WNEW Radio Interview
December 7, 1997
The following interview took place on a popular New York City radio program on WNEW-FM entitled "Idiot's Delight" hosted by longtime DJ Vin Scelsa. A copy of this interview was made possible by Mr. Scelsa.
Editor Note: Interview opens with Vin Scelsa playing "The Boxer," "The Dangling Conversation," "The Only Living Boy in New York," and "A Heart in New York".
VS:Well, there's some favorite music of mine that my guest this evening participated in (laughs), was the voice of Art Garfunkel is with me tonight. And that track which is from the Art Garfunkel album called Scissors Cut is entitled "A Heart in New York." It's a Gallagher and Lyle song. Did they actually record that at some point along the way, or did they write it for you, or what?
AG: Well, first let me say hello to you... ...
VS: Hello! ...
AG: It's a pleasure to be in your studio. I now see your taste, and you know my stuff just from the choices you picked, I can tell a lot. ...
VS: Everybody knows your stuff. ...
AG: Well, you went to the ones that I personally like... ...
VS: Oh, yeah? Really?
AG: ... "The Only Livin' Boy"...
VS: I love "Only Living Boy."
AG: Yeah, that's a goody. Gallagher and Lyle sent me, uh, they wrote for me because their, you know, they had their folk, their soft-rock career in England, and they were somewhat derivative of our sound, so they know how to write in that folk-ey, pick-ey, "Boxer" kind of style, and, yes, they wrote that with me in mind and sent it to me.
VS: Art Garfunkel is with me tonight here on Idiot's Delight. We heard from, we heard three songs that are included on this wonderful new box set that has just come out. This collection called Old Friends/Simon & Garfunkel which contains some very pure-in terms of audio quality-recordings, things that we're so familiar with that have been reissued and reissued and reissued along the way. But these are, according to the liner notes, recordings that go back to, as original , um, the original masters as they can get. Sometimes these things have gotten lost over the years, haven't they?
AG: That's hard work to make sure you get the originals. They did that work; they came up with good clean things.
VS: Because very often, especially with the CD revolution, very often albums were kind of lazily put out on CD. I don't know if that was the case, really, with any Simon and Garfunkel, or with any Art Garfunkel albums, but sometimes the sound quality wasn't as good as it could've been, because they didn't go back to the original source.
AG: After all the years in the beginning of singing it carefully, and producing it meticulously, and engineering it, and bringing it to the mastering stage with such a nervous-mother's-hen supervision and care-when that Simon and Garfunkel career was over, and then I was doing my own records, and keeping care of my own things came, finally came the '80's when The Company starts wanting to reissue stuff, and at a certain point you go, "Okay, let them do what they want in the way they do it. I just can't police all of that. I'm on to my own new projects." And so you say, if it's going to now be a little more casual than our work (or a lot more), so be it. It's just, maybe my audience will know, "Okay, this is not, this doesn't have the 'Paul and Artie' hand of care in it. It's The Company doing it."
VS: Well, how about this new album, then?
AG: Well, this was carefully done; I'm pleased with this. Although I didn't do it, I supervised it, they sent stuff up to me, I sat on the quality control and made sure it was good, and they did their homework to find the original masters, so I like what I hear.
VS: Plus there are some live recordings on here...
AG: They went to the right shows...
VS: ...some concert performances from the late '60's, things that we've never heard before, because there was never a Simon and Garfunkel live album.
AG: No, we always thought it was a "weak sister" of an album. Then you get a little older, and you take the documentary approach. Whatever really happened has an authenticity of its own...(Vin Scelsa laughs)
VS: Well, we'll hear some of that stuff a bit later on as well, but just now we heard "The Boxer," of course, and "The Dangling Conversation," and "The Only Living Boy in New York," and from Art's Scissors Cut album, we heard the song called "A Heart in New York" here on WNEW-FM in New York, and we'll be right back after this.
VS: So, here we are on WNEW-FM on a Sunday night in December with Art Garfunkel. And (this is so exciting)...If I wasn't such an admirer of Art Garfunkel, and if I wasn't such a basically-respectful sort of individual, I could say that, I'm even more excited that Eric Weissberg is here (Vin Scelsa and Art Garfunkel laugh). The legendary guitarist-I was told that Art was going to bring "a guitarist" with him, and nobody ever told me who, and when Eric Weissberg walked in (Art laughs), it was like, "Wow! Man!" (Art again). It's so neat to have you here, welcome. Welcome, as well. Art Garfunkel, you've been walking around the world...
AG: Not quite...
VS: ...or something like that...
AG: Something like that.
VS: Tell me about that. What is this walking thing you've been doing?
AG: I walked around one-eighth of the northern hemisphere. Some years ago I took a freighter from San Francisco to Japan, and I had never been there, it was the early '80's. So when I arrived in Japan, I checked the little luggage I had, and I walked across Japan through the rice fields, and it took me three weeks because the country's not that wide, and I found it was very doable and very healthy, and nice, and settled me down. So I planned to do just that across the United States, and I did it from the mid-'80's to the mid-'90's in forty different excursions always flying home and then flying back to where I left off some months later.
VS: And did you do this alone? Or did you have other people with you, or...?
AG: Half the time I went out on my own with my music and a notebook, and half the time I was either with my wife or my brother, or Jimmy Webb joined me in Idaho.
VS: Oh, yeah?
AG: I'm not sure to this day what to make of it. I just know that as a New Yorker you've got to get out of town, you have to get exercise, you have to get air and horizons, so this is my idea of, "Forget the treadmill, I think I'll do it for real. Instead of watching CNN, I'll watch, uh, Montana!"
