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Fans Ask 5 - Archive Page

Subject # Fans Ask: Richard Answers:
Arranger 1 “Richard, you write the most beautiful orchestrations I have ever heard. Do you ever plan or have been asked to write movie scores?” “I don’t plan to write movie scores; I think that is a talent in itself. I consider myself more of a song writer, arranger, producer - a record maker.”
Christmas 2 "Fans are also dying to know if Richard plans on releasing his Christmas album, the one that includes 'Together at Christmas' again.”  "Yes, hopefully in 2005, but I am taking my sweet time to make certain that the album is something I will be very happy with at its conclusion. I do apologize for taking so long.” 
College 3.1 "What college courses did Karen and Richard take?"  “Karen and I took all the usual pre-reqs, and as music majors, had to select an instrument, as well as take the required music courses.  Obviously, I went for a piano major. What one would do the first semester, no matter how well or poorly he or she played, was perform a “closed recital” for 1, 2 or 3 of the faculty, and if they deemed you worthy, you got to play for your peers at the next recital (“open recital”, one each semester).  I got “open recital”, which I was certain I would; however it’s a double-edged thing, because most of us got nervous playing for our peers.  “Karen was a vocal major of course, but the trouble with that was she was a “pop” singer, and they (faculty) didn’t want to know from that. They had her singing using her “head voice”, not the “money voice” – the instantly identifiable chest voice of hers, because it didn’t work for the traditional classical repertoire required.  They had her singing things she really wasn’t born to sing.   “As a music major one was required to take Harmony I and Harmony II (Music Theory)
College 3.2 (Continued) learning correct 4-part voicing and how to diagram a selection. Another course was, to me, a misnomer, Musicianship. It really was ear training. I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as “ear training”; you’re either born with it or not. You can’t teach someone to sing in tune, or write a memorable melody. People can be born with perfect pitch and not be musical at all. As long as they know a C or A for example, a car horn will sound and they will know what note it is. I do not, nor did Karen, have perfect pitch. We have relative perfect and sang perfectly in tune. Once it was established what the first note was, we could tell what any note was after that. The teacher would play little motifs, or “melodies”, and we were supposed to write them down. It was really simple stuff (if you could do it!). I can play almost anything by ear; no bragga docio, it’s something I was born with. One had to take one semester of that, and take Counterpoint and Music History, and, if you
College 3.3 (Continued) weren’t a piano major, four semesters of piano. A music major had to be a member of a performing group; there were two of each, two instrumental, two choral, and one of them in each was  the better of the two. You had to have some 'chops', relatively speaking, to be accepted in the better ensembles.”  
Grammy 4 “Are there any other songs that you believe will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, other than ‘Close To You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just begun’?” “Probably ‘Superstar’, one of these days.”
Hits 5 “Did you think that ‘Close To You’ was going to be as big of a hit as it was?”  “No, honestly, never thought it would be as big a hit as it was. Thought it would be either #1 or a stiff. Not like ‘Ticket To Ride’, which stayed on the charts for months and peaked at #54.” 
Influence 6 “I would like to know your piano musical influences.” "George Shearing."
Influence 7 "Who would you name as your most notable influence in the area of musical arrangements?" “Not all my influences, but listed chronologically:  1. Jud Conlon – He rose to prominence in the 40s as a visionary vocal arranger, credited with what’s known as 'tight' or 'close' harmonies for use in mainstream popular music (as opposed to barbershop), leader of the Rhythmaires who backed Bing on a number of hits.  2. Les Paul and Mary Ford – Ford’s 4-part 'close' harmonies and Les’s development of overdubbing.  3.  Hugo Winterhalter – arranger/orchestrator, conductor.  4.  Burt Bacharach.”
Instrument 8 "In the liner notes of the album 'Offering' it states that Karen played electric bass on two of the songs. Which two songs are these?" “ 'All Of My Life' and 'Eve' ”
Instrument 9 “I know you are fond of the Baldwin piano and used it regularly on recordings, but was this also the same piano used on ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’, and the original piano track (’70) for ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’? If so, it was a grand, I assume?” “Most recordings, except the ‘A Song For You’ album, were done with Steinway A (one of four), which was an A&M Studios piano; I think it was terrific. My only complaint was that it was 'well-worn' and creaked, like in ‘Merry Christmas Darling’, which starts with just Karen and piano. When the pedal was pushed the assembly which goes up into the piano (lyre) creaked. Steinway model 'B', 7 footer.”
