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Music / Simon & Garfunkel

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Beavis and Butt-Head, if they were polite.note 

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
"The Sound of Silence"

Paul Simon (born October 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey) and Art Garfunkel (born November 5, 1941 in Queens, New York City) first came together in 1957 under the name "Tom & Jerry" (not to be confused with that Tom and Jerry), but rose to fame as Simon & Garfunkel nearly a decade later, mostly due to their chart-topping 1965 hit "The Sound of Silence". Both men were childhood friends, having growing up in Queens, New York a few blocks away from each other.

With the release of "The Sounds of Silence", Simon & Garfunkel became one of the Trope Codifiers of folk-rock alongside The Byrds. The song was also their first hit on the pop charts, reaching the number one spot on New Year's Day in 1966. Subsequent hits included "I Am a Rock", "Homeward Bound", and "Scarborough Fair/Canticle", which combined the English folk ballad "Scarborough Fair" with an anti-war poem sung in counterpoint. Later, their fame took an ever bigger boost when their music was used in the film The Graduate, which not only included their older songs (which was rare at that time for film) but also new material like "Mrs. Robinson".

The duo split up following the release of their album Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970. Simon went on to experience a Breakup Breakout and a successful solo career, while Garfunkel is still best known for his efforts with the duo, although he's also known for singing the Theme Song of Watership Down and for his acting roles in such films as Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, and Bad Timing. (Simon also tried his hand at acting, appearing in Annie Hall and One-Trick Pony.) They have reunited (and broken up again) several times over the years. Most famously, they came together for a 1981 free concert in Central Park, which drew a crowd of over half a million.

They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 (Simon was enshrined separately as a solo act in 2001) and have won several Grammy Awards.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Art Garfunkel - lead vocals, piano (1957–70, 1975, 1981–1983, 1993, 2003–2004, 2009–2010)
  • Paul Simon - lead vocals, guitar (1957–70, 1975, 1981–1983, 1993, 2003–2004, 2009–2010)

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1964 - Wednesday Morning, 3 AM
  • 1966 - Sounds of Silence
  • 1966 - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
  • 1968 - The Graduate
  • 1968 - Bookends
  • 1970 - Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • 1982 - The Concert in Central Park
  • 2002 - Live from New York City, 1967
  • 2004 - Old Friends: Live on Stage
  • 2008 - Live 1969

Trope Namer:

"Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Tropes":

