I Know My First Name Is Stephen
WYBIMLA with a remix bringing both her lead and the synths more up front should have gone top 40. You get the idea that both were excited about this release and when it did so badly they were pretty upset.
On the back of their “welcome back” party held by Herb, Jerry and the label in summer 1981, I’m sure they were really disappointed by the successive flops of those MIA singles:
(Want You) Back In My Life Again (72)
Those Good Old Dreams (63)
Beechwood 4-5789 (74)
It’s anyone’s guess what conversations went on behind closed doors but I’m sure they were scratching their heads as to what was going wrong. I think it was a huge mistake on Jerry Moss’ part to encourage them to return to their “bread and butter” formula. It did nothing for their credibility and did a huge disservice to Karen’s talent. To this day, I think a standards album was the way to go. They skimmed the surface with the 1980 TV special and should have trusted the quality of the music and gone with a follow up album, with outside arrangers brought in to complement their new direction. I looked up the arrangers of the material for Music, Music, Music and, to my surprise, found a couple of unfamiliar names. I then used my knowledge of existing arranging credits and was able to establish - or at worst deduce - the arrangers of at least some of the material for that show:
Richard Carpenter (A Song For You, Without A Song, Dizzy Fingers, You’re Just In Love, “1980” Closing Medley)
Peter Knight (When I Fall In Love)
Nelson Riddle (most likely the encore piece closing the special)
Bobby Hammack - ?
Bill Reddie - ?
The last two names were unfamiliar to me, but there are an awful lot of other pieces from the show that have that “of the era” arrangement and feel to them, so I went digging...
Bobby Hammack was born in 1922 and was originally a jazz pianist in Texas who went on to have a prolific career in Los Angeles as a pianist, organist, conductor, arranger, and composer in live venues, broadcast studios for radio and television, and recording studios for records, radio, television, and film. His musical credits cover artists such as Pat Boone, Doris Day and Henry Mancini.
Bill Reddie is another veteran composer, born in 1925, who went on to become a conductor and arranger (and member of ASCAP) who composed and arranged music for choreographers and recording companies and his star clientele includes such luminaries as: Betty Grable, Jayne Mansfield, Buddy Rich, Tony Bennett, Connie Francis, Patti Page and The Ed Sullivan Show.
With such pedigrees, it’s therefore my assumption that they were likely responsible for some - if not most - of the other Carpenters backing tracks recorded for that show:
A Song For You
I Got Rhythm
You’ll Never Know
(and other material including instrumental pieces and the tracks for Ella Fitzgerald)
It’s often the case that an artist’s album does not sell well upon its release but goes on to achieve stellar status for its quality and musicianship. Just look at Christmas Portrait as a prime example. Had things been different for Karen at this time in her life, I really believe a 1981/1982 jazz album - with arrangers of this calibre behind them - would have become a staple part of their catalogue. And one known and recognised for its sheer class.