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The Carpenters' Struggle for Uptempo Material

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I largely agree with Rumbahbah regarding LP Christmas Portrait.
But, I do note that Billboard ran (at least) two full-page Advertisements for that album,
issues November 11, 1978 and December 23, 1978. Both ads touted the upcoming TV Special,
a special entitled Christmas Portrait.
Now, perusal of Billboard Charts for the beginning of Jan 1979, shows the LP at
#145, after FIVE Weeks ! That is indeed a dismal showing.
I’d like to point out that for the January 6, 1979 chart, “Christmas Portrait” is the only Christmas album on the Top 200 chart. All the other 199 albums appear to be non-seasonal and greatest hits packages.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
No matter how you spin it, the numbers are NOT encouraging:
CashBox, January 6, 1979 has I Believe You at #83 (17 weeks on chart).
CashBox, January 13, 1979 has Christmas Portrait at #135 (6 weeks on chart).

By the way, the December 29th, 1979 New Release Schedule in CashBox
has Karen Carpenter album scheduled for March 1980.
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
It goes without saying that Richard Carpenter was ALSO correct regarding the song,
Touch Me When We're Dancing.
It became a staple hit (Country chart #1, 1986) for the country/pop group Alabama.
That song got a lot of TV-time (read: promotion) with the group Alabama, which helped secure its
chart placement. The song got more promotion and airplay than Carpenters' ever got with their version.
My two cents:
Carpenters' version is FAR superior to the Alabama version.
 

JayJayVA

Active Member
I've always thought Karen should have sang Emotion (Samatha Sang) w/Bee Gees - 1978
And should have had her solo album produced by B. Gibb, along the lines of Streisand's 1980 "Guilty" album.

Richard's latter career song choices did not fit Karen's pop music persona & did not allow her to mature musically. Many non-Carpenters fans I've heard say "her songs are so depressing"... I think Richard chose songs based on HIS personality, maybe HE was suffering from depression. For her solo album, I once read she was asked what type of songs she wanted to sing --and she replied "..like Donna Summer". She was told -we're not having you sound like a Black chick...or something to that nature....
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I've always thought Karen should have sang Emotion (Samatha Sang) w/Bee Gees - 1978
And should have had her solo album produced by B. Gibb, along the lines of Streisand's 1980 "Guilty" album.

Richard's latter career song choices did not fit Karen's pop music persona & did not allow her to mature musically. Many non-Carpenters fans I've heard say "her songs are so depressing"...
I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard that as well.
 

Geographer

Well-Known Member
For her solo album, I once read she was asked what type of songs she wanted to sing --and she replied "..like Donna Summer". She was told -we're not having you sound like a Black chick...or something to that nature....
This encapsulates the entire problem with the solo album and why, I think anyway, many do not like it. Karen was NOT Donna Summer. Donna Summer was Donna Summer. Karen was one-of-a-kind and the material chosen should have been too.
 

Sue

Active Member
It just crossed my mind whilst thinking about the couple beat Carpenters covers that have been on YouTube (can’t remember who did them)? Would Richard have ever considered doing an uptempo version of any of their earlier ballads? I’m probably thinking no, because he has made it clear with the RPO that he wouldn’t make drastic changes. I’m thinking Karen May have enjoyed the challenge and had fun singing them. Why do uptempo versions need to be new material? I’m not knowledgeable about the workings of music so feel free to say I don’t know what I’m talking about!
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
It just crossed my mind whilst thinking about the couple beat Carpenters covers that have been on YouTube (can’t remember who did them)? Would Richard have ever considered doing an uptempo version of any of their earlier ballads? I’m probably thinking no, because he has made it clear with the RPO that he wouldn’t make drastic changes. I’m thinking Karen May have enjoyed the challenge and had fun singing them. Why do uptempo versions need to be new material? I’m not knowledgeable about the workings of music so feel free to say I don’t know what I’m talking about!
Years ago someone gave me a CD-R with a dance club remix of “Only Yesterday” that sounded really good. The mix used a CD copy of “only Yesterday” that’s had been edited, so the original vocals and music were there, but in some parts they had added a record scratching effect and added a reverb to give the repeat it that faraway sound, and then added a dance drumbeat.
 
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GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
Well.....the Spinners or in Europe the Detroit Spinners did a disco version of “Yesterday Once More/Nothing Remains the Same”
Medley in 1981. It had some club/ chart success for them, so it’s possible with the right mixer and engineer to do that. The original still stands alone as the best one though. Donna Summer did it with Barry Manilow’s “Could This Be The Magic” too. One of my favorite songs she ever recorded.
 
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Jamesj75

Well-Known Member
I just wish to add that the Carpenters did indeed excel with up-tempo songs: commercially as well as stylistically. Their top-selling single worldwide is reportedly "Please Mr. Postman," a #1 in the United States. So many of their up-tempo songs find themselves among my all-time favorites, including "Only Yesterday," "There's a Kind of Hush," and "All You Get From Love Is a Love Song."