VS: When you first did it in Japan, did you have a plan? Did you have a goal in sight every day, did you know where you were going to wind up in five or six or eight hours?
AG: No, I trusted that I would find a place to stay, and, in fact, it worked. I had my American Express card in my back pocket, but I basically woke up the spirit of travel and replaced that feeling of, "Where's my car keys?" into, "There's West, and I have my map," and the rest is just follow your sense of direction and cut through the earth as if you were two years old and an unprogrammed human being who is going to just go, you know, that verb "to go" and you see the hills that are 12 miles away, and you say, "I'm going there," and you walk there!
VS: Yeah. That's a notion that's almost unfathomable to most of us, because we don't ever travel on anything that isn't a road, you know? We don't look a the mountain over there and go, because maybe there isn't a road that goes to that mountain; maybe you have to cross a field to get to that mountain.
AG: You know, Vin, what it makes me think of? Idiot's Delight. (They laugh) It is breaking down the civilized, structured thing we build up to live in modern, 20th century, uh, you know-we adults are screening out so much stuff in order to deal with the, what we call "the relavancies," and only children know, it's all kind of interesting, you know? So, they don't do the screening out, and I was working to get back to that simpler, very naïve point of view.
VS: How difficult is it for Art Garfunkel to do that?
AG: It's not bad, you'd be surprised. Although I have the curly, recognizable hair, out there in the field with a cap on and a book and the sort of non-persona that I wear, I find it real easy to be a nobody and to not get recognized. I think if people see me and if they would think that I look like Art Garfunkel, their next thought must be, "No, it couldn't be him. Look, this is a guy who's walking across (chuckles) the fields..."
VS: Yeah, here we are in Idaho someplace, and he's stopped in at a coffee-a diner for a cup of coffee or something.
AG: It works. It's easy to find anonymity from-because the attitude sets it up.
VS: How, after all these years, how comfortable are you, or how much of a drag is this kind of a situation for you? Being interviewed again, yet another time, having somebody else ask you questions, one more time, nine times out of ten those questions being the questions you've been asked for 30 years now? How-that's a part of being a public person that...
AG: I've changed now several times about how much can I-there's this issue of you would like to be (in your own mind) a pure artist. The calling I have is to sing and to be musical and that's where my confidence lives, and I would love to just stick with that, but I'm involved in commerce with this musical thing. Commerce is making, as Joni Mitchell used to say, stoking the star-maker machine. You want to make sure when you hit the stage there are people in the seats, so you are obliged to create interest in you. You're playing the media game of gaining interest and this is what takes you here. When you first start out, you'll do anything to get your song on the radio and impress the girls. If you have hits, you then move to that other pure "artiste" position-let's see if my records can speak for myself-surely they'll come up to my show if I have the number one album in the country, and I can take a standoffish position about everything else. Here I am now in the '90's balancing the two, trying to play ball, as it were, be a realist, which is I care that people are interested in me, and they don't turn their attention to Nine Inch Nails to the exclusion of Artie Garfunkel. I care, so I want to, you know, I want to show I care and yet it's not what I got into this business to do. I got in it to sing.
VS: And you started that singing very early on. You were singing as a kid in grammar school as I understand, right?
AG: Yeah. I was walking to kindergarten singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel, stepping over cracks in regular time and finishing the song and starting it again from the top in the half-tone higher, the new key to stretch my range-five, six years old.
VS: How does a six-year-old kid, A) know that song, and B) know about changing the key to stretch his range?
AG: I think there's a certain New York, umm, if I say clever, I'm being self-serving, but there's a certain New York "smart" thing that was, I guess, kicking around. I was giving myself my own stretching exercises. It's not that I saw myself later on as on the radio, but I guess I knew from an early age that I had a lucky thing in the throat-I could sing-and it would behoove me to stretch it, enjoy it, use it.
VS: Was there music in the family?
AG: Yep. Mom and Dad were singers, in a casual way. Dad played the piano by ear, you know.
VS: And is that how you came to know that song, how you knew Broadway show songs at such an early age?
AG: (To himself) I wonder, how did I know that?
VS: Were they playing those records in the house?
AG: We played South Pacific; we must have played Car--. I forget how I knew it. I knew the hits of Roy Hamilton, remember, I don't know if you know that...?
AG: Songs like "Ebb Tide." Those inspirational, goosebump, climbing ballads. I locked onto those, which, of course, led to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in the long run, and to me was my forte.
VS: Sure! Sure. There's no surprise that that would be the kind of music you were listening to as a kid. When did you and Simon meet? You were again, still relatively young, right?
AG: Please, Paul, it's Paul Simon...
VS: Sorry, I'm sorry, Paul Simon...
AG: A little respect in the studio...
VS: ...Paul Simon...Okay, Artie! (They laugh)
AG: We met-we were sixth graders, so we would be eleven, we were in Queens, we grew up three blocks apart from each other. I had been singing in talent shows. My big song that was my calling card was Nat Cole's "Too Young" (sings) "They tried to tell us we're..." and I got popular in the neighborhood as the crooner who could do that song in talent shows, and I would sing in the synagogue from time to time. The reverb was great in the synagogue. So Paul, who was in other classes says, years later, that he saw me and he knew that that was the ticket to popularity-to be a singer. And he met me when I was in the sixth grade. They, the teachers (now this is the part that's tiresome to keep telling over and over, but it's...you gotta...the truth is the truth), they cast us in Alice in Wonderland, and we met each other, and he was clearly the other turned-on kid in the neighborhood. So finally I had a friend who was, had a vision a little bit beyond our neighborhood. And he was very funny; he had me in stitches all the time, and...
VS: What parts did you play in Alice in Wonderland?
