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Interview Richard Carpenter Interview 2014

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. WYBIMLA

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    Some mixed emotions here... I'm not sure what to think. :neutral: I hear ya...

    I recall I sent a letter once over five years ago or something. I'm not sure if it made it there or what. I didn't want time to go by that I never got the chance to send one so I typed out this long thing. I don't even remember all that it said. Lol Me going on about how great I thought they were mostly.
    It'd be nice if he kept open fan interaction, but maybe there's only so much a person can deal with all that.
    Seems a bit harsh. The need for absolutely no more communication. It is like another loss. I can see how that's hard to take in and to explain "my favourite artist has cut off his fans"...:ignore: It's like "why? what did I do?"... and he's just done with all of it.

    ...or you take into consideration his age, family, and retirement... and how the business has changed and all that...

    If we get lucky and something happens for the 50th then great! If we see Carpenters songs used in future projects that's great too! Another interview I'll watch/listen! That's about it right now. It's like 35% possibility of anything 'new' happening, and otherwise we just accept how things are. :shrug:
    Keep the perspective of what he has already done. When he says "all done"... well, he did complete quite a few things... yet... I know there's that potential for more even though it may not up to his standards, but for us would mean a lot.
     
  2. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    The other thing to bear in mind is that Richard is in the somewhat unfortunate position where he has to be reminded of Karen everywhere he goes. Every interview, every performance, every personal appearance...discussion about her, images of her, the sound of her voice. In some ways, it must be like being pursued by a ghost that just won't go away.
     
  3. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Playing Devil's advocate here,
    but if no one was being straight-forward with answers in late 1981,
    then it is certainly not to be expected this many years on.
    Folks were interested in their lives then, as now, not so hard to understand ,when --
    as they did--you have toured around the World and sold product around the Globe.
    How could Richard--realistically--suppose that interest in his sister, Karen, would ever diminish?
    Recalls to my mind the 1981 Sue Lawley Nationwide Interview 10/22/1981:
    Sue
    : "That's the first time you've sung live in five years...why?...what's been happening?..."
    "It's been a huge vacation...the fans want to know where you've been...what happened...?"
    (Outtake/Richard: "We talked about this six years ago....six years now...better to take a pass...").
    Sue: "..all of a sudden, nothing... why?"
    "...was a crime to be middle-of-the-road..."
    Richard: "At first it hurts your feelings, after a while you grow out of that and realize people are entitled to their opinions."
     
  4. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    I couldn't help but jump back into the conversation a minute with this. I love what John Bettis said in our interview together about the solo record. Most of what you heard on the album was Karen imitating other people more or less - something she never did when it came to the execution of the music and production style.

    It's fair to say that most people here have agreed with what Richard has said about Christmas Portrait and that it should have been "Karen's album" - really her first "solo" album. That goes back to John's point. Had Karen stuck to what her voice was created to sing in the first place (i.e. song/style/range etc), she would have had potentially endless solo endeavors. I think her personal struggles by 1979 ultimately guided her choice in material for the solo album, as it related to her identity and her need to still yet secure that.

    Had she been well at the time, she might have opted for something more true to who she was as a singer, ultimately allowing it to potentially be more commercial and marketable. Not marketable because she died prematurely and is an icon to many, but solely because of her voice and talents. Could Karen have sung the phone book and it would have sounded amazing as it has been stated by Mike Curb? HANDS DOWN! But that doesn't make for a successful song or album release unfortunately.
     
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  5. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Chris, I always thought the line up of album "could have beens" would have been incredible.
    For example:

    1975 Horizon
    1976 Hush
    1977 Passage
    1978 Portrait
    1979 Karen Solo
    1980 Music Music Music
    1981 Made in America
    etc.

