Tonight's movie is the famous "Concert in Central Park of 1981" by Simon & Garfunkel.  

A most famous reunion.  Since parting ways in early 1970, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel had reunited a couple of times for a song or two, but fans had pretty much given up hope that the two would ever truly sing together again.  And they had reason to be so pessimistic.  Tensions between the duo came to a fever pitch years before breaking up and it was painfully obvious to anyone watching that the two artists were beginning to hate each other.  If it was a marriage, let's say it ended in a very nasty divorce.  

The "seperation" phase commenced while recording their landmark, Grammy winning finale, Bridge Over Troubled Water.   Much of the tension was rooted in jealousy and bitterness.  Paul Simon wrote all of the songs—literally, all of the groups original songs which made up 99.9% of their catalog.  Yet, who received standing ovations for "Bridge Over Troubled Water?" Art Garfunkel, the singer—a mere interpreter, in Simon's mind.  Paul Simon knew he was THE genius.  He could do it all without Artie.  So he left to begin a very fruitful solo career and Art Garfunkel became a part time film actor and easy listening artist. Artie's albums were only mildy successful.  Garfunkel wrote none of the songs, leaving that duty to the likes of Jimmy Webb and Randy Newman.  

When the divorce was finalized in 1970, the two weren't on speaking terms.  It's a good thing there were no children involved ;).  Any indication of friendliness  on TV specials was purely acting.

So it was a big deal when in 1981, they reunited in their hometown of New York City for a free "neighborhood concert."  Keep in mind that Simon & Garfunkel were pretty much behind only The Beatles in popularity.  Here's some perspective: Less than a year before, the public lost John Lennon, perhaps the ultimate rock hero, an apparent pacifist and champion of world peace.  This was, in some sense, a reunion for the mourning masses.  

In the weeks prior, when Paul and Artie rehearsed, tensions were at their highest.  Literally, Simon & Garfunkel disagreed on EVERYTHING.  Originally, the plan was for Simon AND Garfunkel to each give seperate solo performances before coming together for the most famous songs in their catalog.  The idea was scrapped.  Garfunkel wanted to perform a show like they used to -- just the two of them, with Simon playing acoustic guitar.  Simon, who in his newer records had begun to experiment with jazz elements, thought this idea was total crap (or more likely, he thought that any idea Garfunkel had was total crap by the virtue that it was an idea by...Art Garfunkel.)  In the end, they decided to go with the big band and have Garfunkel sing on some of the solo Paul Simon hits.  

Let that settle in for a second!  What an oppurtunity for die-hard fans.  They could finally hear what their favorite Paul Simon songs would sound like if Simon & Garfunkel had never broken up.  It would be sort of like hearing Paul McCartney sing harmonies on Imagine or John Lennon sing the chorus of Band On The Run.  Arrangements for these songs were done by Paul Simon and David Matthews (nope, not the Dave Matthews you're thinking of.  He would have only been 14.)

Backing the duo was a large (emphasis on LARGE) group of some of the finest New York session players.  I mean, what a band! We're talking about an ensemble of guys who played on just about everything in 70s.  The group featured such prominent dudes as the late Richard Tee on Keys, the great Anthony Jackson on bass guitar, Rob Mounsey on synthesizer and Steve Gadd on drums.  Look those names up!

More than 500,000 people showed up on a chilly September to hear their favorite folk duo of the 60s reunite.  Mayor Ed Koch gave a quick "Ladies and Gentleman, Simon and Garfunkel!" (and was later 'booed' when Simon thanked him later in the set) and the band began to play the first truly electric version of "Mrs. Robinson" ever heard! 

At 45 minutes, one of the most chilling and controversial moments occurred in the concert.  Following, a solo performance of "A Heart in New York" by Art Garfunkel, Simon began to play a new song, "The Late Great Johnny Ace." The song told the story of the death of the Duke Records hit recording artist Johnny Ace, who supposedly died playing  "Russian Roulette." The song also directly mentioned the death of John Lennon.  At approximately 48 minutes and 40 seconds, Paul Simon was (very) nearly attacked by a crazed fan. Obviously startled as he watched security reprimand his attacker, Simon continued and finished the song.  

The night concluded with a second performance of Simon's hit "Late in The Evening" from the soundtrack to his failed film One Trick Pony.

Afterwards, the duo did a worldwide tour together.  What happened next would be a minor tragedy. 

Simon & Garfunkel decided to put their differences aside and record another album together.  Garfunkel came into the studio to record vocals on some songs.  But, we all know they wouldn't be Simon & Garfunkel if they didn't begin to argue.  Sadly, tensions were too high to continue making an album.  Garfunkel's parts were scrapped (left unreleased to this day) and Simon released his lowest-selling record at the time, a long player called Hearts And Bones.  Though it is now recognized as one of the artist's finest efforts, one has to wonder if the public felt a little bit teased by the failed attempts at a Simon & Garfunkel reunion album.  

On that note, let's have one moment of silence for the death of the duo's partnership.  