AG: I was the Cheshire Cat...
VS: (laughs softly) That's very good. (laughs)
AG: He was the Rabbit.
VS: 'Was a long time ago, right? 'Was a long time ago.
AG: Seventy-four years ago? Something like...
VS: (laughs) Seventy-four! (laughs)
AG: The Sunshine Boys. (Both laugh)
VS: Well, you guys started listening to Rock-n-Roll.
AG: Well, you see, we are of that age, as is Dylan, as was Lennon, where we're just prime to come into adolescence as Alan Freed brought his Rock-n-Roll Show from Cleveland to WINS in New York. So, I was slayed by this new subversive Rhythm & Blues stuff, and when I was thirteen and my pal, Paul, and I would go home and at night you'd hear Chuck Berry or "Chantilly Lace" and you'd come to school next day and you and a few other kids in the class knew about this, this radio program, and it made you hip in the class. There was very few of us who knew that.
VS: Yeah. How interesting that so many of the people who you mentioned and who fit into that category-who came of age listening to Rock-n-Roll-got their start in music in "folk music" or "acoustic music." You know? So when you think of Simon and Garfunkel, we think of a movement in the '60's that was part of the folk music movement.
AG: You know why? (I'm talking off the top my head, thinking, "Where did that come from?") Because first it was DooWop Rock-n-Roll, The Penguins or "Earth Angel" and all that great stuff when we were teenagers, but that lead to a slightly watered-down version of it. To me, Bobby Vee was not as exciting as Laverne Baker. And so by the '60's, we were looking for what's, a little fresher? When we heard The Kingston Trio be iconoclastic, and we started hearing these folky things, and then came Joan Baez with that very sweet soprano doing these lovely, folky child ballads from England, that became the most interesting thing happening, that I was aware of. I wasn't a jazznic...
VS: Well, were you ever a folky in terms of music like The Weavers, Pete Seeger, that era of American music?
AG: This is a perfect segue for Eric Weissberg...(They all laugh). Not nearly as much as my esteemed colleague.
VS: Yeah, but, so you weren't? I mean, that wasn't a part of that liberal New York, you know, kind of...
VS: ...you know, kind of left-wing, sort of...
AG: I didn't listen to Lightnin' Hopkins, for example. I knew a little Pete Seeger, not a lot. Of course, we were all taken with Dylan, but mostly because of Dylan's persona. The closest I personally got to it was Baez's first couple of albums. I thought they were very, I guess, "pretty" would be the word-sweet, pretty, folky things.
VS: And yet, after awhile, the music that Simon and Garfunkel was making which started out as two voices and a guitar, quickly became something else. I guess because of, of what? Was it Tom Wilson who took...
AG: Yes, it was.
VS: ...took "Sounds of Silence," right?
AG: That's right.
VS: Which started off in one version as an acoustic thing, and the story is-unbeknownst to either of you, kind of folk-rocked it up. Put some electric guitars and drums on it and stuff. Is that true?
AG: That's correct. The model in 1965 was Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and remember, the Byrds had "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." They were using that electric 12-string with a regular bass drum backbeat and, to do that to "The Sounds of Silence" while we weren't even there, was to put it into that idiom. And, you know, the idiom is so important. Kids listen to the radio, if it doesn't hit the ear in the first two seconds as "legit," or "the way records sound these days," the ear tunes out. So that's what they did to us, like I was saying before, you never disagree. You'll take any--, anybody's got a chance to try and get you a hit, you let it be.
VS: That was at the point when Paul Simon was living in England, so he didn't know about it, and you were still here in New York?
AG: Right. And I had come back from the summer singing with Paul, doing these shows and folk clubs, and I was back at Columbia (I guess these were my architecture-school days uptown). So I was a student that fall, and I came in and Tom Wilson said, "Listen, here's what we're putting out. What do you think?" And I said, "Well, you know, amusing, but if..." (at this point now, it had been quite a few years of trying to have a chart record and not making it. We had a hit when we were high school seniors, Paul and I, when-these are our Tom and Jerry days-but now here it's some six years later, so I could say I'm conditioned to failure at this point.)
AG: When they played "Sounds of Silence," I was just amused, and then to my amazement, it kept, uh, moving up.
VS: It was-because it was huge-it was a huge, huge recording.
AG: It was so much fun to watch it go from bubbling under to #98. Each time it jumps higher on the charts, you go, "Well, if it never gets higher than that and turns around and dies, my life will be a little changed." And then the next week when it jumps higher, you go, "Well, that means much more recognition, finances, everything. So that means my life is forever a little more changed." And when it jumps from 68 to 41, "My life is permanently more changed."
VS: And at some point did you reconcile yourself to this new arrangement of the song, and did it become something that you, in fact, really liked, or...?
AG: I never had any hard time with it. I have a hard time with the fourth verse turning into the fifth verse where the rhythm slips a little. (Both laugh) If I were there at the session, I would've worked that out a little more carefully (chuckles).
VS: Well, you know, Eric Weissberg is here, and he has a guitar with him, and what would happen if I said to Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg, "You want to sing that song?"
AG: Well, we would get instantly panicky!
VS: Yeah? (They all laugh) Any chance?
VS: What do you think?
EW: We're just not prepared to do it in this particular order, that's all.
VS: Oh, no? Oh, you have an order? Do you want to stick to your order, or do you want to...
AG: Well, no, no, we can do it, yeah.
VS: Want to be spontaneous?
AG: As long as you're paying us this enormous rate, we'll do it.
EW: Now, Art, you've got to raise the microphone, right? Okay. Art is much taller than you would think. The microphone went up about six inches.
AG: All right, we'll give you the old "Sounds of...
