Like a Pitcher of Water …

Troubled waters – Hexham Bridge

Anyone familiar with Golf in the Wild will know the book frequently leaves golf behind and explores a range of diverse subjects which include local history, the tyrant known as ‘my Mother’ (stolen from Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit) and motor racing of the 1960s and 1970s.  It is a journey into my past played out across golf courses in wild places to the distant sound of racing engines.

The sequel, Golf in the Wild – Going Home, will be no different although racing engines have been largely replaced by the sound of mono speakers and Dansette record players.  This is an extract from Chapter 10 of the new book – I am driving south on the A9, approaching the Forth bridges:

I bought Bridge over Troubled Water on the day it was released – 26th January 1970. I must have ducked out of college, caught the train to Oxford Road, Manchester and walked down to Rare Records, 26 John Dalton Street, the shop where Ian Curtis was employed in the early seventies – the first step in his musical career.

Bridge over Troubled Water is a fine album but not the defining work of art that is Bookends. Significantly, I had reservations about the title track. The first two verses work beautifully but the third is over-produced, too dramatic and the voice of the narrator changes from gentle reassurance to brash optimism. It is not the same person. There is a reason – it is not the song Paul Simon intended. It was Roy Halee, the record producer, and Art Garfunkel who insisted on a third verse – “the first two verses could be runway material for a take-off that is waiting” – Art Garfunkel.  Reluctantly, Simon wrote the additional material, too quickly and in the studio, something he never usually did.

So, here’s the thing – from the northern side, drive over the Queensferry Crossing when there is a high wind. Keep to the 40 mph speed restriction and turn on Bridge over Troubled Water at the first exit to the old Bridge. Turn up the volume and listen intently as you cross the troubled waters. When you reach the first gantry sign on the South Queensferry side at 3 minutes 4 seconds, start fading the track out and you will hear the song as Paul Simon originally intended – a small hymn, a small masterpiece.

And the title of the post?  When the orchestral string section came back from the arranger, Ernie Freeman, for over-dubbing in the studio, this was the title assigned to the arrangement – well, that’s how much attention he was paying to the demo! – Paul Simon.

The bridge from the western side


  1. jelleybaby · February 4, 2020

    As a student at that time, like yourself, Simon and Garfunkel featured quite prominently and at a local pub on the first date with my wife, what was playing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, and our youngest Son bought a framed copy of the single for our 40th wedding anniversary. My favourite Album of theirs is “Parsley Sage Rosemary and Time” but “Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled” are very close seconds.

    • northumbrianlight · February 5, 2020

      I had to remind myself of the Parsley, age etc track list – agreed, I had forgotten just how good it is. The preceding paragraph may also strike a chord:
      The sheer volume of 21st century music and supposed ‘stars’ is overwhelming. Back in the dark ages, the choice may have been limited but it was consumed obsessively, each track of an album played over and over until every nuance, every lyric was known and understood. If I had any opinions, they were about music. Albums were life’s milestones – With the Beatles; The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan; Blonde on Blonde; Bookends; Bridge over Troubled Water; Songs from a Room; Liege & Lief; Blue; The Dark Side of the Moon.

      • jelleybaby · February 5, 2020

        Homeward Bound and Wednesday Morning 3am are also great albums. I still enjoy listening to their LP’s whenever I can.

  2. J.D. Riso · February 4, 2020

    The songs that make up the soundtrack of a life. I’m looking forward to your new book.

    • northumbrianlight · February 5, 2020

      Exactly – see above reply “Albums were life’s milestones”. I feel slightly guilty at these regular posts – there is Julie feeling obliged to read and reply – if it becomes too tedious, I won’t mind if you miss some. You need to concentrate on getting your book out there – all the best, R
      (PS – it won’t be too long until I run out of my disc space allocation on WordPress – what will I do then?)

      • J.D. Riso · February 5, 2020

        Aw don’t worry about my reading time. I don’t watch tv or read the « news » so blogs are my source of reading material. Your posts are always a joy.

  3. sustainabilitea · February 4, 2020

    I hadn’t know you wrote a book, Robin, and now you’re writing the second one. Well done. I didn’t know this about “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, so thanks for that. The photos are lovely.


    • northumbrianlight · February 5, 2020

      Thanks Janet – a purely amateur endeavour, I just wanted write the golf book I would like to find on the bookseller’s shelf. 1000 printed and very few left. It has become all-consuming – I haven’t really retired at all 🙂

  4. restlessjo · February 4, 2020

    Still heard here on a regular basis, Robin. 🙂 🙂 And I’ve walked over that particular bridge a time or two.

    • northumbrianlight · February 5, 2020

      Timeless isn’t Jo. I think you could get through the whole album if walking 🙂

  5. Thom Hickey · February 5, 2020

    Thanks. I think you’re spot on about the song structure.

    Regards Thom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s