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Only Yesterday…..

When I started doing the fortnightly music programs on AIR Delhi FM Gold more than a year ago, I am sure no one thought it would have this long a run. Kiran Misra ji probably did feel so. The latest band I covered a fortnight ago was one that was very much a part of my growing up. It gave me immense pleasure and also acted as a stress buster during the inevitable  times when the considerable academic burden tried to overpower me. For introducing me to this band, I will always be grateful to a brilliant product of my alma mater whose command over the language and the subjects he studies was impeccable and worthy of being followed, and a famous neurointerventionist of considerable global repute Dr Sriram Iyer. The Carpenters, as the brother- sister duo called themselves came across as a huge wave of freshness and brought in a new way of dealing with music. It is truly amazing what they did achieve in the short span of active career as a band. The longevity of the duo is even more impressive, the group remains as melodious and worthy of being followed today as it was more than half a century ago when they were active.

Now as it was then,  the Carpenters were not quite looked up to their many impressive achievements despite the many hindrances and obstacles. For starters Richard was the only one of the two who planned a career in music and equipped himself with the tools. Amazingly Karen received NO MUSICAL/ VOCAL TRAINING whatsoever.  Skeptics are welcome to a simple analysis: compare  most famous Carpenter songs with the so called “originals” or “inspirations”. Why is it that one invariably remembers the Carpenters’ versions much more than the “others”? Which other band can one think of who could debut with a famous song by a monstrously famous band and make their version stick in people’s memories and mindspace too?  Then contrast Karen Carpenter’s take on “Desperado” against Linda Ronstadt’s. Undeniable merit that one cannot just overlook nor attribute only to the treacly sweet composition or Karen’s amazing voice.  Almost always, with the Carpenters, the music came first, and they engaged it, honestly.
The duo that best represents 70s AM soft rock started off with an album. Not brilliant, but just typical in its characteristics -interesting and loaded with Richard Carpenter compositions (lyrics usually by John Bettis). 

As Richard Carpenter aptly stated in a 2009 interview: “There were so many things about that first album: it’s creative, there’s a lot of great vocal work, and one of the best things about it is it’s so much a product of its time. It’s so very experimental pop music.
The Carpenters  second LP was, “Close To You”. Everyone has heard the title track, and few have even taken a quick listen into the original (Dionne Warwick, arranged by Burt Bacharach) to understand fully  Richard Carpenter’s awesome arranging skills.

That he studied music at Yale doesn’t mean he’s better than most rockstars; it just means he knows more, and certainly has more to draw from. 
Following the runaway smash of “Close To You”–nothing like a #1, their third album is where things started heating up and began to get seriously professional. As Richard Carpenter politely phrased it, “With the success of ‘Close To You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ our schedule was not quite as relaxed as it had previously been and I did not have as much time to write or listen to material. Thankfully, I lucked into several very strong songs.” And so, Carpenters is a classic recorded commodity of the time–hit songs and some middling material in between. 

When it was summer ’72 Nixon was on the campaign trail, vowing an end to the war, while McGovern counted on the ’71 amendment lowering the voting age to 18 to play in his favour. Throughout this fractious time, Carpenters hits glowed from sedan dashboards with the amount of airplay that they got from all the radio stations.   Thirteen tracks, seven top 40 hits. Carpenters always approached their projects and session players with a respect that the genre so often lacked. “Desperado”, comes with a spectacular arrangement (with the inclusion of Jim Gordon, a heavy drummer), and Karen Carpenter with her magical voice aces the vocal. “Solitaire” is a classic Neil Sedaka song with the Karen taking care of the business end (with a slightly wider range than usual).  