VS: Yeah, this is a very casual radio show. This is perhaps not what you're used to doing, so you can move the microphone-if you're comfortable moving the microphone, then you should go ahead and move it. (Eric Weissberg laughs) Don't worry about it.
[Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg perform "The Sound of Silence"]
[Introductions and songs: "A Poem on the Underground Wall" and "Red Rubber Ball"]
VS: And, there's an example of some of this previously-unreleased live material on the new Simon and Garfunkel box set called Old Friends. "Red Rubber Ball"-big hit for The Cyrcle, C-Y-R, way back when, and "A Poem on the Underground Wall." Recordings made at a performance at Lincoln Center in January of 1967. This is WNEW-FM in New York.
VS: I found myself, Art Garfunkel, maybe about a year ago, guess it was in January about a year ago-every year in January my wife goes away for a period of time to attend a trade show in her business, and so I'm alone. It's late at night, so my daughter is asleep, and it must have been about 2 o'clock, 2:30-3 o'clock in the morning, and I was up, and I was sort of bored, and so I put the TV on and on one of the cable channels like USA Network, broken up by tons and tons and tons of commercials, they were showing Catch-22, which I hadn't seen since the video first came out, whenever that was, and I remember going out and renting it. I saw it originally when it was on the big screen, and then I rented the video, and then I kind of forgot about it. And I got so sucked in by that movie! Even though it was being broken up every 10 or 12 minutes by 18 minutes of commercials, you know? And it went on all night long (they laugh) because of all the commercials...
AG: It's a long movie.
VS: ...it's a long film. I forgot what a powerful...
VS: ...and funny, and absurd...
AG: It's a rich cast...
VS: ...and touching...
AG: ...you're forever running into this star and that, and you go, "Jon Voigt's in that? Oh, there's Bob Newhart."
VS: Bob Newhart? (Laughs)
AG: It has a lot of names that keep you going.
VS: Now you guys made that film in Mexico?
AG: Yeah. A little bit in Rome, but mostly we were months (a little too many months) in Guaymas, Mexico in this, in the hotel La Playa de Cortez. We all had our rooms around the pool. We'd all be on will-call waiting to see who would have to come in and shoot the scene that day. I had a lot of time to read books.
VS: Yeah. Mike Nichols, of course, the director. And the relationship, I guess, between you and Mike Nichols got started because of The Graduate, I would think.
AG: Yeah. He must have been working with us, doing the songs for The Graduate, in '67, and I guess he had an eye on us as actors, or on me as an actor, so that he, he just-he came by my house when I was living on 68th Street after that. He came by in a limo, and he rolls down the window, and I'm out in the street talking to the nuns who had a, like a convent next door to my building. And he rolls down the window, and he hands me the script, "I know you've never acted before, but I want you to read Captain Nately, because I think you can do this." So I read it, and I chuckled and laughed because I saw the appropriateness of the casting. I recognized myself in that character, and I thought, to my amazement, I actually feel confident that I can say these lines credibly.
VS: That's a unique talent that a director has to be able to see that in somebody who isn't necessarily interested in being an actor.
AG: It shows how much casting counts. If you're cast well, it sort of feels organic.
VS: Now you implied, since you spent a lot of time reading books on that shoot, that it wasn't necessarily entertaining every minute. You sort of implied that.
AG: Every actor knows this.
VS: But did you get the, did you definitely have the bug at that point? I mean, you went on to work in some other films, of course.
AG: I won't say I had the bug. I didn't finish that film and then get the agent and look for the parts. I finished that film with an eye toward-I came back-we made our Bridge Over Troubled Water album; we got tired of each other, we'd been working so hard over the whole second half of the '60's that we wanted a break from each other. And when Mike offered me another role out of the blue to star against Nicholson and Candice Bergen in Carnal Knowledge, I took it as a way to just get a rest from the Simon and Garfunkel structure, and then (pauses) then the rest is history-there was no more Simon and Garfunkel.
VS: But that's a rest from Simon and Garfunkel, but that's moving into some other very high-pressured, high-profile, challenging area, you know, for a person who sort of stumbled into it. Mike Nicholson [sic] rolled down the window one day and handed you a script? That's a pretty ballsy thing to do.
AG: It's an interesting subject, what we're talking about, because it's a lot about how much do we do things in life as if they are a part of a plan. I think so much of life is things that are responses to opportunities, without a plan. I didn't feel, back in these days-I am embarking on a film career. I felt like a guy who said yes to two movie offers, period. It would take, you'd have to go back and say, "Well, then did you get the agent and start pursuing parts," (which I didn't) for me to say I started a fil--, an actor's career. What happened after that is that I made the Angel Clare album with Roy Halee in San Francisco and started my solo singing career.
VS: Tell about Roy Halee a little bit. Roy Halee's name appears on pretty much all the Simon and Garfunkel albums. He was your engineer, and his name appears on the Art Garfunkel albums, as well?
AG: I'm crazy about Roy. I hope he's listening. He was a staff Columbia engineer who they assigned to us when we first had our audition session in 1964, and he was the man who set the mikes for us as we put down four tunes to try and get on the label. And he had a wonderfully-respectful, serious attitude. People love to be taken seriously: children, grown-ups, nervous artists...
VS: Was he slightly older than you guys, or was he your contemporary?
