As I entered Parsons Junior High where the tough kids were, Paul Simon became my one and only friend. We saw each other’s uniqueness. We smoked our first cigarettes. We had retreated from all other kids. And we laughed. I opened my school desk one day in 1954 and saw a note from Ira Green to a friend: “Listen to the radio tonight, I have a dedication to you.” I became aware that Alan Freed had taken this subversive music from Cleveland to New York City. He read dedications from teenage lovers before playing “Earth Angel,” “Sincerely.” When he played Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” he left the studio mic open enough to hear him pounding a stack of telephone books to the backbeat. This was no [1940s DJ] Martin Block.
Maybe I was in the land of payola, of “back alley enterprise” and pill-head disc jockeying, but what I felt was that Alan Freed loved us kids to dance, romance, and fall in love and the music would send us. It sent me for life. It was rhythm and blues. It was black. It was from New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia. It was dirty music (read “sexual”). One night Alan Freed called it “rock’n’roll.” Hip was born for me. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis. Bobby Freeman asked, “Do you wanna dance, squeeze and hug me all through the night?” and you knew she did.
I was captured. So was Paul. We followed WINS radio. Paul bought a guitar. We used my father’s wire tape recorder, then Paul’s Webcor tape machine. Holding rehearsals in our basements, we were little perfectionists. We put sound on sound (stacking two layers of our singing). With the courage to listen and cringe about how not right it was yet, we began to record.
From What Is It All but Luminous: Notes From an Underground Man by Art Garfunkel. Copyright 2017 Art Garfunkel. Excerpted by permission of Art Garfunkel.