1. David Gray â White Ladder (1998)
basic_attention_token_exchange At #10 this week was Eric Clapton âs Another Ticket . Though its name implies that it was a live album, it was a studio effort which featured the #10 single, âI Canât Stand It.â
While there's definitely some Beatles influence in the production of Simon & Garfunkel's atmospheric "The Only Living Boy in New York" (listen to those Ringo-like drum fills), the song is really a unique piece in and of itself. The production manages to encompass the duo's influences while encapsulating their unique and hugely successful and influential folk-pop blend. In fact, in the use of distant-sounding, thickly layered backing vocals, one can hear foreshadows of similar tricks used on records by Elton John, among countless others, in the '70s. Listen to "The Only Living Boy in New York" -- with its mix of strumming acoustic guitars, start-and-stop drums, and a far-off wall of harmonies -- and then John's "Rocket Man" and you realize it is a direct line from the former to the latter. Paul Simon was a restless and ambitious studio innovator, aspiring to the same level as the Beatles and Brian Wilson in terms of scope and desire for new textures and depth of sound. Simon basically produced or co-produced many of the Simon & Garfunkel records, collaborating with engineer Roy Halee.
There is a purposeful feyness to the lyric, the "boy" self-reference, and a man singing about what seems to be the end of a relationship with another man. When one remembers that Simon and Art Garfunkel had a minor hit as the Everly Brothers-modeled Tom and Jerry -- where Garfunkel was Tom -- the significance of the song becomes clearer; the chart-topping, Grammy-winner for album of the year, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), was the duo's last studio project together. "The Only Living Boy in New York" was about the dissolution of the musical partnership, and likely, the friendship as they knew it. Anyone who has been in a band with the same partners for any length of time will liken the relationship to a marriage. A more accurate description, perhaps, would be close siblings, but either way, the end of such deep bonds could be as devastating as the end of any other relationship, marriage notwithstanding. Simon, singing the lead vocal, sounds resigned, defeated, just barely breathing out the wispy melody. One can only imagine the drama of the two men -- friends since high school -- singing it together in the studio.
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