Instrument 10 “What made you decide to switch from the frequent use of the Wurlitzer Electric on the records to using more of the Fender Rhodes sound around ’75 and on?”  “The Fender Rhodes has a nice tremolo if one controls it properly, and it breaks into stereo which would fill out some of the recordings. I first noticed the full effect in 1975 in ‘Only Yesterday’ – there also is some Wurlitzer on that, a fill that breaks out of the sax solo and into the guitar solo. Every now and again, like on ‘Those Good Old Dreams’ and some of the others, I would use the Wurlitzer. But for an actual backing in the rhythm for the chords the Rhodes has a fatter or prettier sound,  whereas the Wurlitzer for certain breaks and fills has a funkier or rastier sound."
Instrument 11 “It would be interesting to know what kind of keyboard Richard played back in the early days, and if Karen preferred one type of drum or snare over another.” "Spinet: Baldwin Acrosonic. Grand: Baldwin. Electric Piano: Wurlitzer, models 140B or 200. Drum kit: Ludwig, with Karen preferring a Ludwig 'Supersensitive' snare, complete with all chrome plating and adjustable snares."
Instrument 12.1 "What Instruments did Karen and Richard play?”  “Drums and piano, respectively. I learned piano on a Baldwin Acrosonic, a spinet; at the time the best available. Joanie, my cousin, was raised from age 18 months by my folks, and at 18 when she graduated from high school in 1954, she immediately got a good job with Bell Telephone and bought the Acrosonic; we both used it. Joanie eventually got married and moved out, with the piano, so my parents (always believing in us) and I picked out another Acrosonic. We had that until 1964 when I was starting to make some money by teaching piano and playing church organ and nightclubs. We all pitched in, traded the Acrosonic, and purchased the piano I have now in my sitting room - forty-one years later! It’s a Baldwin Model L, 6’3” parlor grand, and a very good piano.   “I now have a couple of Baldwins and a couple of Steinways (big house, you understand!) In concert I play a Baldwin concert grand, as I am a Baldwin Artist; they send one to each performance. In addition, I'd play a Wurlitzer electric piano. And starting around 1975 or  ’76 we added a Rhodes 
Instrument 12.2 (Continued) electric piano, so that made three different keyboard sounds.   Karen immediately liked the sound of Ludwig drums. One person she looked up to was Jim Squeglia, a high school pal of mine in New Haven who owned a set of Ludwigs. At the time Ludwig, Rogers and Slingerland were arguably the best, with a couple of people Karen looked up to playing Ludwigs; Joe Morello who played with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and Ringo Starr, who played with some group who’s name I can’t quite remember. She was 14 years old, telling my folks she wants to play drums. We weren’t “in the chips” and were already paying on the Baldwin. Nevertheless, they bought her an entry-level Ludwig set. She proved immediately that she could play. What she really wanted was the big set in silver sparkle (Karen’s original silver sparkle Ludwig set is on display at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center).  It was the full size with two top toms and dual floor toms. She liked, of course,  Zildjian cymbals. She also liked the Rogers “high hat”, and a Rogers kick-drum pedal; that’s what she always used. 
Instrument 12.3 (Continued) The snare she really wanted, but we couldn’t afford, was the Supersensitive top-of-the-line Ludwig with adjustable snares, all chrome. We started with getting the penultimate L 400, and she had that a little while, but soon we all broke down and got her the Supersensitive. Then of course, as soon as we hit it big it was like a dream come true in a number of ways. Wurlitzer was sending me every new model of electric piano for free, and sending out to California from Illinois the fellow who actually invented the electric piano, Cliff Anderson, who would do special modifications. Ludwig was sending Karen every drum set she wanted. It was really something.”
Karen 13 “How close were Olivia Newton-John and Karen?”  “Karen and Olivia were very close, and I considered Olivia a genuine friend.” 