“The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bacharach.” Richard Carpenter allegedly claimed these were the Carpenters’ influences. The juxtaposition of those three names shows how fluid the line between genres truly was in the 70’s. Burt Bacharach‘s name might be synonymous with “standard” pop. The Beatles, meanwhile, was pretty much a rarity–a rock band whose influence extended beyond the generations, and continues to be followed even by the current generation, my son included . 
The Beach Boys, meanwhile, predated the British Invasion, and they were in an odd spot. By the early 1970’s, pre-Beatles rock and roll was considered “retro” even though it was only a decade and a half old. 
Richard and Karen Carpenter filled the gap between cool, mellow and edgy and also managed to balance all these aspects superbly. During their commercial height, however, they seemed to be throwbacks to an earlier, even mellower era. 
In 1990s, the Carpenters finally achieved that position. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone acknowledged Karen’s interpretative brilliance: “No one could fill up, and out, a melody or cut to the sentimentality of songs as she could.”
And then there were the siblings’ cover versions of rock hits. They approached “Ticket to Ride,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and
Please Mr. Postman” from the inside, as the rock fans they themselves were. Now & Then, released in 1973, is one of the more ambitious outings in the Carpenters’ catalog, with Karen and Richard trying out different pop sensibilities.
“Sing” was written by Sesame Street composer Joe Raposo, which is probably why it sounds like it would fit on a children’s record.
“Jambalaya” is the only song on the album where Karen doesn’t play drums (Hal Blaine does).
“Yesterday Once More” is the jewel on this album, a paean to the early rock era. It’s the only Richard Carpenter/John Bettis song here, and one of their finest compositions. Karen’s heart-on-sleeve approach matches the lyrics perfectly. 

This medley, however, is a showcase for Karen, who stretches herself a vocalist, acting as her own background chorus. “Yesterday Once More” revived something in her. Or maybe it’s the song itself. Even when Richard takes the mike, Karen’s backing vocals offer a glossy yet vivacious counterpoint, and, of course, she handles all the drum duties.
They certainly take their audience into rock and roll heaven.

The complete recording of the program is available at this link

1. There’s a kind of hush.

This song had music and lyrics by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens.
Originally a hit for Herman’s Hermits in early 1967, and one of Karen’s and Richard’s favourite songs from the ’60s, in hindsight however, even though their version was a hit, Richard actually wished that they had never recorded it. Richard explained in the liner notes to the Carpenters’ “2004 best-of compilation, Gold”, that although he and Karen Carpenter loved the song, he was not particularly pleased with their remake :
He gave three reasons as to why: “(1) The original was, and is, perfectly fine. (2) Our foray into the retro should have ended with the medley featured on side 2 of ‘Now & Then’, 1973 and (3) The use of a synthesizer in some of our recordings has not worn well with me, on this track, or just about any other track on which I used it.”

When the Carpenters walked into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 with this remake of Herman’s Hermits’ hit “There’s A Kind Of Hush,” it became their 16th such US hit in less than six years. It set up the release of their similarly-titled seventh studio album, “A Kind Of Hush”.
Karen remarked the duo’s image “would be impossible for Mickey Mouse to maintain”: if they were seen as cutesy, it was down to their up-tempo songs, which seldom had the emotional heft of their ballads. But sometimes they were so beguiling they were hard to resist: “There’s a Kind of Hush” is really charming: it won gold certification in both the US and UK, where it reached #3 and stayed on the charts from June 1976 all the way into the new year.

The first single version of “There’s a Kind of Hush” was recorded in 1966 by Gary and the Hornets, a teen/pre-teen male band from Franklin, Ohio whose version entitled, “A Kind of Hush” produced by Lou Reizner became a regional success and showed signs of breaking nationally in January 1967; the single would reach #4 in Cincinnati and #3 in Erie PA. However an expedient cover by Herman’s Hermits was released in the US in February 1967 to reach the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 in three weeks and proceed to a peak of #4 affording the group their final US Top Ten hit—with Gold certification for US sales of one million units awarded that April. In the UK Herman’s Hermits’ “There’s a Kind of Hush” would reach #7.

Carpenters remade “There’s a Kind of Hush” as “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” for their 1976 album release, “A Kind of Hush”, song served as a lead single, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and affording the Carpenters’ their thirteenth #1 on the Easy Listening Chart.

“There’s a Kind of Hush” would remain the Carpenters’ final top twenty hit until 1981’s “Touch Me When We’re Dancing”.
“There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” appears in the twentieth episode of the third season of The Simpsons. Many cover versions are done by popular artists
Perry Como recorded “There’s a Kind of Hush” for his 1977 album, “The Best of British”; this version also appears on Como’s 1978 album,” Where You’re Concerned”.

2. Goodbye to love:

This  is from the 1972 Album, “A Song for You”.

