Songs performed by Simon & Garfunkel:
The combined impact of the cinematography and the music evoke a powerfully moving experience.
Simon had read the novel, and dismissed it as only an English major could as "bad Salinger . . . I didn't like anything about the film at first. I was only impressed with Mike Nichols who asked us to do it." Clive Davis at CBS thought it would be a good career move for the duo as well, and "grabbed" the rights for the film soundtrack, assuming Simon would come up with enough new material to fill it. The song most associated with The Graduate, Mrs Robinson, wasn't even fully used in the film. Simon and Garfunkel saw some of the film's rushes and, as nothing immediately suggested itself in the way of new songs, they decided to slot older songs in as a temporary measure, until Simon had got round to writing specific new material. But Mike Nichols was happy with the way that Sounds of Silence, Scarborough Fair, April Come She Will and Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine slotted in and decided to keep them on the soundtrack.
Simon and Garfunkel then went back to resume work on their next proper album, Bookends. But Clive Davis was worried about the soundtrack for The Graduate, which he envisaged as an album of fresh S&G material. Simon was emphatic that he had no more material for the album. It wasn't until Davis saw the finished film did he realise that Dave Grusin's additional mood music could be used to pad out an album which only featured about 15 minutes worth of Paul Simon songs. He approached Mort Lewis, Simon and Garfunkel's manager, with the idea, but neither he nor Simon or Garfunkel were keen.
All three felt that a Simon and Garfunkel album should be just that: new songs, a S&G picture on the cover etc. Davis felt that the film soundtrack would help them reach a far wider audience but Simon was insistent, he told Davis: "We've been working on the Bookends album a long time, we love it, and we think it's a major creative breakthrough. We don't want to wait six months to release it just because of your commercial problems." Davis promised that The Graduate and Bookends would be released simultaneously, which would, if anything, enhance not only their reputation, but also stimulate sales. Eventually and reluctantly, Simon, Garfunkel and Lewis agreed.
Ironically, it was the success of The Graduate which commercially established Simon and Garfunkel, the album neither wanted released. The Graduate was one of those rare films which perfectly captured the feeling of the times, and spawned a whole clutch of derivative movies. A sparkling performance from Dustin Hoffman, Nichols imaginative direction and Buck Henry's witty script ensured its success (to date it's taken over 50 million dollars in America alone). Simon and Garfunkel's songs certainly enhance the finished film, it's only a pity there weren't more of them. At The Zoo, for example, would ideally have suited the zoo sequence which even includes a ride on the crosstown bus! The soundtrack sold substantially, mainly to fans of the film who wanted a souvenir.Bookends - The Simon and Garfunkel Story
They are brief instrumental versions of bits of the main melody line picked out in somewhat hesitant manner by a guitarist who one fervently hopes is not Paul Simon; the playing is rather poor and the recording even more so, with distracting fingerboard noises and a distant fragment of sleigh bells (or so it seems) as a weird echo in the far distance. Maybe something else was being recorded in an adjacent studio. 'April Come She Will' is taken from the Sounds of Silence album. Quickly turning the disc over, the reprise of 'Scarborough Fair- Canticle' sounds suspiciously like the identical performance on the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album redubbed twice and played thus in succession, separated by a badly recorded flute (or ocarina) solo. There is no discernible difference at all between both complete statements of the song, a remarkable achievement for all the musicians involved. 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' comes over as an edited and speeded-up version of the earlier performance, now overloaded with lurid music. The version of 'Mrs Robinson' is not fit to be compared with that on Bookends; it sounds like a rough run through, an early stab at the song. Whole phrases are different from the published version and the brief, loud chords sound most peculiar.
