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40th anniversary of "Music, Music, Music"

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
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?
Spot on. If I’d been Karen (or Richard for that matter), I’d have felt embarrassed having to explain to Ella that I was going to mime in her presence. From a technical standpoint, the end of the medley always jars with me because they’re out of sync with each other on the last line “don’t get around much anymore!”. And that’s not Ella’s fault. It’s because Karen is locked into the pre-recorded vocal and there’s nothing she can do about it. Had she been singing live, she and Ella would probably have sparred off one another and been in time. As it stands, Karen’s performance doesn’t have the soul and authenticity that Ella’s does because it’s not of the moment. Karen nailed the pre-recorded vocals in one go on March 2, 1980. What was stopping her from doing the same live? Richard even says in the liner notes for ATGB, “They might as well have been live as she got them all in one take”. I don’t buy the “studio animals” argument for a second. Karen was every bit as good as Ella and could have easily held her own live in that environment. Sometimes studio-quality perfection isn’t always necessary or what’s important for the piece.
 
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tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
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! :)
How do we know they were miming? Their mic’s could’ve been muted or not plugged in, and yet in studio they could’ve been singing live.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Try to keep in mind a couple of things.

This show was made for television. Analog televisions of the era were at most 25" at the largest, with the average being more like 19". The average Joe in his living room wasn't going to notice that Karen wasn't singing live. Half of the time, the reception wasn't all that great.

Karen mimed because that's the way she sounded best. She and Richard were still hoping to get back on the top of the charts someday, and this was a showcase for the way they sounded - on record.

No-one, repeat no-one, suspected that Karen would be dead within a few years, so it wasn't like they could recognize the duet's place in music history. It was just another TV show - here one hour, and gone the next. Disposable entertainment on ABC.

I agree with what GDBY2LV said above. They just never sounded great live. The harmonies weren't the same when the band filled in, and Karen did have a tendency to place the microphone too high, so her sound became nasal. I don't know why she did that, but it's here on every live performance where she's holding her own microphone.

I've often wondered why the duo never hired a backup girl singer as a member of their touring group to help fill in the harmonies a little better. It always looked a little silly on television when Richard is miming to a line that Karen sang on the record.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Try to keep in mind a couple of things.

[SNIP]

Karen mimed because that's the way she sounded best. She and Richard were still hoping to get back on the top of the charts someday, and this was a showcase for the way they sounded - on record.
If memory serves, didn't Karen mime even early on in their career, as opposed to singing live? If so, not sure "getting back to the top of the charts" was on their mind, as much as it being the ever-present issue of "control."

I would venture to say that most artists "sound better" with the advantages of a recording studio, some demonstrably so (Brad Delp of 'Boston' comes to mind). I believe there's a charm that often comes with live singing, and Karen was certainly more than capable of pulling that off, especially in duets with others, where the expectation for listeners isn't the same as hearing the song solo and having the same memorized expectation.
 

Chris May

Resident 'Carpenterologist'
Staff member
Moderator
Karen mimed because that's the way she sounded best. She and Richard were still hoping to get back on the top of the charts someday, and this was a showcase for the way they sounded - on record.
^^This!!
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
Try to keep in mind a couple of things.

This show was made for television. Analog televisions of the era were at most 25" at the largest, with the average being more like 19". The average Joe in his living room wasn't going to notice that Karen wasn't singing live. Half of the time, the reception wasn't all that great.

Karen mimed because that's the way she sounded best. She and Richard were still hoping to get back on the top of the charts someday, and this was a showcase for the way they sounded - on record.

No-one, repeat no-one, suspected that Karen would be dead within a few years, so it wasn't like they could recognize the duet's place in music history. It was just another TV show - here one hour, and gone the next. Disposable entertainment on ABC.

I agree with what GDBY2LV said above. They just never sounded great live. The harmonies weren't the same when the band filled in, and Karen did have a tendency to place the microphone too high, so her sound became nasal. I don't know why she did that, but it's here on every live performance where she's holding her own microphone.

I've often wondered why the duo never hired a backup girl singer as a member of their touring group to help fill in the harmonies a little better. It always looked a little silly on television when Richard is miming to a line that Karen sang on the record.
Harry, you're pretty brutal in your assessment! Didn't the Carpenters always have the reputation that they sounded great in their concerts, very true to their recordings?...I don't know about the TV specials; everything was compromised for the sake of a big Hollywood production. Let's go back to their 1971 BBC special with Karen singing Superstar & Rainy Days & Mondays live...was that not real?!
 