Such was the Carpenters’ saccharine sweet image that the guitar solo that plays over the song’s closing burst of harmonies was considered a daring move. But then much of the Carpenters’ appeal came from wrapping sadness in super-smooth arrangements, but the sheer despondency of the song’s lyrics would have given joy a pause. The song’s brilliantly crafted lyrics are especially profound when considering Karen Carpenter’s premature death as a result of anorexia nervosa eleven years later. “No one ever cared if I should live or die … all I know of love is how to live without it.” Karen’s vocal is a masterclass in restraint, and this is a very  intense record!
The song was composed by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis. Apart from the fabulous singing  of  Karen Carpenter, the song also stands out by the brilliant guitar solo performed by session player, Tony Peluso.

Whether by accident or design, most of the Carpenter’s songs were of a heavy, broody nature, and this number is no exception. However there is a glimmer of hope when Karen sings it.

The name “Goodbye to Love” was based off of a song mentioned throughout the 1940 movie, “Rhythm On the River”, starring Bing Crosby where Bing Crosby played a songwriter in the movie trying to come up with a song called “Goodbye To Love.” Although the song’s title was mentioned several times in the movie, no such song ever existed.

Richard Carpenter happened to see this movie on television and decided that it was great title and he would write the song for his sister Karen to sing.
Richard Carpenter, while on tour in England in 1971, wrote the beginning of the lyrics. He also envisioned a somewhat distorted fuzz guitar in his arrangement, which lead to hiring the Carpenters’ lead guitarist, Tony Peluso. Peluso was unsure of how to go about playing an electric guitar on a Carpenters record, until Richard suggested he “shoot off through the stratosphere”.
This song was arguably one of the first songs to lead to the development of the power ballad.
When lead guitarist Tony Peluso played the masterful, melodic, memorable fuzz solos he helped transform the soft-rock classic “Goodbye to Love” into the prototype for the power ballad. He remained a mainstay of The Carpenters’ studio and touring band for the next 12 years and contributed to the studio albums, as well as their TV specials and their Live In Japan and Live at the Palladium recordings.
The fuzzy guitar solo was played by Tony Peluso: was his first contribution to a Carpenters record and he subsequently joined the duo’s recording and touring band as their lead guitarist. Peluso also provided the voice of the DJ on the Carpenters hit version of “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft .”

Therefore inadvertently, Richard had broken new ground. No one had ever really mixed the elements of rock ‘n’ roll and easy listening. From then on, Richard’s idea became very commonplace for a big power ballad to have a raging guitar solo!

Richard said, “He showed up and said, ‘I don’t read music.’ So I sang and played the melody for him and said, ‘When you get to here, just take it away.’ And he did. 99% of that solo was done on the first take.”

The classic song is the original power ballad which became the template for countless other ballads that followed in the 1980s by those artists eager to pull at our emotional heartstrings.  It was the first Carpenter/Bettis to reach the US Top 10.

Richard along with John Bettis went on to write classics such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’. 
  Writing in Photograph Record, Ken Barnes said: “It’s certainly less than revolutionary to admit you like the Carpenters these days – in ‘rock’ circles, if you recall, it formerly bordered on heresy. Everybody must be won over by now.”          

3. Jambalaya:

“Jambalaya (On The Bayou)”  is from their 1973 album,
Now & Then“.

“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” is one of the most recorded songs, the most with numerous versions and covers. In fact, the song even reached the different music genres. Of course, it was reimagined by the great and credible country artists and legends. One of the distinct and worth listening to covers would be from Carpenters as their songs can give the feels and chills. No doubt, they’re one of the best duos in the music industry.
American country music singer, Hank Williams originally wrote and recorded the song which was released in 1952. The song also reached #1 on the country charts. Named for a Creole and Cajun dish,
“Jambalaya” is a “Cajun” cuisine of rice with shrimp, chicken, and vegetables.
In this song, Hank Williams offered a musical interpretation of “Cajun Culture,” completing the Americanization of “Cajun Music.” Furthermore, the song helped “Cajun” become part of mainstream American culture through the endorsement of the American Superstar.

The Carpenters featured the song, in an uptempo  version with country flourishes, on their 1973 album “Now & Then.” Their version was released as a single outside the United States in 1974 and sold well in the UK and Japan.

