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Official Review [Single]: 23. "CALLING OCCUPANTS OF INTERPLANETARY CRAFT"/"CAN'T SMILE WITHOUT YOU" (1978-S)

Which side is your favorite?

  • Side A: "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft"

    Votes: 35 81.4%
  • Side B: "Can't Smile Without You"

    Votes: 8 18.6%

  • Total voters
    43

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
I never heard it on big-market radio, ever. As far as I know, the only place it was aired was on the TV special. But I'm sure there must have been a mom and pop station somewhere that aired it.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
There are many casual fans I’ve met among friends over the years that cite this as their absolute favourite Carpenters track. Unusual. Maybe it’s the novelty factor about it, amongst so many ballads in their hits catalogue. Karen certainly sounds terrific on the lead and the harmonies are outstanding. Passage is really underrated when it comes to some of the vocal arrangements in particular.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
“Calling Occupants...” is completely gonzo. The production is great. Peter Knight and Richard nailed the arrangement too. Karen is a cog in the machine here but she sounds great putting over the beautifully odd lyric.

“Can’t Smile” is elevator fare. Only the bridge is interesting in the slightest for me. The lyrical revisions are mostly superfluous. The “I can’t laugh and I can’t walk...” bit isn’t bad but it’s undone by the “I’m finding hard...even to talk”. Yet, you can sing? Gotcha. The remix finally got it right with the “I can’t sleep” line and it’s the one Barry should have used too. Oh well. The Dixieland thing in the bridge repeat is just awful. It doesn’t fit at all, IMHO. The whistle at the very end doesn’t fit either. Both make the tune completely kitschy. Dead fish of a tune in Carpenters’ hands.

Ed
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
There are many casual fans I’ve met among friends over the years that cite this as their absolute favourite Carpenters track.
“Calling Occupants...” is completely gonzo. The production is great. Peter Knight and Richard nailed the arrangement too. Karen is a cog in the machine here but she sounds great putting over the beautifully odd lyric.
One of my absolute favorite tracks, but not one of my favorite singles. The "edit" just sucks the "gonzo-ness" out of the song. I can understand why Richard uses the album version on compilations.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Since this thread resurfaced, I read through it to see if I still felt the same way I did when I wrote my first post in it. And, I do -- I still like "Occupants" the better of these two songs, and I also still like the original Klaatu version better than Carpenters' version.

After pondering on the "why" of that, I think it is because to me, Karen seemed out of place singing about something like "World Contact Day." "Occupants" falls into the category of a sci-fi song, which was obviously way outside the usual Carpenters repertoire. This fact probably didn't help it, chartwise.

Still a really good song and arrangement though.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
The long version is quite a ride. It’s just bizarre from beginning to end and Richard should get a medal for doing it. Few would have thought to do it. Fewer would have had the guts to actually do it. Peter Knight is a genius. Lastly, Karen has the nerve to make this beautiful foolishness sound sweet. No alien would ever refuse her cuddly encouragement to make itself known. When she sings “we are your friends”, any alien within range would have come right out of their ship and given her a hug.
(I pulled this great post from another singles thread and thought it deserved a place here, since we are talking about "Occupants" again.) My younger brother who, is not a Carpenters fan, sites this song as one of his favorites of all time. Of course he has probably never heard Klaatu's version, and I'd be willing to bet he'd like that one better. :shrug:

The song is a bit left-field anyway and Karen on this is really brilliant, even though it's not a favorite of everyone, I'd hug her for doing this song. I'm right there with the aliens! :)
 

