Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Billboard #1 album May 25, 1968
Simon Garfunkel Boodends
photo: Michael Ochs Archives

By the spring of 1968 we had had the groundbreaking albums Rubber SoulPet Soundsand Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The realization that an album did not have to be a collection of singles had allowed artists to present a set of songs as pieces of a whole. In fact, Sgt Pepper’s didn’t even have a “single” on it.

For we late-teen Boomers, Bookends opened with the worrisome lines:

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.

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Youthful nostalgia

As the emerging adults in a society teeming with counter-cultural prospects, we “thought” we understood the lyrics’ nostalgia.

Of course in 1968 we had no idea how intense nostalgia could actually be decades later. How was 28-year-old Paul Simon so perspicacious?

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Pieced together

Simon and Garfunkel did not record the album as a unified whole.  Some of side two’s songs evolved out of their work for the film The GraduateThat soundtrack album, released January 21, 1968,  had reached Billboard’s #1 album spot on April 6, 1968 and stayed there for six weeks. The Bookends album followed it for three weeks followed by The Graduate again for two weeks followed again by Bookends for four weeks. Simon and Garfunkel were trending!

Despite the recording schedule’s discontinuity, the album smoothly runs along its side one and again along side two. How many of us who first knew the album as a vinyl record know long before side one ends that we have to get up to flip the record?

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Hooks and salients

And there are so many wonderful hooks and salients along the way. That soft 33-second acoustic opening pierced by the sharp beginning of “Save the  Life of My Child.” Hand-clapping. Background chorus. Conversational talk. A flashback to “Sounds of Silence.”

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

America > exhale > Voices

Following the lesson of segueing songs, “America” softly enters. Images we still hold close. Cigarettes. Magazines. Rising moon. The New Jersey Turnpike. And not a rhyme. We’ve gone from childhood to hitting the road.

A match lights a cigarette. Exhale. The game is over. We’ve heard rumblings of a Beatle-break up. Is this other Paul hinting? In any case, we’ve learned about love from the other side. “Overs.”

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Old Friends

Upon your first listen,  did “Voices” confuse you? Who are these people? Not a song, no lyrics, but a sad short story. “And I maintain, I maintain strongly to this minute, I don’t think it’s an ordinary cold.” And if that wasn’t enough, we “Old Friends” end side one sitting on a park bench, newspapers blowing, lost in our overcoats.

         Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Flip the record. Please!

Side two opens with music that sounds like the end of something. “Fakin’ It.” If side one was from cradle to grave, Side two talks about hypocrisy and struggling to get by. Playing roles and wondering why. “I’m not really makin’ it” sound like the end of “I Am the Walrus.”

Wish I was a Kellogg’s corn flake” is “Punky’s Dilemma.” That and being a “Citizen of boysenberry jam fan.” The struggle continues and includes falling down the basement stairs.

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Mrs Robinson

We all know “Mrs Robinson.” We’ve all seen Mrs Robinson and maybe, like Dustin Hoffman, falling a bit in lust with her. When opportunity knocks, eh? “We’d like to know a little about you for our files.” Are those eyes really sympathetic? And where did you go, Joltin’ Joe?  In 1969, “Mrs Robinson” became the first rock song to win the  Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

The worried pessimism continues as we skip into a “Hazy Shade of Winter” with its leaves of brown and the sound of the Salvation band.  Ha!

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

Oh those animals!

Paul Simon, the New York kid, the only living boy in New York, closes with “At the Zoo.” We didn’t know those animals felt that way. Now we do and wonder about the others.

Thom Jureck’s All Music review closed this way:  In just over 29 minutes, Bookends is stunning in its vision of a bewildered America in search of itself.

Simon Garfunkel Bookends

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

A man of principles
(click below to listen to Rosko’s theme)
Fall 1969

We, all of us, sitting here in our small comforts, worrying about inflation…swapping small talk at lunch…wrapped in ourselves in our banalities…all of us must sleep tonight in the knowledge that we share in mass murder.”

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

William Roskoe Mercer

William Roscoe Mercer was born on May 25, 1927, in New York City. After first working as a government clerk and a men’s-room attendant, he began his radio career as a jazz disc jockey at WHAT in Chester, PA. Later he was a DJ at WDAS in Philadelphia and then to WBLS in New York.

In the late 1950’s, when DJ were trying to form a union, he refused to cross a picket line. Management black listed him for six months.

In the early 1960’s, Rosko was back on the radio in Oakland and then back east at WBLS.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer


Rosko, though obviously experienced, was not as well-known a name as Murry the K and Scott Muni when WOR-FM switched to rock in 1966. He quickly became a favorite.

Only a year later in October 1967, WOR-FM management began to use the Drake system, which emphasized the replay of hits songs. It upped ratings, but greatly diminished the person style that the DJs  had developed.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

Monday 2 October 1967

“I cannot go along with the new policy here.”

On October 2, 1967, without warning the station’s management, Rosko spoke for five minutes about why he was resigning, saying, ”When are we going to learn that controlling something does not take it out of the minds of people?’‘ and declaring, ”In no way can I feel that I can continue my radio career by being dishonest with you.

He added that he would rather return to being a men’s-room attendant.

Click the link below to hear his resignation.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer

WNEW-FM  > France

By November 1967 WNEW-FM, hired Rosko.

It was in August 1968 that Rosko read the anti-war piece you hear over today’s blog entry. It was a new time in radio and Rosko was at that DJ forefront.

In 1970 he moved to France for five years and worked for the Voice of America.

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer
Back in the USA–Still principled

He returned to the US and was heard during the 1980’s on WBLS-FM and WKTU-FM. In 1985, Mercer quit WKTU-FM while on the air, because of a reported dispute with the station’s hierarchy.

In 1992, when he learned he had cancer, he refused chemotherapy, turning instead to alternative medicine.

He died on August 1, 2000: NYT obit

Full recording of Rosko on My Lai

WNEW Bill Rosko Mercer