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: "The Sound of Silence"'s first verse features "Because a vision softlyY creepING left its seeds while I waAS sleepING". In fact, the emphasis for that part in nearly every verse is wrong.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "I Am a Rock" has "deep and dark December" and "freshly fallen silent shroud of snow".
  • Aerith and Bob: The duo's last names form a bit of an odd couple: Simon is a rather mundane last name, Garfunkel much less so.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. A bit of an inversion, as the title comes from the lyric itself (the lyric being from the traditional song "Scarborough Fair").
    • From "Old Friends": "Old friends / Sat on a park bench like bookends."note 
  • All Are Equal in Death: The ending of "Sparrow".
  • Alter Kocker: Some of the interviewees in "Voices of Old People" fall into this type.
  • American Title: "America" has the singer go on a journey with his girlfriend, a journey with no fixed destination in search of the essence of the country he calls home, and could hardly have any title other than the object of their search: America.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: "Voices of Old People", which precedes "Old Friends", consists of Real Life interviews from residents in a Jewish old age home.
  • Andean Music: Their cover of the Peruivian song "El Cóndor Pasa" was a huge hit and spread Andean music worldwide. They discovered the song after hearing it performed by Bolivian band Los Incas and asked for permission to use it. One of the members mistakenly told them that the song was a copyright free folk song, when it actually came from a 1913 play and had not yet entered public domain. This led to a lawsuit by Daniel Alomía Robles's son, which luckily was solved easily and with no hard feelings due to the misunderstanding, and Alomía Robles was added as a songwriter. Their cover has original English lyrics and uses the instrumental version by Los Incas as a backing track.
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "Seven O' Clock News/Silent Night"
  • Before My Time: "A Simple Desultory Philippic":
    When you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas
    Whoever he was
    The man ain't got no culture
  • Big Applesauce: The duo are New Yorkers through and through, and have sung many songs referencing their hometown, including "Bleecker Street" (named for the Greenwich Village thoroughfare), "The Only Living Boy in New York", and "The 59th Street Bridge Song", and the city was the logical place for the performance recorded for their triumphant 1981 live album, The Concert in Central Park.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Garfunkel (standing at 1.83m or 6 feet tall) towered over Paul Simon (1.6m/5'2") in height.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: In "Save the Life of My Child":
    A patrol car passing by halted to a stop
    Said Officer MacDougal in dismay,
    "The force can't do a decent job
    'Cause the kids got no respect for the law today"
    (Art then sings in bored tone) and blah blah blah...
  • Bookends: The aptly-named pair of "Bookends Theme" songs on the aptly-named Bookends album aptly bookend the A-side of the album.
  • Briefer Than They Think: The duo only released five studio albums over the course of six years. There are three times as many S&G compilation albums.
    • Additionally, three of their studio albums don't even break 30 minutes, and none of them break 40.
  • BSoD Song: "Patterns"
  • Central Theme: Nearly all of their songs involve an inability to communicate. Some overt, some subtle. Becomes Harsher In Hindsight when they broke up.
  • Changed for the Video: When they performed "The Boxer" live for their 1981 concert in Central Park, the song had an entire extra verse (starting with "Now the years are rolling by me/They are rocking evenly") that was absent from the original studio version on Bridge Over Troubled Water. On the album, that part of the song is an instrumental break.
  • Christmas Songs: Although both men are Jewish they still managed to record several of these.
    • In 1967 they recorded two carols ("The Star Carol" and "Comfort and Joy"—the latter just a retitled "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen") for a planned Christmas single. It was never released, though the A-side turned up on a couple of multi-artist Christmas compilations and both songs were eventually included in the Old Friends box set.
    • Then there's their rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" from Wednesday Morning, 3 AM. And "Seven O'Clock News/Silent Night" from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which turns into an Anti-Christmas Song as it shifts from a simple rendition of "Silent Night" to a newscast with reports on The Vietnam War and other depressing stores playing in the background.
  • Concept Album: Much of Bookends is tied together with the themes of aging and decaying love. Also, it has that song from The Graduate on it.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Wednesday Morning, 3 AM" is a melancholy reflection from a man taking comfort in his lover's company for one last time before the law takes him away, while "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" changes the instrumentation to angry rock and adds new lyrics in the form of a chorus (including the title line) that indicate the singer plans to flee, unrepentant. Note that the same band released both the original and the cover.
