Most of my Melody Maker interviews were done in record company offices or hotel rooms. Some were done in recording studios and backstage at concerts and a few at private residences (including Daltrey, Entwistle & Moon) or at temporary residences (Lennon, Sly Stone). This one, oddly, was done in the back of a Daimler limousine whose driver took us from the BBC Centre in Shepherds Bush to Holland Park where we were driven round and round while I chatted with Art whose then girlfriend, the actress Laurie Bird, came along for the ride. Art wasn’t that friendly as I recall, and I got the impression he’d have preferred some ‘alone’ time with Laurie than spend an hour with me.
Art played a short series of UK concerts this September, performing songs from the Simon & Garfunkel and his own catalogues, and chatting with the audiences about his long career, the style of show adopted by many of his peers these days. I read a complimentary review which said his once golden voice was creaking slightly but his genial, self-effacing stage manner made up for this in spades. And when he sang ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ at the end of the show he brought the house down.
This interview is divided into two parts, second bit tomorrow.
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 and rather conservative 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 & 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 his 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 realise that Simon’s publishing royalties as the writer of their material would obviously put Simon in a different income 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 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 Boys’ 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 seems 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 solo album which has taken most of this 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 with 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 his 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 harmonising 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.”