WHO’S IN THE LEAD?

Jan 3, 1974
Manchester Guardian
Robin Denselow

Art Garfunkel sat in a very expensive restaurant and ordered lunch of a plain omelet. His problem, he said, was too much choice.   He was ‘beyond the problem of what will sustain life but getting to the problem of what will make life meaningful — and that's a more serious one."

He has just turned 32 with a quite astonishing career behind him — including the world's best -selling album and a couple of films. That’s hard to follow, though with his first solo record now released, he's trying.

He was dressed in conservative casuals, looking more like a junior faculty member with rich parents than an entertainer with 21 years' experience behind him. His career started in Queens, when he played the Cheshire Cat in a school production of "Alice." Playing the white rabbit was a classmate called Paul Simon. The two teamed up as "Tom and Jerry," and had a moderately successful hit record.

Later, Paul moved to England as a folksinger and, between May and September when he wasn't at school, Art came over to join him. They played in clubs, sang in Leicester Square, and obviously enjoyed themselves.

"I always feel we came out of England. The English were terrific to us."Those were the happiest days of all. "There's nothing like working your way up from 5 pounds a night to 25 pounds in the folk clubs," Garfunkel recalls.

While they were in England, an American producer added a rock backing to a song they had recorded called "Sounds of Silence" and Simon and Garfunkel had their first hit. From then on, there was nothing but success.

Simon wrote fine, original songs, the first to combine soft rock with intelligent lyrics, and he played excellent guitar. Garfunkel just sang — he was blessed with an exquisite, clear tenor that blended perfectly with Simon's harmonies, and the combination made them both multi-millionaires. Their last album, "Bridge Over Trouble Water" is the world's all-time best seller, and their greatest hits compilation is still in the British charts.

Garfunkel is still unwilling to discuss why the sensationally successful duo split up, and says simply "It wasn't a personalities clash, because there was no confrontation or collision. It was nonmutual growth . . . anyway, it's scrapbook material." Could they play together again? "Maybe in the 'eighties." And did they ever see each other? "We speak. He called up the other night and we compared our sales."

Each is firmly set on a solo career. Simon is in the lead (two superb albums and concerts in England and America), while Garfunkel has only given one performance, at his record company’s convention, and has only just released a solo album.

It is called "Angel Clare," took a year and a half to make, is popular in America but has been ignored in Britain. It's lush . . . immaculately produced . . . with an orchestra, a choir, and-a host of top musicians providing the backing tracks. It is also curiously alien to the folk and rock tradition through which Garfunkel graduated, for on it he sounds like a classically trained singer showing off his voice on some favorite tunes by Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb.

He described it like this: "Unlike Paul, I feel that lyrics are less important than music. My taste runs to the notes . . . to me that's the experience. It's melody and rhythm." He spends most of his time in the studio getting exactly what he wants from the session men.

Garfunkel has appeared successfully in two Mike Nichols' films, "Catch 22" and "Carnal Knowledge," but has turned down all other offers. He is a perfectionist and he likes being in control, and that's something he can do it in a recording studio but not in front of a camera.

"I have an inferiority complex about acting," he said. "If other actors turned on me and said 'What exactly are you doing here'. I'd have no answer." In the future he'll only act if it’s a glorified vacation. "If someone rings up and says 'We're shooting in Greece from June to September, the chef  will be good, the cast you already know and like, and you can bring your wife, then I'll do it . . . creatively, the richest thing is making your own records. "Most people in the music business are in it for the love of music. Most people in Hollywood are in it for the love of being big stars."