The Paul Simon Songbook is the first solo studio album by Paul Simon. It was released in the UK in 1965. It was made available in the U.S. as part of the LP box set Paul Simon: Collected Works (1981). The album was produced by Reginald Warburton and Stanley West as CBS Records LP 62579.
The Paul Simon Songbook was recorded in London. Simon made several trips to England in 1964 and ’65, performing in small clubs and theatres. During 1965 he played in Paris and Copenhagen, along with London and other locations in the UK. In 1964, Simon and Art Garfunkel had released the folk-inspired album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. in the US. While Simon was touring and appearing on radio shows in England in 1965 (sometimes with Garfunkel), he began to receive attention from fans. At the time Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had not yet been released in Britain (and would not be until 1968). Simon’s other recordings then available in Britain consisted of three 45 rpm singles released on various labels, two of which were rock ‘n’ roll-inspired recordings with Garfunkel under the name Tom & Jerry. The other was representative of his experiments in folk but had been released in 1964 under the pseudonym Paul Kane. He was still under contract to Columbia, so he could record for their British label, CBS Records, and therefore decided to record a set of tracks for release to his folk audience. The Paul Simon Songbook was the result.
Recording and releases
Simon recorded the album at Levy’s Recording Studio, 73 New Bond Street, London, over several dates in June 1965. Most of the songs required several takes. He only had one microphone for both his voice and his guitar.
The album was released along with the single “I Am a Rock/Leaves That Are Green”, CBS 201797.
Simon’s 1965 liner notes to the album comment of the songs that “there are some I would not write today,” but that they “played a role in the transition” to his position as a musician at that time.
The album cover shows Simon and his then-girlfriend, Kathy Chitty, sitting on “narrow streets of cobblestone” in London, the city Simon had adopted as his home. In the 1970s, the album art was altered: the picture of Simon and Kathy was flipped horizontally, and the red script-like lettering eliminated in favor of an album title in white block print at the top.
The Songbook was released in the U.S. by Columbia very briefly in 1969, but was recalled within a few days when Simon objected. It was re-released in 1981 on Columbia LP in the “Collected Works” boxed set, and in 2004 by Columbia/Legacy on CD. The CD features two bonus tracks, alternative versions of “I Am a Rock” and “A Church is Burning” which were not part of the 1965 LP release. The mono version was released on CD.
The lyrics for the anti-war song “The Side of a Hill” were incorporated into the Simon & Garfunkel arrangement of “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” on Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
Alternate front + back cover
Later in 1965 and in early 1966, following the success in the U.S. of “The Sound of
Silence” as a single, Simon & Garfunkel re-recorded several of the songs featured on The Paul Simon Songbook and released them on their albums Sounds of Silence and Parsley, (by wikipedia)
The first album to use this title is one of the most mysterious in Paul Simon’s output and almost belongs more with Simon & Garfunkel’s discography, given its 1965 recording date. Following the failure of Simon & Garfunkel’s first, all-acoustic folk revival-style album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, Simon headed off to England to see about pursuing music over there. While he was in London, he found himself in demand as a visiting American “folksinger” (though Simon’s credentials in this area were rather limited), began building up a following in the coffeehouses, and was eventually pegged for a performing spot on the BBC. Suddenly, there were requests for Paul Simon recordings, of which there were none — as a result of his being signed to Columbia Records in America, however, he was brought into the London studios of British CBS and recorded this album with only his acoustic guitar for backup.
The resulting album is spare, almost minimalist, as Simon runs through raw and unaffected versions of songs that he was known for in London, including “The Sounds of Silence,” “The Sun Is Burning,” “I Am a Rock,” “A Simple Desultory Philippic” (in its earliest form, and far nastier than the version later done by Simon & Garfunkel), and “Kathy’s Song.” The notes are very, very strange, but a bigger problem is the production by Reginald Warburton and Stanley West, which isn’t terribly sympathetic; the sound isn’t very natural, being very close and booming, but the album is a fascinating artifact of Simon’s work during the interregnum in Simon & Garfunkel’s career. And there is one fascinating number here, “The Side of a Hill,” which eventually resurfaced as the countermelody song in the Simon & Garfunkel version of “Scarborough Fair” (a song curious by its absence here, considering that Simon was doing it in his coffeehouse appearances) two years later. (by Bruce Eder)
Paul Simon (vocals, guitar)
01. I Am A Rock (Simon) 2.46
02. Leaves That Are Green (Simon) 2.34
03. A Church Is Burning (Simon) 3.27
04. April Come She Will (Simon) 1.51
05. The Sound Of Silence (Simon) 3.10
06. A Most Peculiar Man (Simon) 2.27
07. He Was My Brother (Kane) 2.50
08. Kathy’s Song (Simon) 3.32
09. The Side Of A Hill (Kane) 2.21
10. A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission) (Simon) 2.22
11. Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfal (Simon) 2.21
12. Patterns (Simon) 3.13
13. I Am A Rock (alternate version) (Simon) 2.48
14. A Church Is Burning (alternate version) (Simon) 3.10
15. Sound Of Silence (Birkenhead Wirral England 1965 Roger Dennison Reel To Reel) 3.11
“Paul Kane” was a pseudonym used by Simon at this time, because of his fondness for the film Citizen Kane.