If this album has been summarily dismissed so far, it is because of the clearly obvious musical defects contained upon it; it is fine for those wanting a memento of a seminal and highly successful film, but for those curious to understand the Simon and Garfunkel phenomenon it does the duo few favours. The album is partly redeemed (but only partly) by the final track, which is a new and elsewhere unavailable performance of the complete 'Sounds Of Silence'. The duo's voices are accompanied by what could well be just one acoustic guitar, drums being absent throughout, and although they are not terribly well recorded, this album is therefore a must for the Simon and Garfunkel enthusiast. It is fascinating to hear the fifth verse hummed, not sung, in a dreamy, ethereal state, but it is the only version recorded by Simon and Garfunkel where, at the end, they both clearly sing 'sound of silence' and not the more usual 'sounds of silence' - a small point but worth noting, especially when confusion reigns supreme over the correct title of the song.Simon and Garfunkel
Nichols showed Simon parts of the film to inspire the songwriter, but ultimately Simon was unable to come up with the kind of material Nichols was looking for. 'Overs' and 'Punky's Dilemma', the two songs Simon wrote specifically for the film, were rejected. The sound track eventually made use of earlier Simon and Garfunkel material- 'The Sound Of Silence', 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine', 'April Come She Will', 'Scarborough Fair' - along with instrumental passages for the film.
'Mike Nichols had our music in mind when he decided to make a movie out of the book,' Simon later explained. 'The truth of the matter is that Art Garfunkel and I didn't really score the movie; in a funny way, the movie was scored around us. See, it was Mike's concept that we would be the voice of Benjamin, the graduate, in the film. Every time you would hear us, it would be as if Benjamin was speaking. A song like 'The Sound of Silence' is really Benjamin talking about his life and his parents and where he lives and what he sees around him.'
Simon admitted that working with the film was a disappointing experience for him. 'What intrigued me in the beginning,' he said, 'was the possible use of recording studio techniques: electronic distortion, splicing and so forth. But you can't do that on a movie sound stage, and the equipment they use to record movies is terribly antiquated by the standards of the record industry. They are so far behind in technique, and it takes so long to do it- so many processes and so many people. Also, the sound guys who work there are competent technicians, but they're not creative the way some recording engineers are. They are not into your film.
'Film-makers assume everybody is looking and not listening,' Simon added. 'But that's not true of people who dig pop music. I'd like to do a film in which the movie is written completely around the music. Then maybe the balance would be better.'
Working on the soundtrack for The Graduate had one unexpected benefit that would prove to be the key in re-establishing Simon and Garfunkel's hit single touch. Simon had been working on what would become 'Mrs Robinson' as a possible single. He hadn't come up with a name at that point so they'd just fill in with any three- syllable name. Because of the character in the picture they began using the name 'Mrs Robinson' - it fitted.
'One day we were sitting around with Mike talking about ideas for another song,' recalled Garfunkel. 'And I said "What about 'Mrs Robinson'?" Mike shot to his feet: "You have a song called 'Mrs Robinson' and you haven't even shown it to me?" So we explained the working title and sang it for him. And then Mike froze it for the picture as 'Mrs Robinson'.'
Throughout 1967 and 1968 Simon and Garfunkel had been working on a concept album called Bookends; at the same time they were supposed to be working on the score for The Graduate. The two projects conflicted a bit - the record company, knowing the value of promotional tie-ins with a major motion picture, pushed for new material to be included on the soundtrack album, while Simon and Garfunkel held out for a discreet album's worth of new material under their own name.
The compromise was that The Graduate soundtrack, with the old material included on it, was released only a month before the new Simon and Garfunkel album, Bookends. The Graduate became one of 1968's hottest motion pictures and the soundtrack sold spectacularly well when you consider that the material was already available elsewhere. The film shot young actor Dustin Hoffman in his first major role to international celebrity, and the soundtrack made Simon and Garfunkel one of America's most popular recording groups.Simon and Garfunkel Story - A Musical Biography
In these days when films seem to be concocted solely to provide a spin-off soundtrack album (Top Gun, Iron Eagle), it is hard to remember just how significant a breakthrough The Graduate was. Prior to that, pop films were rarely little more than cash-ins - take the money and run vehicles for stars whose fifteen minutes of fame had to be capitalized on before the next idol was thrown up. Elvis' initial films had shown some promise, but throughout the 60s he had become enmeshed in a series of films which set new lows even for Hollywood. As with so many other facets of entertainment, it was the Beatles who broke the mould, notably in the quasi- documentary A Hard Day's Night (1964), although the following year Help! had subsided into a psychedelic farrago, with Lennon moaning that they were guest stars in their own film. There had been successful theme songs to films prior to The Graduate, but no mainstream Hollywood film had ever before attempted to integrate a rock score onto film, with the songs providing a subtext of the character's innermost thoughts, thus saving on pages of dialogue, and establishing scene and character in a less obtrusive way and with a modicum of effort.
