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'Goofus' Lyrics Discussion

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
I have searched, but I haven't come across a full-on discuss about the single, 'Goofus.' I've seen threads discussing it as a song, and debating if it was "single material" or not, but I really haven't seen much discussion concerning its lyrics.

This tune is credited to Gus Kahn, Wayne King, and William Harold. It was originally recorded and released by Les Paul in 1950, which, as we know, heavily inspired both K and R.
Karen advocated for its release as an A Side single, and it ended up being the Carpenters' first A Side single commercial flop since 'Ticket,' neither placing on the Billboard top 40, or even in the top few spots on the Easy Listening Charts.

Here are those lyrics:

I was born on a farm out in Ioway
A flaming youth who was bound that he'd fly away
I packed my grip and I grabbed my saxophone
Can't read notes, but I play anything by ear
I made up tunes on the sounds that I used to hear
When I'd start to play folks used to say
"Sounds a little Goofus to me"
Cornfed chords appeal to me, I like rustic harmony
Hold that note and change the key, that's called "Goofus"
Not according to the rules that you learn at music schools
But the folks just dance like fools, they go "Goofus"
Got a job but I just couldn't keep it long
The leader said that I played all the music wrong
So I stepped out with an outfit of my own
Got together a new kind of orchestree
And we all played just the same "Goofus" harmony

And I must admit we made a hit


I've always enjoyed this little ditty contrary to many fans-- especially because of the lyrics, which took me quite awhile to really pay attention to.
The lyrics, in short, are about a young person that never learned to read or play music, but instead played by ear, and thus was rejected by the music industry.

There is almost a hint of anti-establishment, poking fun at music schools. This is a little funny to me, as both Karen and Richard studied music for a time. Richard even studied at the most-prestigious Yale Music School as a teen. They also both read music. I don't know exactly how well Karen could read, but I wouldn't doubt that she was taught how to in her instrument lessons and choir. Richard started playing by ear solely after giving up on piano lessons as a child, but went back a few years later. That's not to say they enjoyed it-- they both ended up dropping out of college because of their success with A&M. They had their fair share of anti-establishment tunes, but that really seemed to stop arguably at around 1971, so it was an interesting choice for 1976. Richard has regrets about songs like 'Mr. Guder,' among others. He also has said he regrets 'Goofus.' Whether or not it's because of its message is another question. It seems like they may have been trying to break the clean-cut image even more during that time.
Let me know what you guys think...
 

GDBY2LV

Well-Known Member
It’s a kind of silly song, but fun to sing or hum along to. It didn’t belong on any pop or rock album in 1976, in my opinion. They let their fan club members vote on what the next single should be, and I’m guessing the few that voted, chose Goofus. I cringed at what I thought was sure to be a true bomb or “stiff” in radio talk. It did, and was an unfortunate choice. In hindsight I still think “You” was the strongest cut on the album, even to this day. Again, my personal views. Barry Manilow and Partridge Family already beat them to the other two possibilities. Pretty much every artist makes a poor choice for a single release at sometime in their career, whether it’s a personal or record label preference. It shows what great freedom Carpenters had with A&M, through their whole time there, and for that I’m grateful.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
It’s a kind of silly song, but fun to sing or hum along to. It didn’t belong on any pop or rock album in 1976, in my opinion. They let their fan club members vote on what the next single should be, and I’m guessing the few that voted, chose Goofus. I cringed at what I thought was sure to be a true bomb or “stiff” in radio talk. It did, and was an unfortunate choice. In hindsight I still think “You” was the strongest cut on the album, even to this day. Again, my personal views. Barry Manilow and Partridge Family already beat them to the other two possibilities. Pretty much every artist makes a poor choice for a single release at sometime in their career, whether it’s a personal or record label preference. It shows what great freedom Carpenters had with A&M, through their whole time there, and for that I’m grateful.
I had forgotten that there was a poll at one point as well! It's funny how their polls always proved to be a bad idea-- for example, when they played both 'Close to You' and 'I Kept On Loving You' for CSULB Choir, they chose 'I Kept On Loving You!' I love that song a lot, but I can't say it's a stand-alone hit. Imagine the consequences.
Objectively, I would agree the best tracks are definitely 'You,' and also 'I Have You,' and 'I Need to Be in Love.'
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I have always been fond of "Goofus" and welcomed its choice as a single. But then, I've never been one that you'd gauge popular opinion on. It's an interesting record, and I found it refreshing after the mostly-slow-ballad HORIZON album. This was a fun little mid-to-up-tempo ditty that had lots of "Carpenter-esque" features about it. The harmonies are just wonderful. If I have any criticisms or regrets about it, I'd say that it's a bit of a muddy recording, but that holds for much of the HUSH album.