“Jambalaya” remains one of Hank Williams’ most popular songs even today. International, translated or derived versions do exist at least in Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Polish German, Spanish and Estonian.

George Jones recorded the song for his 1960 LP George Jones Salutes Hank Williams. Elvis Presley cut the song for RCA. Gerry and the Pacemakers released a version in 1964. Hank’s hero Roy Acuff included it on his 1966 LP Sings Hank Williams for the First Time. Conway Twitty released it on his 1967 LP Here’s Conway Twitty. In India, Usha Iyer ( Usha Uthup) recorded a version in 1968 on the HMV label, that became the best selling song until then, by an Indian artist in English. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded it at Sun Records and again for his 1969 album Sings the Country Music Hall of Fame Hits, Vol. 1. Hoyt Axton cut it for Capitol in 1971. Shocking Blue recorded the song in 1972 for their album Inkpot. John Fogerty hit #16 in 1973 under the name of The Blue Ridge Rangers.

After further covers by everyone from Kitty Wells and Fats Domino to Jerry Lee Lewis and John Fogerty, “Jambalaya” was remade in classic style in 1973 by the Carpenters. Richard and Karen’s version appeared that year and became an international hit, reaching #12 in the UK. Although it wasn’t a US single, the Carpenters’ version was also a winner in Gerrmany, Holland, and Japan, among other countries.
Richard Carpenter loved the song and recorded the instrumental track in 1972 with various session players. The next year, under pressure to complete the “Now & Then” album, he had Karen Carpenter add vocal to the track because they didn’t have time to write another original song. Karen made no effort to sound Louisianan, singing it with her trademark perfect diction.

Williams’ original was a #1 Country hit and also went to #20 on the US pop charts. Although the Carpenters didn’t release it as a single in the US, their version did go on to become a huge hit in Japan, England, Mexico, Holland, Germany and many other countries around the world.

4. Calling occupants of an interplanetary craft…

“Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)” was written by the Toronto band Klaatu and the song originally released in 1976 on their first album 3:47 EST. The song would open night transmission of pirate radio station Radio Caroline.
They recorded the song in 1976.
The Carpenters cover of the song included 160 musicians in the recording studio. John Woloschuk, a member of Klaatu and one of the song’s composers, said, “The idea for this track was suggested by an actual event that is described in “The Flying Saucer Reader”, a book by Jay David published in 1967. In March 1953 an organization known as the “International Flying Saucer Bureau” sent a bulletin to all its members urging them to participate in an experiment termed “World Contact Day” whereby, at a predetermined date and time, they would attempt to collectively send out a telepathic message to visitors from outer space. The message began with the words…”Calling occupants of interplanetary craft!”

The music and lyrics are by Terry Draper and John Woloschuk. Richard heard this song on the debut album of Klaatu, a talented group of Canadian studio musicians who were heavily inspired by The Beatles, and named after the purposeful alien in the sci-fi thriller, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. Always looking for something novel, Carpenters decided on it for the album, “Passage” and ended up immersing themselves and a crew of 160 musicians and singers in the biggest single recording they ever attempted. Initially Richard did not think of this track as a single, but coincidentally, Star Wars had been released, and was all the rage, not long after Carpenters recorded “Occupants…” As a result, Richard allowed himself to be persuaded into releasing an edited version as a single. It did moderately well in the US, but, to their pleasant surprise, went Top 10 in the UK, and stayed there for two months. Incidentally, there is no actual “World Contact Day” and never has been.

The Carpenters have a weakness for well crafted pop songs, the kind that have a great arrangement and orchestration, interesting structures, vocal harmonies and instrumentation.
In late 1976 Richard Carpenter heard a very different type of song that caught his arranger sensibilities. It was much more complex than any song he attempted to write, cover or arrange thus far. Karen Carpenter told an interviewer: “He wanted to do that more than anything in the world. When we got done with it it turned into an epic. We figured out we spent more time on it then we did our third album. That was a job. It was a masterpiece when Richard got done with it.” The song was Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, originally appearing on Klaatu’s debut album 3:47 EST.
Klaatu named themselves after the alien ambassador to Earth from the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, 3:47 EST being the time Klaatu arrived on Earth with his spaceship in the film. Klaatu (the alien) also made an appearance on Ringo Starr’s Goodnight Vienna album in 1974, with Ringo’s head replacing him. Over eight minutes long, it has interesting shifts in song parts and moods, instrumental passages, extensive use of mellotron, and of course that sci-fi theme.