  • Cover Version: They performed a number of these, both in concert and on their albums.
  • Dead Sparks: "The Dangling Conversation", "Overs"
  • Dream Episode:
    • "The Sound of Silence", taken literally, consists of the narrator describing a dream he had.
    • Ditto "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" and "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her".
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Contrary to what the narrator of "Richard Cory" thinks, the title character's wealth has not brought him happiness, and one night he goes home and shoots himself in the head.
    • The title character in "A Most Peculiar Man", an anti-social shut-in, turns the gas on before going to bed one night and asphyxiates himself.
  • Dying Town: "My Little Town"
  • Either/Or Title: "A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'dnote  Into Submission)".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "A Simple Desultory Philippic" is exactly that: a simple desultory (meandering and unfocused) philippic (denunciation or diatribe).
  • Fading into the Next Song: Almost every song on the first side of Bookends leads directly into the next one.
    • First, the initial, guitar-only appearance of the "Bookends Theme" is just fading away as the first note of "Save the Life of My Child" crashes on top of it.
    • Then, just as "Save the Life of My Child" fades out, the humming that precedes the first verse of "America" starts to fade in under it.
    • As the organ riff that concludes "America" disappears into silence, the sound of a match being struck appears over it to herald the next song, "Overs".
    • Although there is a definite break between "Overs" and the next "song", "Voices of Old People", the conversations therein are just ending as the opening of "Old Friends" appears under them.
    • But perhaps the most striking example comes in the last two songs on Side 1, as the string score of "Old Friends" reaches its final notes just as the guitar riff of the "Bookends Theme" begins appearing under it - to the point that it's hard to imagine the two songs played separately.
  • A Friend in Need: The singer of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" tells the object of the song that he'll be there for them whenever they are struggling - as the refrain clarifies, "like a bridge over troubled water".
  • Greatest Hits Album: Three times more than they had studio albums. The first of them, released in 1972, is notable for its inclusion of live versions of "Homeward Bound" and a couple other songs in place of the studio originals.
  • Hated Hometown: "My Little Town" finds its narrator reminiscing about the small blue-collar town he grew up in. The usual childhood memories — going to school, riding his bike past the factories, his mother hanging laundry outside, etc. — soon give way to a different, and rather more bitter, series of recollections: the dull small-mindedness of the residents ("It's just imagination they lack"), his own lack of independence and social standing there ("I never meant nothing, I was just my father's son"), his restless desire to leave for the excitement and opportunity of bigger towns ("Saving my money, dreaming of glory)", and finally the implication that many other young people have also left for greener pastures ("Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town").
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The lyrics for "Homeward Bound" use the term "one-night stand" to mean "a one-off performance by a touring act" rather than "a sexual encounter with no expectation of further interaction". Both terms would have been used at the time, and might still be understood, but now the sexual meaning has completely taken over.
  • The Hermit:
    • The singer in "I Am a Rock" has "built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate" and spends his time shut up in his room with his books and his poetry, touching no-one and being touched by no-one. This is a personal choice; he says he has "no need of friendship" and says of love that "if I'd never loved, I never would have cried".
    • This appears to be the case with the title character in "A Most Peculiar Man", who is described as having had no friends, not being friendly to anyone he met, and giving the impression of preferring to lead a solitary existence. The last verse reveals that the truth was more complicated, as he was Driven to Suicide by some sort of inner torment, but his lack of human interaction means that he took the reason for his pain to his grave, leaving him remembered only as an anti-social shut-in.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: This is most notably expressed in "The Only Living Boy in New York" which is basically about Paul missing Art (the "Tom" in the song; in the early days when they performed as "Tom and Jerry," Art was "Tom") when the latter went to Mexico to film Catch-22.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: "At The Zoo"
    "The monkeys stand for honesty
    Giraffes are insincere
    And the elephants are kindly but they're dumb
    Orangutans are skeptical
    Of changes in their cages
    And the zookeeper is very fond of rum

