1975 Breakaway Interview
One O'Clock Saturday with Stuart Grundy
The following is taken from a 1975 BBC interview with Art Garfunkel and Richard Perry discussing the evolution of the Breakaway album.
Stuart Grundy in the studio: It's midday on Saturday the 24th of August. Art Garfunkel has completed his second solo album, and is sitting in a room at the Chateau Marmot overlooking Hollywood's Sunset Strip. Most of the decisions concerning the album have been made. Most, but not all of them.
Stuart Grundy: Have you yet got a title for your album, Art?
Art Garfunkel: No, I don't, Stuart.
SG: You're going to have to find one fairly shortly.
AG: I figure I've got about--12 hours. I'll come up with something. (They laugh.) You know Paul's old title for us, "So Young, and Yet So Full of Pain."
SG: It was suggested to me that you might finally decide to call your album Breakaway.
AG: Mmm, hmm.
SG: I think that would be provocative, and perhaps true.
AG: Yeah, there's a truth to it. It's misleading in terms of the Breakaway does sound something like To put out a Simon and Garfunkel record, and to title my album Breakaway sounds like there're confusing signals being sent. I don't know. I'll play with it. I'll think about it. It's fun, it's very interesting to catch me just at the moment of titling an album and have me conjecture about all this stuff on tape.
SG in the studio:Art Garfunkel's "Break Away" [plays "Break Away"]. The title song from the new Art Garfunkel album, Breakaway, a Gallagher and Lyle song picked up, incidentally, on a recent visit to Britain by Art's new producer, Richard Perry. An interesting sidelight on that particular track is that on it you'll also find half of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young team.
SG: I think you have David Crosby and Graham Nash on this particular track with you. Have you worked with them before, or have they worked with you before?
AG: No. Graham used to sing with me and Paul in the car a lot. We used to do rounds. Graham loves to sing, he's very playful and easy about making music with people. David I didn't know quite as well as I knew Graham. I knew Graham from "The Hollies" days when he'd first come over to America. No, I'd never actually worked with them. It was something I had wanted to do for years. It was fabulous to work with them. It's so much fun to be with people who do the same thing with their livelihoods that you do, and to do it together. It's great!
SG: This track does illustrate, as many of the tracks on the album do, that you're much more "up front" this time than you were on Angel Clare.
AG: Mm, hmm.
SG: Was that something that Richard Perry did, or you did?
AG: Richard Perry. That's Richard. That's me saying, "I went to this producer to have him produce, and he's got the ball," you know? I'll go with a lot of his choices and see what happens. Let me give him enough room to make sure if he has an idea he can fill out the vision and sell it to me. That's very much Richard to say, "I want to put the voice way up front." And as I hear it I think that's an interesting album. I like it.
SG in the studio: Well, it's certainly very different to Angel Clare, and the reason must surely lie with Richard Perry. Perry's original success was with Tiny Tim. He later went on to produce hit material for Harry Nilsen, Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and more recently, Manhattan Transfer. With the confidence born of such success, Richard Perry was more than happy to take on Artie who was in the process of severing a 10-year professional relationship with Roy Halee. It was to be a wind of change.
Richard Perry: I think that a fresh approach, fresh ideas, perhaps some more objective ideas can be a very positive thing. And I think Artie sensed this in front, and that was why he came to me, and we tried it out initially as an experiment, and then proceeded from there. He had a lot of ideas, as I did, and after we kind of went through all our initial ideas, I think we had about five things, and then it took a little while to finish out the remaining ones. The first track we put down was a Stevie Wonder song "I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever)." And the second track we put down was "I Only Have Eyes For You" which is the first single.
SG: It's interesting that you did those two first, because they're the best known of all the songs in this particular collection. Do you feel there's an onus on you and on the artist to create a distinctive, new version of a well-known song?