Richard Carpenter is at his peak as an arranger with this piece of music. Largely in the shadows of his younger sister who reluctantly took the front seat as a singer, while he was the unsung hero of the duo, creating all of the band’s arrangements over the years in the best tradition of Brian Wilson, Jack Nitzsche, Burt Bacharach and George Martin. For the most part he stacks by Klaatu’s song structure, but the way he brings up various instruments and the parts he wrote for them is a work of art. They employed a lot of sound effects – tape delay, and did all their sweetening with the synthesizer.

Tony Peluso plays his Appollonian guitar over swelling cosmic threnodies, swirling violins, pipe organ, choir, classical piano and a marching band.
Indeed this was a colossal recording with over 160 musicians between the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir. For contractual reasons the orchestra could not be credited, and instead the track credits mention the “Overbudget Philharmonic”. Another great contribution to the track is by the legendary bass player Joe Osborn, who played on countless hits with the Wrecking Crew, among them another pop symphony, MacArthur Park. Klaatu’s Terry Draper said of the Carpenter’s version: “Not only did they do a great job, it was such a stretch for them, they were really stepping out of their comfort zone and doing what could possibly be described as progressive rock although I like to call it progressive pop”.

The Carpenters version was released as a single in 1977. Two months later the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg was released. The Carpenters could not hope for a better promotional vehicle. The song reached #32 in the Billboard Hot 100, #9 in the UK and #1 in the Irish chart. A phenomenal achievement for a 7-minute progressive pop song.
The original LP version starts with a one-minute funny DJ skit.

In 1978, the Carpenters received their final Grammy Award nomination for “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” in the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals category. It was their eighteenth nomination, of which they earned three Grammy Awards between 1971 and 1978.

The Carpenters’ version from their “Passage” album charted worldwide and appeared on several of their hits compilations. The success of their version led to the duo receiving many letters from people asking when World Contact Day would be held. Ironically, the release of the song predated that of a Steven Spielberg film with a similar theme, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, issued to theatres. A portion of the song can be heard in the 2013 film The Wolverine.
The song ultimately led to a successful Carpenters television special, “The Carpenters…Space Encounters”.

While Klaatu’s original opens with various sounds of living species, the Carpenters’ version opens with a radio DJ ,Tony Peluso on a request show. The DJ identifies a phone caller as “Mike Ledgerwood”. When the DJ asks Mike for his song request, an alien-sounding voice responds.

The Carpenters charted with this and it is the longest title for a UK Chart hit – “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem Of World Contact Day),1977
Perhaps the Carpenters covering an eight-minute song about an alien invasion by forgotten Canadian Beatles impersonators Klaatu seemed less improbable in 1977 than it does now. It was the year of Star Wars fever and Close Encounters. It is richly melodic and Karen’s voice also makes it weirdly moving. Calling Occupants is perhaps the Carpenters’ last great triumph on single, although anyone who has never heard it before is advised to skip the first 50 seconds, which features a “comedy” skit between an extraterrestrial and a Californian DJ. What follows though is six minutes of out-of-this-world magnificence, If one can ignore that weirdness at the outset, then the remaining six minutes might well be a Richard Carpenter’s masterpiece!

5. A song for you:

A Song for You, is from the 1972 album of the same name.
It is the fourth studio album. According to Richard Carpenter, A Song for You was intended to be a concept album (of sorts) with the title tune opening and closing the set and the bookended selections comprising the ‘song’. “A Song for You” was written by songwriter Leon Russel.
Karen Carpenter was in the lead and backing vocals, and drums and Richard Carpenter in the lead and backing vocals, piano, Wurlitzer electronic piano, Hammond organ, and celesta, orchestration with
Tony Peluso on the lead guitar.

In Cash Box’s Top 100 Albums of 1972, “A Song for You” was ranked at #26. In the United States (RIAA) it was 3× Platinum with 3 million record sales. Six songs were released as A-side singles internationally of which 5 became hits.