John Tkacik

Active Member
I never heard it on big-market radio, ever. As far as I know, the only place it was aired was on the TV special. But I'm sure there must have been a mom and pop station somewhere that aired it.
I recall hearing it on my local station, WICC 600. First time I heard it, I thought "well that's different".
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I hated it- then eventually grew to appreciate it. Still not one of my favorites, though.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
While I did hear Occupants on the radio (Central Florida), those airings were few and far between.
Which perplexes me, as I still feel it is a pop-music-masterpiece.
Karen's vocals are incredible with an outstanding arrangement.
Of course, the edited single version does not shine as much as the LP version,
although that editing probably had nothing to do with its lack of radioplay/chart action.
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
I just happened to notice the section that shows who’s online at the moment. There are six members and seven robots. I wondered if we could devise some software for including aliens in the count, because you never know when World Contact Day might be.....
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
I never heard it on big-market radio, ever. As far as I know, the only place it was aired was on the TV special. But I'm sure there must have been a mom and pop station somewhere that aired it.
I, for one, heard ‘Occupants’ (single version) exactly one time on the most popular FM Top 40 station in Kansas City at the time, KBEQ 104.3 ‘Super Q’. I was shocked and thrilled to hear it and it sounded awesome on the radio. I think it got to #30 on their weekly Top 40 chart.

I also heard it several times on the AM Top 40 station, WHB 71AM. I asked a few high school friends if they knew it, and they, in fact, DID.

Incidentally, that same year, Karen did a little publicity blurb for the station. She said, ‘Hi, this is Karen Carpenter, and Super Q plays the hits!’

Wish I had that on tape.
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
Incidentally, that same year, Karen did a little publicity blurb for the station. She said, ‘Hi, this is Karen Carpenter, and Super Q plays the hits!’ Wish I had that on tape.
On the radio in February 1983, I caught the end of an interview that Carpenters had done in Australia some years earlier, (1972, during their tour, no doubt). I quickly hit ‘Record’ and captured Karen saying how they only recorded ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ at the last minute, (before they finished the ‘Carpenters’ album, I guess she meant), and that it had turned out nicely. I’ve long since lost that tape. It would have been interesting to hear the rest of the interview.
 

leadmister

Well-Known Member
I voted for Can't Smile first and then changed it to Occupants because both deserve to be voted for, but Occupants is the superior track. It still blows my mind how good it sounds, and how the RC/Peter Knight collaboration here was so in sync and operating on all cylinders. Of course you have an amazing lead vocal by Karen again. The way she delivers the line "In your mind you have capacity to form and transmit thought messages far beyond the norm" leaves me absolutely weak even after the millionth play. Another great Peluso solo as well as another great DJ bit. The final thing that sold me on this cut was actually outside of the actual recording itself. Karen just gushed about it in a radio interview promoting the release of Passage, when Richard was "indisposed" and she was doing promo on her own. She loved it so much that I had to either love it too or learn to love it. No learning was necessary though, because I locked into this track the first time I heard it.

Can't Smile Without You had the fantastic single version with the nice little vocal ad lib at the beginning, alternate lyrics and slightly softer arrangement, featuring more of that fabulous Earl Dumler oboe. Sorry, I know quite a few people tend to think that Richard overdoes the oboe, but I adore the instrument and can't get enough of it in a good arrangement, especially this one. It's rare to have a 45 with 2 solid sides and this is definitely one of them.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
In another thread, there was talk of Richard Carpenter "copying" arrangements for certain songs
after 1975, or so. That talk gravitated toward (supposedly) Richard losing his midas-touch for original arrangement style.
Now, regards the song Calling Occupants--one of my all-time favorite Carpenters' songs:
I compared the Carpenters' cover to the original, by Klaatu. Yes, similarities between the arrangements abound.
However, I do believe Richard Carpenter added his own creative touch to the song. I love what he did with the song.
Of course, Karen's vocals are literally out-of-this-world. Now, I do like Klaatu's version quite a bit.
So, while Richard's arrangement is not entirely original--borrowing elements of Klaatu's original--
Richard's arrangement is creative enough to be distinctive to him, creating a Carpenters' imprint.

Klaatu:
"they were much taken with our endeavor and decided to record "Calling Occupants" with a full orchestra and choir… much to our delight. Actually, Terry and I were both fans of The Carpenters long before this. Karen's beautiful voice and those lush arrangements and those chromatic chord progressions...Actually, we see it, or should I say, we hear it… as the ultimate compliment. This song is unlike anything that The Carpenters had attempted previously and they nailed it. I think their version is more accessible than ours… more mainstream…"
Source:Media
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
I was recently thinking that, in the countries where 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft' was a hit, A&M might have done well to release a follow-up that was also different from Carpenters' usual output, as 'Occupants' had been, rather than releasing 'Sweet, Sweet Smile'. I think that 'Sweet, Sweet Smile' was a reasonable choice in the USA, which resisted a bit more strongly K&R's attempt to change direction than some other countries did. Although Sw Sw Sm wasn't a big pop hit in the USA, at least it reached the country Top 10. And the song was a hit in Germany, I believe, so it did work there.

