Just think — these two have known each other for more than a half-century, with breakups, reunions and long stretches of non-communication less-tenacious squabblers like CSN&Y and the Eagles can only dream of. Yet Simon and Garf have managed to make nice once again for the “Old Friends: The 2003 Concert Tour,” unofficially dubbed “The Grumpy Old Men Tour” by a press happy to have an outlet for old rocker jokes left unused from the last Stones outing. Scribes have already ribbed the legendary duo about updating all the “old” favorites like “Bridge Over Troubled Bladders,” “The Sounds of Senility,” and “The Dangling Colostomy Bag.”
All wisenheimer remarks aside, both men turn 62 this year and they look … well, they look a little peeved at something. What is it? Unsold tickets for Songs From The Capeman? No good movie roles since Carnal Knowledge? Inconsistencies in cream-style corn from one can to the next? Who can say? One thing is certain: Never before has a pop duo looked so ready to bark out, “Hey, you kids, get away from my car,” in syncopated time.
If this is the last reunion the old friends undertake (and I do feel bad using “undertake” and “old friends” in the same sentence), will they make it through the entire tour without pressing each other’s buttons? Everyone knows the hits — but few know the real acrimonious story behind Simon and Garfunkel. How about you? Here are some zany Simon and Garf facts. Which are true, which are sorta true and which are lie la lies?
1) In 1957, Simon and Garf team up as Tom & Jerry with matching flattop haircuts, the only time the duo achieves hair synchronicity in their entire career. Simon buys a red Impala convertible with his share of the profits from Tom & Jerry’s only hit, “Hey Schoolgirl.” When the car bursts into flames en route to Garf’s house, Simon accuses his partner of practicing the black arts and Garf makes some dumb joke about doo-wop group the Five Satins. The pair will not sing together professionally again until Simon experiences a string of flop solo records, a pattern that recurs several times in his career, though not on the heels of records as bad as “I’d Like to Be the Lipstick On Your Lips,” “The Lone Teen Ranger,” and simple Simon’s stab at a dance craze, “Get Up And Do The Wobble.”
Answer: SORTA TRUE. The boys’ Tom & Jerry hairdos evince equal flatness, altitude and forehead sheen and Simon’s car does enflame before arriving at Garf’s, although no link between the blaze and the Aleister Crowley tomes in the Garfunkel library was ever made. And yes, Simon did actually record the aforementioned atrocities under such pseudonyms as Jerry Landis and Tico and the Triumphs.
2) In 1963, Simon rejoins Garf on the Greenwich Village folk coffeehouse circuit. Signed to Columbia Records, they record one folk album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, in 1964 that Simon leaves for dead when he splits for England. This leaves Garf free to write the world’s worst-ever liner notes, a task he finds “more than slightly analogous to the man who carried out Franz Kafka’s dying request to burn all his manuscripts, but who nonetheless felt obliged to rush off to the publisher at the first chance.” Among other insights you could imagine Simon cringing to, Garf notes that the Simon composition “He Was My Brother” is “cast in the Bob Dylan mold” with “no subtlety in the song, no sophistication in the lyrics.” Imagine if he didn’t like the song! What’s more, Simon hated getting compared to Dylan! Back in the UK, Simon releases his own solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook, which is comprised of mostly new material he wrote without any harmony parts.
Answer: TRUE! ALL TRUE! Don’tcha just love how Garf’s already becoming the Yoko of the group?
3) When Columbia overdubs a folk-rock backing on the acoustic rendition of “The Sounds Of Silence,” it zooms to No. 1 in the United States, forcing Simon back into a duo with Garfunkel and ending what he later refers to as the happiest time of his life. No one writes the liner notes for The Sounds of Silence but the duo’s serious folk-rockers image necessitates that two photos on the rear sleeve be airbrushed over for later editions, ’cause someone forgot to take away Garf’s copy of Tiger Beat magazine!
