The Carpenters were brother and sister duo, Richard and Karen. She would turn down any kind of drumstick other than the kind used to play music. He was a piano teacher interested in jazz and classical music; interested in arranging and composition.
It took me a while to understand the appeal of The Carpenters – a shiny, smiley Christian ethos seemed pervasive (Top Of The World) and general radio-ruination didn’t help. But then I heard the tribute album, If I Were A Carpenter. I loved it. But it was more than the novelty of hearing Sonic Youth cover Superstar and all of the other great renditions on that album. It was a clear indicator that the source material must have been good too. It was just impossible not to hear how good the songs were.
Slowly, but surely I came around to The Carpenters. There’s a lot of sadness in the songs, there’s so much joy though in hearing Karen Carpenter’s voice. She’ll make you feel good about feeling sad.
Perfect pop music. Charmingly inoffensive – or inoffensively charming. It’s funny how your tastes change. Just a few years ago I’d have little interest defending The Carpenters – beyond the odd favourite song. But now I’ll even defend the abundant covers within the band’s work (their version of Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe; great song).
It must have just snuck up on me when I least expected it, my Carpenters fandom.
And I’m okay with that.
Rainy Days And Mondays, Yesterday Once More, Superstar, I Need To Be In Love, Ticket To Ride, Now, I Won’t Last A Day Without You, Ordinary Fool, When You’ve Got What It Takes, This Masquerade, (They Long To Be) Close To You, Bless The Beasts And Children, Where Do I Go From Here?, Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft, Solitaire, Please Mr. Postman, Hurting Each Other, A Song For You, Goodbye To Love, Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore, One More Time, For All We Know, Crystal Lullaby, I Believe You, All You Get From Love Is A Love Song, We’ve Only Just Begun – the list of Carpenters songs that I absolutely adore is growing. It used to be scary. Now I just happily add more to the list.
It used to be that I’d look for a gimmick that made it acceptable to like a Carpenters song, Superstar because of the Sonic Youth cover for example – or Goodbye To Love but only because of Tony Peluso and his incongruous fuzz-guitar solo. Not now. Now there is no gimmick – just gorgeous songs, endearing/enduring performances.
The Guy Smiley smiles and matching sweaters used to put me off – but now I think it’s all beautiful; all wonderful. I mean here was a duo so completely uninterested in being cool. So completely uninterested in image. What mattered to The Carpenters (and both of the Carpenters) was melody; how the arrangement would play out, how the song was framed. (That’s not intended as a pun on the name, but hey, if it tickles your fancy then that’s also fine).
When I listen to The Carpenters I feel some form of elation – I feel I’m hearing something very pure.
And that’s getting harder and harder to find.