an addendum to “the sounds of silence” article

Es­ti­mated reading time is 9 min­utes.

WHILE RESEARCHING THE ARTICLE that I just pub­lished, I amassed al­most 5,000 words of in­for­ma­tion and more than three dozen im­ages. I deleted al­most one-third of those words and im­ages and ti­tled the com­pleted ar­ticle “Is It The Sounds Of Si­lence or The Sound Of Si­lence?” What was left behind—the flotsam and jetsam—is what you will find below: an ad­dendum to the orig­inal article!

The first sec­tion con­tains a tran­scrip­tion of the lyrics to The Sounds Of Si­lence. The second sec­tion is an “In­ter­na­tional Gallery of Pic­ture Sleeves” which col­lects the pic­ture sleeves for var­ious seven-inch, 45 rpm sin­gles and EP al­bums. The final sec­tion looks at a pair of un­usual in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the song.

“Look—I quit and I’m not giving you my new song, The Sound Of Silence.”

The lyrics to The Sounds Of Si­lence took shape in late 1963 and early 1964. In an in­ter­view with Terry Gross for Na­tional Public Radio in 2000, Simon said:

“It was just when I was coming out of col­lege. My job was to take the songs that this huge pub­lishing com­pany owned and go around to record com­pa­nies and see if any of their artists wanted to record the songs. I worked for them for about six months and never got a song placed, but I did give them a couple of my songs be­cause I felt so guilty about taking their money.

Then I got into an ar­gu­ment with them and said, ‘Look, I quit, and I’m not giving you my new song.’ And the song that I had just written was The Sound Of Si­lence. I thought, ‘I’ll just pub­lish it my­self,’ and from that point on I owned my own songs, so that was a lucky argument.”

Please note that the title of the song was plural—The Sounds Of Si­lence—from its orig­inal re­lease on Simon & Garfunkel’s first album WEDNESDAY MORNING 3 A.M. in 1964 through most records re­leased in most coun­tries around the world. In 1972, Simon changed the song’s title to sin­gular—The Sound Of Si­lence—which is how he ad­dressed it in his re­marks above.

For more on that matter, read the orig­inal ar­ticle by clicking here.

 

Addendum: caricature by LArtisteInconnu of Simon & Garfunkel's SOUNDS OF SILENCE album.
I found this nice piece of art (car­i­ca­ture? car­toon?) by LArtis­teIn­connu ac­com­pa­nying the ar­ticle “Sound of Si­lence: Re­con­struc­tivist Art” on the Pop Cul­ture Philoso­pher website.

Hear my words that I might teach you

Here are the lyrics to the song as orig­i­nally recorded by Simon & Gar­funkel for their 1964 debut album. I matched the lyrics to the orig­inal 45 rpm single and added necessary—at least, nec­es­sary as I hear it.

Hello dark­ness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.

Be­cause a vi­sion, softly creeping,
left its seeds while I was sleeping.
And the vi­sion that was planted in my brain
still re­mains within the sound of silence.

In rest­less dreams, I walk alone,
narrow streets of cobblestone.
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turn my collar to the cold and damp,
when my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
that split the night and touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light, I saw ten thou­sand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking.
People hearing without listening.
People writing songs that voices never share.
No one dare dis­turb the sound of silence.

“Fools,” said I, “I do not know!
Si­lence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Take my arms that I might reach you.”
But my words, like silent rain­drops, fell
and echoed in the wells of silence.

And the people bowed and prayed
to the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
in the words that it was forming.
And the sign said the words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
and ten­e­ment halls
and whis­pered in the sound of silence.

I can find one basic ar­gu­ment for both the use of the sin­gular and the plural form of the word si­lence. As the plural sounds does not ap­pear in the lyrics at all while the sin­gular sound ap­pears three times, one can rea­son­ably argue that the au­thor in­tended the title to be singular.

But there are three lines about failed at­tempts at com­mu­ni­ca­tion: “People talking without speaking. People hearing without lis­tening. People writing songs that voices never share.” Since I was 14 in 1965, I have al­ways heard these as three ver­sions of the sounds of silence.

 

Addendum: cover of the Colombian version of Simon & Garfunkel's SOUNDS OF SILENCE with titles in Spanish.
This is one of the more in­ter­esting jackets for Simon & Garfunkel’s SOUNDS OF SILENCE album from 1966. It was printed in Colombia and has the ti­tles of both the album and the songs on the album in both Spanish and English.