Answer: TRUE! What is curious is that the front and back covers were changed twice since the original pressing, yet all the later editions still have the word groovy spelled with an “e.” It’s Simon’s fault, but Garfunkel, who finished his college studies while his partner schlepped around Europe, should’ve known better.
4) Tensions flare at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 when the duo is forced to follow the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Simon, sensing the need for pyrotechnics, flicks a lit cigarette at Garfunkel’s highly flammable Brillo hair.
Answer: FALSE! Everybody knows that Brillo’s not highly flammable.
5) Inspired by Sgt. Pepper, Simon’s concocts a sidelong cradle-to-the-grave suite of songs for 1968’s Bookends that hits a speed bump with Garfunkel’s only contribution, his rest-home recordings of elderly Jews rambling on and on called “Voices Of Old People.” The fans skip this track for the same reason they commit their folks to old age homes — so they don’t have to hear “I can’t get up the mucous for the last three months.”
Answer: TRUE! As a result of this track, no one ever puts old Jews on a pop record again. Take that, Eddie Fisher!
6) In 1969, Garfunkel’s film role in Catch-22 delays work on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album for several months. (Simon had a part in the same film but was cut just prior to shooting.) When Garf finally returns, the two lock horns over what is to be the 12th song on the album. Garfunkel vetoes Simon’s political “Cuba Sí, Nixon No” while Simon vetoes Garf’s wimpy Bach chorale. As a result the five-Grammy-winning album is released with only 11 songs. A tour ensued and then the duo split up. The next time they reunite in the recording studio, it’s in 1973 to cut a revealing spoken-word “comedy” track entitled “The Breakup,” in which Garfunkel tells the listeners what he found disturbing about the split, while Simon pedantically coaches him on how the word “disturbing” should sound.
Answer: TRUE! This odd track surfaced nearly 20 years later on a Paul Simon boxed set and on a Garfunkel album, which people paid about as much attention to as cotton in an aspirin bottle. When the pair actually reunited to record a bona fide song, “My Little Town” in 1975, the reunion tune was placed on both men’s albums so Garfunkel couldn’t get the career advantage out of it. Damn you, Rhymin’ Simon!
7) After Simon’s One Trick Pony movie and Garfunkel’s film Bad Timing both bomb, the pair drifts together in 1982 to do a morale-boosting free concert in Central Park. After breaking attendance records, they decide to extend the euphoria with a new studio album and tour. But hostilities re-emerge on the set of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where Simon reveals he buried a scathing message of “so long already, Artie!” on the fade of “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright,” which Garfunkel — judging by the ashen look on his face — hadn’t noticed before. Simon is peeved that his partner delayed finishing the new album (seems Garf wanted to learn his vocal parts on a Walkman whilst hoofing the Swiss countryside). Simon tells Garf to keep hiking and turns the proposed reunion record into his next solo effort, the worst PR move since Beatle Paul announced the breakup of the Fabs in a promo sheet for his McCartney
Answer: TRUE! It was reported that Simon erased Garf’s vocal tracks from the aborted recording sessions, which Simon denies. He also denies that the resulting album, Hearts and Bones, his worst-selling album to date, was initially supposed to be a Simon and Garfunkel reunion album. The Central Park concert attendance was estimated to be around 75,000, a figure that was nearly matched when Simon appeared solo at Central Park 10 years later. Well, not so much solo as minus one — he didn’t invite Garf! After 10 years and at least two more tanking Simon albums (and Garf premiering his latest recordings on WB’s “Felicity”), the two are back together. At the tour launch, Simon announced that they’d be touring with a seven-piece band, with his guitar as the eighth piece, prompting Garfunkel to touchily add, “I’m the ninth. The voice is an instrument.” Old friends, pullleeeze!
Simon and Garfunkel will perform Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 18-19, at the Palace of Auburn Hills (3 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills). For info, call 248-377-0100.Serene Dominic hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. E-mail [email protected]