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The Originals: Carpenters edition

January 31st, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

 

The Carpenters drew heavily from often not very well known songs, making them their own in the process. This was not so, however, with what is widely regarded at their signature tune: Close To You had been recorded a few times before the Carpenters got their turn in 1970.

Close To You

It started out as a humble b-side to actor Richard Chamberlain‘s 1963 single Blue Guitar. Within a year both Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield had recorded it, though Dusty’s version was not released until 1967, on her lovely Where Am I Going? LP.

Composer Burt Bacharach was not happy with either of the hitherto published versions when he offered the song to Herb Alpert, who had in 1968 recorded a rather good version of Bacharach’s This Guy’s In Love With You. Alpert, however, declined to do Close To You (apparently he didn’t like the line about sprinkling “moondust in your hair”), and gave the song to the Carpenters, who had released their debut LP on Alpert’s A&M label. A similarly hesitant Richard Carpenter and Alpert arranged the song — with the latter’s prominent trumpet track — and created aversion Bacharach was happy with.

Hurting Each Other

The secret in the Carpenters’ successful appropriation of appropriating songs first recorded by other people owes in part to an astuteness in often picking songs that weren’t very well known. Once Richard Carpenter imprinted his imaginative arrangements and Karen her marvellous vocals on such a song, it almost invariably was theirs. And so it was with Hurting Each Other, which the siblings recorded in late 1971. It appeared on their excellent 1972 album, A Song For You, and the single reached #2 on the US charts.

Hurting Each Other was written by Gary Geld and Peter Udell, whose songwriting credits also included Brian Hyland’s Sealed With A Kiss (another song that has a history as a lesser-known original). The first recording of the song was released in 1965 by teen idol Jimmy Clanton, a white R&B singer from Baton Rouge who had a string of hits in what has been called “swamp pop” and then faded into the sort of obscurity that has nonetheless ensured a performing career that continues to this day, complemented by a line in radio DJing.

 

Superstar

The genius of the Carpenters resided with their ability, through Richards’s arrangements and Karen’s emotional investment, to make other people’s songs totally theirs. In the case of Superstar, they not only took the song but also usurped its meaning. Sung by Karen Carpenter it no longer is the groupie’s lament it was written as. Indeed, in its first incarnation, by Delaney & Bonnie in 1969, the song was titled Groupie (Superstar), and included more explicit lyrics (“I can hardly wait to sleep with you” became “…be with you”). Released as a b-side, the song was written by the original performers with Leon Russell, and Eric Clapton featured on the recording. A few months later, former Delaney & Bonnie backing singer Rita Coolidge recorded it. According to Leon Russell, she had come up with the concept for it and Delaney Bramlett said she had helped with the harmonies.

But it was Bette Midler’s performance of the song on the Tonight Show in August 1970 that alerted Richard Carpenter, who hadn’t heard the song before, to it. It is said that Karen’s first take, read from a napkin, is the one that which made it on to the record.

A Song For You/This Masquerade

One singer features twice here: Leon Russell (plus, of course, his co-writing credit on Superstar). He released A Song for You on his eponymous debut album in 1970. It was covered to superb effect by Donny Hathaway and to some commercial success by Andy Williams, but it was the Carpenters’ 1972 version which brought the song to an international mainstream audience. The Carpenters recorded This Masquerade a year after it originally appeared on Russell’s 1972 Carney album. In their hands it becomes quite a different animal, doing away with the long movie-theme style intro; and Karen’s voice is rather more pleasing to the ear than Russel’s idiosyncratic growls. Oddly, both Russell and the Carpenters’ used the song on b-sides of inferior singles. George Benson’s 1976 Grammy-winning version from the Breezin’ album is also worth noting.

Reason To Believe

Reason To Believe was not a hit for the man who wrote and first recorded it, Tim Hardin. A gifted songwriter, he enjoyed his biggest hit with somebody else’s song, Bobby Darin’s twee Simple Song of Freedom, which Darin wrote in return for Hardin providing his big comeback hit If I Were A Carpenter. Darin, by then in his folk phase, also did a very credible version of Reason To Believe. Hardin’s story is tragic. As a marine in Vietnam in the early 1960s he discovered heroin and became addicted to the drug. Added to that, he suffered from terrible stagefright, which is not helpful when you are an entertainer. He died at 39 on 29 December 1980 from a heroin and morphine overdose, just over two years before Karen followed him.

 

It’s Going To Take Some Time

In 1972, Richard Carpenter was going through a stack of singles to see what he could cover for the A Song For You album when he stumbled on Carole King’s It’s Going To Take Some Time, which King had recorded for her Tapestry follow-up, Music. King, who was no slouch when it came to arranging a song, later admiringly noted of the lush Carpenters version (with that great flute solo) that her original sounds by comparison like a demo.

 

Can’t Smile Without You

It’s not really fair to include Can’t Smile Without You in this mix, seeing as it is better known in the 1978 version by Barry Manilow. But the Carpenters recorded it a year before him, and even then it was a cover of an original from 1975 by British singer David Martin, one of the song’s four writers. Martin has had a greater career as a songwriter and occasional producer than as a singer, even if he has toured with the James Last Orchestra. As a songwriter, his songs were recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, The Hep Stars (the Swedish ’60s group future ABBA man Benny Anderson belonged to), Al Martino, David Essex, Edison Lighthouse, Sacha Distel and others.