RP: Yes. I don't think that anyone should attempt to do a well-known song unless they can bring something new to it, and I have, you know, kind of mixed feelings about doing a well-known song. I mean, I would always prefer to do something that is not as known, unless, as I say, if you have a whole new interpretation of it. Then it can be very effective, because the listener is already familiar with the song, they can instantly be turned on to it and just enjoy the fruits of the labor that much quicker.
[Plays "I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever)"]
SG in the studio: Stevie Wonder's song, and one of three oldies on this new Art Garfunkel album, "I Believe (When I Fall In Love )." It's undoubtedly true that when Art Garfunkel decided to break with Roy Halee, the one remaining link with the duo days, he could have chosen almost any record producer. Why Richard Perry?
AG: I was very much attracted to some of the records Richard's made in terms of his specific drum sound he gets on backbeat drums, with specific reference to how they read on the AM radio--these drum sounds. There are elements in Richard's style that I thought would be very complimentary to mine. I think of Richard's records and his production style as bolder than mine, more graphic, made of fewer, bigger elements. And I was interested in that quality. In the studio, I wanted to defer a lot of creative power. I very specifically wanted to say, "You tell me what you think, I'll try it." So, I purposely wanted to give it away and see what would happen. A couple of times I made a couple of films, and as an actor, you know, you do that. You let the director tell you you divide the labor and go in for more specialization of work. That's what I was after, and I'm very pleased. I think all of these instincts were good. It's a good way to grow.
SG: With Roy you'd had probably a sort of 50/50 relationship.
AG: Yeah, but I'm wary of numbers. (Laughs) whereas in this case you have more of a 62/38 relationship, wouldn't you? (Laughs) Well, Richard Perry did bring some firm ideas to the relationship, some rather tasty strings on that last track, "I Believe,"--strings recorded by Perry in London. The scoring for strings in the United States does tend to be over-lush, whereas George Martin, in particular, illustrated the effectiveness of understatement that seems to have made British string sounds and players famous.
RP: I think that the general approach towards string writing in England is much more along these lines than it is in America. And it is for that specific reason that I went to London to do the strings on the Garfunkel album. I recorded them at Air Studios and Marquee Studios and was very pleased with the results, and in fact, since then, we've gotten a lot of compliments. Del Newman and Richard Uson did the charts, and rather than a big, lush, fancy, excitement in the strings, that kind of writing--it's just like very simple and understated, but very beautiful in its own way. I've always felt that one whole note, if it's written the right way in the right place, and voiced in the right way, can be more exciting than sixteen 16ths.
SG: With the production side of things now firmly in other hands, Artie could concentrate almost exclusively on vocal performance. Did he have any particular preference for any one song on the album? Well, yes, it seems his secret favorite is a song called "Rag Doll."
AG: In a way, I kind of wear that vocal more comfortably than any other vocal.
SG: Isn't it about unrequited love?
AG: Yes, but it appeals to me not so much for its message in its lyric, but rather the aesthetic feel of the whole song. Just the "taste" of the track and the vocal, the atmosphere that it's steeped in. I mean "Scarborough Fair" wasn't really a song with a message, and you're really not so much meant to follow the story as you're meant to feel the taste of the flow of the music. It's the atmospherics, the aesthetic as it goes into your ear that you're after in that one. And that's really my surest number. When I'm running down that trail I feel I'm most comfortable. That's what "Rag Doll" is for me on this album.
And, Richard Perry?
RP: This is a tune that Art had brought to me that he was turned onto by Jim Webb, written by a fellow by the name of Steve Eaton, who none of us had ever met. Don't know anything about him, but just that this song exists, and we both found it a very charming song. I liked it immediately.
[Plays "Rag Doll"]
SG in the studio: Artie's secret favorite on the album--a secret no longer, "Rag Doll." Is there, then, an overall style emerging from this album?