Simon was flattered that Mike Nichols should approach him. He had a high regard for Nichols' work with Elaine May and, despite considering the novel to be 'bad Salinger', relished the opportunity of scoring a film. However, it was not long before he became disillusioned with the primitive machinery and disinterested craftsmen prevalent in film studios. He realized how much happier he was creating his own music in tandem with Garfunkel and Halee on the best studio equipment CBS could offer. The two songs Simon eventually submitted for the film- 'Overs' and 'Punky's Dilemma' - were rejected by Nichols. With deadlines going crazy, Nichols, in desperation, started using extant Simon and Garfunkel songs to accompany sequences as they were completed, simply as a stopgap guideline until Simon found his muse and was inspired to pen new material. But as time went by, fresh material was still not forthcoming, and the more he saw the rushes with the temporary Simon and Garfunkel songs in place, the more Nichols became convinced that the existing songs - 'The Sounds of Silence', 'The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine', 'Scarborough Fair' and 'April Come She Will' - were ideal. The song which became indelibly linked with The Graduate was 'Mrs Robinson', which is surprisingly never heard in full on the soundtrack album or in the film. Simon had been playing around with the melody and a vague idea of the mood of the lyrics for some time, but needed a three-syllable name to slot in to the song which was provisionally known as 'Mrs Roosevelt'. Eventually, though loath to write to order, Simon and Garfunkel began to fashion the song around the Anne Bancroft character. On learning of the song's existence Nichols immediately requested a performance and subsequently demanded that Simon concentrate his energies on finishing the song.
Simon did eventually finish 'Mrs Robinson' which went on to become Simon and Garfunkel's best-selling single to date and wound up on their own Bookends album in 1968. But in the film, 'Mrs Robinson' is heard only as an instrumental and in a shortened version with altered lyrics: 'Stand up tall, Mrs Robinson/God in Heaven smiles on those who pray/Hey, hey, hey'. The song is most memorably used near the film's climax as Benjamin rushes to the church to thwart Elaine's wedding . . . the riff slows down on Simon's guitar just as Benjamin's car runs out of petrol. On its release, the film was hailed as 'a milestone of American cinema', and the New York Times even carried a twenty-six page article dissecting and analysing the reason's for its success. But the thorny question of the soundtrack album had still to be resolved.... Clive Davis at CBS had firsthand experience of how valuable a commodity soundtrack albums could be. They had provided his label with many of its main successes in the late 50s and early 60s. Like everyone else in the music business, Davis looked with envy at The Sound's Music soundtrack which had dominated the album charts for months following the film's release in 1965. When he learnt that one of his acts had been approached to supply the soundtrack for a film which insiders had already tipped as an off the wall smash, Davis was delighted and sat back expecting it to be an extremely profitable undertaking for his company.
Naturally Davis had assumed that having agreed to write the soundtrack for the film, Simon would come up with a batch of new songs, but Simon and Garfunkel, preoccupied with their follow up to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, had spent much of 1967 in the studio creating what eventually became Bookends. The consequent absence of new songs in the film created huge problems for CBS' planned release of a soundtrack album.