 

Sing

One of a stranger sources for a pop hit must be Sesame Street, even if the show’s staff writers wrote some catchy numbers. One of those catchy numbers was Sing, written by the greatest of those Sesame Street writers, Joe Raposo, who also wrote the show’s theme and the immortal C Is For Cookie, which is good enough for me. After it was sung on Sesame Street and released under the moniker The Kids, Barbra Streisand recorded a version which did some business. Richard Carpenter heard it on a TV variety show and thought it had potential. It clearly did, at least for people who can stomach children’s choirs.

 

We’ve Only Just Begun

Finally, the best story left for last. We’ve Only Just Begun first made its appearance in 1970 in a TV commercial for a bank (video), whence it was picked up by Richard Carpenter to create the popular wedding staple. But before Richard and Karen got around to it, it was recorded a few months earlier by Freddie Allen, an actor who under his stage name Smokey Roberds was a member of ’60s California pop group The Parade.

As Roberds tells it, one day he heard the Crocker National Bank commercial on his car radio (presumably the ad transcended media platforms), and recognised in the tune the signature of his composer friend Roger Nichols, who had written the ad’s song with lyricist Paul Williams. He phoned Nichols, ascertained that he had indeed co-written it, and asked him to create a full-length version. Nichols and Williams did so, and Roberds intended to produce it for a band he had just signed to White Whale Records. The deal fell through, so Roberds decided to record the song himself, but couldn’t do so under his stage name for contractual reasons. Since he was born Fred Allen Roberds, his Christian names provided his new, temporary moniker.

Paul Williams’ memory is slightly different: in his version, Nichols and he had added verses to subsequent updates of the advert, and completed a full version in case anyone wanted to record it. When Richard Carpenter heard the song in the commercial, he contacted Williams to ask if there was a full version, and Williams said there was — and he would have lied if there wasn’t. Perhaps that happened before Allen recorded it. (Full interview here)

The remarkable Williams, incidentally, sang the song in the ad and would later write Rainy Days And Mondays and I Won’t Last A Day Without You for the Carpenters (both with Nichols), as well as Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen, Kermit the Frog’s The Rainbow Connection and the Love Boat theme, among others.

Freddie Allen’s single, a likable country-pop affair, did well in California, but not nationally, which he attributed to promotion and distribution problems. Released a few months later, the Carpenters had their third hit with We’ve Only Just Begun, reaching #2 in the US.

As ever, CD-R length, home-masqueraded covers, PW the same as always.

1. Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
2. Delaney & Bonnie – Groupie (Superstar) (1969)
3. Carole King – It’s Going To Take Some Time (1970)
4. Jimmy Clanton – Hurting Each Other (1965)
5. Richard Chamberlain – They Long To Be Close To You (1964)
6. Freddie Allen – We’ve Only Just Begun (1970)
7. Larry Meredith – For All We Know (1970)
8. Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
9. Tim Hardin – Reason To Believe (1966)
10. New Vaudeville Band – Ther’s A Kind Of Hush (1966)
11. Hank Williams with his Drifting Cowboys – Jambalaya (On The Bayou) (1952)
12. The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman (1961)
13. Neil Sedaka – Solitaire (1972)
14. Righteous Brothers – All You Get From Love Is A Love Song (1975)
15. David Martin – Can’t Smile Without You (1975)
16. Bama – Touch Me When We’re Dancing (1979)
17. Klaatu – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (1976)
18. The Kids – Sing (1971)

GET IT!
OR: https://rapidgator.net/file/c39502d1d688f979733e4d0be493f814/Orig60_1.rar.html

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  1. Porgie
    January 31st, 2019 at 08:42 | #1

    I would certainly GET IT! if there was a link ;)

  2. Chas
    January 31st, 2019 at 22:36 | #2

    lol :)

  3. puternut
    February 1st, 2019 at 02:00 | #3

    Me needs it too! (and free)) :)

  4. B Smith
    February 2nd, 2019 at 07:20 | #4

    Re: “Close To You” – I’d always understood it was Frank Sinatra that was offered it and refused on account of the “sprinkied moondust” line (apparently the thought of a blokey man like him singing such a fey line was too much to bear)…I’m pretty certain I heard Casey Kasem explain it that way on an old episode of “American Top 40” and Casey wouldn’t lie to us kids, would he?

    Also, Australian singer Colleen Hewett had a local hit with a cover of “Superstar” that single release-wise preceded the Carpenters by a couple of months; I suspect it was the case of a manager or producer obtaining a pre-release copy of the Carpenters LP and racing Ms Hewett into the studio to rush a cover version into the shops. It’s available on Youtube and, as a quite creditable version, well worth checking out.

  5. SUNSTORM
    February 2nd, 2019 at 13:02 | #5

    LINK .. PLEASE

  6. Tod Browning
    February 3rd, 2019 at 03:59 | #6

    No link?

  7. halfhearteddude
    February 4th, 2019 at 02:05 | #7

    The link is now active.

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