MorningOpensQuietly

Active Member
Harry, you're pretty brutal in your assessment! Didn't the Carpenters always have the reputation that they sounded great in their concerts, very true to their recordings?...I don't know about the TV specials; everything was compromised for the sake of a big Hollywood production. Let's go back to their 1971 BBC special with Karen singing Superstar & Rainy Days & Mondays live...was that not real?!
Yes, what about that glorious live BBC special and the Australian concert? I still would take a live, even if not perfect, performance of Karen singing with Ella than the lip-synced one. I do understand the reasoning behind it being a TV special product of its time and all. I guess we are all just still hungry after all these years of robbed live performances that could've and should've happened, had it not been for the untimely demise of a true vocal talent that still can't be replicated to this day.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
OK, there were times that their live sound was pretty good, but it rarely approached what they could do in the studio. Both of them knew it - and they did the best they could to please the audience. Their on-stage sound was always an attempt to give the audience a live presentation of what was familiar from their recordings, and the guys behind them did the best they could with the fill-in harmony. But they could never get six or seven people to sound like a stacked chord of 12 - or 16 - or 18 -or 39 parts. So those lush harmonies in concert always sounded a bit empty. In retrospect, I think the faster speed at which they often did some of their songs was an attempt not to dwell on any particular note or chord too long so as to not emphasize the emptiness.

The 1971 BBC special was a thing of beauty, and though not a recording studio, it was still a studio. They were able to get a lot of things just right in that one and they didn't yet have the clout to be able to rely on studio recordings the way they did in later years. And that's exactly right - it is WE, 40-50 years on who feel robbed of a decision to pre-record some songs in a television special. Just try to ut it all in perspective, that's all I'm saying. Television was then - and had been all the years prior - thought of as disposable entertainment, not something to be analyzed forwards and backwards for years on end. It was meant to play once - on those 25" televisions - and no more.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
Think of her vocal on Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore. Great song, but not her best recorded sound. A bit nasal in tone. Maybe she was fighting a cold during recording. Only Richard would know. That’s pretty much how she sounded in concert on most songs. Anyway they just performed their absolute best in the studio. Think of the medley at the end of Music Music Music. There was no technology to duplicate the over the top goose bump inducing performance at that time live, only in the studio. They created magic there. Richard always striving for perfection.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Just look at the Japanese telethon. When the tape cuts out for a few seconds you don’t hear anything because all the mics were muted. But once they got them back up you could hear Richard still singing faintly While Karen was frolicking with the host.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Think of her vocal on Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore. Great song, but not her best recorded sound. A bit nasal in tone. Maybe she was fighting a cold during recording. Only Richard would know. That’s pretty much how she sounded in concert on most songs. Anyway they just performed their absolute best in the studio. Think of the medley at the end of Music Music Music. There was no technology to duplicate the over the top goose bump inducing performance at that time live, only in the studio. They created magic there. Richard always striving for perfection.
I don’t think she had a cold. I think she was acting as if she were the best friend of the person in the song and was displaying that disappointment and disgust over whatever her friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend did to end the relationship.
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Karen not singing live during this medley from their first TV special?

 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
Part of the problem with their live performances is that they remained so locked in to trying to emulate the studio recordings on stage. Doing this was always going to run the risk of coming up short and sounding like an ersatz version.

However, there are occasions (as many fans have noted about the 1976 and 1978 live versions of 'I Need to Be in Love') where Karen's live performance brought something new to the song that surpassed the recorded version. So I don't think it was a case that studio was always going to be better than live. It just depended on how they approached things - and trying to replicate the recorded song exactly rather than being a bit freer with interpreting their songs live and offering something a bit different was the main problem here I think.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Karen not singing live during this medley from their first TV special?
Yes. And notice the setting - it's a studio! :)

Also notice some doubling of Karen's voice on "Only Yesterday". That part had to be pre-recorded.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Karen not singing live during this medley from their first TV special?
One thing has always puzzled me about that TV special medley. At 4:47 she turns her back on the overhead boom mic (which is nowhere near her mouth to start with) and walks away, yet her voice continues and there is absolutely no drop or difference in the volume level or quality of her vocal. How can that be possible unless it's pre-recorded?

Here's the backing track (minus Karen's lead) in all its glory.

 
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Chris May

Resident 'Carpenterologist'
Staff member
Moderator
One thing has always puzzled me about that TV special medley. At 4:47 she turns her back on the overhead boom mic (which is nowhere near her mouth to start with) and walks away, yet her voice continues and there is absolutely no drop or difference in the volume level or quality of her vocal. How can that be possible unless it's pre-recorded?

Here's the backing track (minus Karen's lead) in all its glory.

The mic and boom stand visible in the shot was a prop to mimic the staged studio look they were going for. A standard TV boom overhead likely picked up the audio on the lead.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^I enjoyed watching that clip, again !
I get a kick out of Richard as he sings along with the track--say, Goodbye To Love (1:58 & onward).
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I honestly never knew that the 1976 medley was live. I thought it was another mimed studio recording because that was their thing, and she just used the mic’s as props.
 
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