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40th anniversary of "Music, Music, Music"

Without A Song

Member
Thread Starter
To paraphrase the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album, it was 40 years ago today ... Yes, 40 years since the Carpenters' last special aired on ABC, May 15, 1980.

While it's truly sad that there were no more specials to follow because of Karen's tragic and untimely passing in 1983, "Music, Music, Music" showed that even with all the ups and downs in their career and personal lives up to 1980, Karen and Richard both still had what it took vocally and instrumentally to make music that was transcendent.

True, John Davidson and the legendary Ella Fitzgerald added their voices to the program, and Ella is fantastic, especially when singing with Karen! But it's the talents of Karen and Richard, alone and together, that stand out the most for me when I watch this show.

What is your favorite part of this special? For me, it's the closing medley. If this was fated to be the Carpenters' last special, at least it ended on a wonderfully high note!
 

Chris Mills

That was funny....like the dark vomited up
The one thing that really stands out in this special is Karen's vocal, her rich velvety tones were captured beforehand in the recording studio so that Karen could lip-sync. Karen sounds incredible, the background vocals are also just lush, so well blended. So for me, the best part of the show is the overall vocal sound.
 

Chris Mills

That was funny....like the dark vomited up
One of my favourite parts of the show wasn’t actually included in the final edit. From This Moment On showcased both their musical talents, Karen singing and Richard playing piano, both with impeccable timing.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
One of my favourite parts of the show wasn’t actually included in the final edit. From This Moment On showcased both their musical talents, Karen singing and Richard playing piano, both with impeccable timing.
I’ve never seen this surface anywhere online. Would be great to see again. All I’ve got is the VHS tape languishing somewhere in a box.
 
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Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
For me, that duet with Ella is etched in time. Yes, Karen singing off a soundtrack and Ella performing live. Why Karen's part could not have been a live give and take between the two women seems inept. I sensed a chemistry between the two and Ella saying something along the lines of "so beautiful" as Karen moved along side her...chill inducing. Karen did a fine medley on the first special and there were a few memorable performances in the Christmas specials.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Why Karen's part could not have been a live give and take between the two women seems inept.
We’re all aware of the backstory as to why their vocals on these TV specials were pre-recorded but I’ve always wondered whether they - and Karen in particular - didn’t feel embarrassed miming in front of their musical heroes who were singing live. We have Richard’s explanation that they were “studio animals” but nothing on the record from Karen. I don’t for a second believe that was anything other than his call. The end of the Karen/Ella Medley always jars with me because they’re slightly out of sync in places and because Karen is locked into the studio vocal, there’s nothing she can do about it. I’d much rather have seen them both performing live as true vocal sparring partners.
 
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Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
That link is just the entire video of INTERPRETATIONS. It's been available on VHS and LaserDisc since 1995, and on DVD since 2003 and looks even better there.
 
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Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
^^ Thanks Harry for the heads-up. That is definitely something that I would want to add to my Carpenters library!:)
 

Chris Mills

That was funny....like the dark vomited up
I know lip-syncing is frowned upon, but if Karen & Richard hadn't gone into the recording studio to lay down the vocal tracks for Music Music Music, we would have missed out on some great tracks that were later released after some additional recording and remixing. For example:

Without A Song (As Time Goes By)
I Got Rhythm (As Time Goes By)
Karen/Ella Medley (As Time Goes By)
When I Fall In Love (Interpretations) (vocal recorded 1978)
You're Just In Love (As Time Goes By)
Medley (From The Top)
From This Moment On (Interpretations)

These tracks could have made great album just on their own.
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I know lip-syncing is frowned upon, but if Karen & Richard hadn't gone into the recording studio to lay down the vocal tracks for Music Music Music, we would have missed out on some great tracks that were later released after some additional recording and remixing. For example:

Without A Song (As Time Goes By)
I Got Rhythm (As Time Goes By)
Karen/Ella Medley (As Time Goes By)
When I Fall In Love (Interpretations) (vocal recorded 1978)
You're Just In Love (As Time Goes By)
Medley (From The Top)
From This Moment On (Interpretations)

These tracks could have made great album just on their own.
Add Little Girl Blue and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and it could have served as a great album release. I know that I played a cassette tape recorded while the special was aired repeatedly. I even played it for others who enjoyed it. If I had owned an original in complete fidelity I would have been in heaven. Not many could sing the Great American Songbook with such detail and perfection.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
We’re all aware of the backstory as to why their vocals on these TV specials were pre-recorded but I’ve always wondered whether they - and Karen in particular - didn’t feel embarrassed miming in front of their musical heroes who were singing live. We have Richard’s explanation that they were “studio animals” but nothing on the record from Karen. I don’t for a second believe that was anything other than his call. The end of the Karen/Ella Medley always jars with me because they’re slightly out of sync in places and because Karen is locked into the studio vocal, there’s nothing she can do about it. I’d much rather have seen them both performing live as true vocal sparring partners.
While we are so used to Karen’s studio performances bringing out the very best of her abilities, this was definitely a time when she should have sang live. I mean, it’s a duet with the other person singing live. It creates this eerie sort of space where Ella is the older presence, her voice still beautiful but aged and she’s singing in the moment, then we have Karen as a younger vocalist, her physical presence is weakened despite her youth and pristine voice, and she’s mouthing to a pre recording, the life she brings is not of this moment.

