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What's your favorite song from "Karen Carpenter" (1996)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Jarred, Feb 16, 2019.

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  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Of course, Karen and Phil Ramone would have known that there would
    be the comparisons tp Paul Simon's performances, even in 1979.
    So, I applaud Karen's efforts and guts to choose to record songs that were
    already well-known. Now, a question which springs to mind is this:
    why did Paul Simon not "guest" on these recordings of his songs ?
    That would have added to the excitement of the solo venture.
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I found Phil Ramone to be interesting:
    "As much as she was enjoying what we were doing, she was under a lot of pressure.
    It was as if she sensed the inevitable hassles she'd face for taking this leap of faith."
    (Making Records, page 98).
    newvillefan likes this.
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    That for me sums Karen's life up. Even though she was 3,000 miles away making her first solo album, which should have been an adventurous, enjoyable time in her life, that pressure never went away: pressure to make a great album, pressure to appease the family back home, pressure to keep the label happy, pressure not to make it appear as if the Carpenters were breaking up. Some people are equipped to deal with it at that level. In her younger years, full of energy, I believe she thrived on it, but in their later years...not so much.

    The timeline of 1980 has always made it appear to me as if Richard was ready to pounce and reclaim her the second the album was shelved. Even before the album was officially shelved, she had already been pulled back into the (comparative) humdrum of yet another TV special and a mediocre, lacklustre comeback album, as well as the punishing promotional schedule that accompanied it. Not to mention what was going on in her personal life...
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  4. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    Fair enough. I was just making the point that being the writer of the song doesn't necessarily make you the best interpreter of it.

    At the very least though, Karen and Phil found something different to do with 'Still Crazy', even though it was a well-known song. A big problem with most of the Carpenters' later cover versions is that they didn't come up with anything new or original compared to the already-recorded versions.
  5. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Yes, Paul's version of Still Crazy is iconic. Karen's version, however, shines due to its fresh approach and her once in a century vocals. She and Phil are to be commended for their excellence here.
  6. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I’ve stayed out of this thread because there aren’t any songs or performances that I truly like on the ‘Karen Carpenter’ album and I don’t really like the album as a whole. I’ve read the posts, though. Just a few comments - I remember a DJ who had obviously read Cashbox announcing on air that Karen’s album would be released in March. I’ve said before that the same DJ also announced sometime that ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ would be on the album, so that snippet of info was also probably released to the trade papers to raise interest.
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  7. Rachel

    Rachel Someone said that time would ease the pain...

    Just my 2 cents. Admittedly, upon first listen, I was not a fan of the solo album. As time has gone by, I have warmed up to it. "If I Had You" is my fav. "If We Try" and MBIYFT round out my top 3. The chorus of IWT is, for me, the best part of the song. Soft rock at its best. MBIYFT, as others have mentioned, is Karen and a piano; the closest we get to Karen "unplugged".
    I think, like AnnaSock, because this was such a personal project for Karen, is why I have fond feelings for it. Photo shoot completed, Billboard announcing its upcoming release, then at the 11th hour, the rug is pulled out from underneath her. I know the music business is a business and they felt the album was "unreleasable"; but it seems extremely cruel to string her along, allow her to spend so much energy (when she was sorely lacking in that department) just to shelve it. This has all been discussed in the past, but it still annoys me.
  8. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    Yet, these same A&M execs approved the release of "The Ethel Merman Disco Album"! :rolleyes:
  9. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    There was nothing riding on that. They felt there was on Karen's, though maybe not as much as they imagined. Carpenters were already dead chart wise so I'm not sure how much a flopping Karen album (if it did flop) would have hurt. They clearly felt differently - hence the cancellation of the album.

    newvillefan likes this.
  10. motownboy

    motownboy Active Member

    The elephant in the room is that A&M and Richard did not want Karen's album to be released because they were afraid it would have meant the split-up of the Carpenters. The album would have needed to have been as good as MJ's "Thriller"...so good that it had to be released, but it wasn't. However, I still feel it deserved to be released. I also wish that she had gotten the chance to record with Quincy Jones.
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  11. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Of course, you may be right and I honestly don't know why they were. As I said earlier, Carpenters were commercially cold by this point. Splitting them up would only have hurt Richard. His pop career would have completely ended without her. To be real, he doesn't have one without her period. He has to know that. Heck, even with her, the writing was on the wall for the act itself. Had she lived, I'd have been quite surprised if they'd have come back to commercial prominence.

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  12. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I wholeheartedly agree but if that is the case, it was unbelievably cruel of the label to encourage Karen in the first place and string her along into thinking it ever had a chance of release. As far as I’m aware, it’s Jerry Moss who set her up with Phil Ramone. This was a commercial decision to give Karen the opportunity to record a solo album, not some frivolous idea to keep her occupied for 12 months. With $100,000 of label money invested in the project, surely the 1980 playback can’t have been the very first time they heard the tracks. Karen was playing the latest tapes to family and friends each time she came home for a visit. If A&M didn’t like what they were hearing along the way, why didn’t they step in and offer advice or encourage a change of direction?
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  13. motownboy

    motownboy Active Member

    Those are good points as well. Didn't Karen also pay several thousands of dollars as well out of her own pocket beyond what A&M gave her to record the album? There were enough songs recorded or at least started to make two albums.

    I find it ironic that Richard told her "not to do disco" but one of the first released songs from the sessions was "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" which he remixed for the "From The Top" box set. He also remixed "Lovelines" for the eventual Carpenters album "Lovelines." His mixes of Karen's solo tracks are great. I wish he would oversee a new remix of the album.