AG: The style, I'm If you could describe my current thing, and what I'm into now is, it's mostly about personal stuff. As a singer, I'm trying to loosen and dig deeper and be more revealing, and handle the lyric as if I'm showing who I am a little more than ever before. I know I've built up expertise at a certain kind of stylized way of singing and a certain technique as a singer. Now I'm trying to give it away a little bit--try and feel out the story of the song more on the microphone, and make the experience of me on the microphone singing the song for the three minutes and fifteen seconds that I'm doing it--making that experience be something that's more revealing. Now, how do you reveal yourself? Do you cough? Do you sneeze? Somehow, you have to "turn off," I think. You have to let go, or you have to be plainer, just be "realer." Choose something that you know exactly how you're connected to the lyric, and in what way. And then just be more simple. These are the things I'm doing so that my album is very much a singer's album. It's a lot about this particular singer doing these songs and how he interprets it. Backgrounds are a little more supportive than they used to be. I'm not so much the record person as I've been with Roy, as I am more the singer and the sound.
SG in the studio: With some outstanding writers who are also personal friends on Angel Clare, were any of them contributing to this album?
AG: Albert Hammond is the only writer that's on both albums. He wrote the melody to a song on my album; Hal David wrote the lyric. It's called "99 Miles From L.A."
SG: Are you listening to material all the time? New material?
AG: Yeah. When I record and prior to when I record, for the year before, and as I'm doing it, I'm listening all the time. And then as it gets near the end, I start a month or two ago, I started feeling, "No more, that's it. I don't want to hear anything. I'm full up." And it was very enjoyable to tune out for a while, and I'm tuned out now for a bit.
SG: Are you changing your mind very often in that phase? Do you prevaricate, say, "I like this," and then go off it and ?
AG: No. No, I have a very sure-footed sense of what I like, and exactly how much I like it. Give me two listenings of a song, and I can tell you exactly how it sits with me, and I know my musical taste. I know my ears, I know what I respond to.
SG: What was it about "99 Miles" that you liked?
AG: That's a very unusual question. I didn't like it! (Laughs)
SG in the studio: Like it or not, for my money, "99 Miles" is one of the most successful tracks on the album. It has an almost film, or dreamlike, visual quality. Richard Perry
RP: Yes, indeed, I feel the same way. I'd love to do a three-minute film based on that track. I thought the song had a lot of haunting beauty and was a very good vehicle for his voice. And, I'm glad you mentioned that visual element of it, because I very definitely felt it while it was being made, and particularly when it was finished. But, you know, then again, I feel that way about a lot of records that I do. In fact, almost all of them. It's just the thing that makes that so visual is that the basic lyric of the song, I must give particular credit to the lyricist, Hal David, because the words create such beautiful pictures in one's mind, and it has such great visual potential built into it as a result of that.
[Plays "99 Miles From L.A."]
SG in the studio:"99 Miles From L.A." Well, Art did say that he didn't like it at first, but we can hardly let him get away with it as easily as that.
AG: It's a very odd one. No sense in talking about this business of how we do it as if we're really on top of it, it's full of accident, it's full of trial and error, it's full of things that happen to you. I mean, I'm not meaning to be contradictory to hear having just said, "I do listen to a lot of material and I choose what I like." What I haven't said is some of the material on this album, a fair amount, came via Richard. Richard says, "How about this one?" And in the case of "99 Miles" I warmed up to it very slowly. I listened. I wasnt terribly keen on it. Rich said, "Let's try it anyway," and in the making of it, it began to appeal to me.
SG: I think you're very strong on visual images, I mean, I know you've talked in the past about things like "Punky's Dilemma" and so on, as having this amazing visual quality. I think that certainly happens with "99 Miles." Do you see it as a ?
AG: I see it as--the sweep of it, and the long extending lines, and the crescendo and the decrescendo that sounds like inhale and exhale. That sweep and movement to me reminds me of Panavision. You always see cars driving, I see lots of gray colors, gray tones, low cloudy skies.
SG: I think I like that as much as anything on the album on the first hearing the track.
AG: I'm glad you like it, because I that one I warmed up to slowly. I kept looking, what's the angle on this? What's the hook that I'm going to get off on as a singer? And I began to get into that hypnotic quality of crescendo and decrescendos.