AG: Slightly older. And, as Roy would say later on, he said, "I knew as soon as you guys opened your mouth that they were going to sign you, and you were going to have a big career. Your blend was really tight, and you were, you had it." And I didn't-you don't know how to appraise yourself. I was confident that all of our years of practicing had put us in a competitive posture, but you don't know. And he said, "And I remember the producer wasn't quite as serious about realizing what was going on as I was, but I knew you guys were good, and I wanted to keep working with you," and so from the moment we began, we fell into this triumvirate. All of our Simon and Garfunkel records are made with Paul on guitar, a great group of musicians we changed, but worked with a certain core in New York and L.A., Paul and Artie's voices on mike, but first and foremost, Paul, Artie and Roy in the control room manipulating everything, which we call the producer's role. We, as a threesome, made all those records and, and I don't look at them as Simon and Garfunkel, the artists. I look at them as Roy, Paul and Artie, the producers of all those albums.
VS: Would it be safe to say that, or fair to say that he held the same position in Simon and Garfunkel as George Martin did in The Beatles? I mean, he was a member of the group, is the way you're describing him.
AG: I guess it's true. I'd have to have been with "The Lads" (both laugh) when they were making their wonderful albums to know-exactly how did George function? Did he sit back and passively capture what cooked between The Beatles? You see, ostensibly Roy would be the Jeff Emerick role, the engineer. But he was co-producer, and he was an indescribably-fabulous catalyst for the fun and games we had when we made those records. Now the ideas came from all of us, and Roy was the man at the board...it's hard to describe how it is that he played such a central role, but we were forever trying to please Roy. We were always cooking up stuff that would knock his socks off, and that's what pulled out so many ideas, and that's what kept us going through the night, and leaving the studio at nine the next morning.
VS: That's really interesting-to please him. Yeah, yeah.
AG: He's a fabulous human being, so you just love his creative energy, and he's the one that is running the dials on the board, so he collects and captures all the happenings, so it's a kind of-you pitch to win Roy over so it makes it on the record. He was like the resident adult.
VS: There's a song on this new box set that was an outtake from The Sounds of Silence sessions that has never appeared before. It was recorded in December, actually, of 1965. It's a song called "Blues Run The Game." It's not a Paul Simon song. It's a song written by someone named Jackson C. Frank. Can you tell about Jackson C. Frank?
AG: He's a part of my memories of the days we were in England. He lived with us in Judith's house in the East End, the poor part of town, because we all had no money, and he was a...
VS: In who's house? I'm sorry.
AG: There was this woman in England, a sort of religious, quasi-social worker. A German émigré from Berlin who transplanted to England, did a lot of work with the church and with radio, and was a wonderful kind of Gertrude Stein-Bohemian-daring soul, with a very good ear to who had talent. And she picked up on Paul, and then we together began to stay at Judith's house, uh, she would put us up in the back room, and she would collect all kinds of disenfranchised people-from hookers and drug addicts-and she would let them stay at her house for awhile, and we were sort of the mainstays sharing the back room. And she would help Paul get on this religious radio show. And Jackson was part of our lives then. She helped him, and he was a wonderful writer of, a wonderful songwriter.
VS: An Englishman? An American? What?
AG: He was an American who was living there. He was a burn victim. He had-much of his face was burnt, and he was collecting money from insurance, driving an Aston Martin, writing these great songs. And he fit into these years, 1963-64. We took a trip with Jackson on the Continent-me and Jackson and Paul and Kathy-and we did our street singing in Paris, Geneva, Nice. We'd pull into town, and we'd sing in restaurants or on the sidewalk with our heads looking over to see if the cops were going to stop us, and collect money and move on. So I have great memories, because those are those, you know, when you're in your early twenties it's a very impressionable, romantic part of life.
VS: Well, here's that song which now finally surfaces on this new 3-CD box set. The song is called "Blues Run The Game."
[Plays "Blues Run The Game"]
VS: That's a song called "Blues Run The Game." Jackson C. Frank is the composer's name and in the liner notes written by our friend, David Fricke, he talks about the fact that Jackson Frank recorded an album which was never released here in the States, but which has been reissued in England, and is evidently enjoying a bit of, uh, sort of underground popularity. So maybe one of these days it'll surface here.
AG: I hope so.
VS: Yeah. But that's nice to have that finally captured on CD-recorded back in '65. Art Garfunkel is my guest tonight along with Eric Weissberg who I have to ask the following question: Eric Weissberg, if you go back and you look at just about any album that was recorded in America (they all laugh) in the 1960's, you'll find this man's name playing guitar. You'll find Hal Blaine's name playing drums, and you'll find Eric Weissberg's name playing guitar, especially many of the folk music records of that period. There's a second guitar on Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and there's always a question of who the second guitarist is. Was it you?
EW: Was not I.
VS: It was not you. Because...
VS: ...because sometimes people will say it's Eric Weissberg.
VS: Were you on those, any of those sessions, the Bringing It All Back Home sessions?
EW: No. Only thing I did with Bob was Blood on the Tracks.
VS: That's the only album you did with Dylan? Because I thought you were on some of those other, like Highway 61 sessions, and stuff...
EW: I don't think so. I think I would remember it...
VS: Yeah. (laughs)
EW: ...vividly, but, because I remember Blood on the Tracks pretty vividly, but...
EW: No, I don't think so. Although, um, well, no. The answer is no, but...
VS: Yeah, right. Okay.
EW: ...Bob and I know each other from way in the early '60's.
AG: (off mike) Card playing.
VS: Playing cards?
EW: No, no, no. (laughter) Uh, just kind of hanging out at Gerde's Folk City, and watching him on the rise, and you know, doing my banjo thing and The Greenbriar Boys. I was with The Tarriers already by then.
VS: Yeah, right.
EW: And didn't actually record with Bob until Blood on the Tracks, which I think, was '75-ish, somewhere in there.