While I have no problem with Karen lip syncing in other instances (her voice and his arrangements together did sound best in a studio), this duet underlines for me that the “studio animals” remark has more weight to it than we tend to realize. What Ella’s desire to sing live brings out is her sense of “grounded-ness” in contrast to Karen’s increasingly ethereal qualities that would swallow her bit by bit. Ella’s voice is earthy, textured with age (she has much more feeling here than she did in her youth), while Karen is as smooth as ever, more unearthly than ever, threatening more than ever to disappear. Ella is present both physically and emotionally (she’s actually singing there), Karen is only there physically but her voice, her self, is heard from a time prior to the present. There’s a disconnect that makes logical sense but still leaves one unnerved as it almost becomes a microcosm for the cavernous distance between her inner and outer lives, even as it gives another dimension to just how closely intertwined her art was with her soul.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
I imagine it was easier to rehearse and film the TV special to pre-recorded tracks, but given that Ella was singing live, for that medley it would presumably have been just as easy to have Karen singing live as well rather than miming. She was perfectly capable of staying within the lines in terms of 'reproducing' the vocal from the recorded version when singing live.

Miming alongside a genuinely legendary vocalist who is singing live does seem a strange move (making it almost look as if Karen couldn't go toe to toe with Ella when I'm sure she could have) and produces a certain disconnect in the duet, at least when watching it. I guess that desire for 'perfection'/control won out again, even though I think it was misguided in this context.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
The liner notes from As Time Goes By provides the details of the technical acrobatics
that they went through to record the Karen/Ella Medley. Unfortunately, having to go through all of that,
in order to record what we do have, simply reinforces my conclusion that Karen was simply too ill
to sing the Medley "live." The 7 years between 1973 (snippet of "This Masquerade") and 1980 (rest of KC/EF Medley)
reinforces the ravages that her physical being was going through.
We may have gotten additional music due to this pre-recorded TV Special,
but I am saddened beyond sad when I watch it. I rarely watch it.
Had I seen the special back in 1980, I am certain I would have felt the same way.
 

MorningOpensQuietly

Active Member
I imagine it was easier to rehearse and film the TV special to pre-recorded tracks, but given that Ella was singing live, for that medley it would presumably have been just as easy to have Karen singing live as well rather than miming. She was perfectly capable of staying within the lines in terms of 'reproducing' the vocal from the recorded version when singing live.

Miming alongside a genuinely legendary vocalist who is singing live does seem a strange move (making it almost look as if Karen couldn't go toe to toe with Ella when I'm sure she could have) and produces a certain disconnect in the duet, at least when watching it. I guess that desire for 'perfection'/control won out again, even though I think it was misguided in this context.
This duet just never moved me the way it should have considering the legendary singer significance, and it took me awhile to finally figure out that the lip-syncing is the cause. I agree it was a huge opportunity lost. I wonder if Richard looking back feels that way now?
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Also, when you think of it, back in 1974 the Carpenters were miming next to Como, as Richard explains in ATGB that Como doesn’t sound like Como because the mic he was using looked good on TV, but was not up to recording it seperately. Also, back then, for TV, most everything would’ve been recorded to 2 tracks for TV—-one track (usually the outside track of the tape or Track 2) was music/SFX, while the inside (track1) was voices). So another reason for pre-recording was that if the audio guy didn’t get the levels right the first time, they could go back and remix before broadcast, whereas right to tape, well you were stuck.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
While I have no problem with Karen lip syncing in other instances (her voice and his arrangements together did sound best in a studio), this duet underlines for me that the “studio animals” remark has more weight to it than we tend to realize. What Ella’s desire to sing live brings out is her sense of “grounded-ness” in contrast to Karen’s increasingly ethereal qualities that would swallow her bit by bit. Ella’s voice is earthy, textured with age (she has much more feeling here than she did in her youth), while Karen is as smooth as ever, more unearthly than ever, threatening more than ever to disappear. Ella is present both physically and emotionally (she’s actually singing there), Karen is only there physically but her voice, her self, is heard from a time prior to the present. There’s a disconnect that makes logical sense but still leaves one unnerved as it almost becomes a microcosm for the cavernous distance between her inner and outer lives, even as it gives another dimension to just how closely intertwined her art was with her soul.
This duet just never moved me the way it should have considering the legendary singer significance, and it took me awhile to finally figure out that the lip-syncing is the cause. I agree it was a huge opportunity lost. I wonder if Richard looking back feels that way now?
Also, when you think of it, back in 1974 the Carpenters were miming next to Como, as Richard explains in ATGB that Como doesn’t sound like Como because the mic he was using looked good on TV, but was not up to recording it seperately. Also, back then, for TV, most everything would’ve been recorded to 2 tracks for TV—-one track (usually the outside track of the tape or Track 2) was music/SFX, while the inside (track1) was voices). So another reason for pre-recording was that if the audio guy didn’t get the levels right the first time, they could go back and remix before broadcast, whereas right to tape, well you were stuck.
I understand the technical and personal reasons for Karen miming to the pre-recorded vocals for the taping of the TV segment.
But it would of been a historical moment for two of the greatest vocalists to actually "sing" together. Despite the possible imperfections when doing it live, it would of been worth the chance! :)
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
I don’t think, I’m my own opinion of course, that Richard and maybe Karen, didn’t like the way they sounded live or in concert. I know I’m not crazy about their live albums released in Japan and England. I was lucky enough to see them live several times, and loved the shows. Yet it was impossible to recreate their studio sound live. Karen sounded a bit nasally, and the harmonies were done by the band, not them. I know they recorded their shows and listened to them afterward. Not happy with what they heard I’m guessing. Hence no live album ever released in the USA. Richard said they preferred studio to live. I agree it was a missed opportunity with Ella singing live though. Such perfection is hard to duplicate live. The strive to be perfect really must have been rough.
 
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