Today Paul Simon is regarded as one of the world's greatest songwriters, but it would be more accurate to say that he is the world's worst draughtsman. It's not just that he's bad - he's dangerous, as his history of pencil-related injuries would attest. According to Dr Robert Zimmerman, chief paediatrician at the Kings County Hospital and author of the bestselling 101 Things Found Wedged Up Celebrities, the infant Simon was forever being rushed into the emergency room after impaling himself on some apparently harmless writing implement whilst trying to draw a dinosaur.
At least when he was younger he was only ever a danger to himself. Once he had embarked on a career drawing up plans for a firm of architects, it would be construction workers who risked life and limb as they desperately tried to work from his confused and disorderly etchings. The resulting structures often emerged as monstrosities of form and function, with rooms that were impossible to access, staircases leading nowhere and all in imminent danger of collapse. And in the case of at least one example of his work, experts have concluded from studies of its nightmarish topography and twisting, reality-bending floor plan, that the building doesn't actually exist within normal three-dimensional space and is more akin to something from an Escher drawing.
And so Simon's architectural blueprints were thought to be entirely useless until a friend happened to notice that if you squinted at them sideways they resembled a musical score. Furthermore, when he played it on a penny whistle and tambourine, it didn't sound half bad.
Paul Simon's perceptive friend was none other than Art Garfunkel. Until 1962 Garfunkel had been a verb*, meaning to sway softly in the breeze, in the manner of a stick of corn or a tall tree. However, in November of that year he finally became a fully-fledged person, with arms and legs and teeth and everything.
Together Simon and Garfunkel decided to form a duo - a practical decision since as there were only two of them a quartet would have been a stretch and a choir would have been out of the question. With Garfunkel playing his trademark penny whistle, washboard and tambourine, and Simon on protractor and set square, they soon chalked up a run of chart hits. 'Cecilia', based on the plans of a rural library, peaked at number 6, whilst 'At the Zoo' began life as an out of town factory unit. But their first number one was actually an extension to a small cement works in Michigan, which many music lovers will know better as 'The Sound of Silence'. Success then followed thick and fast, including arguably their most famous song, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', which was adapted from the plans for a cantilever bridge on the Delaware.
However, by the end of the sixties their relationship was beginning to sour. Garfunkel was irritated at the musical direction that his partner seemed to be taking and Simon was becoming annoyed at Garfunkel not putting the milk back in the fridge. They decided to go their separate ways but then tragically, whilst attending an event at the Brooklyn Center for Advanced Boffinry, they wandered into a secure area, got caught up in a teleportation experiment and were inextricably merged into a single organism.
The new creature, the Simongarfunkel, contained elements of the original duo, combining Simon's uncanny ineptitude with a pencil with Garfunkel's extraordinary ability to play the spoons. Sadly the Simongarfunkel still professed to have musical differences with itself and attempted to pursue two distinct careers. The Garfunkel half enjoyed some success as a film actor but the constant presence of Simon on the set - and indeed, in the shot - proved to be a problem for most directors. The Simon half continued to enjoy success as a songwriter, frequently travelling the world to draw inspiration from the architecture of other cultures. But ultimately the strain of maintaining two different identities became too much and in 1994 the Simongarfunkel retreated to Graceland, former royal residence of the Burger King, where it now spends its time lurking in the basement, emerging only occasionally for pretzels, ink cartridges and reunion tours.
None of this is true, by the way.
Ricky Stratocaster is currently appearing as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice at the Leicester Haymarket
*He Garfunkels, They Garfunkel, I have Garfunkeled.
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