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The Late Movies: Paul Simon's Concert in Central Park, 21 Years Later

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Twenty-one years ago today, Paul Simon put on a massive concert in Central Park. The performance on August 15, 1991 focused on material from his albums Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints, plus an assortment of greatest hits of his previous work, including Simon & Garfunkel material...but without Garfunkel. The resulting double album has been required listening in my house for the following two+ decades. Of course, Simon's 1991 Concert in the Park wasn't his first Central Park blowout -- way back in 1981 he and Garfunkel did a reunion show that led to the album The Concert in Central Park. Confused yet? Good.

Tonight, let's take a look and listen to some notable moments from the 1991 performance. Although you often hear estimates of 600,000-750,000 people in attendance, recent reviews seem to debunk those figures, suggesting attendance on the lawn could have been only 100,000 tops. Oh well, it's still a huge concert.

"The Obvious Child"

The opening song in the concert, with a killer beat and some killer-diller vintage 1991 clothes. Simon's outfit has aged reasonably well, but I can't say the same about the trumpet player's green/orange/purple button-down shirt.

"You Can Call Me Al" With and Without Chevy Chase

First up, the version that appeared on the concert album, minus Chevy Chase (presumably due to a few vocal flubs -- Chevy has the tendency to do that to a man). Trivia: on the studio version, the bass solo's second half is actually a reversed tape of the first half...making it a tricky thing to play live. The live solo appears here at about 4:14 and is a masterful piece of bass work. Anyway, without Chevy:

And with Chevy (distinctly more awesome). I'm guessing this was an encore? Anyone at the concert remember how they got away with playing the same song twice?

"The Boxer"

Compare this with the Simon & Garfunkel version from 10 years earlier. I like this one much better, but your mileage may vary.

"Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"

The video quality here is a bit rough, but the soul comes through. "I mean everybody here would know exactly what I'm talking about!" (Crowd roars.)

"Bridge Over Troubled Water"

Simon attempts "Bridge" without Garfunkel. I think this works, but it's really not the same. Compare to the 1981 version featuring Garfunkel -- Art absolutely nails it, and it literally gives me chills.

"Graceland"

It holds up.

"Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard"

The extra percussion really works on this one, as dusk falls over New York City. Interestingly, Simon completely messed up the whistling around 1:30 (you can see him grimace at his bandmates after the first flub); on the album proper whistling is overdubbed.

"The Sound of Silence"

"Hello darkness, my old friend." This track closes the show. Compare (if you dare) to a performance by Simon & Garfunkel in Madison Square Garden in 2009.

This is Not on DVD

This concert was never released on DVD, though VHS, Laserdisc, and audio-only versions are out there. A Facebook group wants to change that. Maybe enough Likes will change whatever contract is holding back this release?

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images
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Pop Culture
How Phil Collins Accidentally Created the Sound That Defined 1980s Music
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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Unless your technical knowledge of music runs deep, you may have never heard the phrase “gated reverb.” But you’ve definitely heard the effect in action: It’s that punchy snare drum sound that first gained traction in music in the 1980s. If you can play the drum beat from “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince or “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen in your head, you know what sound we’re referring to.

But that iconic element of pop might not have emerged if it wasn’t for Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. As Vox lays out in its new video, the discovery was made in 1979 during the studio recording of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled third solo album (often called Melt because of its cover art). Gabriel’s Genesis bandmate Phil Collins was playing the drums as usual when his beats were accidentally picked up by the microphone used by audio engineers to talk to the band. That microphone wasn’t meant to record music—its heavy compressors were designed to turn down loud sounds while amplifying quiet ones. The equipment also utilized a noise gate, which meant the recorded sounds were cut off shortly after they started. The result was a bright, fleeting percussive sound unlike anything heard in popular music.

Gabriel loved the effect, and made it the signature sound on the opening track of his album. A year later, Collins featured it in his hit single “In the Air Tonight,” perhaps the most famous example of gated reverb to date.

The sound would come to define music of the 1980s and many contemporary artists continue to use it today. Get the full history of gated reverb below.

[h/t Vox]

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entertainment
‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Keystone/Getty Images

Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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