VS: There are people listening who maybe don't quite know who Eric Weissberg is, you know? And I could give them a really neat kind of musical hint so that you'll understand exactly who we're dealing with here. Here, check this out. This is Eric Weissberg...(begins to play the record "Dueling Banjo"). You recognize this yet? You remember this yet? You will.
[Plays "Dueling Banjo"]
AG: (off mike) It's all coming together now...
VS: Yeah. (Art Garfunkel laughs) Can I get you guys to do another song for us? Art, what do you say?
AG: Sure. Shall we do ">Bright Eyes"?
AG: Or, did I get it wrong?
EW: Well, no. I...
VS: (laughs) It doesn't-it's very loose. I had said be--, you know, but we got off on a tangent...
AG: Oh, right. I see...
VS: I had said before that "April Come She Will" might be...
AG: Oh, we haven't done that yet...
VS: ...a nice segue out of what we did, but then we..
.AG: No, let's do our promised...
EW: You totally destroyed it...
VS: I totally ruined the mood, so...You know what else, then? I have to further ruin the mood, because it's a commercial radio show, and I have to pause for some commercials. While the commercial's on, you guys can decide what you want to do.
AG: I'm just red in the face...(laughs)
VS: So, Art Garfunkel, you're happy with this collection, this Old Friends set? This is something that pleases you?
AG: Very much so. Well, when you hear it, you hear how much we could get away with just the two voices and the guitar, and I always felt good about-that was the core of our whole career, and you hear it right away on the first disc of this album, and it's, it's nice. I haven't listened to our stuff in a long time.
AG: It's full of affection. You have to really listen very carefully to each other to blend that much, and that implies a real giving of yourself over to the other one, and working really tight. And-something sweet about that.
VS: If I say the word "nostalgia" to you, how do you respond to it? Are you a nostalgic person? Do you mind that other people view your work as nostalgic, sometimes?
AG: No, I think that's the correct use of the English language.
VS: You doing this song for us?
[Performs "April Come She Will")
AG: Well, most of the notes came out all right.
VS: (chuckles) Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg.
EW: You know, I never get to see you sing this. I'm always sitting behind you, like on stage. It's great, this is, to watch you sing it!
AG: You're really involved. (All laugh) You really get into it.
VS: There's another live recording on this set that is seasonal in nature, and as a matter of fact, there are two songs...
AG: This season.
VS: ...that are seasonal, and this particular season. You were talking before about the blend of voices and how extraordinary and how magical that always was with you and Paul Simon, and I think this rendition of what is entitled here "Comfort and Joy," shows that at the height. So, with your permission, can I play this right now?
[Plays "Comfort and Joy")
VS: Oh, man. That was so nice.
AG: A little thing we like to call "Comfort and Joy."
VS: "Comfort and Joy." (All laugh) Why did you change the title?
AG: They came in the studio, uh, (I'm not even answering you. What was your question?)
VS: Why did you change the title? Usually we think of that as "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"?
AG: Yeah...I don't know!
VS: That was 1967, that recording.
AG: They must've come-the record company came in the studio, "Would you just do this for our Columbia Christmas sampler, uh, just give us any two songs," and (I don't know where the sheet music came, but) I remember we tossed it off as quickly as we could. We're anxious to get back to our real album that we're working on, and we did very little of that kind of thing: we'll wing it and give you what you need.
VS: How much of what you guys did in the studio came extremely naturally and easy in terms of the vocals and the harmonizing, and how much of it did you just, you know, work at and work at, and plan, and plot and maneuver?
AG: Mostly the latter, but some of the former. There are certain things that just happened. "Scarborough Fair" was three days of sessions: the track was one day (it was Paul's lovely, fluid guitar stuff), and then the vocals came really easy (we...once you love the progress you're making, you find it very easy to overdub on top of that and just jump aboard, you know? It pulls itself along), and then we took it home and conceived of writing a counter-melody to go with the main melody, so the next day we were in the studio putting in the counter-melody, and three days is all it took to do that. That was very fast for us. Uh, "Cecilia" happened real quick. The vocals were just fun and games, but most of the other stuff was really nit-picky and careful-two steps forward, one step back. You bring in the horn arrangement, and you end up not liking any of it except for that, just that little place at the end of the second verse going into the bridge, "Let's keep that one little bit, uh, and throw out the rest." And so that becomes one touch in the final product.
VS: Paul Simon, of course, is famous or infamous for being a perfectionist, sometimes to his dismay and chagrin. Are you equally as much of a perfectionist? When you say nit-picky in the studio (laughter from Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg) are you as...Eric is shaking his head over in, (laughs) over in the corner there, but he's denying it now...
AG: Don't believe what you read. These word--, these adjectives that get impressed upon people which become the so-called truth; it's just somebody coming up with adjectives. Yes, Paul and I and Roy love the good stuff, and it doesn't happen easily, and you do have to work at it, and yes, we do have standards. There are people who are finer artists than I am and than Paul Simon is, and it's all relative, but, um, you know, if you're dealing with people who don't know better, they would look at what we do and say it's incredibly finicky. I just look at it as hard work to make sure it's not sloppy.
VS: Sure. And it's your art. It's your-the representation of what you want to present to the world.
AG: It's a Record-capital "R." If it's really good, it may go through the end of this century into the next century. Now I always looked at what we were doing like that, and it didn't matter to me that my colleagues had a more casual approach. I remember when Al Cooper used to say, "It's shuck-rock, that's the new thing. You just throw it out; you show that you're just like the listener, no better, and that's what they, that's what's endearing." But I took this other approach of, bring out whatever's the finest performance you can, because it's a lasting Record.
VS: There was a holiday, Christmas song that got released on a Simon and Garfunkel record. It was "Silent Night."
VS: Can you tell me the story of how the "7 O'Clock News" became a part of "Silent Night"? To this day this recording gives me goosebumps.
