Saturday Night Live didn’t have very many rules in its first season. The second episode of the show was hosted by Paul Simon, who agreed to reunite with Art Garfunkel for the musical segment. The only problem was that Randy Newman and Phoebe Snow were already booked. Lorne Michaels decided to simply pull most of the comedy bits so they could squeeze in 11 musical performances, a record which stands to this day.
At the time, Simon was promoting his new solo disc Still Crazy After All These Years, which featured the Simon and Garfunkel reunion track “My Little Town.” Performing the song with Garfunkel (who was also plugging a new LP) was the best possible way to promote the disc, but they knew they couldn’t leave the stage without playing some oldies. The duo opened with “The Boxer,” then played “Scarborough Fair” and “My Little Town.” Later in the show they both played solo slots as well.
The Sixties were a mere five years in the past when this episode aired, but nostalgia for the period was already quite thick. Bob Dylan and the Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had reunited with incredibly lucrative stadium tours the previous summer, and the Beach Boys suddenly found themselves playing to huge crowds. Grease was a big hit on Broadway, and the 1973 movie American Graffiti managed to kickstart the career of George Lucas and introduce a whole new generation of teenagers to oldies.
Paul Simon’s solo career was doing so well in 1975 that he had little incentive to reunite with Garfunkel on a permanent basis, but this SNL performance wasn’t the first time they had put aside their differences for a one-night reunion. Three years earlier they played a Madison Square Garden concert that raised funds for the ill-fated presidential campaign of George McGovern.
In 1981 they played a gigantic free concert in Central Park, leading to a massive reunion tour that ran from 1982 to 1983. Relations became rocky when Simon erased Garfunkel’s vocals from a planned reunion disc after the tour, and when Simon played Central Park again in 1991 he failed to invite Garfunkel to join him. Just two years later they patched things up for another reunion tour, and in 2003 they launched a highly successful world tour. A planned 2010 tour was cancelled when Garfunkel came down with a serious voice problem. Simon has said he’s interested in one final tour with Garfunkel at some point, but no plans have been announced.