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Official Review [Single]: 7. "SUPERSTAR"/"BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN" (1289-S)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, May 22, 2016.

Which side is your favorite?

  1. Side A: "SUPERSTAR"

    39 vote(s)
    84.8%
  2. Side B: "BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN"

    7 vote(s)
    15.2%
  1. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    “SUPERSTAR”/"BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN"

    Superstar.png SuperstarSingle.png BlessTheBeasts.png
    Side A: Superstar 3:49 (Russell/Bramlett)
    Side B: Bless The Beasts And Children 3:08 (De Vorzon/Botkin, Jr.)

    Catalogue Number: A&M 1289-S
    Monarch Δ85891 / Δ85891-X
    Date of Release: 8/12/71
    Format: 7" Single
    Speed: 45 RPM
    Country: US
    Chart Position(s): Side A: #2 / Side B: #67

    Arranged by Richard Carpenter
    Produced by Jack Daugherty

    Side A taken from A&M SP-3502 album "Carpenters" / Side B taken from Main Title from the Columbia Pictures release, "Bless The Beasts And Children", a Stanley Kramer Production

    For more definitive information regarding each single, you can visit our Carpenters - The Complete Singles page in our Carpenters Resource.
     
  2. Shalom

    Shalom New Member

    Superstar! Bless the Beasts and Children is good, but not even close...
     
  3. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Possibly the toughest choice of all Carpenters singles regarding which side to prefer, since it's essentially a double-A-sided record. When the CARPENTERS album came out and we were all being enthralled with the earlier "For All We Know" and the newer "Rainy Days And Mondays", somehow the stylus wanted to go to side two and play that first track "Superstar". I remember that one getting airplay even before it was released as a single. It was too good to be kept as just an album track - and the powers that be agreed and released it as a single.

    Lo, and behold, the b-side was also an amazing song, that also got airplay. And again, Carpenters had a wealth of material that exploded off the radio. Here we were, only a year and a half from when anyone first heard the group and already their hits repertoire now included:

    Ticket To Ride
    Close To You
    We've Only Just Begun
    Merry Christmas Darling
    For All We Know
    Rainy Days And Mondays
    Superstar
    Bless The Beasts And Children

    That's two-thirds of a Greatest Hits album in just 18 months! It was an incredible time to be a fan.

    It was a tough choice, but I had to pick "Superstar". It's just too good.

    Harry
     
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  4. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Superstar hands down was the quintessential Carpenters track, encompassing the very best representation of who Karen and Richard both were in their talents and contribution to the legacy. I'd put Begun right up there with it; the two most favored and played tracks on my playlist.
     
  5. "Superstar" is a super record!

    Charles
     
    Harry likes this.
  6. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    OK, were both of these covers used? As it happens, I don't own a picture sleeve of this one. The one on the left is what Chris used above, and the one on the right is what I used in the Resource.

    [​IMG] 1289-A Superstar 45sm.jpg
     
  7. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    They were, although I need to do a little more research on both. Bless The Beasts also was titled on the reverse A side (obviously), however utilizing the same graphical layout and color scheme.
     
  8. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

  9. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    The one I have on the Resource is the positive picture, not the negative.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    I don't think anybody will dispute that "Superstar" is the quintessential Carpenters song. It's a ballad, but with a serious edge. Where "Rainy Days" is vulnerable, "Superstar" is brooding. When Karen sings the chorus and the horns answer, you can feel the anguish and loneliness in the narrator. On full display is her innate ability to bring out emotions in songs -- and they were right about long vowel sounds ("ago", "away", and "you" being some). Richard nailed the arrangement on this one, from the signature oboe line in the beginning being echoed throughout the entire piece to the horns in the chorus. THE HORNS! Gotta love it. I thoroughly enjoy every listen.

    "Bless the Beasts and Children" is nice. Karen and Richard really brought it to life. I had it on heavy rotation a while ago, it contains a "small moment" that I love listening to -- the bass lick after the first "give them love". It particularly sparkles in the remix, the outtro is chill-inducing.

    I love that dark blue and white cover sleeve -- if I had the choice, I would've found one like that. The one I have is the blue with black insignia and white letters.
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    John Bettis says that "Superstar" was:
    "our first real glimpse of where Karen's voice was heading. . . . Richard . . . really had the vocal range and placement down.
    He always knew about the lower register being Karen's hit voice, but he had really gotten it by this point.
    He had recorded her so much that he had a tonal memory of her. So when he composed, he could plug that singing voice in, in his mind;
    he knew what it would sound like. It was fabulous to watch him to do that, because I knew he could hear her in a way I couldn't when I was writing."

