In my introduction to the first part of this 1975 interview yesterday I mentioned that Art Garfunkel gave a press conference at the Savoy Hotel. I was there, as was my old pal Charles Shaar Murray from NME. A long-time Ramones fan, Charlie asked Art whether he thought his music might benefit from a Ramones' influence. Everyone laughed, embarrassed. Art was lost for words.
Here’s part two of my interview, which contains no Ramones' references whatsoever.
Among the musicians who have worked with Art Garfunkel on his new album Breakaway are Andrew Gould, who plays “everything”, Larry Knechtel, Jim Keltner, Klaus Voorman and Graham Nash and David Crosby who sing back-up vocals. Beach Boy 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 live 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 biggest seller ever 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 cognisant 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 on Angel Claire. 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 & 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 of 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 do prefer singing, though.”