AG: Well, it's a clever idea, and it's all Paul's idea, this is Paul's notion. He knew-we wanted to do a Christmas song, and, you see, when I was in my college days, I was part of an octet that did jazz stuff, ala The Hi-Lo's, so I learned a lot of adventurous harmonies, and I learned how to sing ninths and hold these very strange dissonant notes in a cluster chord and really keep my independence of melody, even when it was very unmelodic stuff. That was good training. And we used to do our own "Silent Night" in our program in college, so I had that in my back pocket. Paul wanted, said, "Let's do a Christmas song, and I have a wonderful idea of weaving against a news broadcast. The news will be all the garish things that make up our modern life," and then I said, "Okay, then let me bring in 'Silent Night' because that's the perfect counterpoint that'll be so sweet and like a lamb." And it's the only record we ever did where I sent my own self out to the studio and played an instrument.
AG: So I, so I'm the piano player. I never knew I could do that, you know, but where there's a will, there's a way. You have a vision of a record, and you just get yourself to perform and fill it in. And we were in L.A., we got the newscaster to go through the ticker tape and find the news broadcast that we-well, we picked the things we liked. Naturally, we put Lenny Bruce in there, and the rest is just play with the volume so that one fades in as the other fades out.
[Plays "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night"]
VS: Capital "R." There is a record that is a Record.
AG: That's a documentary.
VS: That is such a slice of history. God, and like I said, goosebumps every time.
AG: Yeah. Me, too.
VS: Yeah. "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night" originally on the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album, it was recorded, interestingly enough, in the summer of '66. It was recorded in August of 1966, and it's part of this wonderful new 3-CD set that has just come out called Old Friends/Simon & Garfunkel. You've been very lucky, Art Garfunkel, to work with a couple of the great songwriters...
AG: Don't I know it!
VS: ...of the twentieth century. One of the others is your friend and mine, Jimmy Webb.
AG: Oh, you're friends with Jimmy?
VS: Yeah, oh, Jimmy's been up on the show a bunch of times.
AG: What a talent. What an amazing guy.
VS: And I wonder about your relationship. Does it go back to the '60's, or did you meet later on after Simon and Garfunkel?
AG: In the end of-the last days of Simon and Garfunkel, Jimmy wandered into the studio, sat at the piano knock-kneed as he does (Vin Scelsa chuckles), and started playing and, uh, I was blown away, and I thought, "Gee, I could work with this guy." Now I didn't know Simon and Garfunkel was coming to the end of their run, but a couple of years later as I knew I was free to cast around and look for people that had-I was just killed by...You know how he describes what he does? (I wonder if this is too inside, if people who don't play an instrument will get what I mean.) But we know the word consonance and dissonance, yes?
AG: Jimmy says, "I never think chordally when I play the piano. I never know what's happening to the chord at any given moment. If you froze my hands and stopped where I'm up to, I wouldn't know how to read what that is, but I have a sense of weaving the two hands when I play so that if the left hand is moving from a dissonance to a consonance, the right hand is moving from a consonance to a dissonance, and I weave my music that way." And I find that fascinating.
VS: A weaver...
AG: That's him.
VS: ...of music. Well, one of my favorite Art Garfunkel recordings of a Jimmy Webb song is this one...
[Plays "All I Know"]
AG: Too grandiose...?
VS: You think too grandiose?
AG: It's got a lot, there's a lot goin' on there.
AG: Maybe a little too much.
VS: From the album Angel Clare, Jimmy Webb song called "All I Know." So, if you were to record that, re-record that, or record it anew today, you'd do it a...
AG: Well, Eric and I have been touring a lot in the last few years, so we do this in the middle of the show, and we do it-it's center's at the piano again, but it's-it's blue, it's sad, it's not grandiose. It's-it brings out the heartbreak of "all my plans have fallen through" because they depend on you. It brings that sadness out without having to be big.
VS: But that recording was, again with a capital "R," a Record of something that was happening at the time in your life, and in music, and in production, and everything else.
AG: Yeah. That's a lot of Roy Halee work in there.
VS: Art Garfunkel is my guest tonight. Eric Weissberg is my guest tonight, as well. This is WNEW-FM in New York.
VS: I can think of no nicer way to spend a December Sunday night here in New York than to be hangin' out with Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg on the radio. I'm honored to have both of you here in the studio with me.
AG: We're happy to be here, too.
VS: Good, good. So you guys have been touring a lot?
AG: Yes, we have. We're going to Japan and Australia and Beijing in another...month and a half now?
VS: Eric, he's not going to make you walk (Eric Weissberg laughs) from place to place, is he?
EW: No, I hope not because...
AG: (off mike) God, I hope not!
EW: ...they're long distances-Jakarta, Korea...
AG: (still off mike) I hope he doesn't make us to that!
VS: And will there just be the two of you, or will there be other musicians as well?
EW: It'll be our regular band, which is Warren Bernhardt on piano and Kim Bullard on synthesizer. Kim's a West Coast guy; plays great. And, that's it really, four and Art's wife-I, I don't know if she's coming or not, but...
AG: She's not going to be , she's not coming on this, but Richey Garcia will probably be our drummer.
EW: Oh, right! I forgot about Richey. So, it's four pieces really, plus Art.
VS: And will there be the possibility that you'll do something here in New York at some point along the way?
AG: Well, we keep weaving, you know, we keep preparing and preparing, and somewhere in '98 we'll do an American tour, I'm sure.
VS: Okay, good. You mentioned that in concert you will perform that song, "All I Know" and kind of segue it into something else. Tell about this song that you're going to do for us.