And finally, let's watch The Concert in Central Park:


For one last hurrah, I'd like to include some important albums.  First, let's listen to Paul Simon's Hearts And Bones, what could have been a Simon & Garfunkel reunion.  

I'd also like to include an album by "Stuff," a band that featured many of the musicians that backed S&G at The Concert of Central Park. Check out the bad-ass album cover, by the way.


The year was 1957.  A young Neil Sedaka was striking out on his own after having regional success with his band The Tokens.  Bill Haley was reminding us that there is no 13 o'clock after 12 o'clock with his band The Comets.  Buddy Holly was touring with a singing duo named The Everly Brothers and those Everly Brothers were inspiring two singing teenagers from New York City with their terrific harmonies.  One of those teens had an angelic voice.  The other could sing, too, but his real talent was in songwriting.

They were only 15, but their songs were becoming very popular among their classmates at Forest Hills High School in Queens.  One song in particular was all the buzz.  It was called "Hey Schoolgirl".  For  $25, the teens recorded a demo of "Hey Schoolgirl," hoping to impress the music men making hits at the nearby Brill Building.  In the next room was a producer named Sid Prosen who worked for a newish record label called Big Records.  He cut the record, gave them some clean-cut clothes to match the innocence of their age and gave them stage names, too.  The songwriter and guitarist would be called Jerry Landis and the angelic tenor would be called Tom Graph.  Together, they would be known as Tom and Jerry.


(L-R: Jerry Landis and Tom Graph)


Tom and Jerry managed to appear after Jerry Lee Lewis on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, where they premiered their single. The performance made "Hey Schoolgirl" somewhat of a hit song.  It reached Number 49 on the charts and eventually sold 100,000 copies.  They recorded some more songs, none of which did a damn thing—that probably broke their little hearts.  In 1959, Tom and Jerry turned 18 and they went off to college.  Their career was over.  

Or was it?

Subsequent bullshit happened for a few years and then Tom and Jerry decided to reunite.  This time they used their real names, which were Arthur and Paul, respectively.  The success Arthur and Paul had—and have continued to have— was enormous.  Together they became one of the biggest acts of the 60s, racking up hit songs, Grammys and critical acclaim along the way.  Of course, we know Arthur and Paul better as Art and Paul.  Perhaps their names are more familiar with when they are reversed as Paul and Art.  If you haven't figured it out by now, they are Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.  

Here's one of their songs called "The Only Living Boy In New York."  It should now surprise no one that the song's first line "Tom get your plane right on time" refers to Tom Graph aka Art Garfunkel.  Wild.  

"Hey Schoolgirl" by Tom and Jerry and "The Only Living Boy In New York" by Simon & Garfunkel


I wonder if there were any Tom and Jerry fans who are completely unaware that the singing duo later became Simon & Garfunkel.  Probably not.  


"I Only Have Eyes For You" As Recorded By Art Garfunkel

It was probably no one's favorite hit song in 1975.  Those who remembered the 1934 debut of Harry Warren and Al Dubin's "I Only Have Eyes For You" were probably somewhere between the ages 55 and 85.  I'm sure they thought a rock and roll version of a standard —however "soft" it was—was sacrilegious.  Kids and teens who were busy listening to David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen certainly couldn't have thought this was hip.  And Garfunkel's contemporaries? Many thought he was a has-been since he parted ways with Paul Simon five years earlier.  And his decision to record a cover of a 40-year old standard? Come on, that move was particularluly dull and gutless.

Indeed, new versions of antique pop songs are almost always pretty safe—not to mention extra unoriginal, when they come from songwriters.  Notable exceptions include Janis Joplin's rendition of  "Summertime" and Willie Nelson's essential LP Stardust.

It's even a safe move for someone who isn't a songwriter, like Art Garfunkel.  Say what you will about his solo career, but at the very least, his albums were somewhat intriguing because they featured songs by the extraordinary talents of songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman and, on 1975's Breakaway, Paul Simon, once again.

Still, with his angelic voice, any Art Garfunkel recording ilistenable.  And the number one hit version "I Only Have Eyes For You" is one of Artie's better cuts.  You can thank the famous producer Richard Perry for the song's success.  Fender rhodes and phaser guitars shouldn't work on a love song that Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra and The Flamingos helped make even more famous.  And yeah, it's a strange concept at first.  But, it works—and that's especially clear after repeated listening.  The lushness of those aforementioned instrumental elements and the orchestral strings almost make the standard seem psychedelic and deviously inviting.  You can hear this song being used ironically in or after a disturbing scene in a Stanley Kubrick movie.  

If you're a fan of Artie from his work with Paul Simon, but don't feel like digging through his uneven solo catalogue to find a gem, "I Only Have Eyes For You" is a great introduction.  Of course, his version of Jimmy Webb's majestic "All I Know" is the quintessential introduction, but that's for another post ;) . 


"I Only Have Eyes For You" As Recorded By Art Garfunkel

And why not include this song?