SG: Talking also of the different directions that you're going in on this particular album, the acoustic treatment on your voice is different on almost every track. But, I love that. There is a positive--if you can use the word "positive" in this instance--floating quality to the voice. It seems to float above
AG: On "99 Miles", yeah. I try, I worked for that effect. I was trying to bring that out in the doubling of the vocal. After I had done the lead vocal, I tried to do some tricks.
SG: Any vocal assistance on any of the other tracks?
AG: Yeah. We got Toni Tenille and Bruce Johnston on one of my tunes.
SG: Would that be "Disney Girls"?
AG: "Disney Girls."
SG in the studio:"Disney Girls" is the second of those three oldies on the album that I mentioned earlier. The third, we'll get around to almost immediately.
SG: You were talking about those sounds on the Richard Perry productions that you went for. Is there one track in particular, or are there tracks, where you feel that this is best illustrated on your album?
AG: Yeah. I think it's very much a Richard Perry production, the single I have out now, "I Only Have Eyes For You." It's Richard doing something that is somewhat in the style I would have predicted him to do, although I'm not saying any specific record is predictable. It's somewhat in that style, and it's a real nice example of Richard's talents for me.
[Plays "I Only Have Eyes For You"]
SG in the studio:Album track and highly-successful single from Art Garfunkel. Very much a Richard Perry product, that. "I Only Have Eyes For You."
SG: What about that Simon and Garfunkel track, though? As I mentioned earlier last week, it's on Paul's album, and this one. How did Richard Perry feel about "My Little Town"? There is one track on the album that you weren't associated with.
SG: Did you find that difficult to ?
RP: I found it a bit difficult at first, but then something that I was able to get beyond fairly quickly. At first, I had some slight reservations as to how that particular track would work into the concept of our album which was meant to be from the very beginning a romantic album--a makeout album for the '70's, and I think we've achieved that. And I was just concerned that the hard-biting, cynical-type lyric of "My Little Town" would almost be an intrusion on this concept. But I think the way it works out, it sits well on the album.
SG in the studio:Well, when we previewed Paul's album last week, he told us about the development of "My Little Town." This week, it's the Gospel according to Artie.
AG: In the early spring, Paul said to me, one night he said, "I have a song that I think might be good for your album." It's always Paul's impression that my style is not raunchy enough. He's always saying to me, "Put in some more hard-edged stuff." And so, he says, "Here's a song that I think would be perfectly tailored for you. A song I'm in the middle of writing. I'd like to give it to you as a gift, because I think it's perfect programming for you in terms of balancing out your album." He'd heard some of my things, and it was kind of a it was a little angry, the song. It had a nice bite to it, and I liked it. And I said to him, "Great, I'll do it. I'd love to do it. However, I have the feeling that you'll want to do it yourself," (never having been very prolific), "and so if you ever need the song in your own album, feel free to take it back, because I appreciate your being generous, but I wonder if you'll be able to follow through." 'Cause I have this notion sometimes that I know Paul better than he knows himself about some things, like that. He said, "Well, we'll see." He finishes the song, and he falls in love with it by the time he finishes it, and sure enough, it's a really good song, and he wants to I know that he's hard-pressed to just let it go. Then I show him how in the bridge it's ideally suited for two-part harmony. He first says, "Never mind the two-part harmony, I'm writing the song for you. I think it's ideal for you. That's my intention. I don't intend to go back on this decision I mean this to be a just a nice gesture, and if that's what it feels like, don't take the words out of my mouth." So, I say, "Whatever." But, he's inclined to agree that the bridge in it has a folky quality that might sound nice in two-part harmony, so we try it. He sings melody, and I immediately jump to a harmony. Instinctively for a change, I go for the lower harmony, instead of the higher harmony. It gives us a slightly different kind of blend. It's where I'm at--it's a sound that I particularly enjoy these days--so I get off on it, and I'm sure he does, too. And here we are singing, and it's the first time in five years, four years, and needless to say, it's one of the great delights to make music with somebody. Particularly when it's a blend that you've worked up over the years, and it's as entertaining to my ears as anybody else's. So we enjoyed it a lot, and I guess felt by the time we had run the song down, that it's good for us, and there's no reason not to cut it. We simply enjoyed it too much, and it was too much a satisfying musical experience to weigh in any other factor in the equation; that seemed to predominate. So we said, "All right, let's cut it." Paul said, "Let's do it in Muscle Shoals," he'd been wanting to turn me on to the Muscle Shoals musicians for the longest time.