AG: In 1980, I had a hit with this song that comes from the animated film Watership Down. It was written by Mike Batt, sent to me as a demo. And this was that rare time where you open the mail, and you play the demo they sent you, and it's really wonderful! It's a one-in-a-million. "Bright Eyes."
[Art Garfunkel and Eric Weissberg perform "Bright Eyes"]
AG: That's a taste of the song. It goes on from there.
VS: From Watership Down, the animated film. You most recently have recorded a song for a movie that is not out yet. Can you tell about that?
AG: I just did it two weeks ago. Jim Brooks is making, is directing, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in a film called As Good As It Gets. It comes out this Christmas in a couple of weeks. They asked me to sing the song at the end of the film during the credits. It's an old Monty Python song.
VS: A Monty Python song! "I'm A Lumberjack"?! (laughter) Art Garfunkel going to do "I'm A Lumberjack"?!
AG: Not quite, Vin...
VS: No, no, not that.
AG: Very funny-very funny.
VS: Which Monty Python song?
AG: (sings) "Always look on the bright side of life," but direction to me was, "Sing it earnest and give it musical value even though it's got a 'ditty' quality...," so we slowed it down, and it's lush with orchestration and a whole choral sound behind me, and I'm trying to be an earnest guy selling that tune over the credits. It works! The movie is fabulous, by the way.
VS: I've heard good things about it.
AG: Ah! It's great.
VS: Yeah. And people say this is a real meaty role for Nicholson, huh?
AG: It's maybe his-and, now this is a career with a lot of great roles in it-this could be the topper of them all. When Jim, when Jack works for Jim Brooks, you get the best Jack of all.
VS: Well, they did-did Brooks direct Terms of Endearment?
AG: Yes, he did. He's a master.
VS: Yeah. What are you reading right now, Art Garfunkel?
AG: Ummm, I just finished a civil action-you know this book about-there was a toxic waste dump site north of Boston. It's from the lawyer's point-of-view. What it takes to put together a trial and how this particular one guy just killed himself slaving away to prepare and prepare and play the system of the courts the way it's supposed to be played, and-fascinating.
VS: Yeah. Do you find yourself reading fiction more than non-fiction or vise versa?
AG: I bounce back and forth. I'm about 60/40 non-fiction. It's time to go back to Dickens, now.
VS: Dickens! But Dickens, when you read Dickens, now, you have to slow yourself down, to read Dickens.
AG: That's the only way I can read, anyway...
VS: Yeah, you know, because we're so used to sound bites, and we're so used to quick editing in movies and everything now that Dickens is much more leisurely, you know. He wrote for a whole different kind of audience in-I found trying to go back and read Dickens, that I really had to work to get myself into the proper frame to read him and enjoy him.
AG: It's good to work. You know? Like any good hard work you do gives you a good feeling at the end of the work, so if the writer is denser and asks you to put your brain to work, you get a good feeling if you'll slow down and do the work, it's a very pleasurable read.
VS: I have a bone to pick with you, Art Garfunkel. It's an old bone.
AG: Now what did I do?
VS: Yeah. 1970. "Bridge Over Troubled Water." You couldn't go anywhere without hearing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
AG: I'm sorry; it wasn't my fault...
VS: It was "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and it was Led Zepplin "Whole Lotta Love," (laughs).
AG: Right (chuckles).
VS: It was kind of an interesting yin and yang of pop music at the time. But here's the specific bone. I was not yet married in the winter-like January, February, March of '70. We didn't get married until that summer, and so my wife...
AG: It's not my fault, so far. So far, I'm clear.
VS: No, no. So far you're all right. My wife and I are living in two separate apartments, and she is living next door to a woman who plays the song, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"...300 times a day! I mean, she doesn't even play the rest of the album. She just picks up the needle on the old tone arm (because we're talking about the days of vinyl records), and as hard and as loud as she can crank that stereo of hers, she plays "Bridge Over Troubled Water." I mean she was obviously, she needed the song, you know, but we're-I'm talking for, for months this is all this woman listened to...
AG: Let's call her up. Where's her number?
AG: So, that's not my fault...
VS: No, it's not your fault, but it became your fault...(laughter)
AG: So, you know, if only I had sang it a little poorly, then maybe this wouldn't have happened.
VS: It got to the point where it was, like, "Shut that damn record..." (laughter)
AG: The old "enough, already" syndrome. (They laugh)
VS: You see, you never know what happens...
AG: So, you got to hear that last violin note, and you started feeling, "All right! That's a very long note. I've heard it too much now!"
VS: Yeah. But it's been a long time since either of us lived anywhere near that woman...
[Plays "Bridge Over Troubled Water"]
VS: Simon and Garfunkel. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," of course; it's a song that doesn't need to be identified, does it? But it's on Old Friends, the new box set. Art Garfunkel has been my guest tonight here on WNEW-FM in New York, with Eric Weissberg. The voice of the soundtrack to a lot of lives.
VS: The voice to the soundtrack of a lot of lives. Thank you for spending time with us tonight.
AG: I had a real good time. I was with Clinton recently...
VS: Oh, name-dropper! (laughs)
AG: ...and I said to him, "Mr. President, where were you during our, uh, bunch of hits?" And he said, "Well, that, those were my Georgetown days. I was, uh, I was having my first re-serious relationship in those days." And I said, "So, I was like the soundtrack to your, uh, private life?" (Vin Scelsa laughs) He laughed, as you are.
VS: Yes, we'll think about that! And here he is now, The President. (Art Garfunkel laughs) Cool. Art, Eric, thank you very much.
EW: Thank you, Vin.
AG: Thanks, Vin.
VS: We'll see you guys, take care.