As we know, in the mid to late 1970s, disco was all the rage. So that would seem to be a logical progression. Yet I can't say how a concerted effort into recording up-tempo songs (or disco) would have impacted the buying public or critics. I'm just thankful for their entire output, which we are free to enjoy --- and sometimes even to which we tap our toes...
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^I am always irritated when
Please Mr. Postman
gets lumped into the category of songs that they should not have recorded--
the implication being that they wasted their time and/or talents on the song.
Their interpretation of Postman is about as brilliant an effort as I can imagine.
Happily, the re-invented RPO Postman is not too shabby, either !

I can almost hear the same admonishment for songs such as:
Jambalaya, A Kind of Hush and Sweet, Sweet Smile.
Where would their catalogue be without some nice uptempo/uplifting tunes ?
The KFRC radio jingle was upbeat and awesome.
The 1977 Japan Suntory Pop jingles were upbeat and creative, too (Karen on drums).
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I can almost hear the same admonishment for songs such as: Jambalaya, A Kind of Hush and Sweet, Sweet Smile.
I enjoy Postman because of the great drumming and cadences, but those others you mentioned are a different story. With rare exception, I’ve never liked the songs they did in a country style. The only exceptions would be Two Sides, The Uninvited Guest and When You’re Gone, which are just stunning because of Karen’s vocals.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Richard Carpenter:
"I made mistakes...I wouldn't have been recording songs like...Please Mr. Postman...I regret doing those things, now."
(Coleman, page 273).

Gary adds: I would not consider recording Please Mr. Postman "a mistake" !
Gary adds: The high notes/keys in the chorus of Jambalaya are fascinating !
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
Why on earth would Richard regret recording Postman - their biggest selling single worldwide? It was obviously a fan favourite! What would he have replaced it with in hindsight? Another slow, sombre, depressing ballad, like Solitaire?
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
All about their image, and the critics. Postman and Sing were great songs and hits, but also reinforced the haters and music critics and justify their dislike of the Carpenters as bubblegum or too pop for their taste. The Carpenters were so image conscious by then they hired new management to help them turn it around. Still they made lots of money and fans around the world with those kinds of songs. Just maybe not the kind they were trying to attract here at home. I think Richard blames recording those songs for their lack of chart success after 1975. Radio programmers turing away from them as a result. I’m sure it was painful.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Why on earth would Richard regret recording Postman - their biggest selling single worldwide? It was obviously a fan favourite! What would he have replaced it with in hindsight? Another slow, sombre, depressing ballad, like Solitaire?
Yeah, I agree. At that point in their career it was safe to record it. He should have far bigger regrets about recording Beechwood. Funny story time (which I shared a long time ago on here):

When I was at university in 1993, my Carpenters obsession was at its peak and a friend of mine excitedly brought me a newspaper in the student cafeteria one day. When I opened it, there was a double spread article about the upcoming Ray Coleman biography. I remember grabbing it and poring over every word and couldn’t wait to read the book, which hadn’t yet been released in the UK.

About an hour later, as I was on my way out of the cafeteria, I heard the drum beat of a familiar song: Beechwood 4-5789 was blaring from the radio in the cafeteria kitchen. I could hear hollers and hoops of laughter and curious, I pushed the door open for a peek. To my surprise and delight, I saw the kitchen staff dancing the jive to the track, as if they were back in the 1960s. I remember that to this day, and to this day it’s the only time I’ve heard the track on UK radio.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
I’m visiting family in N. California and there’s a radio station in the little town of Guernville called the Wolf. They play 60’s and 70’s pop music mostly. On Saturday mornings they play retro versions of America’s Top 40, with Casey Kasem. Yesterday’s show was from 1972.
He said there is a group that just celebrated their 6th gold record, a group that when first signed to a major label, to do instrumental music. Then told of the Hollywood Bowl Battle of The Bands story, and the six songs they played won them 9 awards and the sweeps, plus a recording contract with RCA Records. His words not mine. They recorded 2 cuts with RCA and were deemed not what they were looking for, and never released them. He then said they later signed with A&M to do vocal music and the rest is history. Here are the Carpenters with their latest gold hit “Hurting Each Other” at number 12. It made my day. The #1 song that week was Without You by Nilsson. Great station.
 

AnnaSock

Active Member
Yeah, I agree. At that point in their career it was safe to record it. He should have far bigger regrets about recording Beechwood. Funny story time (which I shared a long time ago on here):

When I was at university in 1993, my Carpenters obsession was at its peak and a friend of mine excitedly brought me a newspaper in the student cafeteria one day. When I opened it, there was a double spread article about the upcoming Ray Coleman biography. I remember grabbing it and poring over every word and couldn’t wait to read the book, which hadn’t yet been released in the UK.