Karen 14 “Were you pleased with the outcome of the 1989 ‘The Karen Carpenter Story’?”  “Heavens no, I was not pleased. It’s not a good film. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was agreeing to cooperate in the making of it. It brings to mind the old adage 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions'.“
Karen 15 “At Karen's funeral there was an anthem sung called "Give Me Jesus" arranged by Fleming.  Who was the author of the song and is there a score of the arrangement?” “The song ‘Give Me Jesus’ was written by Larry Fleming (now deceased) and published by Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN.  CSULB has a score in their music department library. Frank Pooler at CSULB called two nights before the funeral, and asked if we would like the choir to sing, and suggested this and others. In addition, I got a chart of “Ave Maria” from our Christmas album and transposed it, and our pal Dennis Heath sang. It was quite a moving experience.”  
Karen 16 “Is the Karen Carpenter Memorial Foundation still in progress, and where can we send donations?” “Yes. It’s been renamed 'Carpenter Family Foundation'. There is a description of the Foundation and contact information in the CFF section of this website.”
Live Release 17 "There has never been a live Carpenters album released in the U.S.  I am sure you have many live shows recorded. Any chance of a new live CD, or box set of live concerts?" "Not many live shows were recorded, only two: 'Live in Japan' (1974) and 'Live at the Palladium' (1976). Both have been released on CD, but the former will probably be easier to obtain. Japan is the source to look for both - through Tower or Virgin imports, of course. These were never released in the U.S. at my request, as I'm just not much on live albums by anybody."
Logo 18 “The ‘Carpenters’ logo has worn very well over the years and has become one of the most recognizable icons in the world of popular music.   Who was responsible for designing the logo? How much input had Karen and Richard in the selection? Also, why was there no logo on the ‘PASSAGE’ album?” “Craig Braun and Associates designed the ‘Carpenters’ logo. They were hired by the A&M graphics department to do the whole package on the Carpenters third album. We had no input on the design. I recognized it to be a great logo as soon as I saw it. There is no logo on the front of the ‘Passage’ album due to a ‘transition idea’ by all of us at the time. To keep things consistent, though, every Carpenters album from the logo’s inception shows the logo; it’s on the back of the ‘Passage’ album, bottom center.”
Misc 19 “Do you still listen to your recordings?” “Every third blue moon, and of course, when we’re working on some project, the SACD being the most recent.”
Misc 20 “I would be interested to know if there are any artists on the charts today whose work Richard admires?” “I think Sting is really a talented fellow, but he’s been with us many a year, along with Steely Dan and U2. As for the new crop of artists, I’m not particularly impressed. Norah Jones is, at least, a genuine singer.” 
Misc 21 “Do the artists winning Grammys today impress you as much as your own music did?” “No, even if you take Carpenters out of the equation and look at some other people winning Grammys then, they were much more talented than now. The records now, with rare exception, are 'manufactured'.” 
Misc 22  “What are Richard’s memories of his encounter with Frank Zappa at the Billboard Forum in June 1975? I wish I’d been there to see my two musical heroes together!” “Frank was a talented fellow. I really liked the way he played the guitar, and I liked his take on certain cultural and sociological issues; he had a marvelously sardonic sense of humor. We saw each other very briefly in the 'Green Room' before going out to answer a few questions.”
Misc 23 "What was Carpenters’ biggest ever gig?" “ 'One-nighter': Ohio State Fair, summer of 1971, approximately 50,000.” 
Misc 24 “Do your children enjoy the music you created?” “Yes, they hear it now and then, but I’ve never sat them down in a concerted effort. They are kids and, of course, like certain of our songs more than others, as do adults!” 
News 25 "We would like to have updated new reports on what Richard is doing and where the Carpenters music is currently heading."  “I am raising a large family with my wife Mary, involved in community and school activities, the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, CA, and continuing to write songs. I’m still with A&M Records, and am always working sometime or other on a request for a Carpenters' package, i.e. the 5.1 Surround Sound project. The catalog is available in its entirety in the US and Japan. One of the newest requests is for a double-CD plus DVD 'Gold' package, which will be granted; I like the idea.” 
News 26 "Is there a future-talent amongst the Carpenter family?”  “Time will tell; you do mean musical talent?” 