SG: Did he succeed?
AG: Yeah. He succeeded in showing me some very good players who I'd like to work with again. We went down there in around March or April, I remember winter was receding finally, and there was a very nice smell in the air, and we spent three days cutting this track to "My Little Town." We did the vocals a month later, and we mixed in June or July, and it ended up as a strong Simon and Garfunkel tune.
[Plays "My Little Town"]
SG: What was it like working together again? Was it like old times, were there sparks, or what?
AG: There were sparks. It was like old times insofar as it had some fire to it, and some unexplainable chemistry that was fun to do and get off on. It had a lot of similar frustrations, a lot of difference in taste, a lot of reckoning with the idea that no one thing can really satisfy two people when you get down to specifics, and that things have to be worked around. Actually there was a heavy dose of that, which in some ways limited the experience, you know. In so many ways you have to say, "Well, I don't hear it that way, but okay."
SG: Well, this is just like old times, then.
AG: Yeah, but you don't like to make records for any other reason other than, this is the way I hear it and this is what I love. If you're making for any other reason, it's funny.
SG: Would you say that recording the other tracks for your album was, then, a less harrowing experience?
AG: No, because there was nothing harrowing about what I'm describing. The difference in taste between Paul Simon and myself insofar as it was somewhat frustrating for, sometimes him, sometimes me, in the making of "My Little Town" was no big thing. It was not edgy in any way. It just limited how satisfying the creative experience is, which is why I make my own albums, you know? Which is why I think in the future I'm basically a solo performer, as well as Paul. I'd rather satisfy myself and have the maximum amount of following my own vision, than really satisfy the audience.
SG in the studio:Well, that's a bold declaration of intent! I don't think I need to say, though, that Artie manages to more than satisfy his audience, as well. And does so twice on this album through the pen of a brand-new writer, Stephen Bishop.
SG: Let's talk about Stephen Bishop. You've got a couple of his songs. Now to me, he's a brand-new name. Has he done very much work in the past?
AG: He's been writing a lot. He hasn't made it, but he's young, and he's new, and he's
SG: He has some extremely delicate lyrics that seem just right for you. For example, "The Same Old Tears."
AG: Yeah, he writes in a style that's very good for me. I could play a lot of his songs. He has a lovely style.
SG: And it's very important that, I know we've spoken about this before, as you are the interpreter, so the writer's words should represent something of the way you feel.
AG: Of course! It's quite an interesting thing to be a singer who's looking for lyrics to express what he feels. Very interesting.
SG in the studio:Mention the name Stephen Bishop to Richard Perry, and what do you get?
RP: A marvelous, new, young writer from Los Angeles that I think we'll be hearing a lot from in the future. Stephen Bishop's songs are particularly well-suited to Art Garfunkel. In fact, Art, I think, one of his personal creative projects that he'd like to do someday, would be to record an entire album of Stephen Bishop songs--all very beautiful, romantic melodies.
SG in the studio:This is just one of the Stephen Bishop tracks on the album, "Looking For The Right One."
[Plays "Looking For The Right One"]
SG: I remember last year, Artie said, and I think Roy Halee said, too, that when they were putting, let's say the Angel Clare album together, Artie reluctantly added vocals.
RP: That sounds like Artie. (Laughs) He tends to downplay his own vocal abilities, and I could sort of imagine him saying this track sounds so beautiful, I hate to put my voice on it. But, it's the nature of a lot of artists to say, "Oh, why ruin this beautiful track with my voice?" when in fact, that's the most beautiful element.