Some technical junk:
If you're of a mind to do so, boost the highs a little in "Goofus" and the song lifts out of the mud a lot better. There are some interesting things going on in the stereo soundstage too. As the record starts, Karen's lead is tilted just a little to the left, enough that if you try to "OOPS" the record, she's still there. Now when the song goes into the chorus, there are Karens in the left, Karens in the right, and a couple of Karens in the center that do phase out. Oh, and if you're attempting the phase thing, move the right channel leftward one sample for better cancellage.

The song would have easily fit on any country album they might have compiled.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
I have always been fond of "Goofus" and welcomed its choice as a single. But then, I've never been one that you'd gauge popular opinion on. It's an interesting record, and I found it refreshing after the mostly-slow-ballad HORIZON album. This was a fun little mid-to-up-tempo ditty that had lots of "Carpenter-esque" features about it. The harmonies are just wonderful. If I have any criticisms or regrets about it, I'd say that it's a bit of a muddy recording, but that holds for much of the HUSH album.

Some technical junk:
If you're of a mind to do so, boost the highs a little in "Goofus" and the song lifts out of the mud a lot better. There are some interesting things going on in the stereo soundstage too. As the record starts, Karen's lead is tilted just a little to the left, enough that if you try to "OOPS" the record, she's still there. Now when the song goes into the chorus, there are Karens in the left, Karens in the right, and a couple of Karens in the center that do phase out. Oh, and if you're attempting the phase thing, move the right channel leftward one sample for better cancellage.

The song would have easily fit on any country album they might have compiled.
I have also noticed the slight muddiness-- I thought I was the only one ! I also noticed that awkward shift in the vocals. It messes a bit with your ears listening in headphones. Interesting to hear how their sound drooped slightly in that time-- I guess that's what happens when one of the world's finest arrangers has a bad few years personally.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
This one was undeniable proof that Richard wasn't 100% in control of choosing material and picking things against Karen's will. Karen didn't make great choices either at this point. I don't mind it on "...Hush" (it's a nice "what??" moment on the record) but it's a ghastly choice for a single IMHO and the public wasn't interested. Nothing else on the album had that vibe. 'Course, the album didn't do all that well on the whole so I guess it didn't really hurt anything. It feels like throwing something at the wall to see if it'll stick. It didn't and nothing else like it was attempted.

For me, the harmonies utterly save it. I don't believe for two seconds that Karen was "born on a farm out in Ioway" - knowledge of her backstory or not. It's really more for a man to sing (not that women don't play saxes). Les Paul, Phil Harris, & Chet Atkins had all done it prior and it was a male-dominant lead in Harris' case (Les' and Chet's were instrumental). It's just odd hearing a woman sing it, IMHO.

Ed
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
This tune is credited to Gus Kahn, Wayne King, and William Harold. It was originally recorded and released by Les Paul in 1950, which, as we know, heavily inspired both K and R.
The song's co-writer, Wayne King, was a saxophonist and band leader. His big band, The Wayne King Orchestra, was the first to record the song, in 1930, on RCA Victor records. The first cover version was by Guy Lombardo, in 1932. So, it was already an oldie by the time that Les Paul recorded it.
 