Simon and Garfunkel and their manager Mort Lewis felt strongly that fans could not be palmed off with an album of material all of which was already available on their previous albums, and which anyway only totalled a meagre fifteen minutes. Davis was stunned, but still convinced that The Graduate could propel Simon and Garfunkel into the higher reaches of superstardom. On seeing the finished film, Davis noticed Dave Grusin's additional music - hot little numbers like 'The Singleman Party Foxtrot' and 'Sun Porch Cha Cha Cha' - and went back suggesting that the Simon and Garfunkel songs could be bolstered by Grusin's music. He thought this could be the formula for a successful soundtrack album. But Simon was not impressed and told Davis: 'We've been working on the Bookends album a long time, we love it, and we think it's a major creative breakthrough. We don't want to wait six months to release it just because of your commercial problems.' But while Davis respected Simon and Garfunkel's artistic impulses, he was also an astute judge of the market-place, and insisted that The Graduate should surface as an album in its own right. The way he saw it, Bookends could be released simultaneously for established fans who would welcome the new songs, while recent converts fired by the movie could use the soundtrack album as an introduction. Finally, reluctantly, Simon and Garfunkel agreed and were more than a little surprised to see The Graduate become a huge commercial success.
The film hit a nerve and it went on to become one of the box office giants of the 60s. In that year's Oscars, Mike Nichols won the Best Director statue, but Simon's music was ignored. The 1967 award for Best Original Song went to 'Talk To The Animals' from Dr Dolittle, while Best Original Score was Thoroughly Modern Millie! But some consolation was forthcoming when, half-way through 1968, The Graduate was the Number 1 album in America, 'Mrs Robinson' was comfortably at the top of the singles charts, and the new Simon and Garfunkel album wasn't far behind.The Boy in the Bubble - a biography of Paul Simon
It was Nichols' concept, according to Simon, that the music be the inner voice of Benjamin Braddock, the title role played by Dustin Hoffman. Benjamin is a confused hero who, out of boredom rather than desire, sleeps with his father's partner's wife, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and then falls in love with his mistress' daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). The music helps to emphasize his conflicts, and plays an enormous part in setting the tone of the film. Nichols' use of Simon & Garfunkel was in some respects trail-blazing, integrating their music into the fabric of the movie to underline his themes and illuminate his hero's subconscious. Not surprisingly, the themes were The Generation Gap, Alienation, The Lack of Communication, all those things that Simon had been expounding upon and that were just coming to a head in late '67 along with anti-war sentiment and the dreaded sex'n'dope double play. The Graduate exploited this mood to its fullest, and inspired a tremendous amount of youthful identification, making it a mass cult film as well as a popular entertainment. Many films, even respectable ones, had previously used rock, but never before in such a commentative fashion. Since then, it's become a staple of contemporary cinema with, just as one instance, Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy" serving a purpose in McCabe and Mrs. Miller equivalent to that of "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" in The Graduate.
"Sounds of Silence" brackets the film. It's heard under the main titles as Benjamin's airplane descends to Los Angeles, bringing him home from school, and then again at the end as Benjamin and Elaine ride ambiguously away in a bus, having broken away from the numerous middle-class pressures that have plagued them during the course of the film. The repetition of the song at the end, along with the young couple's quizzical expressions, would seem to undercut somewhat the up-beat ending, but not many noticed this little twist in proclaiming The Graduate a rallying point in the battle between us and them. In the rest of the movie, Simon & Garfunkel are more a part of the world of Benjamin alone and Benjamin and Elaine than of Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, which is one of the reasons why they came out smelling so clean. The adult world is represented by typically tacky cocktail-hour muzak, while the tender voices of Paul and Art coast over Ben's solitary driftings and drivings and his dogged pursuit of Elaine. "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" virtually washes over the film once Ben goes to Berkeley to get Elaine, being played twice in its entirety, once partially, and once in an instrumental version. Then, as things get tense, "Mrs. Robinson" becomes the theme of the final section. Heard first almost subliminally whistled, then humm- ed, and finally sung, it scores Ben's chase to get to the church on time (before Elaine's wedding vows), its guitar chords sputtering as Ben's car runs out of gas. All along, the music is used to tie together scenes, make transitions and mirror the action. "April Come She Will" bridges a smooth montage of Ben's daily routine, and "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" is heard blaring from a car radio at a hamburger drive-in. Interestingly, nearly all the recordings used already existed, and Nichols matched them to his scenes. The new songs, with the exception of the fragment of "Mrs. Robinson," that Simon submitted especially for the film were rejected as not quite right for the project.