'Calling Occupants' reached the Top 10 in the majority of states in Australia, (I think), and peaked at Number 13 nationally. 'Sweet, Sweet Smile', however, peaked at Number 100. It was never going to work here. The ground that Carpenters gained through changing direction a bit and appealing to the record-buying kids a bit more with 'Calling Occupants', they immediately lost with their next release. They never again got above Number 78 on the singles charts, (although they had hit compilation albums).

I was just thinking that, as much as I personally dislike Carpenters' version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter', perhaps that might have fared better as a follow-up to 'Calling Occupants' than 'Sweet, Sweet Smile', because it is different from their usual MOR stuff. It's a bit too long for radio of the day, (then again, 'Calling Occupants' was just over four minutes), but they could have edited it by just fading out the long instrumental outro. (What would it have mattered?) :) The only problem here would have been that Robert Palmer's single version had scraped the National Top 100 only a year to 18 months beforehand.

The only other song they seemed to have that was different was 'B'Wana She No Home' - but I can't imagine that would have worked here as a single.

I'm not sure about the UK & Ireland and other territories where 'Calling Occupants' was a hit. Around that time, acts as diverse as, A:- The Sex Pistols, Boomtown Rats and The Rolling Stones and, B:- Brotherhood of Man, James Galway, The Smurfs and Brighouse Rastrick Brass Band had Top 10 hits in the UK, so, maybe there, a variety of styles might have worked.

Robert Palmer's version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' didn't reach the UK Top 75, so maybe Carpenters' version might have succeeded.

I do have my doubts about the song, though. I don't think the song itself was commercial enough, as Richard arranged and recorded it. I'm not really championing it, because I don't really like Carpenters' version. Just a thought, though.

I think that maybe A&M and their associated international labels could have thought more carefully about which songs might have worked in which territories to follow up 'Calling Occupants', just as they had released 'Jambalaya' in some places and not others. The follow-up to 'Calling Occupants' was crucial in Carpenters' career, although, of course, K&R or their record companies didn't realise it at the time, because 'Sweet, Sweet Smile' can be seen as the final death knell in their singles chart success in certain territories.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I was recently thinking that, in the countries where 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft' was a hit, A&M might have done well to release a follow-up that was also different from Carpenters' usual output, as 'Occupants' had been, rather than releasing 'Sweet, Sweet Smile'. I think that 'Sweet, Sweet Smile' was a reasonable choice in the USA, which resisted a bit more strongly K&R's attempt to change direction than some other countries did. Although Sw Sw Sm wasn't a big pop hit in the USA, at least it reached the country Top 10. And the song was a hit in Germany, I believe, so it did work there.

'Calling Occupants' reached the Top 10 in the majority of states in Australia, (I think), and peaked at Number 13 nationally. 'Sweet, Sweet Smile', however, peaked at Number 100. It was never going to work here. The ground that Carpenters gained through changing direction a bit and appealing to the record-buying kids a bit more with 'Calling Occupants', they immediately lost with their next release. They never again got above Number 78 on the singles charts, (although they had hit compilation albums).

I was just thinking that, as much as I personally dislike Carpenters' version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter', perhaps that might have fared better as a follow-up to 'Calling Occupants' than 'Sweet, Sweet Smile', because it is different from their usual MOR stuff. It's a bit too long for radio of the day, (then again, 'Calling Occupants' was just over four minutes), but they could have edited it by just fading out the long instrumental outro. (What would it have mattered?) :) The only problem here would have been that Robert Palmer's single version had scraped the National Top 100 only a year to 18 months beforehand.

The only other song they seemed to have that was different was 'B'Wana She No Home' - but I can't imagine that would have worked here as a single.