Donn

Active Member
Some of you have mentioned the harmonies - Goofus also has a very impressive bass line by Joe Osborne, and Karen's lengthy phrasing is incredible - try singing the first three lines without taking a breath in the middle of them (as Karen does) as you will see - I would bet most people can't make it past the middle of the third line without coming up for air or compromising the vocal quality
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Some of you have mentioned the harmonies - Goofus also has a very impressive bass line by Joe Osborne, and Karen's lengthy phrasing is incredible - try singing the first three lines without taking a breath in the middle of them (as Karen does) as you will see - I would bet most people can't make it past the middle of the third line without coming up for air or compromising the vocal quality
Don't get me wrong- it's fun and parts are impressive, but it's not single worthy in my opinion.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
I felt it was interesting that the duo chose to include the song Goofus on their late 1978 television special !
I thought it was an odd choice for the special, as well, as it was videotaped nearly 2 years after it bombed as a single. I would guess they chose it because it sort of flowed well with the ‘looking back in time’ segment.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
By the way, the lyrics as posted above are not identical to the lyric as Karen sings them, examples:
Karen sings in the first-person: "I was bound I would fly away."
(1) Hold that note and change the key, that's called "Goofus"
becomes this: Hold the note and change a key, hey, but that's Goofus.
(2) Not according to the rules that you learn at music schools
becomes this: Not according to the rules that you learned in music schools.
And, of course, The last line is:
(3) Goofus has been lucky for me.

As I have oft repeated, it is incredulous to me that the song put any dent at all in their already negative- image (at the time of its release),
simply because few radio-dj's played it, few purchased it, and even as an album cut (given that Hush LP did not burn up the charts),
the song went un-noticed, generally.

In any event, I love Karen's delivery. It's a great arrangement and background harmonies are delightful.
A fun song.

Cashbox magazine review (August 28, 1976, page 18):
CARPENTERS Goofus (3:09) "An inspired choice for a single from this duo.
The two take this old song and make it their own. The harmonies are outstanding, and Karen Carpenter has never sung better.
A fun song, this will get a lot of MOR play, and should get a lot of pop adds too. Slick sax solo."
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Forgot to add this trivia:
The first week of its release (Cashbox, 9/25/76), Carpenters' Goofus was #91.
In comparison, the first week of its release, Captain & Tenille's Muskrat Love was #60.
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it was released as a single, and why it was thought of as competitive for 1976. It’s a great album cut and I liked that they went back in time and pulled out gems. It’s kind of like Bless the Beasts and the Children being that it is a great song, even one of my favorites, but I would never think of it as a single. And, I really, really love Bless the Beasts and the Children!
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Here is some reference around the time, Cashbox chart, October 2, 1976:

#85 DON’T THINK . . . FEEL, NEIL DIAMOND (ultimately reached #43).
#86 YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A STAR, MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS
#87 I’LL PLAY THE FOOL, DR. BUZZARD'S ORIGINAL SAVANNAH BAND
#88 GOOFUS, CARPENTERS
#89 LOVE ME, YVONNE ELLIMAN
#90 POPSICLE TOES, MICHAEL FRANKS
#91 I CAN’T LIVE IN A DREAM, OSMONDS

Reading, Cashbox 10/09/1976:
"ON THE SINGLES SCENE: Among the most heavily programmed jukebox singles in the area, according to Ralph LaRose of Syracuse One Stop, are:
Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton, “A Dose Of Rock And Roll” by Ringo Sta, “Love So Right” by the Bee Gees, “I Only Want To Be With You” by the Bay City Rollers, “Goofus” by The Carpenters, “Muskrat Love” by the Captain &Tennllle and, “The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
By the way, the lyrics as posted above are not identical to the lyric as Karen sings them, examples:
Karen sings in the first-person: "I was bound I would fly away."
(1) Hold that note and change the key, that's called "Goofus"
becomes this: Hold the note and change a key, hey, but that's Goofus.
(2) Not according to the rules that you learn at music schools
becomes this: Not according to the rules that you learned in music schools.
And, of course, The last line is:
(3) Goofus has been lucky for me.