    This might be the appropriate place to include this link (below--which quotes the above)
    to an analysis---more than most would care to know--of Carpenters'
    Superstar......

    Source:
    MTO 8.4: Holm-Hudson, Your Guitar, It Sounds So Sweet and Clear: Semiosis in Two Versions of "Superstar" »
     
    Don Malcolm, A&M Retro and Harry like this.
  12. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Though much of that article was a little above my pay grade, it did get me to listen more closely to the Sonic Youth version of "Superstar". I'd never realized that some of the Carpenters recording was used in their version.
     
  13. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Superstar for me every time. The B-side, although good, pales in comparison. I liked the remix of Bless The Beasts much better than the feeble sounding original.
     
  14. K.C. Jr

    K.C. Jr Well-Known Member

    US
    I chose "Superstar" due to it being the best example of everything Carpenters. The overdubs, arrangement (love the trumpet!), Karen's amazing vocals. It's, as everyone seems to agree, a quintessential record and really shows the strength of Karen's vocals.
    "Bless the Beasts and Children" is a beautiful song and message. I love it nearly as much as the A-side, and was thrilled when I heard it actually started charting! Now, if only I can stop saying "Bless the Beasts and the Children"..:rolleyes: Took me forever to figure out, hey, that's not the title!
     
  15. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I bought this when it was seated at #2 at the 7/11 store around the corner. The version I bought was the exact one shown in this thread (blue and white). Same typesetting on the label, too.

    'Superstar' is such a killer recording. It's hard to put into words why I like it so much. It's got everything, and it just gets better with age. 'Bless The Beasts And Children' is the best non-album b-side Carpenters ever released, and undoubtedly would have gone higher than #67 if released as an A-side of a single. It's a classic all on its own. My favorite version is the LP version from the soundtrack album.

    Incidentally, the blue/black sleeve also has a different label style than the original blue/white one. It's the darker tan label with different typesetting. I'd post a photo for you, but still can't figure out how to post photos here.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
  16. Eyewire

    Eyewire Well-Known Member

    I guess I'm the outlier here so far because I voted for Bless The Beasts And Children.

    Both are great songs for reasons more eloquently described above by others than I ever could. According to my iTunes play count, both get about the same number of plays from me, so it's essentially a tie for me. For Bless The Beasts And Children I prefer the version with the sound of the studio door closing/opening. I've yet to hear the soundtrack version except for on YouTube. For Superstar, I prefer the original album mix.

    I guess I chose Bless The Beasts And Children over Superstar for the silliest and most superficial of reasons: I just can't picture Karen being a groupie, lol. But yeah, both songs get a lot of love at my place.
     
  17. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Superstar is the near perfect Carpenters recording. I love its depth, but I must admit, I get tired of the "Baby"s in the chorus. Still, its one of their best. Bless the Beasts is stunning, too. The contrast of the power on the "A" side and the tenderness on the "B" side hints at the versatility of Karen and Richard's craft.
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  18. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    "Superstar" is the one that took me from being a casual fan to a die-hard. Incredible that the vocal used was Karen's first take on the song. Recently listened again to the Rita Coolidge "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" version and recognized more similarities in the arrangement than I really expected, considering how often "Superstar" is cited as Richard's masterpiece. Not to discredit Richard, who absolutely took the arrangement to another level with far greater expertise and precision than the Coolidge version exhibits, but...it's Karen's voice, front and center, that makes this one a classic. And I much prefer the urgency Carpenters gave this single version than what happened with it when paired with "Rainy Days" as a medley in their '76 stage show.
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  19. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Very well-written, although a couple of minor flaws with some of the information that I wanted to point out.

    The article states that the lyrics were written for Karen on a napkin from which to read. However, Richard has said that the lyrics were initially written on the back of a tape legend from the multi-track tape box, and not a napkin (although rumor has always told it the latter). Also, the song was recorded on 16 tracks and not 24, which is important to note from a production standpoint, however not so much relevance to the songwriting aspects.

    Thirdly, to add to the bit about Richard bringing Hal in to re-cut the drums in '85, the leakage bleeding thru into Karen's mic on the work lead was due to the fact that she sang it in the airlock of studio A. The point was was to isolate the lead from the drum and piano mics set up out in the proper (or main room of the studio). But because it was a temporary lead, it didn't matter that the drums bled over the other way into Karen's mic - since generally, the work lead would be erased and new master lead cut by itself later on. Until of course they realized that the lead was perfect and Richard would try to tweak later. In retrospect, he was unhappy with the way the drums were initially recorded sonically (and I would agree in listening to the original). However when trying to 'correctly' mic them on the re-take in '85, of course Hal couldn't recreate what he played on the original performance perfectly, therefore failing to mask the shadow that was heard of the original drum track in Karen's lead channel.