    I think this would have shown the world that Karen indeed could have sung anything beautifully!
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  6. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Now see, I totally agree with you on the Music, Music, Music stuff as far as commercially marketable for Karen as a solo endeavor. And no doubt that the solo project from '79-'80 shows that Karen certainly could have sung anything well. But again, it's not just singing something well that sells albums. Songs, arrangements, keys...all of that stuff matters. If they didn't, we would have had a dozen studio albums of Karen singing all by herself in an empty room (WHICH by the way would have sounded AMAZING hahaha)! Nonetheless those never would have made it to gold or platinum, much less radio.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  7. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Sure, perhaps they would never gain their commercial popularity of the early 70s, but many artists continue to have financial and creative success well past their prime. It's always fun to dream isn't it? :)
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  8. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Definitely. I often think about what Karen would have sounded like today. Obviously much the same, but to think of all the music she could have recorded. Really, she never even scratched the surface unfortunately. :sad:
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    All well and good, be that as it may, there are enough terrible cuts on regular
    Carpenters studio albums to make an awful 'solo' album.
    My point being: The songs chosen for Karen to sing on those Carpenters albums were
    specific to the type of music chosen by her brother. This harks back to Richard's line
    in a documentary when he says "we were meant to sing together, we were meant to be a team"
    as if this were preordained from above. Well, yes, that may be true....but, still, then, if he
    believed that---at the time of the greatest success--then why choose some of the songs that he chose
    for Karen to sing ? Her solo album did 'scratch the surface', just not the surface that was expected of her.
    Do we want 'successful' to merely mean 'commercial' ?
    "Money is in the basement" .....but, wait, Solitaire only made it to #17 !
    Horizon #13.....and, this with Karen at her vocal peak.(IMHO).
    And, the songs chosen for Made In America, again, take your pick....certainly hitting higher notes
    on this album compared to lingering in the lower register on previous albums.
    (Was she all that physically well, here ?).
    Where is the balance in how to select the songs for Karen to sing ?
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  10. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    The point of that statement wasn't to suggest that every song she ever hit a low note on would be a hit. The statement implied that she was most remembered for her lower register. I've never once heard anyone say to me "Wow, I loved Karen Carpenter for her high voice and all those wonderful high notes she hit." Could she hit them? Heck yes. That's not what she's remembered for, nor were most if not all of the songs that she sang that were not tailored to feature the sweeter tones in her voice (Carpenters material included).
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Chris May, I agree to a large extent with your words.
    However, in particular, in one instance when Karen sings
    "....to see if Reindeer really know how to fly..."
    in the Christmas Song, Karen is hitting a very high note and
    still sounding breathtaking. So, it can be done--both the lows and the highs.
    Does anyone not remember her rendition of that Christmas Song , with that line?
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  12. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    After Natalie Cole's death I dug out "Unforgettable" and was playing that nonstop. There's the great Karen Carpenter album that never was. Give her some peppy standards, like "Orange Colored Sky", "Paper Moon," "Route 66"...not just "I Can Dream Can't I" and "When I Fall in Love"...
     
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  13. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Totally agree! That's why I said "Could she hit them? Heck yes!" However I doubt it's that line of the song that comes to mind with the average radio listener/album buyer when referring to Karen or the song itself.

    Back to the original topic. If an entire song had a melody line that was written in such a way that it very rarely reached a lower register with its rage for contrast with the upper register, coupled with then being "keyed" too high, then you don't do a singer like Karen much justice. I think that's where the solo album argument comes into play.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
    GaryAlan likes this.
  14. WYBIMLA

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    I appreciate this conversation because I'd tend to agree with what's been said about the solo album on these boards in the past while.
    Bettis couldn't have said it any better really. The idea of imitation does fit here and that's been a missing link for me. I don't know if that had to do with who she was hanging around with at the time... her state of mind... but for a voice like that to sound inauthentic during a song takes you aback. It's not "bad" per say just not the kind of direction you would expect. You could argue her sense of self drifting and that's a sad thing. Was she more in tune with the times than what Richard was doing?... perhaps, but also a little bit late to be experimenting with disco (two songs I know, but still). I don't think they were ever really doing anything along with the times if you think about it. They were making something timeless and what they really enjoyed. That's what really sells it is if you're truly up to make an album. I don't think Karen was healthy enough to tackle a project like that during '79 no matter how upbeat she may have lead on. Mind you behind the scene footage would be fascinating to see her level of enjoyment. It's a shame that this topic can bear such a rift within fan groups, but the solo album is out there for those who wish to satiate that curiosity. I've had my moment(s) with it. I enjoy things here and there and almost the novelty of it (basically the "Lovelines" selections are highlights from it).
    The Carpenters were heading downward in the late '70s as we know. It would take a lot to bounce back to create a similar golden period as was compiled in the '69-73' singles album. I think they could have been well on their way. As time goes by, the less I want to really hear too much more though from the "vault". If there was another "Trying to get the feeling" situation that'd be great. I don't know about the KC solo outtakes getting a proper release or anything like that. There's a few of those that are up there with what she had already decided to be on that album, but within the context it's complicated and not super satisfying to listen to. I'd be happy to see something possibly by '19, but not really anticipating a release of that nature.
    Once again thanks Chris for conducting this interview!
    Like I said if you ever get the chance I wouldn't mind to hear his thoughts about his other productions throughout the 80s, 90s, early 2000s. Or if you have an idea of what those might be please share.
     