As I have oft repeated, it is incredulous to me that the song put any dent at all in their already negative- image (at the time of its release),
simply because few radio-dj's played it, few purchased it, and even as an album cut (given that Hush LP did not burn up the charts),
the song went un-noticed, generally.

In any event, I love Karen's delivery. It's a great arrangement and background harmonies are delightful.
A fun song.

Cashbox magazine review (August 28, 1976, page 18):
CARPENTERS Goofus (3:09) "An inspired choice for a single from this duo.
The two take this old song and make it their own. The harmonies are outstanding, and Karen Carpenter has never sung better.
A fun song, this will get a lot of MOR play, and should get a lot of pop adds too. Slick sax solo."
Thank you for the correction! Sorry, I didn't even look- just copied and pasted from another site. I think these are the original lyrics (?)
Sadly I can't edit my original post.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
I personally loved ‘Goofus’ when it was a single but I was just a mere boy on a farm out in ....... Being a farm boy dabbling in music, loving harmonies in whatever field, whether choral, pop or whatever, and loving Carpenters, I felt the song definitely had something to offer me. It was played semi-regularly on my local radio station, for a while, and I remember listening to it on the tranny around the farm.

I agree that ‘Goofus’ was not anything like the songs around it on the charts at the time but, actually, it wasn’t at all unheard of at the time to see remakes from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s climbing the charts. ‘Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy’, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, ‘Brazil’, ‘Whispering Grass’ and a couple of years later, ‘I Don’t Want to Walk Without You’ are a few examples that I can think of straight away, just off the top of my head, (either US, UK, European or Aus hits, mainly around 1975 / 1976).
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
........ ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’, ‘How High the Moon’, ‘I’ve Got You Under my Skin’, ‘You Go To My Head’...... especially the 1930s and 1940s were making a bit of a comeback on the charts around 1975 and 1976.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
The biggest problem with "Goofus" was its title. If it had a different title or lyrics, it might have been a decent-sized hit. But for a duo that was struggling with an image problem to release a song called "Goofus" was just the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.

I still like it, but then I'm hopeless.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I kind of wonder what might’ve happened had “Goofus”’s B-side had been “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in the US. “Goofus” wasn’t issued as a 45 in Japan, instead “Breaking Up” got the release with “I Have You” as the B-side.
 

GDBY2LV

Well-Known Member
If they had released it as originally planned, as a medley with I Can’t Stay Mad At You, it could have been a big all over the world. It was hard to beat a good Carpenters clever oldie remake. That might have continued their radio play here leading to AYGFLIALS getting the AirPlay it deserved. More album sales too.
Hard to second guess things, or what could have been.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
‘Goofus’ was certainly in heavy rotation at my house in 1976. I remember spotting the 45 at Camelot Music record store and buying it. But it was the first single they released where I really wondered how it could possibly be a hit record. It has no ‘hook’ and it just isn’t commercial enough. And I agree with Harry that the title itself most likely turned people off.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
‘Goofus’ was certainly in heavy rotation at my house in 1976. I remember spotting the 45 at Camelot Music record store and buying it. But it was the first single they released where I really wondered how it could possibly be a hit record. It has no ‘hook’ and it just isn’t commercial enough. And I agree with Harry that the title itself most likely turned people off.

The title likely killed it but those lyrics didn't help either. They date the song immediately. Karen sounds great on it but she's not believable. It's just used a vehicle for her voice. The story doesn't matter in Carpenters' version. They were in no position to take a chance like that at that point. I listened to it again last night to refresh and it's well-done (those harmonies!) but it's antiseptic to a fault - just beyond polished. A song like that needs to breathe. Carpenters' doesn't.

Ed
 

Matthew Smith

Well-Known Member
If you can find it on You Tube or elsewhere, the song also appears on “Laverne & Shirley”, on one of the Shotz brewery talent show episodes. Sung by the character of Mrs. Babish played by Betty Garrett, accompanied by Ukulele and played in a Vaudeville style.
 
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