    And lastly, they actually DID begin work on a master lead vocal track (even though the article suggests that they abandoned the idea of starting one in the first place). However, upon realizing she wasn't adding much of anything beyond what she'd already created in the scratch performance, the remainder of the master lead recording was ceased.

    All semantics I realize, but interesting tidbits nonetheless :D
     
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  20. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Chris May !
    I found your addenda/corrections highly informative !

    There does seem to be a document perpetuating that Karen's lead was 'read' off a Napkin.
    Oh, here, in the Liner Notes for LP The Singles 1969-1973:
    "The vocal track that you hear on this album is the first time that Karen ever sang Superstar,
    reading the lyrics written on a Napkin
    ." and "..they decided to utilize this 'first take' luck."
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  21. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    I do remember reading that in the liner notes years ago. I'm not sure if Digby Diehl exaggerated that part, or if perhaps that IS the way it went down and Richard just forgot the details years later. However, makes a little more sense that they would have been written on the back of a legend, simply because it would have been much easier to write them out there. Not to mention a tape legend would be easily accessible, serving as a great sheet of paper when needing to take notes in the studio. Ahhhh, inquiring minds wanna know! :)
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I always thought it was the other way round, that the lead had bled onto the drum track. Hence why when they dropped Karen's lead out for the karaoke album, we could still hear Karen on the drum track.
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  23. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    No, actually the leakage you hear on the Master Karaoke album is Karen's lead coming in thru Hal's headset and being picked up by the overhead mics on the drum kit. Man, there's all kinds of bleed thru going on here!

    If you want to have some fun, pull out the '85 remix and listen to some of the 8th and quarter notes on the hat in the intro and re-intro as well as some of the tom fills. You'll hear a slight bleed over of the original drum track occasionally, which is what Richard was talking about. Incidentally that's actually my favorite mix of the song, mainly because I prefer Hal's new track. A punchier performance and better fills IMHO.

    And on a similar note, also listen to This Masquerade sometime. You can also hear some slight bleed on the click track in Karen's headset while tracking the drums.
     
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  24. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I agree with virtually everything written above -- this is about as fine a single as has been recorded by any artist ever.

    I'm not sure when I heard "Superstar" for the first time, but it was probably on the radio. The first time I heard "Bless the Beasts" was in the movie of the same name, which I thought was a really good movie. It hasn't dated too well, but it's still a pretty powerful film.

    Anyhow, I can't really think of anything to add to the comments above except to add my vote. I would probably have to pick "Superstar" as my favorite between the two, but they're both indispensable songs in the Carpenters repertoire. If "Superstar" is a 10, "Bless the Beasts" is at least an 8.5.

    Regarding the debate on where the lyrics were written out....

    I have a feeling some of these "stories" tend to get started and then they get repeated and then they're taken as fact.

    In the BBC's "Herb Alpert Story," it's stated that Herb Alpert discovered the Carpenters when they were performing at Disneyland, but Herb said (in a different interview) that he discovered them via a tape presented by Jack Daugherty.

    On the same BBC program, Richard repeats the famous tidbit that recording "Close to You" took 47 takes. In Chris's interview with Hal Blaine and Joe Osborn on "The Download," one of them (I forget which) says he didn't remember anything ever taking that many takes.

    I always thought maybe Richard was "being funny" with the 47 takes comment in the same way Jack Benny being perpetually 39 was funny. He said, "I was 37 for years, then I was 38, and we stopped at 39, because 39 is a funny number -- 40 isn't." The number 47 also strikes me as a funny number, but I can't say why that is!

    So, who knows....the lyrics to Superstar might have been written on a tape legend or maybe a napkin or maybe it was a sheet of notebook paper....who knows, right?
     

  25. I've gotta agree with Eyewire on this one - While I love 'Superstar' and consider it both essential and art, I have a hard time listening to it now - it's so desperate and also have a hard time accepting Karen as a groupie. (Still if you've ever heard Rita Coolidge's version, you realize how another great singer couldn't match the power of Karen's performance.)

    So while I give the A side the choice as the better record, I actually listen to the B side more often!
     
    Eyewire likes this.

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