How did the sign flash its warning?

In the final verse of the orig­inal ver­sion of The Sounds Of Si­lence on WEDNESDAY MORNING 3 A.M.—the vo­cals of which were used on the hit single—Simon & Gar­funkel sing, “And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming.”

But in the final verse of the solo ver­sion of The Sound Of Si­lence on THE PAUL SIMON SONG BOOK, Simon drops “out” from the line and sings, “And the sign flashed its warning, in the words that it was forming.”

Both Ru­pert & David’s ver­sion (1965) and the Bach­e­lors’ ver­sion (1966) use the sin­gular title from Simon’s album but sing the ver­sion with “out” from the Simon & Gar­funkel album.

In their fa­mous “Con­cert in the Cen­tral Park” from Sep­tember 19, 1981, Simon & Gar­funkel used the sin­gular title of the song and dropped “out” from the line.

 

Addendum: photo of art Garfunkel and Paul Simon in 1965 by GuyWebster.
Art Gar­funkel and Paul Simon at Franklin Canyon, Cal­i­fornia, in De­cember 1965. Pho­to­graph by Guy Webster.

Having a great time

In the wake of the song’s suc­cess, Simon promptly re­turned to the United States to record a new Simon & Gar­funkel album at Columbia’s re­quest. He later de­scribed his ex­pe­ri­ences learning the song went to No. 1, a story he re­peated in nu­merous interviews:

“I had come back to New York, and I was staying in my old room at my par­ents’ house. Artie was living at his par­ents’ house, too. I re­member Artie and I were sit­ting there in my car one night, parked on a street in Queens, and the an­nouncer [on the radio] said, ‘Number one, Simon & Gar­funkel.’ And Artie said to me, ‘That Simon & Gar­funkel, they must be having a great time.’ Be­cause there we were on a street corner in Queens, smoking a joint. We didn’t know what to do with our­selves.” (Marc Eliot: Paul Simon – A Life, 2010)

For his part, Gar­funkel had a dif­ferent memory of the song’s success:

“We were in L.A. Our man­ager called us at the hotel we were staying at. We were both in the same room. We must have bunked in the same room in those days. I picked up the phone. He said, ‘Well, con­grat­u­la­tions. Next week you will go from five to one in Bill­board.’ It was fun. I re­member pulling open the cur­tains and let­ting the bril­liant sun come into this very red room and then or­dering room ser­vice. That was good.” (Pete For­na­tale: Simon And Garfunkel’s Book­ends, 2007)

Addendum: publicity photo of Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon in 1964.In­ter­na­tional Gallery of Pic­ture Sleeves

Here is a se­lec­tion of pic­ture sleeves for Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sounds Of Si­lence. There are nine­teen sleeves from nine coun­tries cov­ering a seven-year pe­riod. The record com­pa­nies in most coun­tries did not spend the extra penny per record and issue them with pic­ture sleeves. This is not a com­plete se­lec­tion of these sleeves, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive one. And note that the title on all the sleeves is plural.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence" single from France (1966).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence" single from Holland (1966).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence" single from Norway (1966).

The pic­ture sleeves for The Sounds Of Si­lence / We’ve Got A Groovey Thing Goin’ from France, Hol­land, and Norway above have a slightly cheesy, low-budget look to them. Most web­sites state that they were re­leased in Jan­uary 1966, but as they are all CBS records, it’s pos­sible that they were is­sued in De­cember 1965 at the same time as CBS re­leased the record in the UK. 

 

SAddendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds Of Silence" single from Japan (1966).

This sleeve for The Sounds Of Si­lence / We’ve Got A Groovey Thing Goin’ was is­sued in Japan and is the only sleeve that used the photo from Simon & Garfunkel’s first album, WEDNESDAY MORNING 3 A.M.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from Australia (1966).

This sleeve is from the seven-inch, 45 rpm EP album SOUNDS OF SILENCE from Aus­tralia. It fea­tures a black and white photo (where the guys look cold) and was prob­ably is­sued in 1966.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from France (1966).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from Spain (1966).

These two sleeves are from seven-inch, 45 rpm EP al­bums ti­tled THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from France and Spain. Each calls at­ten­tion to the fact that the title song reached #1 in the U.S.A.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from Germany (1966).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from Itlay (1966).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE EP album from Japan (1966).