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  15. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    They did "Occupants" which really was good but certainly playing on the Star Wars craze. So I think they were open to trying to sound up to date.

    I think Karen wanted to experiment with her sound, even if it felt to others like she was doing an imitation of someone else. She was a young woman who wanted a fresh sound, and she had much control over the project. For me, listening to her solo album shows what she wanted to do and she did in a way that is not like her peers. The lyric lines may have been somewhat similar to others' work at the time, but Karen put her vocal stamp all over it. I appreciate John's (and others) words, and I know he loved her, but in this case, I think he is wrong.
     
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  16. WYBIMLA

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    It's hard to speak so generally when they were all over the place musically. That's true though. Sometimes they were trying to stick with the times maybe losing themselves in the process. Other times right on the mark that it showed in the charts.
    I don't doubt she wanted to do it. It is different... so much so that ultimately went over the heads of the A&M executives. I say that in the kindest way possible.
    This won't go away. It'll always be an opinionated type venture unfortunately. Has been since I started talking to fans almost ten years ago.
    I am one to waiver. Depends on my mood. For a while now I just haven't been too into it. Some things like "Lovelines" and "If I had you" are fun numbers though.

    And what a horrible feeling it must have been for Karen at that playback. I can't imagine.
     
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  17. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    "And what a horrible feeling it must have been for Karen at that playback. I can't imagine."

    It had to be crushing. Poor thing!
     
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  18. WYBIMLA

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    I am sympathetic towards that all the way.
    For an artist to feel that level of rejection after ten years would be awful especially for her first go at a solo album.
    If "Offering" is any indication by the time they did a second album it was a smash so I don't want to discount her efforts.
    I have little idea how the whole thing could have been handled better after all this time.
    I wouldn't want to use the word "bad" or whatever for it cause there are some gems there.
    In a way then I am glad we have it.
    Maybe she could have revisited the idea of later once in a healthier space...
    There's some evidence to suggest she wanted to about 3 yrs after the fact and probably would have had to start anew or stuck with the group and done movies and other things to express her many great, great talents.
     
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  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    My thoughts are all over the map on this.
    As, I do agree with much of what is being said.
    However, I remember those days in the 1970's.
    Up until 1975 (that is, 1970 to early 1975) Carpenters' music was all over the radio.
    I heard it everywhere. Radio played, the public bought.Concert were sold out.
    And, who, fervent fan or otherwise, did not own a copy of The Singles 1969-1973 !
    But, after 1975 (until 1983) it was a different story altogether.( I remember!) No one in my high-school class,
    save myself, was buying Carpenters' records. At that point in time (1976-1983) Carpenters were going to be
    remembered primarily for that mega-selling album The Singles 1969-1973. (Even Christmas Portrait, recall, did not
    immediately "sell Gold"). Thus, it goes without saying that Karen Carpenter would be primarily known for that
    great lower register. No one had heard much else to that point--the "Hits" were nearly always chosen for her lower
    register. There was nothing else well-known to the public to compare it to.(that is--compare her lower register to her higher register)
    How could Karen Carpenter,then, be known for anything otherwise? (Read the newspapers on February 5th,1983,
    then arrive at how the Carpenters, especially Karen Carpenter, were "remembered" at that time.)
    An Exception among the hits: Touch Me When We're Dancing !
    Higher notes are all over Made In America. (Richard Carpenters' favorite.)
    My only take-away lesson: It is ultimately the quality of the song--whether high or low notes.
    A bad song sung low is still a bad song. A good song sung high is still a good song !
     
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  20. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    Nicely put.
    I also like Chris's statement about contrasts. "Only Yesterday" is one of those songs -- crazy low notes at the start, rising in the chorus. Since only Karen could do that, it does make sense that any solo work should have spotlighted that gift (which is not to say I think her album was unreleasable -- Streisand was doing things like "No More Tears" and "Guilty", ONJ was into her "Totally Hot" phase, it's just what was happening in the female pop market at the time -- in hindsight, yeah, coulda woulda shoulda done something else, but it's not hard to understand why she went where she did).
    "Christmas Portrait" a Karen solo record? Then why is the first voice you hear Richard? It's nice of him to praise her that way, but I think he's over de-emphasizing his own contribution there. Wasn't all that different from what he was bringing to their other work. A Karen solo disk would not have songs chosen by Richard, sequenced by Richard, introduced by Richard.
     
