The temptation exists to simply claim that we have discussed this song already, as it is largely the same song as "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." Perhaps after the remix of "Sound of Silence," there was an impulse to try to repeat the magic by taking another soft, acoustic song off of the first album and give it the same treatment for the second. A quick glance at the other potential songs-- "Bleeker Street, "Sparrow," and "He Was My Brother"-- reveals that "Wednesday" is the ready choice. It's already about a desperate criminal, after all.
But while this song is similar, it is not identical. This one has a new title, a chorus, and an arrangement that is more akin to the British Invasion sound than that of the Greenwich Village folk scene. So we will treat it as an individual song.
Before I can critique the song, however, I find I must simply criticize it. From a poetic standpoint, it is a mess. It would have been better to take the plot and rewrite it entirely as a rock song rather than retrofitting this poor attempt at street-talk onto the lovely, tender song that already existed.
That said, in this version, the speaker either purposely or accidentally awakens his lover while arranging his escape. We can picture the man robbing the liquor store, then racing home and climbing into bed, hoping that his girlfriend will never know he was even gone. But his agitation-- his need to flee as expressed in the chorus-- rouses her. Of course, she asks, "What's going on? You all right?"
He blurts, unbelievably: "I've committed a crime!" Say he is going to confess immediately rather than lie, or even respond, "Nothing, it's nothing. I'm just having a hard time sleeping. Go back to sleep." Wouldn't he more likely ease her into it: "I did something really bad," or "Here's what happened. I lost my job, see, and I wasn't gonna tell you, not to worry you, just get another job, y'know. But I couldn't find nothin', see, and then were gonna miss the rent, so I..." He would attempt to cushion the news, or rationalize his actions, no?
It's bad enough to have the speaker's thoughts sound like Byron and his spoken words sound like Bukowski. But then the third verse has him speaking like both at once, moving from the lawn-tennis backhand of "a scene... in which I must play" directly to the stickball bunt of "...it puts me uptight to leave you."
Again, let's leave the linguistic concerns aside and focus on the story. Here, too, we have an issue. Having the speaker tell his girlfriend what he did and how he will now act is an interesting twist. However, this device could have been more fully developed if the speaker's words continued to let us know her reaction. Did she expect this behavior from him, or was it a total shock? Does she want him to turn himself in, or does she offer to flee with him? It is unfair to introduce her as a character and then leave her entirely mute.
The rearranging of "The Sound of Silence" from a folk to a rock song worked because all that changed was the music. Here, the words were changed as well, but both too much and not enough. The result is an object lesson in the pitfalls of taking half-measures.
Still, it is a noble experiment. Simon started as a pop-rock songwriter in the Anka/Sedaka mode. He was able to become a folksong writer with seeming ease. Then he was accidentally cast as a rock-song writer with the re-mix of "Sound of Silence." Naturally, he wanted to see if he could do it on purpose.
Simon would eventually become a great rock-song writer. But, as he would later write, "Before you learn to fly, you gotta learn how to fall." This is not his best work. But it's sometimes useful to see what doesn't work alongside what does.
Next Song: Richard Cory