1. The new Carpenters recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is now available for preorder! Use this link to preorder, and help us out at the same time. Thank you!


Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Jan 1, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Happy New Year everybody!!

    Several weeks ago we asked you to join us in a Q&A session with friend and well-known Carpenters (and 'Wrecking Crew') bassist, Joe Osborn. We submitted the most relevant questions to Joe, and he graciously agreed to participate. As our little New Year's gift to you, the answers are posted below, many of them 'fresh' and unique to Carpenters fans. A special thanks to Joe for his help and willingess in participating!

    1. What was your most difficult bassline executed for the Carpenters recording sessions? Richard has said in liner notes on a compilation album that he was most impressed with your handling of the bassline for 'Crystal Lullaby'. Would you agree? " Richard always encouraged me to play melodic lines, (whereas) the less musical minded producers would say, “ Sounds nice but maybe you should keep it simple”. Richard would usually give me a chord sheet with suggestions about “where to play” something melodic. NEVER A SPECIFIC LINE. Then one night he brought in “Crystal Lullaby” with notes written with ledger lines (notes above the staff) which included a “D” above middle “C”. That’s the highest playable note on my bass. I HAD NEVER PLAYED THAT NOTE. So I said to Richard,“I’ll need a few minutes to look at this part”. So everyone took a break and after a few minutes we were able to record the song."

    2. My second question concerns Karen's solo track 'If I Had You'. For the 'Lovelines' album, you were asked by Richard to come in and recut the bass for that track in 1989. What were your thoughts on the track and the sound of Karen's album as a whole, after all the years of playing bass on the Carpenters records? "I don’t remember that title, but if this is the Ramone album - I THOUGHT IT WAS A DISASTER!!! I think I overdubbed on several of those tracks (if not all). I said to Richard--- at some point…“THAT DOESN’T EVEN SOUD LIKE KAREN”!!! (In my humble opinion)."

    3. One of my all-time favorite recordings from Karen and Richard is For All We Know. A large part of that is tied to the second melodic lead in the piece, and that is your base line. Can you elaborate on that song - and also - in terms of your entire body of work with the duo, where might For All We Know rank in your thoughts of your joint performances? "Richard wrote a beautiful--- straight ahead--- on the beat part:


    Karen was always there singing a “scratch” vocal. This particular time, she was late coming in---so we ran the song without vocal---as written---for maybe an hour. When Karen came in and started to sing, I played the written part for a couple of rehearsals and listened. The bass part started to take on a life of its own, totally inspired by the vocal. One of my favorite teachings is---when a young musician asks me---“How do you know what to play”?? YOU DON’T!!! “The song will tell you what to play.” “FOR ALL WE KNOW” is a perfect example of that.

    4. It's always fun to hear snippets of stories that took place during various recordings.... Any stand out anecdotes that come to mind on either Karen's or Richard's demeanor during a session that may have been particularly humorous - or abnormally grueling? "I moved from L.A. to Nashville in October of 1974 and was making frequent trips back to L.A. to work on Carpenter’s tracks. In about ’81- ’82, I flew out for another round of sessions. We usually started at 6:00 pm and worked until midnight. Well, that afternoon I met up with some old buddies for a couple of beers--- which turned into a whole bunch of beers--- when I got to the studio (needless to say) I wasn’t in top form. We started to work on the first chart and I floundered around trying to read the part--- trying to play the part---After a couple of hours and several pots of coffee I was feeling better---so we started on the next song. KAREN HATED THE SONG!!! I don’t remember what it was but I’m sure Richard does. I had just changed the strings on my bass (the old strings had been on the bass for seventeen years). Well, Richard started to complain about the sound of the new strings--- TWANGY --- DOESN’T SOUND LIKE YOUR BASS--- Now, the tension starts to mount. Richard is trying to convince Karen that the song is great--- and she is in total disagreement! He doesn’t like the sound of the bass. By now he’s not having a very good time. Then Richard asked me if I brought the old strings with me--- I don’t know WHY I did--- but I did--- they were in my case. So he asked if I would mind putting them on my bass. I said “yes, I would mind--- but I will! But you won’t like them”. Well we made it through the session and as I was (quickly) packing--- Richard said, “oh, by the way, I do like those strings”!!! So I took them off the bass and rolled them up--- and as I handed them to Richard I said (in no uncertain terms) “if you like them that much--- they’re yours”!!! Richard refers to that night as “THE SESSION FROM HELL”.

    5. I know with my children - they are all my favorites.... However, when it comes to Carpenters songs, which do you rank with particular preference, and why? "When someone asks “ what is your favorite record”?--- I think of the “biggest”, or, what “sold the most”. For “pretty” or “melodic” it has to be “FOR ALL WE KNOW”.

    6. Was there a unique way in which Richard wanted you to play the bass lines in Carpenters' songs and was it ever particularly difficult to play? "When I met Richard and Karen in my garage studio, they had already been fans of my playing because of records by Johnny Rivers--- Mamas and the Papas--- Glen Campbell etc. Richard never wanted me to change anything I was doing (and as it was with Crystal Lullaby) he wasn’t asking me to do something different--- only more of what I was already doing. The difficulty came from suddenly being “on the spot” with something I had never seen before. But we appreciate those times because that’s when we “learn and grow”.

