Monday, August 9, 2010

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright

Title aside, this song is not about the celebrated architect. Rather, "Frank Lloyd Wright" was one of Simon's nicknames for Garfunkel, who was an architecture student in college.

The "farewell" nature of the song is due to Garfunkel's leaving the duo to pursue an acting career. (More about this in the discussion of "The Only Living Boy in New York.")

The hand drums and flute are unusual, Caribbean touches. As is the fact that Grafunkel carries the vocals in a song in which Simon is saying farewell to him.

It is a pleasant-enough farewell at that, an amicable split. The "so soon" is interesting, given that the duo had known each other and worked together musically since high school. "I've never laughed so long" is also nice to hear, given the famous, or rather infamous, nature of their relationship as depicted in the general media.

The line "never change your point of view" is a nice way of saying that Simon felt he was continuously evolving, while Garfunkel seemed happily stuck in a groove. Their subsequent careers bear this out, with Simon collaborating with everyone from Brazilian drummers to avant-garde dancers....

...while Garfunkel, who had his pick of songwriters, did not choose, say, Randy Newman or Leonard Cohen to interpret, or even Cole Porter, but Jimmy Webb. Webb wrote "Witchita Lineman," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "McArthur Park."

Still, Simon admits, "when I run dry, I stop awhile and think of you." Perhaps Garfunkel's reliance on classic songcraft provided Simon with some structure, when his exploratory nature could have led him to take a song almost anywhere.

Ultimately, though, it seems that their deep appreciation for each other's musical talent --and each other's sheer love of the art form-- was enough to sustain their friendship as long as it has lasted.

"All of the nights we'd harmonize 'til dawn..." even when the concert was over, or there had been no concert, the two would simply sit and play and sing for hours... and revel in the uniquely beautiful sound they made together. The laughter must have been that of pure joy.

Perhaps they only "harmony" they had was musical. Even if so, what harmony it was.

Next Song: The Boxer


  1. Great page - landed here because someone I follow on Twitter had a dream about "The Boxer" being a TV series!

    Have been mesmerized by "So Long..." for a long time.

    Read somewhere that Simon, although having written this song to bid Art goodbye, still had to acquiesce to the Bossa Nova-ish arrangement proposed by both Garfunkel and Roy Halee, an arrangement he didn't like. That's probably why you hear him say "So long, already, Artie!" in the coda...

    1. Wasn't Paul who said "So long already", but Roy.

    2. Never heard that before, but I cranked it, and there it is, at about the 2:56 mark. Yeah, that's not Simon's voice.

  2. Gus-- Thanks for the compliment! I can see The Boxer being turned into a movie, if not a whole series, sure. If the story about the arrangement is true, then I can see it reinforcing his desire to strike out on his own and call his own musical shots.

  3. Who played the flute on this? I can't seem to find the name.

  4. cherryflute-- My first foray into my resources has also come up empty. There is nothing on the liner notes of the LP or of the deluxe CD, let alone the Collected Works CD. Not even wikipedia, which has the most comprehensive list of the musicians on the album I can easily find, says who played the flute on this track. Simon's own website has no record of which musician played on which track (a major oversight, considering how impressive his roster of collaborators has been!).
    My guess would be that it was one of the members of Los Incas (later Urubamba), the Peruvian band who played on El Condor Pasa and Duncan. Since that band included players of traditional wood flutes, for which there is not a tremendous call, one of their players may have also learned to play the metal flutes found in European orchestras, to better expand his employability.
    But unless there is a mention of this detail in one of the biographies (which I don't recollect), it may be that only Simon, Roy Halee, and the label's payroll department has any memory or record of that player's name.
    Sorry I could not be of more help. Good luck on your future musical endeavors (since it seems like you play the flute yourself!).