Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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I Am a Rock

Written and first recorded by Paul Simon (1965).
Hit version by Simon & Garfunkel (US #3/UK #17 1966).

From the wiki: “‘I Am a Rock’ was written by Paul Simon, and first recorded by Simon solo as the opening track on his album The Paul Simon Songbook which he originally recorded and released as a solo performance in August 1965 but only in the United Kingdom. Later that year, Simon and Art Garfunkel, as the American pop/folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, re-recorded the song on December 14, 1965, and included it as the final track on their album Sounds of Silence. ‘I Am a Rock’ became the duo’s third Top 5 hit in the US when released as a single in May 1966.”

From “This song has one of more perplexing histories of recordings and releases. Written by Paul Simon before he hit it big as a musician, the song was offered to the duo Chad and Jeremy, who turned it down. Simon then recorded it himself for his UK solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook, which was released in the UK in August, 1965 (but not released in the US until 1981). The single was issued in September but didn’t chart despite a performance by Simon on the show Ready, Steady. Go! Simon was going solo at this time because the Simon & Garfunkel 1964 debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had stiffed, and the duo split up. Late in 1965, producer Tom Wilson overdubbed and remixed a track from that album, ‘The Sound Of Silence,’ and it became a huge hit. Simon and Garfunkel were summoned back to the studio, where they re-recorded the singles ‘I Am A Rock’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, which were then included on the follow-up Sound of Silence album.

“The guitarist on the Simon & Garfunkel hit version of this song was Ralph Casale, who was a top session player in the ’60s (Village Stompers, ‘Washington Square’). He remembers organist Al Kooper and drummer Bobby Gregg – both associated with Bob Dylan – also performing on the song. Describing the sessions, Ralph told us: ‘The band was booked from 7:00 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning. I was given a lead sheet for ‘I Am A Rock’ with just chords and asked to play the electric twelve-string guitar. The producer wanted a sound similar to The Byrds. It was important that session players became familiar with the current hits because many times producers describe the style they want by referring to well known groups. Paul Simon sang the figure he wanted me to play between verses and asked me to play it in thirds. The rest was left to me. ‘Homeward Bound’ was recorded at the same session.'”

Simon & Garfunkel, “I Am a Rock” (1965):

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