Friday, March 26, 2010

Bridge Over Troubled Water: Downes vs. Benfold


My highly esteemed colleague Gary Benfold has lost his marbles. Foolishly he has claimed that the cover version of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Elvis Presley is greater than the original sung by Art Garfunkel.

"What nonsense!" I hear you cry, and believe me I share your disgust. I know that Elvis was the king, but Art's vocal is simply untouchable.

What can I say? As I have rolled these things over in my mind the suspicion has grown. After all, Gary is from Yorkshire, so what does he know about good music? Let him speak about flat caps, and whippets, and we will listen. I, on the other hand, am Welsh, from the Principality, the very land of song.

Will he respond? We wish to hear from him the sound of silence.

Once again, here is Art:



And here is Elvis:



We also have this wild card entry from Eva Cassidy:



Apologies to Adrian Reynolds of the Proclamation Trust who loves the Hear'Say version. YouTube say that "Embedding has been disabled by request" on that one. I'm not surprised.

Here's an odd clip of Simon & Garfunkel rehearsing the song in 1969:

17 comments:

Gary said...

Yes, but Paul Simon agrees with me. And it can't just be because he got fed up of Art getting the credit.
BTW - in my 'umble opinion, the Welsh can't sing.

Martin Downes said...

Sounds like an apocryphal tale...

Well, I'm Welsh, and I can't sing. Mrs Downes, however, has an exceptional singing voice.

Gary said...

Two further points:
1. Technically, I only claimed that Elvis' LIVE version was better than S and G's LIVE version; their studio version far outstrips the live version you posted, and is almost as good as the King.
2. I can't tell you what a relief it is to find a post on your blog that I understand well enough to disagree with.
3. (Third point of 2): isn't it the heretic who dismisses stories that don't fit his preconceptions as 'apocryphal'?

Martin Downes said...

A brief response

Surely you meant to write "king" for Elvis, not "King"? Or maybe I have uncovered something theologically sinister?

As for points 1 & 3...ouch

Martin Downes said...

...oh dear, I meant points 2. and 3. of your two point response

adrian reynolds said...

Boys, boys, boys. It's all largely academic because most purists argue coherently that there is very little to touch the manufactured version of popular beat combo Hear'Say. Klass, Foster, Shaw, Sullivan and Marsh lift the lyrics to a new and beautiful interpretative level which transcends all previous known recordings, live or studio (Elvis, S&G, Johnny Cash, Aaron Neville et al infinitum). I've petitioned the Queen for MBEs for them all. It can't come a moment too soon.

Martin Downes said...

Please tell me that they didn't cover Bridge...that's enough to make even more of my hair fall out.

Em. said...

You're all wrong.

(My preferred version is by Miss Eva Cassidy).

Martin Downes said...

Amended. Adrian, apologies to you but YouTube will not permitted the embedding of the link. I've listened to it, and as it played I could hear dogs whimpering out in the street.

Jim Collins said...

Of course only Garfunkel can do this. Elvis was of the previous generation, a has been, when he covered it. Eva Cassidy is too young, a mere upstart. Garfunkel did it in the fullness of time, at a particular node in the time/space continuum that was intended for that song by that man at that time.

Gary said...

You know what they say, guys - 'one man with Paul Simon is a majority'. Or is that someone else?

Em said...

I tried to listen to the Hearsay version, I really did.
Now I must be excused while I flush my own head down the toilet...... I'm hoping the sound of gushing water will drown out the memory of what can only be described as 30 seconds of torture.

étrangère said...

I didn't imagine I'd feel strongly about this, but Elvis spoils the song. He performs it. But S&G bring a simplicity and lightness which carries sincerity. The clear tone is far better for this song than the rich power of Elvis. Seriously - he sang it like a power ballad. And the wobbly voice on each sustained note is pathetic and distracting: he should've learned to control his voice by proper breathing. Unless he was immature enough to think it was a good effect. S&G convey the *song*, whereas with Elvis it's a performance that makes you think *Elvis* is impressing (perhaps). And Cassidy, while I usually like her stuff, as Elvis, doesn't get the simplicity of this. All the embellishments and lowering the top note a semitone (overall changing of harmonic line often) certainly make it her own, but it's not as it should be in my opinion. She keeps wanting to break into gospel, or blues.

Martin Downes said...

I knew that I could rely on you.

Hey, I saw Derek Thomas last week.

étrangère said...

You saw Derek, but didn't persuade him back to the homeland? Poor show. My mum wrote some verse about him losing a sermon, when he left us for the States. Suffice to say that it all rhymed, was to be performed in a Welsh accent (written in the first person) and involved DMLJ.

Jonathan said...

Just heard that Mr Met Tab has slated this blog - you are now my hero! Anyone slated by the Master - I mean Masters - is doing something right in my book!
Keep up the good work!

Gary Benfold said...

Jonathan - what about me? I wanna be your hero, too...