Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were singing together long before they became stars. Their first attempt at harmonizing was in the sixth grade in Forest Hills, New York. By 1957 they were recording as Tom and Jerry, and had a hit single titled “Hey Schoolgirl.” They even appeared on American Bandstand. Future success would elude the duo and they gradually drifted apart. They met again in 1962 when both were in college. Paul Simon had continued to write songs and procured a recording contract with the Columbia label.
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. would be the official debut by Simon & Garfunkel. It was an album of traditional folk songs and a few original compositions with just two voices accompanied by an acoustic guitar. It was quickly lost in the glut of superior folk albums being released by such artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and many others.
Enter producer Tom Wilson who had signed the duo to Columbia. Without informing the duo he added electric guitar, bass, and drums to one of the tracks and released it as a single. “The Sounds Of Silence” would reach number one on the national charts and become one of the signature songs of the 1960s.
Looking back over four decades later, I find Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. to be a pleasant release if not a creative one. It is basically folk tunes with pop harmonies similar to The Everly Brothers and gives hints at what their sound would evolve into during the next few years.
It was the choice of songs that would carry the album. It begins with a rousing version of “You Can Tell The World” and then transitions to the brilliant but forgotten anti-war song, “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream.” “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” fare less well. These overdone folk tunes had a cadence that was difficult for their voices. The whimsical “Peggy-O” and the serious “He Was My Brother” are much better.
The two original Paul Simon compositions, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” and “The Sounds Of Silence” both stand the test of time. At this point the title track is the better of the two with the type of sophisticated lyrics for which Paul Simon would become famous. “The Sounds Of Silence” is also lyrically excellent but the presentation pales next to what it would become just a short time later.
Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. has been superseded by the other Simon & Garfunkel studio creations. Its importance, other than being a pleasant look at the folk scene of the early 1960s, is that it presents the duo before they achieved stardom. As such, it remains a launching pad for two artists who would go on to produce some of the most beautiful, perfect and important pop in music history.