I won’t bury the lede: Art Garfunkel is not pleased with Paul Simon, and hasn’t been since 1971, when the famous duo broke up after a massively successful partnership. That’s not exactly a state secret, but the extent of his bitterness and resentment was made crystal clear in in a Telegraph story by Nigel Farndale that came out Sunday. To say the 73-year-old Garfunkel has not gotten over the split is a massive understatement—in fact, time seems have exacerbated the wound.
For whatever reason, he chose the Telegraph to air his grievances, and even ignoring his harsh words for Simon, things got pretty wild. Here now are the ten craziest, funniest moments from that interview.
He tilts back his head to study me through black-framed glasses before proffering his left hand to shake, explaining that he trapped his right one in a door. We find a quiet corner in the bar area and instead of ordering a coffee – it is 10am – he asks for a bowl of pea soup.
Oh good, I think, this is going to be a memorable encounter.
“I’m allowing myself to be victimised here,” he says, jiggling his knee, not making eye contact.
By me? “By the press. I’m nervous.”
Right away, you can tell this will be an amazing story. The hand trapped in a door (how does that happen, again?), the pea soup, and the fact that he claims to be “nervous” about the press just moments before letting loose on everyone and everything…it’s a perfect storm of hilarity. There’s no way I’m leaving this story now.
When the middle range of his voice went, he was devastated. “I teased it back by singing in empty theatres. I would sing, and crap out, and my knees would buckle and I would whimper in frustration. I didn’t know how I was going to carry on. Was I going to be some guy named Walter who doesn’t sing? Did I have to get a regular job instead?
A guy named “Art” just dissed everyone named “Walter.”
He is often described in terms of that goosebump-inducing voice of his – “angelic”, “haunting” and so on. But when I ask him to describe himself he says: “I’m a misanthrope.”
“Tell me about your musical style, Art.”
“I hate people.”
Take his habit of listing on his website every book he has ever read. “You notice it’s heavy sh*t,’ he says. ‘It’s not fluff.”
Holy God, this is 100 percent true. The best way to impress people, I’ve found, is to hammer them with all the books you’ve read. Another thing that’s true is that the home page features his name with the words “the singer.” In case we thought it was Art Garfunkel the massage therapist.
He also does a lot of mathematics, having read it as a student at Columbia. “I’m precise. I think in proportions. I play games with numbers and I proportionalise. I imagine we have now done 1/8th of our interview.” I check my watch.
“I imagine we have now done 3/5th of our love-making,” said Art Garfunkel, to the horrified woman sharing his bed.
Why did they walk away from that phenomenal success?
“It was very strange. Nothing I would have done. I want to open up about this. I don’t want to say any anti Paul Simon things, but it seems very perverse to not enjoy the glory and walk away from it instead. Crazy. What I would have done is take a rest from Paul, because he was getting on my nerves. The jokes had run dry.
But a rest of a year was all I needed. I said: ‘I’m not married yet. I want to jump on a BMW motorbike and tour round Europe chasing ladies.’”
“I don’t want to say anything bad about Paul, but he’s an annoying little imp who kept me from getting laid.”
Did he have a seduction technique? “I had it down to an art form. When you sign autographs after a show, you see the real pretty one and make sure you get to her last. Then you ask, ever so casually, ‘Have you had dinner?’”
The master at work, ladies and gentlemen! What he forgot to mention is that the next words out of his mouth, after the dinner proposal, were, “my name is Paul Simon.”
When I mention that I went to see Paul Simon and Sting at the O2 a few weeks ago, Garfunkel sits forward. “Oh tell me, I’m curious. Did he do Bridge Over Troubled Water?”
Ended the show with it.
“It was a gamble that he did that. And when they did it, was Sting on the arrangement?”
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together as part of their 2015 world tour
When I say he was, Garfunkel jiggles his knee again, looks over his shoulder, reaches into his manila envelope and produces a clutch of his prose poems marked with pink Post-it labels and reads one to me. It is about a zebra.
He’s a hard man to get the measure of, Art Garfunkel.
I’m absolutely dying. I can’t even add a joke here.
When I ask what advice he has given his son he makes me laugh with his answer: “Watch out for traffic.” Anything else? “Be kind to people. I’m working on that second one myself, because I’m not always kind. I’m judgemental and picky. When I order room service and they get it wrong I try so hard to be kind and I fail. ‘But I only asked for three things! How could you get one wrong?’
“Or to the taxi driver: ‘How can this be hard? Listen to the address and take me there. Don’t you care about your job?’”
“At that moment, the waiter appeared to ask Garfunkel if he wanted a refill on his water, and the singer slapped him in the face and called him a ‘disgusting piece of trash.’”
Actually, another question strikes me. I speculate about whether Paul Simon might have a Napoleon complex. Is there a height thing there, between them?
“I think you’re on to something. I would say so, yes.”
He adds that at school he felt sorry for Paul because of his height, and he offered him love and friendship as a compensation. “And that compensation gesture has created a monster. End of interview.”
ART GARFUNKEL TELLS YOU WHEN THE INTERVIEW HAS ENDED!
Mic-dropping to close out a newspaper interview is next-level showmanship. Kudos to you, Art—you’re a legend.