Friday, 18 October 2013

The Archivist: The Carpenters 1969-73

Picture if you will,  it's 1974 & there is a 13 year old skinny kid with hair down to his shoulders, wearing flared jeans and a cotton white cotton Kurta, walking up the road. He has an album under his arm, as most kids/adolescents did in those days. It was like wearing a badge of honour. 3 older boys are walking towards him. Under one of the boys arms is THE album of 1974, Sheer Heart Attack by Queen. As they pass each other they both eye up each others albums, as they did in those days. The three boys turned to the younger skinny kid and shouted, 'Oi Baker, you poof', what's that, A Carpenters album? Poofter!'
As the older, cooler kids were rocking to the sound of Queen and the other big albums up to 1974, the younger skinny kid had fallen in love. Not to the girl next door, or the unattainable girl with breasts in the 3rd form. No, he had fallen in love with the voice of Karen Carpenter. A love that has lasted a lifetime. Unlike Miss 3rd Form, who turned out to be not a very nice person after all.
The Carpenters - Ticket To Ride
Up until 1973, The Carpenters had had a string of successful singles. Their albums up until that point, 69-Ticket To Ride, 70-Close To You, 71-Carpenters, 72-A Song For You, 73-Now & Then, had barely scratched the surface of the charts here in the UK. However, this first Greatest Hits album went mega.
Not only did  I love the voice of Karen but the arrangements and production of Richard were of quietly epic proportions. How did he make the voices sound like a celestial choir? I have always loved harmonies and Richard certainly knew how to use his and Karen's voices to create that special Carpenters sound.
The Carpenters - Close To You

The Carpenters continued to have tremendous success right up to Karen's death on February 4th 1983. But nobody has ever come close to duplicating those glorious harmonies. Maybe it was a sibling thing - as in the Everley Brothers or Neil & Tim Finn. Even sadder was the fact the Richard who had tremendous production and arrangement skills never got to share his skills with others. He did release a solo album called Time in 1989, in which he worked with Dusty Springfield & Dionne Warwick but to no great success. So a spectacular career was cut short. I don't think Richard ever got over the death of Karen and working with anyone else was just not the same. But they did leave us with song brilliant songs.
Something In Your Eyes - Claire Dela Fuente & Richard Carpenter
But, The Carpenters did give us one of the best guitar solos of all time. Just listen to the end solo of Goodbye To Love.


1 comment:

  1. "Quietly Epic" is a great summation Nick. There's a musical quality to everything they did that is undeniable. Interesting that you bagged them with Queen; a perceptive comparison. Great songwriting, perfectly apt playing and production; the clincher being the brilliance of the singing. Freddie and Karen's voices were God given and elevated everything that they sang into something beyond 'pop'; something intangible; a genuine 'genius' that wove them, vitally and indelibly into the fabric of that period's culture.