greatest-hits album, which came out in 1972, it is the one Kevin Gallagher of San Clemente sheepishly admits got him around Europe in the early '90s.

Gallagher, now 33 and a first-grade bilingual teacher in Santa Ana, was an exchange student in Paris back then. He was living in an international dorm, and one night the residents all got together.

"Before, I looked at Simon and Garfunkel as that hippie music my parents used to listen to," Gallagher said. "Then this guy from Albania busts out this guitar and starts singing Simon and Garfunkel, and people who don't even know English know every lyric. I thought, 'They know all these words? This stuff must be pretty profound."

So Gallagher went out and bought the CD. As he traveled around, he'd listen to the music, and something really connected with him.

"These guys really did touch upon the vibe or the feeling of their era," Gallagher said. "The lyrics are very pertinent, even to young people today. We don't hear that kind of music anymore. We hear P. Diddy and Jay-Z. The people who do connect to Simon and Garfunkel connect to something deeper than just trying to have the biggest ride on the block. For a certain percentage of the younger generation, they still want that. They don't want 'Yo MTV Raps.'"

Larry Miller was a disc jockey in San Francisco at the height of the 1960s. Now, he's a professor at the New England Institute of Art and Communications in Boston, teaching students about radio and broadcasting and their prospective roles in history.

He also used to teach a course on the history of rock 'n' roll - but it didn't fit into the curriculum, and Miller also thinks his students tired of hearing him rhapsodize about Bob Dylan.

He remembers when Simon and Garfunkel released their first album, "Wednesday Morning, 3 AM," in 1964. It was completely acoustic. Then it was re-released with electronic music dubbed in, sort of like going from unplugged to plugged, and "Sounds of Silence" became their first No. 1 hit in '66.

"It was so revolutionary," Miller said. "To go from being an acoustic folk duo to then go electric caused an awful lot of controversy. Folk-rock fusion is what really made the difference. And their poetic, intelligent and hip lyrics made it appealing to adults."

It is also part of what's made it lasting.

"Music should be good to everybody at all times," Miller said.

Melissa Pleckham of Lake Forest was 7 or 8 when she found a re-run of a "Saturday Night Live" show that featured two men harmonizing beautifully in a song called "Scarborough Fair." Pleckham raced to get her little pink tape recorder and held it right up to the TV.

It wasn't until she was a freshman at UC Berkeley that Pleckham, now 23, realized who those men were when she saw something about them on the Internet. It brought her back to that song she recorded years before. She went out and got the greatest-hits CD.

She was having a difficult time adjusting to being away from home the first time and found solace in their songs.

"The fact that Simon and Garfunkel deal with issues of alienation and issues of seeing hypocrisy in society, and the way they're played and sung are very gentle, when you're feeling you're not anywhere close to home, it was comforting that other people felt that way," Pleckham said.

Those feelings are something she guesses are universal, no matter what the era Although she wasn't alive in the '60s, she said, there are likely some comparisons between now and then.

"There's a lot of political stuff going on that's similar to what was going on in '60s," Pleckham said. "There's an unpopular war that people are really polarized either for or against. The atmosphere of disillusionment is what I imagine was going on back in the '60s. They were very young when their records came out, the same age as we are now."

Pleckham couldn't afford to attend the show. But she does have a prized souvenir: a signed photograph of Art Garfunkel she once received after writing him a six-page letter.

Jennifer Maldonato was born the same year, 1966, that "Homeward Bound" and "I Am a Rock" were released. She remembers helping her mother clean the house on Saturday morning in the early '70s, bopping around to S&G tunes blasting from their big stereo.

Their songs were sung in elementary school, led by a music teacher who wheeled her piano from classroom to classroom. Maldonato's first boyfriend even performed their tunes in a camp talent show.

Now, Maldonato, newly transplanted from the East Coast to Aliso Viejo, shares the music with her three children.

"Some music today isn't as appealing," Maldonato said. "Theirs was more story-like. It's not just a repetitive head-banging type. It was so high-quality to begin with, it just has staying power."

One such experience was the aftermath of Sept. 11. Maldonato was living in New Jersey at the time, close enough to smell the smoke from the burning World Trade Center towers.

Simon and Garfunkel, who grew up in New York, performed as part of a tribute, singing Simon's "An American Tune" - originally released in 1973 and last performed by the duo in 1981, but its message still intact.

"It was really healing," Maldonato said. "Their music touches on universal stuff. It's not time-specific. You can take their classic songs and apply it to any point in time. A lot was written in protest time, and there's always something going on in the world you can connect to. A lot is about life experiences."


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