Art For Art's Sake
October 11, 1975
Melody Maker Magazine
By Chris Charlesworth
Art Garfunkel cut an odd dash at the Top of the Pops rehearsals last week. Slotted between Pan's People and Mud and closely followed by Jonathan King, he seemed a proverbial fish out of water, not only because he is American, but because his gentle approach to music and the care that he obviously takes when recording is not always apparent on this particular gem from the BBC.
But Artie stood up and sang his hit single, "I Only Have Eyes For You," looking calm and composed and apparently satisfied with the backing he received from the TOTP Orchestra. And one of Pan's People was overheard to say, somewhat indiscreetly, that Artie was her kind of guy.
Garfunkel is indeed a curious product of the music industry, an educated young man with a golden voice who has yet to write a note or lyric and put it on record. The less-admiring might well conclude that he is a very fortunate man whose association with a composer of Paul Simon's talents was directly responsible for earning him a vast fortune. Others rightly consider that his pure, tenor voice was an essential element to the formula that turned Simon and Garfunkel into the most successful duo to have emerged in the history of recorded music.
The blonde, slightly balding Garfunkel is a contrary fellow who has taken a fair share of knocks through being, quite literally, on the flip side of that partnership.
Last week he spent three days in England. On the first he taped a slot for Top of the Pops, on the second he gave a press conference at the Savoy Hotel and the third was spent "privately." He obliged photographers by posing with pigeons for a photo-call and refused to be drawn by national press reporters into condemning the Bay City Rollers.
Like a clean-cut Harvard Graduate in Law, Garfunkel dealt diplomatically with a number of questions that were designed to irritate. He wouldn't say whether he was earning less money than Paul Simon, although anyone with the slightest knowledge of the music industry would realize that Simon's publishing royalties as the writer of their material would obviously put Simon in a different bracket.
He chose to do one other interview--with the MM, which, he decided, would take place in his car, a Daimler limousine, while being driven around London in search of open spaces where the sunset could be viewed to the best advantage. In the car with him was his American girlfriend, actress Laurie Bird, who snuggled up close for the entire ride. Their mutual affection was obvious.
Next week sees the release of Garfunkel's second solo album, "Breakaway," which hits the shops at exactly the same time as the fourth Paul Simon solo album, if one includes his 'live' record with the Jesse Dixon Singers and the Urubamba. Garfunkel's latest is produced by Richard Perry, of Ringo Starr fame, and it is the first break he has had from the legendary S&G producer Roy Halee. And the choice of material is interesting too: included are versions of Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall In Love, It'll Be Forever)" and Bruce Johnson's beautiful "Disney Girls" from the Beach Boy's "Surf's Up" set.
There's a Paul Simon song on the record, too, titled "My Little Town" on which the pair duet together for the first time since "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Curiously, the same track is also on the new Simon album.
But two years sees a long time to record an album and it was here that we started our conversation, Garfunkel denying that this time span was overlong.
"I don't think it's a long time to make an album. I've spent the last two years doing a lot of things. I bought a house in Virginia and I've spent eight months making a second album which has taken most of the year so far."
We'll try a different tack. How come Richard Perry became involved? "I called him," said Artie, giving little away. "I began to feel that I wanted to make an album without Roy Halee for the sake of it…just as a learning experience, and I called Richard because he was one of the people that I have a good opinion of as a record producer.
"I recorded with other people and I did some stuff on my own and I did a tune in London with Paul Samwell-Smith, but when I started working with Richard I began to look upon the recording as an album."
How do you pick the material? "It was anything I could get off on. That's a question that doesn't really have an answer unless there was some concept that defined how I pick material. I just pick whatever I feel like singing."
Pushing a little now, I suggested that the inclusion of a Paul Simon song would seem to indicate a possible reunion. "Yes, it would seem to indicate that," Art responded. "I'm going as far as your statement and it's perfectly logical.
"There is a chance that we might get together to record an album, but I really can't say any more because there is no more answer. It was good to work with him again because I like him and I think he's talented.
"He had this song that he was working on and it looked like he wasn't going to use it on his album and he knew that I liked the song because I knew it in an earlier form. I told him I'd take it because I was making an album culled from all forms of music and, certainly, a Paul Simon song would be of interest to me. I started working on the song knowing all the while that Paul Simon, not being too prolific a writer, was probably going to need the song himself. Sure enough he figured later that it would be nice on this album too, so we started working on a harmony version because I thought that the middle part was ideally suited to the old S&G blend and I felt like harmonizing with Paul because I hadn't done that in years.
"We both got off on it and now we've put it on both his album and my own which are both coming out on the same day. Our schedules were so similar that, with a little bit of planning, we could take advantage of the coincidence of it all."