SACD 27 “Having recently re-mixed ‘The Singles 1969-1981’ for SACD/DVD-Audio release, was there anything about the process which surprised you?” "Not really; it all seemed as natural as mixing in stereo."
SACD 28 "Will the new surround mixes use the original instrumentation, or will some of the later re-recorded instrumentation be used?”  "Both, depending on the particular track."
SACD 29 "Will the stereo layer of the upcoming SACD or DVD-A compilation have the original stereo mixes?”  "Some, along with remixes from various years.”
SACD 30 "Is Richard considering using recordings used for the Quad mixes from some 30 years ago on the new SACDs? Fans would simply eat that up.”  "No, no, no, no. Quad was a dubious experiment, and Karen & I were on the road and had no time to oversee the quadraphonic mixes ourselves. An A&M staff engineer - not Ray Gerhardt - did the remixes and I was anything but happy with them. Technology has come light years and I can guarantee the 5.1 remixes will be far superior to the Quad." 
Song 31 “Did you select the second to last track in ‘Gold’ with the phrase ‘and when my life is over…’ because she is no longer with us?” “The song title ‘A Song For You’ serves as a metaphor for the whole set and that line works very well. I also wanted to end the tune stack with Karen’s Theme, which also happens to be in the same key as ‘A Song For You’.”
Song 32 "I really love the solo on 'Goodbye To Love'. It sounds to me like an electric guitar played directly into the sound board and overdriven onto analog tape. I would love to know more about it. Who played it? how exactly was it recorded? .Who decided it should have such a raucous sound? It was a great call!" "It's an electric guitar, Gibson, vintage 1957. Tony Peluso played the solo, done in the 'good old days' when all he used was a crude little fuzz unit called a 'Big Muff'. He hooked his guitar into the Big Muff and our engineer Ray Gerhardt took it into the board. It was recorded in Studio B at A&M Studios. The song and arrangement, including the 'raucous' fuzz guitar solo, are mine."
Song 33 “Regarding ‘The Rainbow Connection’ - My question is whether there may be a leakage of a sound where Karen sings 'dreamers and meeeeee'. I'm not sure if this is the reason why you left it out as an outtake to begin with. I was guessing her lead was only partial so you thought it had better be untouched. But now with your effort and enthusiasm, we are able to listen to this beautifully arranged song with previously unreleased vocals by Karen." “This was originally written for Kermit the Frog (Muppet), with some accents on the wrong syllables. I took some artistic license and changed the melody a bit. Still, Karen just didn't like the song, and it didn't make the album. For years fans kept requesting the recording, so I completed the chart and put it out. In the matter of leakage, there is none.“
Song 34 “We all have our favorite songs of the Carpenters.   What song was YOUR favorite of all the songs you and Karen recorded together, and why? What was Karen’s favorite song that the two of you recorded?” "To me, there's a difference between ‘song’ and ‘recording’. My favorite song would probably be either 'For All We Know' or 'Superstar'. Favorite recordings would be 'Ticket To Ride' (1973, remix), 'Close To You' or 'Merry Christmas, Darling'. Karen's favorite was 'I Need To Be In Love'."
Standards 35 “In the Ray Coleman book, Richard says that he wishes that he and Karen had recorded more songs of the quality of ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well.’ Was he just speaking hypothetically, or did he and Karen actually record a track of this old standard?” "No, not hypothetically. While Karen was in the hospital in New York, I made her some multi-artist cassettes to help her pass the time. On one I put 'I Get Along Without You Very Well' sung by Matt Monro. Karen had always been a fan of his, but had not heard his version of the Hoagy Carmichael standard until this (1982). She called and thanked me for the tape and singled this track out, wanting to sing it herself. Between both our illnesses, we'd lost enough time in the studio and I knew A&M would want us to do new stuff upon our return, so I suggested we pass. Of course, Karen was gone shortly thereafter and I am still upset that we didn't record not only this standard, but any number of others. Karen was born to sing great ballads and, let's face it, they're just not writing too much now that possess much melody or great lyrics."