The enormity of The Graduate's impact -- it is currently the 9th biggest film rental champ of all time according to Variety, with a total of nearly fifty million dollars (just under Love Story) -- guaranteed the future of Simon & Garfunkel. No songs by rock performers had ever been exposed to a wilder movie-going public, and some of the gold dust had to rub off. But it also became a source of conflict between the duo and the President of Columbia Records, Clive Davis. In Clive, his memoirs about his years at CBS Records, Davis says that he snapped up the soundtrack rights to the film well before its completion because "the movie had all the ingredients of a big box-office hit. "Since he hadn't seen any of the film, it's not clear what those ingredients were; Nichols had only directed one other movie, Bancroft, Hoffman and Ross were not marquee names, and no one had heard of the novel on which it was based. Still, Davis did buy the rights to an album of the score, and when the movie was looking like a giant he was determined to get an LP on the market. Simon, Garfunkel and their manager didn't want one out. They felt the lack of new material on the album would be cheating their fans, and they were afraid of the competition between a movie album and their forthcoming studio album, more than a year in the making. Davis' bottom-line decision prevailed, and by mixing in Dave Grusin's background music, a Graduate soundtrack was made, and released to the public in February of 1968, less than two months before the scheduled release of Bookends. The sales of neither album were hurt, both were monsters, and Simon & Garfunkel joined the top ranks of the biggest record sellers and in-person drawing powers in the country, second only to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the second category, earning up to $50,000 a night. In quick succession singles of "Scarborough Fair" and "Mrs. Robinson" were released, the first edging the top ten and the second going to number one, their first gold 45 since "Sounds of Silence." They had graduated from considerable pop success to genuine super-stardom.
Most movie soundtrack albums are little more than souvenirs, and The Graduate is no exception. It's extremely skimpy, filled out by Grusin's conventional, functional music tailored to fit certain atmospheric and generic demands but worthless as album tracks. Side one has four such selections - "The Singleman Party Foxtrot," "Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha," "On the Strip" and "The Folks" -- plus the original versions of "The Sounds of Silence" and "April Come She Will" and short, wordless variations on "Scarborough Fair" and the "Mrs. Robinson" theme. Because of Nichols' choice of prior-existing Simon songs, none of them have any literal relationship to the movie except "Mrs. Robinson," and it's unusual that the one song written especially for a character in the film is not, as might be expected, for the hero but for the villianess. Even in that case the correlation to the film is emotional rather than specific, since the lyrics don't refer to any event or action but to attitude. On side two, "Scarborough Fair" is included twice in succession, "Mrs. Robinson" is sung for the first time ("Stand up tall, Mrs. Robinson/God in heaven smiles on those who pray/Hey, hey hey"), and there are two re-recordings of Simon & Garfunkel songs. "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" is not improved; the vocals are perfunctory, and the mock-rock background is abrasive in the manner of music in discotheque scenes in all the late sixties' "where it's at" movies. It is also much abbreviated. "Sounds of Silence" is shortened too, but it is also intelligently arranged and sensitively sung, enunciated subtly. Less virginal than the Wednesday Morning track, and conceived as a whole rather than re-thought ex post facto as the single, it is the only track that keeps the album from being a total cheat.
by Cohen Mitchell, © 1977
Information courtesy of The Acoustic Guitar Collection
Written in England in 1964
Paul - "When I was living in England, about three years ago, four years ago, I worked in a club in a town called Swindon. It's about 100 miles north of London. I spent the night with a friend of mine in a smaller village called Great Coxswell, not that it means anything, no pun intended. We'd stayed up all night and talked and I said to her 'Let's go out in the morning and do it' (Laughs from audience) 'You too huh?'. We went out at dawn and she recited an English nursery rhyme, it was a children's rhyme and it was about a cuckoo, a bird. It went 'April come she will. May she will stay, June she'll change her tune. July she will fly. August die she must'."Hollywood Bowl 1968
Quotes courtesy of The Simon and Garfunkel Home Page