These sleeves are from seven-inch, 45 rpm EP al­bums ti­tled SOUNDS OF SILENCE from Ger­many, Italy, and Japan and were and prob­ably is­sued in 1966. Each uses the same Guy Web­ster photo that ap­peared on Simon & Garfunkel’s second LP album.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (France, 1968).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (Germany, 1968).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (Italy, 1968).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (Japan, 1968).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (Japan, reissue from 1971).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE from "The Graduate" (Norway, 1968).

With the enor­mous suc­cess of the movie The Grad­uate in 1968, CBS reis­sued The Sounds Of Si­lence in sev­eral coun­tries with var­ious B-sides. The six sleeves above are from France, Ger­many, Italy, Japan (two sleeves with the second from 1971), and Norway.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" and "Homeward Bound" from Holland (1968).

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" and "Homeward Bound" from Germany (1970).

These pic­ture sleeves from Hol­land (1968) and Ger­many (1970) col­lect the A-sides from two hit sin­gles, The Sounds Of Si­lence and Home­ward Bound.

 

Addendum: picure sleeve of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" from Angola (1966?).

This pic­ture sleeve for The Sounds Of Si­lence is the standout: It was is­sued in An­gola in 1972 when the country was still under the do­minion of Por­tugal. I don’t think I have ever seen a sleeve from this African country be­fore. And I don’t think the artist that de­signed this attention-grabbing sleeve ever saw a photo of Simon and Garfunkel.

 


 

Addendum: cover of Marti Shannon's YOU WERE ON MY MIND album from 1965.
Marti Shannon recorded Sounds Of Si­lence (without “The”) in April 1966 at RCA Victor’s studio in Nashville, Ten­nessee. She was (ap­par­ently) the first Cana­dian artist to record the song.

An addendum to the addendum

This last sec­tion is the oddest and re­ally doesn’t fit in with any­thing in this ar­ticle or the orig­inal ar­ticle. It’s re­ally a kind of ad­dendum to the flotsam and jetsom of the “ad­dendum” ar­ticle. It in­volves two takes on per­forming The Sounds Of Si­lence, one a straight reading of the lyrics from 1965, the other a po­lit­ical parody from 2017.

Hun­dreds of other artists have recorded The Sounds Of Si­lence. Since 1972, most of them have recorded it with the sin­gular ver­sion of the title. There are many fine ren­di­tions and many odd ren­di­tions, but there are two I find, let’s say, refreshing:

•  Marti Shannon recorded Sounds Of Si­lence in a ’60s folkie-typestyle, which is more declam­a­tory than the song usu­ally re­ceives. Weirdly, she drops the en­tire sec­tion that be­gins “‘Fools,’ said I!” It’s not just weird that she dropped the verse, but that she dropped the verse that would seem to ben­efit most by her declam­a­tory style. 

•  More timely is a bloody mar­velous (and bloody straight­faced) parody (in­cluding cos­tuming) of the song ti­tled Con­founds The Sci­ence by Don Caron and Linda Gower. The work is the brain­child of Caron and his Parody Project, which was founded in 2017 “as a means of sur­viving the cur­rent po­lit­ical and so­cial mire by laughing and helping others to do the same.”

 

SAddendum: photo by Guy Webster of Simon and Garfunkel in Franklin Canyon in 1965.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page of Art and Paul in the Los An­geles area was taken by Guy Web­ster in late 1965. Web­ster also did the pho­tog­raphy for the jacket of the SOUNDS OF SILENCE album.

 

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“The Sound of Si­lence” at face value, to me, in­di­cates an over­long lone­li­ness. Some­thing that you come to terms with after won­dering how long you’ve been lonely.

“The Sounds of Si­lence” I feel is fo­cused more on the ac­tual sounds. Tin­nitus for ex­ample, ha. You’re staying in a cabin or some off-the-wall B&B in the woods and even though the light isn’t on, it seems everyone is home. Crickets, Birds, Frogs, Wind. When you apply both of those thoughts to the lyrics, there are parts that in­di­cate both. I sup­pose even in the cabin or bed and break­fast you could feel the weight of lone­li­ness. Ironic how a song about lone­li­ness shot Simon and Gar­funkel to the com­plete op­po­site spec­trum. Intriguing.

Thanks for the ar­ticle, Neal.

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I had that Marti Shannon album!

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