Technique 36 “It’s been said that one time Karen, while riding in her car with a friend, started singing a song in a “higher range than she’s used to”. It was remarked to be beautiful, and Karen is reported to respond, “The money’s in the basement”. Why had you not highlighted her voice in a range that was seldom heard by us?”  “She must have been singing in her ‘head voice’, Both Karen and I  felt the magic was in her ‘chest voice’ (a.k.a. ‘basement’). There is no comparison in terms of richness in sound, so I wasn’t about to highlight the upper voice. We did use it every now and again for some arrangemental colorings. For example, you can hear it on ‘here to remind you...' on the song 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again'.  The second time it is sung, Karen and I cover three octaves; I go to a low F and Karen goes to a high F. That is her head voice. The thirds that are done underneath the second half of the sax solo in 'All You Get From Love Is A Love Song' also feature her head voice."
Technique 37.1 "To what extent was that decision – to leave in or to remove a breath – commonplace in your production technique?  What reasoning led to your decisions in those cases?" "I tried to leave in the breaths as much as I could because, of course, they’re natural. There’s an anecdote concerning 'Goodbye To Love'. The breath is there on the multi-track, but we couldn’t use it in the original mix as there was drumstick leakage, and Hal Blaine's 'three' from the count-off audible in Karen’s headphones, so when we went to remix it in 1985 I put a breath in. We get letters every now and again regarding certain sounds, especially on acoustic guitar moves, where there would be little squeaks sometimes from the fingers rubbing over the strings, and to me that’s a natural sound. Some people don’t like it at all, but we would leave it in.  You note examples where phrases are very long as in 'I Just Fall In Love Again' and 'Goodbye To Love', questioning whether some breaths had been removed. The thing is, every now and again, we would do what is called 'punching-in', or in England 'dropping in', where let’s say the singer liked most of a lead, but wanted to get one word or two over. Now it’s easier than ever, but back then, if you had a good 
Technique 37.2 (Continued) second man or good first engineer, you would sing into it and sing out of it as well, and you knew where to take the breath, and he (the engineer) would 'punch' in very quickly to get one or two words, and every now and again a 'breath' just went away. This may be what you refer to. One definitely does not hear every breath that was ever inhaled on a lead, as hard as we tried.  But Karen, along with Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and John Gary, could take one breath and do the super-human bit where they just kept singing and singing. You are absolutely right in your mention of 'Goodbye To Love', which has some very long phrases. Other singers would come up to Karen and comment on this; I remember John Davidson asking, 'Do you have three lungs?' because Karen took a breath and sang, 'time and time again the chance for love has passed me by and all I know of love is how to live without it…' and that Karen just did naturally. 'Live', as well. It’s not like we had to get it in multiple takes in the studio."
Technique 38 “What is your feeling about the idea of Karen’s voice as ‘intimate’? Is this (her singing very close to the microphone) the true extent of the relationship between her voice’s ‘intimacy’ and the technology, or, to what extent did your production try to emphasize her naturally ‘intimate’ vocality?” "It has nothing to do with singing closely to the microphone; that would just make for a more present sound. Karen had the intimacy built right into the sound of her voice and her brain, so it was her born sound that so beautifully interpreted a lyric. The writer, Tom Nolan, who did the cover piece on us for Rolling Stone wrote (of a concert in Las Vegas), 'Out comes that marvelous voice, exactly as on record…. a marvel, youth combined with wisdom.'  Tom nailed it. It’s not singing close to the mic. Singing close to the mic just made it better sonically."
Technique 39 “On the ‘Singles 1969-73’ vinyl LP and most of the CD versions of the album, it seems the songs ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’, ‘Superstar’ and ‘Goodbye To Love’ are speeded up, compared to the same songs on the original LPs ‘A Song For You’ and ‘Carpenters’. This has mystified me for two decades. Can you clarify what exactly is different about these two sets of records/CDs? Are the original LP versions too slow, or are the ‘Singles 1969-73’ versions too fast? Or are they pitched in a different key?  “One of them years ago, I think ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ or ‘Goodbye To Love’, at my request, was vso’d (a machine called a ‘variable speed oscillator’). For the single, rather than slowing the one back to original speed, we sped up the other two to match, much to my regret in later years. The original LP version was too slow, in my mind, for a single. They aren’t pitched to a degree that would make a different key. Compared to the same songs on the original LPs, one (‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ or ‘Goodbye To Love’) was speeded up. In later days for remix I returned all that had been vso’d to their original speeds.”