6. Hurting each other:

“Hurting Each Other” is a song made famous by the Carpenters. The music and lyrics were by Gary Geld and Peter Udell. It is a cover of Ruby & the Romantics tune, originally released by Ruby and the Romantics, on A&M and was the first single issued from “A Song for You” album by Carpenters in early 1972. It reached #2 becoming the Carpenters’ sixth straight gold single.

Many artists recorded it many times before Carpenters ranging from Ruby & the Romantics to Rosemary Clooney. It was released as a single in 1971 from the album “A Song for You” and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. L.A. session musicians from the Wrecking Crew performed the backing track.

The original version of the song was recorded by Jimmy Clanton. According to Richard Carpenter, this version had a very different feel from the Carpenters’ product. However, there are definite similarities in the vocal refrain.

The Carpenters recorded with instrumental backing from L.A. Some footage of Richard and Karen performing the backup vocals can be seen on Jerry Dunphy Visits the Carpenters, when news anchor Jerry Dunphy interviewed them.
It also peaked at #1 on the Easy Listening Chart. Billboard ranked it as the #65 song for 1972.
The Carpenters performed the hit number at many live concerts, including a shortened version from the “Live in Osaka” concert in 1974. Here is a recording done with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London, no less…..

The elaborate musical arrangements and orchestration sounds so different from the usual version.

7. Solitaire:

“Solitaire” is from the album, Horizon.

Written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody, “Solitaire” is one of those much-covered songs, but the Carpenter’s version might be the best.
Solitaire” was originally recorded by Sedaka himself, and is one of those much-covered songs that seems to have been around forever.

It has been interpreted by numerous other artists, ranging from Elvis to Sheryl Crow as well as Tony Christie and The Searchers.
Sedaka originally was inspired by Frederic Chopin (his favorite classical composer) for the chorus and by Roberta Flack in the verses. Both Sedaka and Cody considered the composition to be a spiritual experience. It is a ballad where Phil Cody employs playing the card game of solitaire as a metaphor. A version by Andy Williams reached #4 in the UK Singles Chart in 1973.
There are significant differences between the lyrics in the Neil Sedaka, Andy Williams and Carpenters version and the version that is arguably, head and shoulders above all others is the one by the Carpenters, recorded in 1975 for their album “Horizon”.

Richard Carpenter knew both Sedaka’s and Williams’ versions, but was apparently not convinced that the song was right for Karen. However, once she had recorded it, he described it as “one of her greatest,” adding the caveat that “she never liked the song (and)…she never changed her opinion.”

“Solitaire” was the third single to be taken from Horizon, and differed slightly from the album version.
The Carpenters were never as successful on the Billboard charts after “Solitaire,” but it has nevertheless become an absolute favourite among their legions of fans.
“Solitaire” did afford the Carpenters their 12th of fifteen #1 Easy Listening hits.

Sedaka, who fell off the charts when the Beatles took over, enjoyed a resurgence as a performer and songwriter in the mid-’70s, and this was one of his most successful compositions. Said Cody: “Once I let go of the idea that my lyrics were inviolate, it went rather smoothly. Over the course of time, as the Carpenters did the song, they basically did a mash-up of the old lyric and the new lyric, which actually was better than either of the two, the Andy Williams or Neil’s original. I think the Carpenters’ version was the one that I like best”.

This is one of the few songs that was successful with singers of both genders. Philip Cody said that when he wrote it, he imagined a female voice singing it. “When I heard Karen Carpenter, I had chills down my spine. As a lyricist, you want that thing where an artist owns your lyric. You can measure success by the amount of money you make off a song, but I measure the success of that song by that particular moment, when she made it totally her own. And it’s still great. I sat down one day and I listened to all 90 versions of ‘Solitaire’ that people have done, and of all the ones that are out there, Karen Carpenter’s is still the one that is the benchmark for all the covers on that song.”

The Greek chanteuse Nana Mouskouri not only did a cover of this song but also recorded versions in French and German.

8. Sweet sweet smile.

“Sweet Sweet Smile” is from the album, “Passage“.

The musical times were changing in 1977, but as the Carpenters arrived at their eighth studio album, they admirably stuck to their impeccably high standards. The result was the typically admirable Passage album, and as its third single was released, it brought Richard and Karen’s one appearance on the country chart with “Sweet, Sweet Smile.”