Among the musicians who have worked with Garfunkel on the new album are Andrew Gould, who plays "everything," Larry Knechtel, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voorman and Graham Nash and David Cosby who sing back-up vocals. Bruce Johnson is also featured singing in the background.
But it was Perry's idea to cut "I Only Have Eyes For You." "Oh, what a song," murmured Garfunkel in some awe when the subject was raised. "Richard has been wanting to do it for years, in fact, almost half the cuts on the album were specifically brought to my attention by him.
"There was a big difference, night and day, in fact, between working with Perry and Halee. Richard is a bolder, more adventurous producer. He's like a cowboy--he takes more chances and he'll set things up and cut them straight away. Roy Halee would spend far more time miking the foot pedal or whatever and trying all the variations.
"In one sense, you could say that spending all the extra time makes him a more careful artist, but Richard makes terrific records in a faster, shoot from the hip, style. Roy comes out of the masterworks department of Columbia Records so he's an engineer and particularly a sound man. He's very conservative. It would be unheard of for him to accept a tape with ticks or pops or anything like that."
While Paul Simon has appeared life in concert both in America and Europe since their split, Garfunkel has yet to make an appearance before the public on stage. Live work, he said, is not his first priority. "I've had my mind on other things. Firstly, I have a rich and active personal life and secondly, musically, I've chosen to spend my time in the recording studio. If I was going to do any touring, I would have had to take something away from that.
"I have a rough idea of what kind of show I'd do, but I haven't worked on it yet. But there's a chance of it happening next year. Probably a tour of small places."
"Bridge Over Troubled Water," the album, has to date sold more than nine million copies. Currently it's vying for the best sales yet slot with "Sound of Music" which, of course, was released some years before. Had Garfunkel ever wondered why this particular album should register such freak sales figures.
"I didn't think it was that much better than our other albums. I thought 'Bookends' was a good album too. I don't think 'Bridge' was so different from the others to justify the extra sales. I have to say that diversity of appeal might have accounted for it. I know that some of the people who bought it are mums and dads types and some others are 12-year-olds. It was cognizant of a lot of different kinds of tastes and it had a wide appeal. 'Celia' was an up-tempo song, 'Bridge' itself was an anthem-like ballad, 'Frank Lloyd Wright' was a kind of bossa nova and there was brass on some tracks. It just appealed to all kinds of different people."
Had Art, the original "Bridge" vocalist any opinions on Paul's live version which has been recorded? "I know if I say anything at all and it's not tactful you'll lift it out of context and it'll be the headline," he said with a grin. "You want me to say something that is in the least possible taste…well, I like our version of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' better than Paul's solo version."
How come Paul has been more active since the break-up. "First of all Paul's heart-beat is a lot faster than mine. He is more neurotic than I am and he needs to achieve new things more than I do. I can sit back and eat a peach and I don't have the urge to work that he does.
"I miss him not writing songs for me to sing, although I never felt he was writing for me specifically in the past. When I make an album now I miss the quality of his lyrics and his chord changes and melodies. I still have a great regard for his writing."
Which brought us back to THAT question. "Well, I definitely would not rule out the possibility of us appearing together again, but at the present I don't have any specific plans to do a tour with Paul so it's one of those things where there's no reason why not but there's just no plans to do it."
"I feel confident on my own. I did not feel that I was missing anything when I started working on my own three years ago on the first recordings of 'Angel Clare.' I would have enjoyed Paul's musical attributes and it would have been a much better record if I could have used the resources he would have brought, but I didn't feel the lack of Paul."
Why did you break up in the first place? A long pause……"Well, something to do with the movie Catch 22 and Mike Nichols, something to do with two different schedules, something to do with a little bit of excitement being off the album-making process…it was a little less fresh than it used to be…something to do with us thinking 'why not split up?'…everybody out there thinks it's a crazy thing to do, but why not, it seems like an interesting thing to do, separate things for a while.
"We never set out to accomplish anything as Simon and Garfunkel. We had no conscious goal except to make records and hope that they were popular. We worked very hard and some of the things that amazed me were how one gets so popular and how the popularity process works. I must also say that it amazed me that some of our records sold as much as they did, that they were that popular. It seemed sort of freakish, but it didn't amaze me that we caught on and became a popular act, because I simply thought we were good."
Immediately after the split, Garfunkel played leading roles in two films, Catch 22 and Carnal Knowledge. Did he intend to carry on his film career? "In a broad way, yes, but I have no specific plans. I wasn't all that satisfied with my performances in the films and, in fact, I preferred Two Lane Black Top to them all.
"I'm still offered scripts, but I used to be offered more than I am now because I've kept turning everything down. It's just another form of expression that I am really happy to avail myself of. To express yourself in the creative arts by going and making a film is a terrific change from making records and I'd love to do it again.
"I prefer singing, though."