Technique 40 “When you and Karen overdubbed the backing vocals, how did you normally do it with regard to voicing, etc? In other words, was it common for you both to sing unison on certain parts to ‘thicken’ the inner core of the harmonies a bit, or was it more common to sing two parts at a time and just layer everything that way?” “Back when we had 8 or 16 track we did two voices at a time, say the outer parts of any 4-part chord, then we doubled it and tripled it until we got the part the way we wanted it, which was perfect. Later, when there were 24 tracks, we did each part by itself, and Karen would go in to listen to me, and I would go in to listen to her. In later years we found out we didn’t even have to triple it, the doubling did just fine.” 
Technique 41 “Due to the limitations you had with 16-track and 24-track tape during your recording with Karen, did all of the backing vocals get ping-ponged within the same master tape and subbed down to four, or did you switch to a fresh reel of tape, overdub each voice onto its own track, and then ‘fly’ all the parts back over down to four separate tracks (subs) on the grand master?” “We didn’t have the tracks and yes, we would ‘ping-pong’ even later on. Plus, you get it done and there is less to worry about when the final mix day comes. Ultimately, no matter how many tracks you have, all have to go to two tracks and now, in some instances, to 5 or 7!. No, we did not switch to a fresh reel. We did it right on the master tape whether it was 16 or 24.” 
Technique 42 “I assume you no longer use the original 2” tape to do all of the Carpenters remixes. What kind of media (i.e. ADAT, Digi tape, etc) did you transfer/back-up the original Carpenters multis on that you use for remixing, etc? What kind of media do you prefer to record on these days?” “For some we went to 1” digi media. Actually, I still like the old-fashioned way; I think there is a certain warmth to it, so we don’t go all digital, at least for certain things. We get out the Dolbys to lose the hiss and we go to analog for a warmer sound.”
Technique 43 "In 'Interpretations', UK and Japan releases, Richard explains about remixing 'Desperado', saying something like 'you did it for things that would bore the listener'. Well, why so? I'm just dying to know why and so I beg you to please put down more of your input for any release as much as its space and your energy allows you to. If that's impossible due to space on a liner note, I think of your website that I can turn to." “Regarding ‘Desperado’ - This was remixed because the harmonica goes up quite high and there was intermodular distortion at the end of it, especially on vinyl. Even on CD, there is a ripping sound when Tommy Morgan goes up high.”
Video 44 "Will there be a Christmas video release in the near future?"   “Not to my knowledge.”
Video 45 "I'm trying to find out if "Make Your Own Kind Of Music" will ever be released completely on DVD?”  “Absolutely not. Obtaining guest artists' releases, taking care of payment for publishing, director's fee, musicians' fees, etc. would prove to be a Herculean task and one that would not be practical given the meager amount of sales the package would generate. Plus, I don't care at all for the show.” 
Video 46 "Are there any plans to release any Carpenters audio-DVDs in the near   future?”  “Yes – DVD-Audio 'Singles 1969-1981', within the next 12 months if not sooner.” 
Video 47 “Which Disneyland did you and Karen use to shoot the ‘Please Mr. Postman’ video?  Where was the ‘Only Yesterday’ video shot?” “The one and only Disneyland, the original, in Anaheim, CA. The ‘Only Yesterday’ video was shot at the Huntington Library gardens, Pasadena, CA.”
Vocals 48 “I have recently noticed, hearing the box set ‘From the Top’, particularly the song ‘Maybe it's You’, that there's a tiny difference in Karen's vocals compared  to the original version featured on the ‘Close to You’ album. Would Richard tell me if, indeed, there are two (or more) different leads of the same song?” "Good ears! In 1970, we punched in and got 'maybe it's just that I have never been the kind who can pass a lucky penny by', as we weren't happy especially with that line on the master lead. The trouble was, it was recorded on a different day and the sound didn't quite match even though the EQ, mic, studio, engineer - and singer - were the same. When remixed the second time, we went back to the original.


Last Updated June 4, 2008
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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