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  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Nicely put, Toolman !
    And, I am glad you mentioned Only Yesterday !
    But, too, here is Richard Carpenter regarding that song (Coleman,Page 181):
    "As they sat in his music room, Richard turned and grinned, 'I want this song to appeal to the average American Dollar holder', he said.
    "OK, I can do that", Bettis said.
    He gave the haunting Carpenter melody a touch of Neil Diamond gravitas, and with Karen again adopting her melancholic delivery--
    the song was peppered with words like sadness,tears,the past and, of course,yesterday.
    It was their most manufactured work. "
    "It was a 'construct' song, but, easily one of our most commercial."(Richard Carpenter,ibid.)

    The point in my quoting that entire paragraph from the authorized Biography is that a song such as
    Only Yesterday
    was written (Richard and John) specifically to target commercial appeal---
    not, to be certain that Karen Carpenter would have
    her legacy in pop music history sealed by having emphasis placed on her lower register.
    The emphasis--for this great song-- as is written in that Biography
    is crafting (manufacturing) a song to bring in money---not to cement Karen's vocal legacy for all time.
     
  22. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    The opening lines in Only Yesterday are killer! Among my favorite ever. The rest of the song is good too, but gosh, the opening is just perfect.
     
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  23. WYBIMLA

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    Totally! "Only yesterday" opening is one where Karen... well she always nails it, but here she really nails it. I don't think you can get a better take than that. It's crazy cause I've never heard a cover or anything come remotely close. I think other artists would be reluctant to try to do it. It's a hard song to sing, and Karen's take I'd say is definitive. I think the promo-vid does the song justice too. Everything about that is so good. I know it was for commercial appeal and all that, but such a lovely tune and that big harmony sound is wonderful.
     
  24. For the longest time, I could not understand what Karen was saying in the first line..was I the only one? However, you're right, it's a great opening lyric.
     
  25. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Active Member

    Thanks to all who’ve revisited often-trod territory here, and for so assiduously avoiding the extremity that often results from such a discussion. My compliments to all of the participants, and I am glad to see GaryAlan and Chris May in the center of it.

    I have only a few thoughts. First—and this is an obvious point, but not yet stated quite as baldly as I am about to—a Karen solo project would necessarily have to distance her in some way from the signature Carpenters sound. And doing so clearly seemed risky to A&M and to Richard at the time, particularly because of their ongoing commercial downturn.

    We know that things had been building toward this moment for some time, and Richard’s incapacitation in ’79 clearly left Karen the “wiggle room” to push her agenda. (Again, nothing new here, but Karen may have decided to “rebel”—disco, etc.—because she had the physical distance from the usual constraining influences.)

    One question we might want to discuss is whether Karen might have had options in terms of a producer. Was Phil Ramone really the best choice? Of course Karen gained a close friend in Itchie, but how much of that may have also produced some clouded judgment with respect to the output in the sessions? The 180-degree nature of the responses to the LP in New York and Los Angeles might speak to some of that. Clearly these sentiments lingered in Karen’s mind, since we know that her last conversation with Phil reiterated her heartfelt approval of their efforts together.

    So were there some alternative creative partners available to Karen at the time who might have steered her down a different path for creating a solo album? I don't recall Ray Coleman or Randy Schmidt speaking to this in their biographies...

    Just one more thing for now (so that this doesn’t get TOO long). Designing a solo project for Karen really looks like a tricky endeavor, given her synonymity with the Carpenters’ sound. Many of the more recent posts have dealt with various aspects of this problem. Could “singing in the basement” be separated from the Carpenters’ sound? Of course, we’ll never know, because the approach for the vast majority of the solo material was to avoid that vocal register—something, as Gary noted, that already seemed to be happening in the C’s own songs. As Gary has also noted, the quality of the songs would play a big part—the right song that still referenced Karen’s signature sound might well operate as the “bridge” between Karen CARPENTER and KAREN Carpenter. But what song might that have been? Even with the fraught circumstances, I think that Richard and the folks at A&M, who were all seasoned professionals, would likely have responded differently if they had heard anything on the LP that they thought could do that.

    1979-80 was very unfortunate timing for all this—not only for the brother and sister, but for their record label and for the record business as a whole, which had hitched its wagon to disco and was about to have it all blow up in their faces. It all came together like two runaway freight trains in the A&M offices. And that really is what cost us Karen—her “rebound” marriage and the final bout of anorexia all stemmed from that…
     
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