About an hour later, as I was on my way out of the cafeteria, I heard the drum beat of a familiar song: Beechwood 4-5789 was blaring from the radio in the cafeteria kitchen. I could hear hollers and hoops of laughter and curious, I pushed the door open for a peek. To my surprise and delight, I saw the kitchen staff dancing the jive to the track, as if they were back in the 1960s. I remember that to this day, and to this day it’s the only time I’ve heard the track on UK radio.
That’s a great story :) Yes, Beechwood is somewhat cheesy and perhaps not the best showcase of what K&R were capable of, but it’s certainly catchy. I’m always dancing around to it.

I’m also a fan of Postman. I think it’s great that the Carpenters’ song catalog is varied. I, for one, enjoy the upbeat tracks they recorded.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
BTW Santa Rosa, Ca. PBS station is playing The Carpenters:Close To You at 4:00pm today 3/17.
Great time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the O’Carpenters as Gene Kelly called Karen.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Richard Carpenter:
"I made mistakes...I wouldn't have been recording songs like...Please Mr. Postman...I regret doing those things, now."
(Coleman, page 273).

Gary adds: I would not consider recording Please Mr. Postman "a mistake" !
Gary adds: The high notes/keys in the chorus of Jambalaya are fascinating !
I agree with him. They add nothing new to the "Postman" at all. In fact, Karen's vocal isn't really all that great. It's doubled throughout and nearly emotionless. I don't ever feel like she's yearning for a letter from her love. I only get the sense that she's having a little fun with the groove. The arrangement is okay but I don't get why it hit #1. One of the great mysteries to me, IMHO.

"Jamalaya", for me, is novelty fluff and I agree with him there too. Of course, fun isn't a crime but knowing what we know now, they would have been better off going with a bit more substance.

Ed
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
We've talked about it before, and regarding the "oldies" as song choices, you have to place yourself squarely in the mid 70s. A phenomenon was happening in radio at the time - stations were, for the first time, bringing back the oldies from the fifties and sixties. Up until then, radio pretty much relied on current music and a few slightly older tracks as their programming choices and none of them even considered playing the "moldy oldies" from the early sixties or late fifties. Those records had been, at that point, relegated to the dustbin of history with the big band-era music.

But some adventurous programmers, at the cusp of where FM was about to overtake AM radio in popularity discovered that if they programmed real old stuff from the 50s and 60s, that an adult audience would identify with and enjoy listening to the records they grew up with.

These oldies stations were hiring the old DJs who spun those records the first time around, added lots of reverb to the sound of the station, and concentrated on making the listeners feel as if they were back in their good old days. It became a very popular alternative to the current hits stations and got a lot of notice in the industry.

Karen and Richard were kids in that era too, and this was the music that THEY grew up with, so when they considered songs for themselves to record, picking up on an oldie was an easy choice. And it played well with the audiences of the day. That's why a song like "Please Mr. Postman" did so well, and the whole "Oldies Medley" elevated the NOW AND THEN album's popularity.

This radio phenomenon continued into the early 80s, but it began to come back to Earth in terms of overall popularity. Listeners began to get tired of listening to the same oldies all the time and wanted something newer to go along with it. This led to oldies stations programming some current hits into their repertoire, terming the newer songs as "future gold".

Karen and Richard went to that oldies well just a few times too often, but they cannot be faulted too much for it, as it was a very popular flavor of the day. Hindsight is 20/20, and I think that's what Richard meant when he regretted doing some of thos oldie songs. Without the foreknowledge of what was to occur, it was impossible for them to see that those oldies would be viewed with a bit of disdain from today's persepective.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I never did see anything inherently wrong with re-inventing an "oldie" with your sound....
Karen and Richard, at the very least, put their stamp on their performance of Please Mr. Postman.
I remember hearing Postman--on the radio--at the time it was released.
I remember--at that time--thinking that is a HIT record (I was twelve yrs old) !
And, so it went, off to HIT Number One.
No mystery whatsoever in my mind as to why it hit so big:
it is a perfect combination of lead vocals, harmonies, arrangement, tempo.
A brilliant creation by the duo.
I believed it then, I believe it now.
 

Sue

Active Member
Did Richard really struggle to find up tempo or did he chose not to record them? He knew how Karen’s voice was best showcased. Karen however seemed to love the uptempo style.
 

goodjeans

Active Member
I never did see anything inherently wrong with re-inventing an "oldie" with your sound....
Karen and Richard, at the very least, put their stamp on their performance of Please Mr. Postman.
I remember hearing Postman--on the radio--at the time it was released.
I remember--at that time--thinking that is a HIT record (I was twelve yrs old) !
And, so it went, off to HIT Number One.
No mystery whatsoever in my mind as to why it hit so big:
it is a perfect combination of lead vocals, harmonies, arrangement, tempo.
A brilliant creation by the duo.
I believed it then, I believe it now.
I remember the magical feeling as it climbed to the top of the charts. It sounded great over AM radio and was even played in news broadcasts as the Holidays approached. A blissful and exciting memory.
 
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