    Zebras are reactionaries
    Antelopes are missionaries
    Pigeons plot in secrecy
    And hamsters turn on frequently
    What a gas!
    You gotta come and see
    At the zoo
    At the zoo"
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Homeward Bound" is another entry in the "musician on tour misses their home and their lover" format, as it comments on how empty the road starts to feel after awhile.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "A Simple Desultory Philippic" has the singer snipe about someone being uncultured for not knowing who Bob Dylan is... and reveal himself to be just as uncultured for not knowing who Dylan Thomas was (much less that he inspired the stage name of the man born Robert Zimmerman).
    He doesn't dig poetry
    He's so unhip that when you say "Dylan,"
    He thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas (whoever he was).
    The man ain't got no cultcha.
  • "I Am" Song: "I Am a Rock" - not literally, just in the sense of the singer cutting himself off from social interaction rather than risk the pain that he believes outweigh any pleasures love and friendship might bring, becoming an unfeeling "rock".
  • I Just Want to Be You: The refrain of "Richard Cory" ends with the line "Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory." (Richard Cory, meanwhile, probably wishes he could be someone else, someone with real friends. Or would, if he hadn't killed himself.)
  • Imagine Spot:
    • "Fakin' It"
      Prior to this lifetime
      I surely was a tailor
      Look at me:
      (“Good morning, Mr. Leitch! Have you had a busy day?”)
    • All of the next song, "Punky's Dilemma", where the singer fantasizes himself and other things as objects.
  • Intercourse with You:
    • "Cecilia", going by a strictly literal interpretation of the song; the bridge features the lines "Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia / Up in my bedroom".
    • "Baby Driver" has a refrain that features the line "I wonder how your engines feel", and finally makes things more explicit in the last verse when the singer says his parents are away and invites the girl to "come into my room and play", clarifying that "I'm not talking about your pigtails / But I'm talking 'bout your sex appeal".
  • In the Style of: Their early recordings as Tom and Jerry were inspired by The Everly Brothers' sound (whose song "Bye Bye Love" was covered on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album).
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • "Richard Cory" features this with a stinger just before the final chorus, sure to startle.
      He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch
      And they were grateful for his patronage, and they thanked him very much
      So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
      Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.
    • The lyric then continues with "And I wish that I could be, yes I wish that I could be, Oh I wish that I could be Richard Cory." Of course, this was adapted from the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, which ended basically with the spoilered line.
    • Their Bookends album has a First Note Nightmare at the start of "Save The Life of My Child", the second track of the album; made more jarring by the fact that the prelude was so gentle and puts the listener in a relaxed state of mind...and then WHAM.
  • Laughing Mad: The end of "Cecilia", the singer's equivalent of throwing up his hands and giving in.
  • Lesser Star: Former Trope Namer. Art Garfunkel has been characterized as the junior partner in the duo, and there is truth in that, as Simon sang, played guitar, and wrote all the music, while Garfunkel only sang. For many fans, that was enough because Garfunkel was by far the more talented vocalist. As such, Garfunkel had a big hand in the vocal arrangements, and helped create the close harmonies that were one of the group's calling cards. One way to observe what Garfunkel brought to the act is to listen to The Concert in Central Park and pay attention to the Paul Simon solo tunes sung by the duo: "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard", "American Tune", "Late in the Evening", "Slip Slidin' Away", and "Kodachrome". The sound of the Simon and Garfunkel performances is very different from the original Paul Simon versions.
  • Live Album: The Concert in Central Park, and the archival releases Live from New York City, 1967 and Live 1969.
  • Location Song: "America"
    Counting the cars
    On the New Jersey Turnpike
    They've all come
    To look for America,
    All come to look for America,
    All come to look for America.
  • Lonely at the Top: The title character in "Richard Cory" is the scion of a wealthy family and seems to have all the possessions and friends he could ever want, but his "friends" are just hangers-on, and he is so desperately lonely in spite of his wealth that he "put[s] a bullet in his head" one night.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Deconstructed in "A Most Peculiar Man". The title character is gruff and anti-social, but clearly hurting below the surface, judging from his decision to turn the gas on before going to sleep one night and commit suicide by asphyxiation.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
  • Mood Whiplash: "The Sun Is Burning" and "Richard Cory".
  • Name and Name: The duo simply used their last names for their band name: [Paul] Simon and [Art] Garfunkel.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: "I Am a Rock" describes the feelings of someone who doesn't want to love any more because they were hurt by it once.
    Don't talk of love
    Well, I've heard the word before
    It's sleeping in my memory
    I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
    If I never loved I never would have cried
  • New Sound Album: Their debut, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, had more of a traditional acoustic folk sound; the second album, Sounds of Silence, was where they shifted to more of a rock instrumentation and approach. The former album even had "The Sounds of Silence" in its original folk-style arrangement, whilst the latter introduced the familiar folk-rock version.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "Kodachrome" runs on this trope — and the fact Kodachrome no longer exists makes it even more relevant.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: In "Wednesday Morning, 3 AM" (and its quasi-remake, "Somewhere They Can't Find Me"), the singer knows that he will have to leave his girlfriend before she wakes up a few hours from the day and time in the song's title, as he is facing arrest for knocking over a liquor store. (In the original, he seems resigned to this fate; in the remake, he has decided to flee.)
  • Nuke 'em: "The Sun Is Burning" features two sunsets — one is not the sun.