“Sweet, Sweet Smile,“ another demonstration of the siblings’ apparently effortless stylistic reach, was written by Juice Newton, the country artist from Lakehurst, New Jersey whose own biggest success was still to come.
Newton and musical partner Otha Young had written “Sweet, Sweet Smile” with a view to the artist recording it, but her label, Capitol, were less enthusiastic. Newton’s manager knew Richard and Karen and got the song to them; Karen correctly thought it would be good for Carpenters and cut the first version of it. Newton eventually released a version on her Ultimate Hits Collection in 2011.

Released as a follow-up to “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”, “Sweet, Sweet Smile” wasn’t much of a pop hit, but became a Top Ten hit on the country charts.
It is a C&W song introduced by the Carpenters on their 1977 album.
Sweet, Sweet Smile” fell short of the Top 40 with a #44 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 but gave the Carpenters the sole C&W chart hit of their career rising as high as #8 C&W.

Furthermore, Karen and Richard at the peak of their popularity, were creating sounds both in pop and in Country. No matter what songs or music they crafted, the listeners were always charmed. The bottom line is , Carpenters is one of the best musical duos in history whether it be inside or outside of the country scheme.

On an afternoon, Newton’s manager was at home listening to the demo record of “Sweet, Sweet Smile” when Karen visited. She was amazed at the song, and she liked it. Then, she pitched it to her brother, Richard, who loved it in a snap. But according to Richard, if other artists had recorded the song at that time, it would have been a more significant hit. The song has remained a popular favourite and has also remained a favourite specially among Carpenters fans.
Most Carpenters songs fall neatly into the pop music genre. “Sweet, Sweet Smile,” however, is somewhat of an enigma in the Carpenters catalog. It is a country song but when sung by Karen Carpenter, it needs to be classified as “country pop.” It definitely has a country feel to it, but Karen’s voice makes it cross over into the pop genre as well.

9. Touch me while you’re dancing..

“Touch Me When We’re Dancing” is a song written by Terry Skinner, J. L. Wallace and Ken Bell. The song was recorded by The Carpenters on their “Made in America”, album.
The Carpenters’ version of the song was released on their Made in America album. It was the last of their singles to reach the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after not having a song appear on that chart for over three years and #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album was a return after a hiatus but the single “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” was a very gentle beckoning of a hint of disco into the Carpenter’s luxurious sound.

10. All you get from love is a love song.

“All You Get from Love Is a Love Song” was composed by Steve Eaton, popularized by the Carpenters and was also included on their 1977 album, “Passage“.
The music video was recorded in the A&M Studios. It starts off with the bongo drum and fades into a camera angle zooming towards Karen Carpenter, the performance fades into a picture of the Carpenters’ Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, which is the beginning to the video “Top of the World”, performed on Carpenters’ Very First TV Special in 1976. It can be found on the DVD Gold: Greatest Hits.

The tenor saxophone solo was performed by Tom Scott (also the tenor saxophone soloist on “Jazzman” by Carole King), who was then one of the greatest “session players” of the ’70s.
Both music and lyrics are by Steve Eaton. This song, the debut single from Passage, and one of Richard’s favourite recordings, was submitted to Carpenters by its publisher. It just doesn’t make for much of a story. But the album, Passage is surprisingly ambitious, almost experimental by the standards of the Carpenters — there are no Richard Carpenter-authored songs, a first for the duo, and what is here seems an almost conscious effort to sound different from their prior work and while the world was going punk, the Carpenters were producing the plushest of plush pop.

11. Merry Christmas, darling….
by Carpenters is from the 1970s Album: “Christmas Portrait”.

This was the Carpenters’ first attempt at Christmas music. The lyric was written in 1946 by Frank Pooler, who was the choir director at California State University, Long Beach. Karen and Richard Carpenter were both part of the choir. At Pooler’s request, Richard composed the music for this ballad, which was first released in 1970. This sparked the interest and idea of a Christmas album by the Carpenters, and in1978, “Christmas Portrait”, was released.