    Richard has also said on interviews that Karen was singing in too high a key on the album, not taking advantage of the richness of her lower notes. I think that was already happening with Carpenters songs like "Sweet, Sweet, Smile", "Please Mr. Postman", and continued with "Touch Me When We're Dancing" and "Kiss Me The Way You Did Last Night." His argument about this always seemed thin at best. I think he found it hard to accept that Karen may not have needed him as her musical partner anymore. I would not be surprised that in hindsight, he may, at least privately, view that whole situation very differently now.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  14. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    Yes, $400,000 of her own money. I've always wondered: is it normal for a label to charge an artist for the cost of recording an album i.e. to deduct it from their future royalties? Isn't that why labels typically offer artists a paltry royalty sum of between 1%-5% of record sales, because they're pocketing the rest as their fee and to cover costs?
    motownboy and Jarred like this.
  15. AnnaSock

    AnnaSock Active Member

    I completely agree. I think Richard (and others from the record company) was scared that Karen might realise she could do it on her own and leave him behind. I don’t personally think she’d would’ve done that - from the few comments she made on the topic, I think she believed they could work on their own projects and still work together - but I think that’s what he feared. I also think Richard views it completely differently now, but then hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

    I’ve always wondered that, too. It seems an odd situation all round.
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  16. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    That was a huge amount of money in 1980. At those royalty rates, how many copies of the album would have had to be sold, in order for Karen to break even? 1,000,000? More? Did the album even have the potential to go platinum? As Karen didn't write any of the songs, there would be no publishing royalties coming her way, and she was in no condition, health-wise, to tour, so forget about ticket and merchandise sales. The whole project was an ill-conceived debacle, at least from a business perspective.

    Karen spent a year of her life, and a small fortune of her own money on her solo album - an album that she was so proud of - only to be told by the people who she respected the most, that it wasn't good enough. I can't imagine how devastating that must have been for Karen! :sad:
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As of 1979-1980:
    Passage had not gone Gold (had not sold 500,000 copies).
    I Believe You fell harder than a rock on the singles charts.
    Christmas Portrait had not yet gone Gold (it would in 1981).
    The Singles 1974-1978 had gotten a $500,000 advertising push in the UK.

    The question for me, as always, has been: what about the recording process
    of the solo album was consuming an additional $400,000 ?
  18. AnnaSock

    AnnaSock Active Member

    A good question!
  19. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I went to info about one of the most expensive bands of the time that I know of - in 1979, Fleetwood Mac clocked up a bill of 1.4 million for recording and production costs for ‘Tusk’. (At the time, the figure was said to be $1 million but they later revised the amount). ‘Rumours’ had cost nearly a million in 1976 / 1977. I don’t know whether the expense of excessive lifestyle is factored into this.

    (Did Karen’s album cost half a million?)

    One thing seems clear - some people were getting rich through the production of pop and rock albums in this period. You can see why current artists cut out the middle men and women - even the recording studios, record companies and managers, sometimes. A releasable album can be recorded in a hotel room or a living room on the artist’s personal equipment.
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  20. motownboy

    motownboy Active Member

    Yes, record labels charge studio time, musicians, etc. from any advances and royalties the artist receives. The music industry is probably and notoriously the most corrupt industry in the entertainment world and there are stories after stories of artists who get ripped off by their label.

    Also, if anyone thinks that the Harvey Weinstein story is as bad as it gets as far the abuse of women and men in entertainment, the music industry is way worse. What music execs, managers, artists, etc. do and say to those they have "authority" over is truly troubling, and that includes lots of non-sexual abuse.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
    Brian likes this.
  21. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Last year, I watched a series of shows called ‘Bands Reunited’, which tracks down members of mainly UK 1980s bands and tries to get them together again. The show finds the band members in their current environment and gives info about their present-day lives. You find people who had a number of top-ten hits worldwide, including number one hits, with next to no money and working in everyday jobs to make ends meet. Some artists who I expected to be living in mansions were living in ordinary little houses like the rest of us, or one-bedroom apartments, or whatever, and doing jobs like teaching or working as computer techs, etc, or were unemployed. I suppose whether they still had any money left over from their heyday, (or ever made any in the first place), depended partly on how careful they were with their finances and how excessive their lifestyle was when they were stars.

    Some of the artists said their managers took most of their money.

    I remember being surprised to read years ago that the cost of concert tours were largely footed by the artists themselves, rather than their record companies. I also always remember stories of the big soul stars of the 1960s and 1970s getting ripped off by their record companies and managers and having nothing after years of selling millions of records and going on the non-stop touring treadmill.

    I’d recommend watching VH1’s ‘Bands Reunited’ if you like British bands of the 1980s, (and if you don’t mind having your bubble burst about stars of the day being rock gods).
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  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I'd imagine over a period of 12 months it was easy to rack up a serious amount of money. Artists like Fleetwood Mac were a self-sufficient unit holed up in one studio and living nearby for the entire duration of the recording of the album (as in the case of Rumours). Karen on the other hand was paying not only for the studio time, Phil's wages, the band's wages, the sound engineer's wages, the album photoshoots, she was also paying for endless flights back and forth coast to coast (presumably first class) and lengthy hotel stays (at least initially). It was a solo project so there was nowhere else for the money to come from but her own pocket. I often think that's why Phil suggested she move in with him and Itchie: to save Karen some money.

    Yes, it's well documented that $500,000 was the cost of the album.
  23. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member Thread Starter

    I'm sure this has been said here in detail (late to my own thread again!) but why did A&M not cover all the costs? I'm probably naive for thinking they would but was it just that they didn't have much hope for it?
  24. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I sometimes wish that the upcoming panel discussion at the 50th Anniversary event could feature a whole section dedicated to the topic of Karen's album. There are so many contradictions and unresolved questions.
  25. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

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