  • Obsession Song: "Why Don't You Write Me", complete with a threat of suicide near the end.
  • Ode to Apathy: The song "I Am A Rock" focuses on the singer's Safety in Indifference he receives by remaining apathetic to other people.
    I have my books
    And my poetry to protect me
    I am shielded in my armor
    Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
    I touch no one and no one touches me
    I am a rock
    I am an island
  • One-Woman Song:
    • "Mrs. Robinson" and "Cecilia" both pay tribute to the fictional women named in their titles.
    • "Kathy's Song" directly names Paul Simon's sometime girlfriend Kathy Chitty (who is also the Kathy in "America" and several other songs).
    • The Emily of "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" is sometimes said to refer to American poet Emily Dickinson, although other interpretations hold that she is also Kathy Chitty, or even a more abstract source of solace rather than necessarily a lover.
  • Orgasmatron: The song "The Big Bright Green Pleasure machine" has the titular device all but said to do this for people who can't get sex in the ordinary way, as a satire of advertising/consumerism.
  • The Perfectionist: In contrast to their start as a simple folk duo, they spent a huge amount of time fussing over every single note on Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water. "The Boxer" took around 100 hours of studio time to record!
  • Pop Culture Osmosis:
    • "Mrs. Robinson" has become a Trope Namer, shorthand for a "cougar".
    • For a long time, the "Bookends Theme" was used by news programs as the music for end-of-year montages ("I have a photograph / Preserve your memories / They're all that's left you".)
  • The Power of Language: The subject of "The Sound of Silence". The singer recounts a dream in which he traveled to a silent world where communication was impossible and tried to speak to others in vain.
    People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening
    People writing songs that voices never share
    And no one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence
  • Production Throwback: "Save the Life of My Child" off of Bookends has a sample from "The Sound of Silence".
  • Protest Song:
    • The Wednesday Morning, 3 AM album has several of them, including "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", "Sparrow", "He Was My Brother", "The Sun Is Burning", and "The Times They Are a-Changin'".
    • The "Canticle" part of "Scarborough Fair/Canticle", which is sung in counterpoint to the main tune.
      On the side of a hill in the deep forest green
      Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown
      Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain
      Sleeps unaware of the clarion call
      On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves
      Washes the grave with silvery tears
      A soldier cleans and polishes a gun
      Sleeps unaware of the clarion call
      War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions
      Generals order their soldiers to kill
      And to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten
  • Putting the Band Back Together: More than once. The duo first reunited at a benefit concert for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972. They got together to record the single "My Little Town" in 1975, as well as for a Saturday Night Live appearance later that year. They teamed up with James Taylor in 1978 for a cover of Sam Cooke's "(What a) Wonderful World". In 1981 they came together for a free concert in New York's Central Park, which drew a crowd of over 500,000 people and was televised on HBO. This led to a world tour and their first new album in over a decade—until Simon mixed Garfunkel's vocals out of the album completely and released it as the solo effort Hearts and Bones. In the 1990s the duo toured together briefly, and in the 2000s they reunited again and toured extensively.
  • Repurposed Pop Song:
    • "The Sounds of Silence" was used during the film adaptation of Watchmen. It is also the opening song for The Graduate, which also uses "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" several times as well as "April Come She Will", a new version of "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine", and an early version of "Mrs. Robinson".
    • "At the Zoo" was used for advertisements for the Bronx Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo in the late 1970s, though this may overlap with "Isn't It Ironic?" due to the song being more of an allegory for human nature. However, Paul Simon himself later re-purposed the song in the form of a children's book with the same title.
    • "Bookends" was used as a New Year's Eve song for a while by networks, reminiscing about the past year in a montage.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The four letter word written in crayon on the subway wall in "A Poem on the Underground Wall". Wild Mass Guessing has ensued on that, ranging from "LOVE" to "FUCK". Garfunkel's concert intro for the song implied it was the latter (it was inspired by graffiti they saw in the subway while shooting the cover photo for Wednesday Morning, 3 AM).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Paul Simon wrote "A Most Peculiar Man" after reading a notice in a London newspaper about a suicide.
  • Rockumentary: Simon and Garfunkel: Songs of America is a rather unique television special that aired on CBS in 1969. Much of the special is a fairly conventional rockumentary featuring interviews with the duo, footage of the duo working in the studio, and film from the 1969 tour. This portion includes Early Bird Cameos of some of the songs from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, as well as a rehearsal of the never formally-recorded "Cuba Si, Nixon No". The rest of the film is a series of montages of the social and historical upheavals of The '60s with Simon and Garfunkel songs as the musical accompaniment. Of particular note is the segment giving "Bridge Over Troubled Water" its public debut. It's set to clips of John F. Kennedy for the first verse, Martin Luther King Jr. for the first part of the second verse, Robert F. Kennedy for the rest of the second verse, and RFK's funeral train for the last verse, and the theme of assassination victims gives the line "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down" a much different resonance.
  • Rule of Symbolism: A lot of it. For example, two songs refer to "$30 paying your rent" and "30 pieces of silver" respectively. 30 pieces of silver was the amount Judas Escariot was paid to betray Jesus.
  • Safety in Indifference: "I Am a Rock" is all about this.
    I've built walls,
    A fortress deep and mighty,
    That none may penetrate.
    I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
    Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
