• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

Karen Carpenter/Billy Joel Connection

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Thread Starter
Recently, I have been listening to a lot of Billy Joel, in particular his albums with Phil Ramone ("The Stranger," "52nd Street," and "Glass Houses"). I knew that Phil Ramone produced Karen's solo work in NYC in 1979, but what I didn't know was just how many musicians overlapped between Karen's solo recordings and Billy Joel's studio recordings. Some examples include Russell Javors on guitar, Doug Stegmeyer on bass, and Liberty DeVitto on drums.

Does anyone know if there was a connection between Karen and Billy Joel apart from Phil Ramone? Or did Phil Ramone just convince Billy Joel's band to help out? Would be interesting in knowing if there's more to this story than meets the eye.
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Thread Starter
It's actually quite impressive, in my opinion, how Phil Ramone was able to bring in so many people from different circles of music to contribute to Karen's solo repertoire. Phil Ramone produced Paul Simon's album "Still Crazy After All These Years," which is likely why Karen recorded the title song and "I'd Do It for Your Love." (I've yet to hear Karen's version, but I really like Paul Simon's version.)

Rod Temperton, known for writing much of the content on Michael Jackson's albums "Off the Wall" and "Thriller," likely pushed Karen's sound into that disco/dance flavor. How did Temperton come to work with Karen on her solo album, if someone knows?
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Does anyone know if there was a connection between Karen and Billy Joel apart from Phil Ramone? Or did Phil Ramone just convince Billy Joel's band to help out? Would be interesting in knowing if there's more to this story than meets the eye.
Hi, Cuyler. As a strange coincidence, I have also listened to the albums you mentioned just in the last couple of weeks. I had never collected Billy Joel records but, recently, I bought a deluxe version of 'The Stranger', which also includes a live concert recording from the same era. My cousin, who I used to live with, had 'Glass Houses' when it was just released, so I also recently got that, sort of for nostalgia's sake. I enjoyed that album back then and enjoyed it when I listened to it, recently.

There is quite a bit of information about the questions that you ask in the collective books. I can't remember which one has most information but, I think, both 'The Untold Story' and 'Little Girl Blue' talk about Karen's relationship with Phil Ramone, Rod Temperton and members of Billy Joel's band. I don't think there is any mention anywhere of Karen meeting Billy Joel himself or having anything to do with him.

To try to answer your questions, and I'm just going from memory without referring to anything, so I might be completely wrong, but, as far as I remember, when Karen put forward that she wanted to record a solo album, A&M, possibly meaning Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, put together a list of possible producers for Karen. I guess Karen was then involved in choosing Phil Ramone, in the hope that he might be available. I believe that A&M contacted Phil Ramone for Karen and he expressed interest in taking up the offer. Everything progressed from there.

As far as Rod Temperton goes, he was staying in Phil Ramone's flat on his property. He was actively writing at that time, including writing embryonic forms of 'Rock with You' and 'Off the Wall' while he was working with Karen, and offering them to her. (She turned them down). I believe that Phil Ramone hired him to work with Karen. Yes, he would have had a strong influence on the flavour of the recordings, as he wrote a couple of the tracks and arranged the vocals. Remember, I'm only going from memory, so don't totally believe everything I'm telling you - but I think that it's mainly correct.

I also believe that Phil Ramone would have been the main person involved with hiring members of Billy Joel's band to work on Karen's album. I imagine that he was familiar with the musicians, had obviously been working with them recently, would have known that they worked together well, as they were an active live band at the time and would have had a vision that their style and energy would take Karen's music into the direction that he had in mind. I believe that he was known for involving his artists in discussion and decisions during the process, so I would imagine that Karen at least approved or rubber-stamped his ideas - or may have been more deeply involved.

Well, that's my offering in attempt to draw answers to your questions from my dim, dark brain. You might already have known most of the above. And, yes, it would be interesting to know whether Billy Joel was aware of Karen's project.

By the way, Paul Simon was aware. He changed a few words in 'Still Crazy After All These Years' especially for Karen and think he may have dropped in, while she was recording. I'm not sure.

Also by the way, "I Do It For Your Love" is easy to find on Youtube. I would recommend searching for it. I prefer it to most of the songs on the released album.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Billy was well aware of the project and sat in on a session at one point. He also asked why he himself wasn't playing piano on it.

Interestingly, 'Glass Houses' and 'Karen Carpenter' overlapped with their sessions, so Phil Ramone and Billy's band were busy guys during that time. There is a Billy Joel bio that mentions Karen a fair amount and talks about her solo sessions. It also touches on the reaction of the band after the shelving, as well as Karen's passing.

I'm pretty sure this is it: https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/billy...hRoCjWwQAvD_BwE#idiq=19461868&edition=9154361
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Billy was well aware of the project and sat in on a session at one point. He also asked why he himself wasn't playing piano on it.

Interestingly, 'Glass Houses' and 'Karen Carpenter' overlapped with their sessions, so Phil Ramone and Billy's band were busy guys during that time. There is a Billy Joel bio that mentions Karen a fair amount and talks about her solo sessions. It also touches on the reaction of the band after the shelving, as well as Karen's passing.

I'm pretty sure this is it: https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/billy...hRoCjWwQAvD_BwE#idiq=19461868&edition=9154361
Can you image Karen covering New York State of Mind??? I'd love that!
I really like Barbra Streisand's version even if she isn't a favorite of mine. You can't deny a great match of singer and song and arrangement.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
That would have been great, but even better would have been a cover of "Just the Way You Are"...
Well, they came close! They gave 'Just The Way You Are' to John Davidson to sing on the 'Space Encounters' special. I'm guessing that either Richard or Peter Knight did the arrangement for that song.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
That would have been great, but even better would have been a cover of "Just the Way You Are"...
Olivia recorded “Just The Way You Are” in her 1978 tv show called Olivia. It was released only on laserdisc and the video to this song was taken from that laserdisc and put on a bonus DVD from Japan on her 40th anniversary box set. Of course I extracted all the bonus DVD tracks so I could have the audio for my library.