    7. Joe, The "garage tunes" recorded in your garage studio as Richard mentions on the box set "From the Top" were so amazing to hear after all those years of being sealed up. Don't Be Afraid, Your Wonderful Parade, Invocation, The Parting of Our Ways, etc.. What can you tell us about these tunes that Richard has not already told us in the liner notes on From the Top? I'd like to hear your view about how the tracks were layed down and anything interesting you can remember about them. What did you think of Karen's voice in these early stages? P.S.: We have so few photos of Karen actually in the recording studio, is there a photo of you and Karen that has never been published that you have in your collection, maybe even from the "garage tunes" or anytime, that you care to share with the fans. We would love to see a new photo never before released. "We spent a lot of time experimenting with sounds and ideas. At some point we had learned about “stacking parts” or “ping-ponging”--- bouncing parts from one track to another while adding a new part. So, one night we thought it would be fun to see how many parts we could stack. We wound up with thirty-two voices. The result of that experiment was wonderful--- the song was “INVOCATION”. The first song I heard Karen sing was “EbbTide”--- and I was extremely impressed with the sound of her voice. We talked about what their plans were and what they were doing--- Richard told me he had written some songs but wasn’t able to go in the studio to record anything. So I offered the use of my studio to demo his songs. A couple of “Magic Lamp” records came out of that--- and the only thing that resembled what would become “the Carpenter’s sound” was Karen’s vocal. Richard was totally responsible for creating that sound--- he picked the songs--- wrote the arrangements--- mixed the records--- and made a beautiful thing…a sound that remained consistent thoughtout their recording career."

    8. Hi Joe - What unreleased song or songs would you like to see released from the vaults. Thanks for any insight you may have! "When I moved to Nashville in late October of 1974--- I don’t know how many boxes of tapes and whatever else might have been in the studio. Everything was moved and stored in the garage. Three months later, Feb., there was a fire that destroyed everything--- tapes---guitars---pictures---When someone asks “do you still have (whatever) my answer is “I don’t have ANYTHING older than Feb. 1975 “. I rescued my old Jazz Bass from the trunk of a burning car."

    9. What was it like to do the basic tracks with Karen's lead singing? Did you generally play on a separate track prior to Karen laying down her vocals? Did she sing along to your bass line, or did you play to her leads when a track was started? "The answer to question #3 pretty well defines how ALL the basic tracks done. Everybody is influenced (in some way) by everyone else."

    10. What were the sessions like in April, 1982? When was the last time you saw Karen, and can you give us a few special memories of working with her through the years? "I don’t remember specific dates about much of anything. April ’82 could have been close to the time of the “SESSION FROM HELL”. During those last few recording sessions it was obvious (to me at least) that Richard and Karen weren’t having any fun in the studio."

    11. Lastly, how did Karen's bass playing come about? "Karen would pick up my bass and try to play along to a track. She could barely push those heavy strings down. I had a UNIVOX bass in the studio. It has a smaller body with lighter strings. She picked up that one, one day and said “Hey, this one’s a lot easier to play”. So I said, “take that home and practice” apparently--- she did just that."
    Rudy likes this.
  2. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    First off, thanks so much to Joe for answering the questions, mine were first and second! Initial thoughts below. What an amazing thread.

    I'd kill to know which song this was!!
    Very much reminds me of this clip, from 7m50s...

    This is very interesting. Seems to me that Karen was not in a place in 1982 where she wanted to be recording, from what Joe says on this question and the previous one. It sounds indicative of the conflict they were in at the time. Richard upset with her progress under Steven Levenkron and Karen in a lot of personal turmoil at the time. This ties in with the Coleman story that she came back to listen to the 1982 recordings and lay quietly on the couch, whereas before she'd have been sitting animatedly at the mixing console with Richard. I'm just summising is all, but it's astounding to hear it from someone so close to them.
  3. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Thanks for this! I don't always agree with his opinions, but I sure respect him- and I thank you again for this great gift!
  4. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Joe, and thanks, Chris, for the very interesting Q&A! It certainly is amazing to hear these stories from the bass man himself. It is greatly appreciated.
    Chris May likes this.
  5. Dave

    Dave Well-Known Member

    Glad to see the responses here that Joe responded to!

    (OK, my question isn't listed, but I guess I can figure out what he was doing outside the Carpenters sessions... A better question might have been their version of '(They Long To Be) Close To You' vs. Tommy Roe's version, of which I wonder he played on as he's listed on the LP that Tommy did, & somehow, sonically that is Joe, there...! But it got too late to weigh in my question regarding more background on that as it came; too bad...)

    Thank you again, Chris, for forwarding our thoughts to the Master, himself!

    -- Dave
  6. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Honolulu City Lights

    Thanks Chris for getting this together and to Joe for providing insight into some questions that were asked. It's always cool to relive what happened back then through the eyes of someone who was there. I enjoyed reading this.

    Joe, I'm assuming you are still looking for that photo of Karen and you, never before released that you care to share with us? :wink: Just kidding. :laugh:
  7. CarpentersToYou

    CarpentersToYou What I feel has come and gone before...

    Just discovered this. Thanks so much for the marvelous interview. It's always a pleasure getting some insight into my favorite music.
  8. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    A great Q&A, thanks to Chris and Joe Osborne! Giving it a bump to the home page in case anyone missed it!
  9. Matty Mattel

    Matty Mattel New Member

    Would love to see more interviews with the folks that actually worked on the Carpenter sessions. They are a gift and a treasure to read.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

Users Viewing Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 0)