I'm not sure about the UK & Ireland and other territories where 'Calling Occupants' was a hit. Around that time, acts as diverse as, A:- The Sex Pistols, Boomtown Rats and The Rolling Stones and, B:- Brotherhood of Man, James Galway, The Smurfs and Brighouse Rastrick Brass Band had Top 10 hits in the UK, so, maybe there, a variety of styles might have worked.

Robert Palmer's version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' didn't reach the UK Top 75, so maybe Carpenters' version might have succeeded.

I do have my doubts about the song, though. I don't think the song itself was commercial enough, as Richard arranged and recorded it. I'm not really championing it, because I don't really like Carpenters' version. Just a thought, though.

I think that maybe A&M and their associated international labels could have thought more carefully about which songs might have worked in which territories to follow up 'Calling Occupants', just as they had released 'Jambalaya' in some places and not others. The follow-up to 'Calling Occupants' was crucial in Carpenters' career, although, of course, K&R or their record companies didn't realise it at the time, because 'Sweet, Sweet Smile' can be seen as the final death knell in their singles chart success in certain territories.
One problem with that is that Occupants was the 3rd last single of the 70’s. After Smile, ‘I Believe You’ was released, which in 78 was a stand-alone. Unless the released an older track from Horizon or Hush, B’wana, Man and IJFIL would’ve been the only other options
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
Sweet Sweet Smile did well on the country charts. It’s a great fun song. And it brought some press with it because of the hit. I remember the Mona Lisa with lipstic as an ad?
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Cash Box, 9/24/77, Picks of the Week:
Carpenters
Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
(3:59) (Klatoons/Welbec - ASCAP) (Klaatu)
"Something completely different: the Carpenters in outer space. In their most progressive effort to date,
Karen and Richard cover Klaatu's song of interstellar awareness in a multi -sectioned arrangement that zooms
from special effects to delicate melodies to grandiose orchestrations. Backed with the wilder full version."

Cash Box, 10/08/1977:
The JukeBox Programmer, Top New Pop Singles
1 DAYBREAK, BARRY MANILOW
2 HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE, BEE GEES
3 YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE, DEBBY BOONE
4 BABY WHAT A BIG SURPRISE, CHICAGO
5 YOUR SMILING FACE, JAMES TAYLOR
6 CALLING OCCUPANTS OF INTERPLANETARY CRAFT, CARPENTERS
7 WE'RE ALL ALONE, RITA COOLIDGE
8 SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, PETER FRAMPTON
9 I WOULDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE YOU, ALAN PARSONS PROJECT
10 SEND IN THE CLOWNS, JUDY COLLINS
Top New MOR Singles
1 LOVERS HOLIDAY, ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK
2 WE'RE ALL ALONE, RITA COOLIDGE
3 CALLING OCCUPANTS OF INTERPLANETARY CRAFT, CARPENTERS
4 YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE, DEBBY BOONE
5 NOBODY DOES IT BETTER, CARLY SIMON

Cash Box, May 5, 1977:
"STUDIO SOUNDINGS - The 100 piece Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was on hand Tuesday at the A&M soundstage to join Richard and Karen Carpenter at work on their forthcoming LP. Peter Knight, who orchestrated the Moody Blues' "Days of Future Past," was flown in from London to conduct the 50 -throat Gregg Smith Chorale, and to assume production responsibilities for the lavish project which will include Karen's interpretation of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," and which should be completed for August release."
 
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Brian

Well-Known Member
Cash Box, 10/08/1977:
Top New MOR Singles
1 LOVERS HOLIDAY, ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK
2 WE'RE ALL ALONE, RITA COOLIDGE
3 CALLING OCCUPANTS OF INTERPLANETARY CRAFT, CARPENTERS
4 YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE, DEBBY BOONE
5 NOBODY DOES IT BETTER, CARLY SIMON
Great to see that 'Calling Occupants' was the pick of the week in Cashbox. Weird that they listed it as an MOR single, though. I guess they looked at their perception of what the artists were like for this, rather than assessing whether the songs actually were MOR. I don't think 'Calling Occupants' would have been considered such at the time.
 

GDB2LV

Active Member
But Carpenters were the hottest and most reliable MOR act up until that time, so they just got an automatic placement there. I agree it’s not a MOR song however. Maybe just a courtesy and nod to a bankable group for MOR stations.
 
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