SG in the studio:Returning to one of the tracks we played earlier, "99 Miles From L.A.," (yes, I probably do have a thing about it!), I remember saying to Artie that it sounded very Jobim-like to me.
SG: Now, just after I'd mentioned that I thought it had a Jobim quality, you in fact said, "Wow. Hmm. Well, there's a Jobim track on the album--'Waters of March'," which I think is very exciting.
AG: Thank you. I like it. What can we say about it? The direction I'm going for in this one is simplicity and lyric connection. That's the thing I'm trying to "sell" if you want to use that word. I just want the listener to be unencumbered with anything fancy, and to be keyed right away on the words I'm using, 'cause what I get off on is the constant use of nouns--things--birds, stones. Did you ever read "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud," Carson McCullers' short story? It's a very short story about how to become a lover. If you want to love someone, then learn to love nouns.
[Plays "The Waters of March"]
AG: Don't take if for granted that there is such a thing called "a chair." It's great "a chair," I mean, where did it come from? Just a few short years ago, you came into the world and you saw all these things and your as a three-year-old your eyes were wide open with the mystery of all the things that make up this civilization. And in truth, you never really grasped how magical it all is, and how fabulous, and how busy it all is. You've gotten cooler about it, but you never really got cool about it. It's still terrifically wonderful daily. And in that song, I'm just enjoying all of that--celebrating "a night," "a point," "a grain," "a bee," "a buzzard," "a trap," "a gun," "a death,"--all the things, and it makes a kind of a fabulous swirl in the end, which is what I'm looking for. To me, it's Fellini-ish.
SG: I'll tell you what I did love on that. I loved those pipes sounds. I don't know what you used, but great sounds. Tell me, what was it?
AG: If it's the sort of perky moments in it, it's Bill Paine doing some very tasty synthesizer overdubs.
SG: Oh, I loved it.
AG: I like Bill a lot. He's played on quite a few tracks on the album. I really hit it off with him.
SG in the studio:Artie on the subject of Little Feets' Bill Paine, and that album track "Waters of March." Artie obviously needs to have that deep appreciation of any song he records. Public approbation, it seems, provides little satisfaction. We spoke about the success of the single, and I said:
SG:That must be satisfying?
AG: It's a kick, but it's a kick without substance, I think. It doesn't have real potency as a pleasure giver, you know? It's elusive. It's simply a kick; it's a high, I think.
SG: So you're not ever going to get a repetition of the feelings that you had when "The Sound of Silence" was going up the charts?
AG: No, I just get mini-versions of the same thing, that kind of ecstasy of what a terrific surprise, "For me? Oh, how nice. Thank you." I have the same very pleasant reaction to good news, but to a slightly smaller degree.
SG in the studio:Well, there's time to tuck one more track into this Art Garfunkel preview. How about the oldie we mentioned earlier? Artie
AG: It was a much-appreciated tune on an earlier Beach Boys album that I've dug out. It fits nicely into my album. It stays with a certain feel that runs through the whole album, which I would say is kind of lyrical-romantic-sexy. It's the most stylized of all their songs. It's the one where I'm most asking to be taken in an un-direct way--in a stylized way--"Disney Girls."
[Plays "Disney Girls"]
SG in the studio:Art Garfunkel with the voices of Bruce Johnston and Toni Tenille on "Disney Girls." Well with the album completed, the work done, what's Artie thinking of doing now?
AG: I'm thinking of producing Stephen, Stephen Bishop. I'm thinking of rehearsing with a small group and putting a show together, getting ready to go out on the road. I'm thinking of writing my own songs--staying in the house and turning off the phone and noodling on the keyboard and seeing where that goes--something I have never really done. I will have taken a vacation, done some traveling, so I'll be cooled out on that score. But frankly right now, I'm dying to get out in the country, and do just what I was saying before. Well, that's a bird that's got such a fat worm. What a tasty lunch! Here comes a bigger, brutish bird who chases him right away. He sits on the fence and probably gets
[Plays "Break Away" excerpt--fades to close.]