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Seasonal Poll: Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling

Which version of "Merry Christmas Darling" Do You Prefer?

  • Original 1970 Version

    Votes: 25 54.3%
  • New Lead Vocal 1978 Version

    Votes: 8 17.4%
  • Remix For Time-Life CD Collection 1992

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Royal Philharmonic Version 2018

    Votes: 4 8.7%
  • I Like All Of Them!

    Votes: 8 17.4%

  • Total voters
    46
  • Poll closed .

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
Last edited:

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I answered the original version as I never thought it needed an ounce of change. It was perfect right out of the box.

This thread got me to considering the events surrounding the original release of "Merry Christmas Darling." At the start of 1970, Carpenters were basically a failed band. Their recording of the OFFERING album only got a tiny bit of airplay, and "Ticket To Ride, the single only managed a middling chart presence.

In the summer of that year, "(They Long To Be) Close To You" did its remarkable rise up the charts to the top position. Herb Alpert had given them the song to do, so it could almost be said that the big hit was through the inspiration of Herb Alpert. Richard's compositions at that point had done zilch.

When the CLOSE TO YOU album was released (along with another single), "We've Only Just Begun", it was late August. Summer was just about over and fall and winter were on the horizon. "We've Only Just Begun" was another surprise hit, I think, and it was another hit that Richard didn't compose.

Just 90 days after the initial release of "We've Only Just Begun", "Merry Christmas Darling" saw release right around Thanksgiving. I find this fact a little remarkable. The duo had just two hits, composed by others, and A&M had enough faith in them to allow the release of a Christmas single, composed by Richard and his old choral director - and it worked. Christmas singles were not that common back then. Most pop artists didn't do Christmas songs or albums, yet here was this upstart group, with just two big hits under their belts, releasing an unknown song for the Christmas season.

I truly find that remarkable. and at the time, it seemed quite magical. And as soon as the Christmas season was over, - bang - it was time for "For All We Know."
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
I voted for the original 1970 version. I never thought there was anything wrong with that and it's a joy to hear 20 year old Karen nail the song. It's like "touching up" the Mona Lisa.
 

Jamesj75

Well-Known Member
I will have to plead ignorance here, as I am not cognizant of subtle differences between versions.

On a related note, I just read a report that Mariah Carey's 25-year-old song, "All I Want for Christmas Is You," has finally reached #1 and has earned Carey $60 million in royalties...

Wouldn't we expect the same (or even more in royalties) for "Merry Christmas Darling?!"
 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
I will have to plead ignorance here, as I am not cognizant of subtle differences between versions.

James if you are used to listening to one version and you put a different one on, you WILL notice a difference! Don't underestimate your "cognizant abilities!" lol
 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
I think MCD is a classic pop song, that just happens to take place on December 24th, which for some of us is the celebration of a christian holiday. It's a love song with sentimental lyrics set to Richard's beautifully written instrumental arrangement. This is the type of song that Karen does best, she brings believability to a longing lyric, without really being aware of it. It was the first (hit) for the Carpenters as a composition, and a gift that keeps coming back decade after decade to kick-start the holidays. It's just a great song, and I see why Richard includes it in hit collections and in the recent RPO album. There has to be a sense of pride in something so special.
 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
The original 1970 version showcases Karen, the drummer who sings. The girl still has no concept of what a great gift she has, and that in itself gives this reading a really special vibe. The 1978 version showcases Karen the vocalist who is also a drummer. Much more confident in her ability, using her voice in a more controlled fashion. But now she has this awareness of her gift and has learned to use it. The vocal performance has lost some of the innocence, but improved stylistically. So that is why I like both versions. They each have something I enjoy hearing. I hope this explains my take on Merry Christmas Darling.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
You nailed it. The original is great, and Karen of the Offering-Close To You era vs. the Karen of the Passage era. Her voice had matured, and she was more of a perfectionist by then. The most noticeable change is the way she sings the word “fire” on the original vs. the re-recorded 78” version. That’s the biggest change I noticed. I was so happy to be able to buy a couple of copies of the original single at a local music store, with the original picture sleeve in November 1973. A&M had an annual Christmas hit song, and kept releasing it each year through the 70’s. The gift that keeps on giving to me.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I know that it’s much more “modern”, but someone above mentioned Mariah Carey’s Christmas song and while I do enjoy it (overplay isn’t helping though), the fact that it’s more of a well-known staple over MCD is annoying. Of course Mariah’s alive and recording and Karen’s been dead for so long, but I feel Karen’s song doesn’t get recognized the way it should. (Also, this media craze over it finally hitting number one all these years later is just another example of the superficiality of today’s (pop) culture and Carey’s massively inflated ego.) We know Karen would have been happy with people just enjoying the song.

But about the two versions of MCD, with the original Karen really takes me on an emotional journey, I feel by the end that there’s been a shifting sense of turmoil and a sad character arc, whereas in 1978 she’s just singing it perfectly without any sense of the emotional story of the protagonist.
 

goodjeans

Well-Known Member
I think MCD is a classic pop song, that just happens to take place on December 24th, which for some of us is the celebration of a christian holiday. It's a love song with sentimental lyrics set to Richard's beautifully written instrumental arrangement. This is the type of song that Karen does best, she brings believability to a longing lyric, without really being aware of it. It was the first (hit) for the Carpenters as a composition, and a gift that keeps coming back decade after decade to kick-start the holidays. It's just a great song, and I see why Richard includes it in hit collections and in the recent RPO album. There has to be a sense of pride in something so special.
Beautiful Post.
 

WYBIMLA

Well-Known Member
Reminds me of Bruce Swedien telling the story of mixing Billie Jean.

MJ and Bruce were on mix number 80 when Quincy stepped in to ask why the mix was taking so long...
And can you guess which mix went out on the album? :laugh:
(First 1:30 of this video)

Similar with The Carpenters... You can mix/re-mix/re-record but leave fans thinking, "you had it right the first time."

 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
This just came up on my You-Tube "suggestions." It was posted last Christmas 2018. Interesting reading the few comments there are.

 

Kacfan

Well-Known Member
Did everyone know about this? “Merry Christmas, Darling” almost was recorded in the early 1970s by Elvis Presley, Pooler said. Presley couldn’t read music, so in the recording studio he would have the musicians form a circle around him and play him the song, while he walked around the circle trying to get the hang of the song. “He could not quite pick up on the bridge to ‘Merry Christmas, Darling,’ so he threw in the towel after three times around the circle,” Pooler said, retelling the story Presley told Richard Carpenter.
 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Thread Starter
Well it's December 24th, and today MCD should be all over the airwaves........at least in the perfect world! Thank you to the 42 A&M Corner members who have cast a vote! There is one week left if you haven't voted. :)

Merry Christmas Darling will be 50 years old in 2020, in it's original studio release, so far the Corner's overwhelming favorite version!
Enjoy Karen and Richard's music this Christmas and in many Christmas' to come! Wishing all of us a wonderful winter and happy holiday season!
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I went with the Time-Life Remix, since I find the original 1970 version hasn’t aged well. It might be because of the technology of the era, but the mono piano and drums on the original just have that dated sound, whereas the stereo D7 and drums on the Time-Life give it a fresh sound.
 
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