Prior to Karen’s death in 1983, the sibling duo gained worldwide recognition for their music. Richard was the songwriting wiz of the team (though Karen wrote just as well). Karen stood out for many reasons. She was proficient in drumming and was the band’s primary drummer for many years and to this day, is known throughout the music world as one of the best singers of all time due to her impressive three-octave range. Karen said that once on stage, she was too into the music to pay attention to the crowd and her connection to the music is what made the listener connect to her, through the music and the perfect example of this is the Carpenters’ most-loved holiday song. Richard once said in an interview that the siblings felt they were born to perform Christmas music, and that this classic was destiny at work. But the duo didn’t write this one. It was written by Frank Pooler, the choral director at CSU Long Beach, the university Karen and Richard attended. Pooler wrote the song when he was 18. Richard worked his magic on the melody, and the song went to gold.
It’s a somewhat underrated Christmas song compared to other classics from the 1970s, but it’s also a much-loved ballad and one of the Carpenters’ best songs.

Karen Carpenter once said:
“Frank was very helpful .He was the only one down there who actually understood what we were looking for, and he stood behind us all the way.
We just did a benefit at Long Beach State, for a scholarship fund, and we did it with the choir.” The song was released in 1970, reaching #1 in the Billboard Christmas chart in the US.

12. This Masquerade

“This Masquerade” is from the album, “Now and Then”.
The Carpenters were seldom mediocre: Now and Then has a strong Leon Russell song that has become a modern-day standard which was originally heard on Leon’s Carney album. It was a natural for Karen, almost like a perfect match of singer and song interpreted and performed flawlessly at just 23 years of age with so much appropriate emotional inflection into her lyrics!

“This Masquerade” is the third Leon Russell song to get the Carpenters treatment (the others being “A Song for You” and “Superstar”).
The song was also a top-ten pop and R&B hit for jazz guitarist/vocalist George Benson. The Carpenters’ rendition, meanwhile, is closer to jazz with Karen’s pensive delivery. Written by Leon Russell, the song has also been recorded by many other artists. Helen Reddy, Shirley Bassey, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ‘77, Robert Goulet, Helen Reddy, Bob Berg and Kenny Rogers.

Essentially, Now & Then, their fifth album, reaffirmed what most music lovers already knew: the Carpenters could handle almost any material with taste and originality.
Their fifth album Now & Then was another post-tour blaze of pressure–album cycles and that level of professionalism in the 70s ensured only the technically polished, chromatically thoughtful post-Abbey Road production with the melodic certitude highlighting Karen Carpenter’s obvious sincerity and her counterpoint, blithely harmonized recorders only survived Only a real Grinch could gainsay its charm–and Nixon himself rather fancied the Carpenters. A note-perfect rendition of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” followed.

When Karen began to explore her interest in music, she took up an instrument in high school as a way of primarily dodging gym classes. She told in her interview, “I couldn’t stand track at 8 a.m. or a cold pool, so they put me in the band and gave me a glockenspiel.”
Karen later switched to another form of percussion, playing the drums. They went on to win a battle of the bands at the Hollywood Bowl. Karen and Richard Carpenter later became a duo, eventually landing a record deal with A&M.
The Carpenters won over a substantial fan base with their soft rock sound and their carefully crafted pop songs where Karen’s lovely vocals were an essential part of the duo’s appeal.
She was certainly a magical person with an absolutely magical, hypnotic voice. When you consider that she has NEVER received any formal lessons or training in vocals, you will probably be amazed at what a naturally gifted singer the lady was. Truly a divine Gift. How I wish I had met her and helped her overcome her problem.

My sincere thanks once again to Kiran Misra ji for allowing me complete freedom in the choice of the songs and to do it in two parts. I loved doing this as I hope you will enjoy listening to it. Have fun folks and enjoy the rejuvenated monsoons in India . Stay safe and healthy


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

12 replies on “Only Yesterday…..”

Following these broadcasts and the Hindi/Urdu ones you share daily, I am reminded of a BBC TV program which was repeated when we first got to the UK in 1980, so probably 1981 or ’82.

They took the song “My Way” a legendary Sinatra classic, but actually huge credit to Paul Anka amongst others, and chronologically took you through its progression. The Sid Vicious/Sex Pistols version getting the shortest airing of course :-). Quite a unique way to look at the thread that music its flowing through generations.

Loved this one btw.



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It feels like a tribute to my mother, a day before her death anniversary, she loved Carpenters and Abba! Thank you for this beautifully written master piece and I am sure it must have been an amazing show. Kudos.

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