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How Much Control Did Karen Have?

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by ThaFunkyFakeTation, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo Thread Starter

    We were talking a bit in the "Now" thread about Karen and how much control over the sound she may or may not have had - thus how much of the blame she should get for the more...ahem...uncool aspects of Carpenters. We do know that she regarded Richard as a genius. We know he arranged and produced everything. We also know that Karen wasn't "taken with" certain things so they didn't get released. That indicates she had some control. We further note that she was the "associate producer" of "Horizon", "A Kind of Hush", and "Passage" records, though we don't know what that might have entailed.

    So how much control did Karen actually have?

    Carpe diem and newvillefan like this.
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I seem to recall Karen really liked Goofus....so do I !
    And, she did choose Sweet, Sweet Smile........
    I guess the decision to leave Rainbow Connection on the shelf for so long was due that she
    really did not like the song.....
    In one interview Richard Carpenter says she could have demanded the solo album be released.....
    In short, she might have had more control than we think....but, who will ever know ?
  3. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    So how much control did Karen actually have?

    I believe she had limited input regarding the interpretations and nuances in her vocal performances, but most of the big decisions were made by Richard/A&M/Management.
    David A and newvillefan like this.
  4. CarpentersToYou

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

    I have a feeling this post won't be open long.

    We could all speculate until we're blue in the face. But without Karen's word, we will never know.


    I agree and it`s just a case of playing guessing games and getting into their personal lives again!
  6. AnnaSock

    AnnaSock Active Member

    Just throwing this in as I only read it recently.

    In an interview with Charlie Tuna, printed in Randy’s book ‘Yesterday Once More’ (pp. 186 and 187) Karen did say the following when asked who made band decisions (out of her and Richard) or whether it was mutual:

    “It’s pretty much mutual because we think identically on 99 percent of the things.”


    “If it gets down to who’s going to make the decision, if it’s a musical decision, he’ll make it.”
  7. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo Thread Starter

    I'd forgotten about that. If that's the case, then it wasn't Richard holding Karen back. The elevator-isms some of us can do without are as much Karen's as they are Richard's then.

  8. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Just shows you can like all styles of music... and in their case, can record all kinds and do it well!
  9. David A

    David A Well-Known Member

    It would be unfortunate if threads like this were disallowed. Personal aspects of their lives, SPECIFICALLY as it relates to their music output, seems a fair subject to discuss. In this case the discussion is about whether Karen had sufficient control over anything musically, to be held to count for their sound, good or bad.

    For example, discussing Karen's illness specific to how it impacted her music - whether she drummed or not, missed concerts, voice sounded weaker, etc - seems quite reasonable. Discussing her illness in the context of her family relations would, in my view, be unnecessary because it sheds no light on the music itself, or only tangentially.
  10. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    Musically, very little. Personally, very little.

    We know where this is headed but this is the tragic reality for both major facets of her life.
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  11. Someday

    Someday Active Member

    It has been documented that it was Karen's decision to not go ahead with the solo project and, although she may have loved the end result, maybe she could also see that it was also under-par in certain aspects. She may have been a sweet, kind personality, but as John Bettis once said, Karen was no push-over and would not have succeeded in the music industry had she been a door-mat. Maybe we all underestimate her sometimes.
    Sue and Geographer like this.
  12. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    Not wanting to open the old can of worms again on this, but it clearly wasn't Karen's decision to make. The record company would not release it, regardless of what she wanted.

    The fact that she mentioned how great she thought the solo album was on the phone to Phil Ramone the day before she died I think tells you all you need to know about her own opinion on the project.
  13. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Karen embraced those middle 3 tv specials and those were the nadir of "uncool". She, like us all, had her artistic blind spots.
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  14. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Did anyone hear the American Top 40 story told by Casey Kasem in the 70s about Karen chasing off any bullies who picked on Richard, (four years her senior), at school? (I think their mother also told the same story in an interview). (Come to think of it, that story might have appeared on the American Country Top 40 radio programme, when ‘Sweet, Sweet Smile’ was a hit). Herb Alpert said of the adult Karen in a TV interview something like, “This was not a woman who could be pushed around”. John Bettis made a similar statement, referred to above, inferring that Richard was the more demur of the two and Karen was more hard-edged. By all accounts, Karen had a reputation for telling the music biz people where to get off during their 1974 tour. I believe the quote was, “If you are going to cross anybody, don’t let it be Karen”. I’ve got a feeling that she had the grit to hold her own in certain situations, which could be seen as control over certain aspects of their career. I think that interpreting her vocals and arranging her drum parts equals a certain amount of control. But I think that Richard probably had almost all of the musical control and probably the main role in planning their career, in so far as choosing or writing songs, conceptualising albums, planning their style of music, arranging, orchestrating and producing. And although Karen was no push over, she wouldn’t have been able to push a record company around and call the shots, unless they wanted to hand over the reins, up to whatever their limits were. I don’t think Karen saw herself as creative, so probably willingly accepted Richard’s lead a lot, on musical issues. You certainly see and hear that in their interviews.
    Btw, something completely unrelated - I remember the host of the American Country Top 40 radio programme stating that Karen played fiddle on ‘Sweet, Sweet Smile’. I think that even as a kid, I knew that he was wrong.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
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  15. Kaisu

    Kaisu Member

    ^ I remember reading a quote from Little Girl Blue, in which Agnes Carpenter said regarding the bullies: "Karen can take care of both of them." I guess she was pretty good at firing back.
  16. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I'm in the camp of Karen holding her own.

    Perhaps the biggest argument to back this up came in Dec '78. Richard's broken and can't come over here (UK) for a Xmas Eve prime-time show plus promotion of a new album. Karen could very easily have shrivelled at this point, called off the trip and sat at her brother's bedside.

    But she didn't.

    Even though she was being devoured by neurosis herself at this time, she left him and did it alone (beautifully, I might add).

    I kind of get more of an insight into their relationship and her character from the hour of MMM out-takes that floated around the web about a decade ago. She was screwy and hilarious. . .he was shy and clearly found her very funny.

    Karen's destiny was shaped more by her own physiological make-up than a feeling of lack of control in her music.

    I will concede that her mother, though well meaning, exacerbated her decent.

    Again, all my own thoughts. . . .I never met them, after all.
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  17. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    It's too bad that MMA wasn't around during Karen's young adult years. She would've made one heck of a brawler IMHO.:)
  18. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I’ve never really thought of them in this way but you’re spot on Neil. I remember those outtakes very well and loving seeing how relaxed they were in each other’s company. Richard was polite and reserved and she was just so funny in some of those clips, especially when Bob Henry (the director) kept asking them to do repeated takes.
    ullalume likes this.
  19. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Quintessential Karen...2 make up artists are fussing over her...make her look stunning. They leave the shot and it's just Karen and Richard and a 10 second countdown to ACTION. Just before we get to 1 she looks at Richard and says "do I look ok?". He sort of glances at her and says"mm hmm" then action.

    For all the glitz she wanted to look normal and wanted her brothers thumbs up. I suppose some would say he should have hugged her, stared into her soul and said "you're beautiful karen". But that ain't how life works.

    I'm an only child, but these 2 seem great as siblings...separate but the same.

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