  • Sarcasm Mode: At the end of "A Simple Desultory Philippic", Paul Simon sarcastically says, "Folk rock" and drops the harmonica.
  • Scatting: "The Boxer" and its "Lie la lie" chorus.note 
  • Shaped Like Itself: In "Mrs. Robinson", the line "Hiding in a hiding place where no one ever goes."
  • Shout-Out:
  • Single Stanza Song: "Bookends Theme", the last song on Side 1 of Bookends (and the guitar riff from which opens the album), sounds as though it's a stray verse from a longer song, but it really is just four lines long:
    Time it was and what a time it was, it was
    A time of innocence, a time of confidences
    Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
    Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Seven O'Clock News/Silent Night". Big time.
  • The Something Song: "The 59th Street Bridge Song" and "Kathy's Song".
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Seven O'Clock News/Silent Night".
  • Spy Cam: Referenced in "America". Paul and Kathy are amusing themselves on the Greyhound bus they have boarded in Pittsburgh by making up stories about the other passengers, and come up with the following:
    She said, the man in the gabardine suit was a spy. I said, "Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera".
  • A Storm Is Coming: Inverted in "The Sun is Burning".
  • Streetwalker: "The Boxer"
    Asking only workman's wages I come looking for a job
    But I get no offers
    Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
    I do declare
    There were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there
  • Take That!:
    • "A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)" is a rather savage Bob Dylan parody, with the subtitle taking a subtle shot at Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ, who escalated U.S. involvement with the Vietnam War.
    • "The Boxer" was also interpreted as a Take That! to Dylan, but Simon has disproved that interpretation, explaining that it was actually about himself in a period he felt like he was constantly criticised. Dylan's own Cover Version of it was seen as a Take That! in return.
    • "Blessed" from Sounds of Silence is one to those "Christians" who pay lip-service to the dogma without understanding it. It's a reminder that the second great commandment is to "love thy neighbor", not "love thy white neighbor" nor "love thy well-off neighbor". Anyone, no matter how "low", is blessed.
    • "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" takes aim at the ads produced by the Madison Avenue advertising agencies.
    • "Cuba Sí, Nixon No", an outtake from the Bridge Over Troubled Water sessions that has never seen release outside of the Songs of America TV special, naturally serves as one of these to then-president Richard Nixon.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Paul is the duo's songwriter, lyricist, arranger, and guitarist (technician) while Art is the pretty face and voice (performer).
  • There's No Place Like Home: "Homeward Bound" has the singer, a touring musician, finding himself longing for the end of his tour, when he can go back home again.
    Homeward Bound, I wish I was homeward bound
    Home, where my thought's escaping
    Home, where my music's playing
    Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me
  • This Is a Song:
    • "Song for the Asking" announces itself with those exact words: "This is my song for the asking."
    • "Leaves That Are Green" features the line "I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song."
  • Travel Montage: A musical version in "America". In the first verse, Paul and Kathy decide to go on a journey together with the modest funds they have and board a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh, Paul already having spent four days hitchhiking there from Saginaw, Michigan. In the second verse, the bus heads east across Pennsylvania, and when we last see the duo, Kathy is sleeping and Paul is counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, implying they are heading for New York City.
  • Traveling Salesman: "Keep the Customer Satisfied".
  • Updated Re-release:
    • "Wednesday Morning, 3 AM" and "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" are more or less the same song, though the former is done as a folk ballad while the latter is poppier and begins with a bit of "Anji".
    • "A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert Macnamara'd Into Submission)" from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is a darker, more cynical version of "A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Lyndon Johnson'd Into Submission)" from Paul Simon's British album The Paul Simon Songbook, with the skewering of Bob Dylan's musical style more overt in the later version.
    • "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" gets a somewhat heavier remake for The Graduate soundtrack album.
    • "The Sounds of Silence" was originally released in 1964 as a folk tune with the duo singing and Simon playing acoustic guitar. It went nowhere, and the duo broke up. But then a Boston radio station started playing it and it became a sensation among Boston area college students, then its popularity spread up and down the East Coast, including Florida (allegedly via word-of-mouth from students on spring break). Columbia Records considered re-releasing it as a single, but decided the simple folk backing wouldn't appeal to Top 40 radio, so after he finished producing the session for Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", Tom Wilson, who produced the S&G original, asked some of the musicians to stick around to add a whole new electric arrangement (guitar, bass, drums) to the song. This time, it became a huge hit, and Simon and Garfunkel's career took off.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Though Paul Simon did the vast majority of the songwriting, Art Garfunkel would sometimes take over the lead vocals (most notably on "Bridge Over Troubled Water", which only briefly features vocals from Paul Simon).note 
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Very much, as anyone who's watched Paul snipe at Art onstage can verify. Simon has referred to Garfunkel as "my partner in arguments" on occasion.
  • Wanderlust Song: "America" is a fictionalised account of a journey Paul Simon undertook with his then-girlfriend Kathy Chitty to satisfy their desire to travel across America in search of what made the country what it was.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Jokingly invoked on the label for the "Fakin' It" single in 1967, which listed the song's running time as 2:74 note . It was either a Stealth Pun (the song's called "Fakin' It" and it has a fake time listed) or a sneaky way to fool radio stations into thinking the song was under three minutes.
  • You Are Not Alone: The lyric self of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" reassures the song's object that he'll be there for them whenever they need.