The song is ok but nothing to rave about. Unfortunately anyone from Olivia to Karen really can’t make it any better than Billy Joel’s original. Sorta like ABBA’s Thank You For The Music. The Carpenters version is just ok but ABBA’s is fantastic.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Olivia recorded “Just The Way You Are” in her 1978 tv show called Olivia. It was released only on laserdisc and the video to this song was taken from that laserdisc and put on a bonus DVD from Japan on her 40th anniversary box set. Of course I extracted all the bonus DVD tracks so I could have the audio for my library.

The song is ok but nothing to rave about. Unfortunately anyone from Olivia to Karen really can’t make it any better than Billy Joel’s original. Sorta like ABBA’s Thank You For The Music. The Carpenters version is just ok but ABBA’s is fantastic.
My eldest son would agree with you about Thank You for the Music. In fact, we just had this conversation. He says ABBA's vocals on it are some of his favorite of all times- and he tends to have great taste. :wink:
 
Hi, Cuyler! I registered in order to PM you -- I thought maybe I'd be given the opportunity to send you a PM after I left a message on another topic, haha, but doesn't appear to be enough to allow me that forum privilege.

On the subject of I Do It For Your Love... what IS the actual title? So much of what's out there, including the official release on YouTube and Apple Music says I'D Do It... but the actual back of the album says I.

41aXubBpDEL.jpg


And the official Paul Simon website is even MORE confusing, since the title is I'D on the lyric page, but the lyrics say I every time.

(Also, hahaha, maybe my eyes are just tuned into Carpenters-vision, but that sure looks like the color of the self-titled Carpenters album.)

---

Billy Joel is one of my very favourite singer-songwriters, and it really makes me happy to see how a lot of my favourite musical minds connected with one another in one way or another, even in a cursory way. I'd love to hear any recollections Billy or Paul might have of Karen, if any. Other cool connections is that Phil Ramone produced Getz/Gilberto, which originates perhaps the most recognizable recording of Garota de Ipanema for most English-speakers... and one of the first tracks the Richard Carpenter Trio did was a take on that song. Phil Ramone also produced the album for the Bacharach/David musical, Promises Promises... which is what I'll Never Fall In Love Again (performed in the Bacharach/David Medley) was initially written for.
 

Greg

Well-Known Member
I have been listening to alot of Billy Joel recently too - such a good songwriter.

I also heard a nice snippet from John Bettis on the recording of Madonna's 'Crazy For You' which I had no idea was under the musical direction of Ramone.

"Crazy for You" was written by John Bettis and Jon Lind. Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber and music director Phil Ramone were aware of the then unknown Madonna, who was just signed to Sire Records. Ramone took her for dinner at his house in Carolwood Records, where she played some of her music videos. Ramone and the other Warner executives present there, were impressed by Madonna's self-possession and fishnet-crucifix style, and they decided to test her voice in a New York studio. Peters assigned Joel Sill, an executive in charge of music at Warner Bros. Pictures, to handle the recording of the two songs for the film. Sill sent the script of the film to Bettis and Lind. After reading through the script, Bettis wanted to write a song about the situation where the main characters – a young boy and a girl boarding at a house – dance together at a nightclub. He elaborated:

"We were noodling around and 'Crazy for You' was something that Jon was singing over that section of the song. It was really descriptive of the scene in the film. [...] After that, I was out on vacation out in the desert and [Sill] called and said Phil Ramone was in love with the song and wanted to cut it on Madonna. [Laughing] 'Borderline' was out at that time and I said, 'Excuse me? This is for Madonna? Really? Can she sing a song like this?' Jon and I were surprised at the choice of artist at the time, if you want to know the truth."


I find it interesting as we all know Madonna is a huge Karen fan (which i'm sure came up with Ramone), and there she is singing a Bettis song as her first major ballad, giving some serious nods to Karen in her delivery.
 

goodjeans

Well-Known Member
I have been listening to alot of Billy Joel recently too - such a good songwriter.

I also heard a nice snippet from John Bettis on the recording of Madonna's 'Crazy For You' which I had no idea was under the musical direction of Ramone.

"Crazy for You" was written by John Bettis and Jon Lind. Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber and music director Phil Ramone were aware of the then unknown Madonna, who was just signed to Sire Records. Ramone took her for dinner at his house in Carolwood Records, where she played some of her music videos. Ramone and the other Warner executives present there, were impressed by Madonna's self-possession and fishnet-crucifix style, and they decided to test her voice in a New York studio. Peters assigned Joel Sill, an executive in charge of music at Warner Bros. Pictures, to handle the recording of the two songs for the film. Sill sent the script of the film to Bettis and Lind. After reading through the script, Bettis wanted to write a song about the situation where the main characters – a young boy and a girl boarding at a house – dance together at a nightclub. He elaborated:

"We were noodling around and 'Crazy for You' was something that Jon was singing over that section of the song. It was really descriptive of the scene in the film. [...] After that, I was out on vacation out in the desert and [Sill] called and said Phil Ramone was in love with the song and wanted to cut it on Madonna. [Laughing] 'Borderline' was out at that time and I said, 'Excuse me? This is for Madonna? Really? Can she sing a song like this?' Jon and I were surprised at the choice of artist at the time, if you want to know the truth."


I find it interesting as we all know Madonna is a huge Karen fan (which i'm sure came up with Ramone), and there she is singing a Bettis song as her first major ballad, giving some serious nods to Karen in her delivery.
...thank you for sharing this excellent post.
 
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