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Subject ?# Fans Ask: Richard Answers:
Albums 1 I always heralded Horizon as my favorite Carpenters album. Why were there only ten songs? I agree with the thought that the album should have had more material, and in fact " Tryin' to Get The Feeling Again" was cut for it. In retrospect this should have been included, however I felt there were too many ballads. Karen and I were overbooked and low on energy. Our touring schedule was really unrealistic, and by September we ended up with Karen, already struggling with anorexia nervosa, in the hospital. We postponed two major tours, the European and the Japanese. At this time most albums by major artists had included ten songs anyway. Despite all this, Horizon is impeccably produced, with Karen never singing and sounding better and the album brilliantly engineered by the late Roger Young.
Autos 2  How did you like your 1969 Road Runner? Very much! It was a good-sized car; trouble-free, held four comfortably, rode and handled well, and it moved like mad. I special ordered it; black/black, 383, automatic, a lot of options:  bucket seats, console, power steering, brakes, windows, am/fm radio, Coyote Duster etc., but we couldn't afford the Hemi at the time.
Autos 3 I share your love of classic American automobiles of the fifties and sixties. Have you ever considered publishing a "coffee table" book of your legendary auto collection?  No, however it is something to think about, albeit for small coffee tables, as the collection is not that big.
College 4 I would like to know if Karen got her college degree? Actually, neither one of us received our college degree. Karen attended college for only two years, having started in the fall of "67, and I was in my 5th year when we were signed with A&M in April '69. I knew that sooner or later we were going to be signed to a major label and making records, which was our passion. As a result, I wasn't putting a great deal of thought into my education, which is something I regret now, although I read copiously and have become self-taught in a number of subjects in which I am interested. I am not many units away and may get my degree yet, just as Speilberg ultimately did. In May, 2000 however, I was conferred an Honorary Degree by our alma mater, CSULB as a Doctor of Fine Arts.
Downey What were the addresses of your old houses in Downey? The first residence ( while waiting for our house in New Haven CT to sell) was an apartment, where we resided for a little more than a year. The complex was called the Shoji, 12020 Downey Ave. It's been revamped, of course, through the years, and is still standing, though I can't  remember if the name remains. Our first unit was #22 and a few months later we moved across the walkway to a larger unit, #23. From there, after the sale of the New Haven house, we moved to a little "storybook" home, as they were called, that I really liked, 13024 Fidler St. It no longer stands, having been razed to make way for the Century ( Interstate 105) Freeway. Next, the "Now and Then" house, 9828 Newville Ave, the house Karen and I bought for the whole family but did not share for long (bringing dates home, along with spending plenty of time with each other in the studio and on tour, just made me, especially, "vont to be alone." Next, a house built in 1973 and purchased new by me, still stands as does the Newville house, 8341 Lubec Street, Downey. Mary and I, and then Kristi and Traci, lived there until we built the much larger (Mindi was on her way) California Ranch place at 9386 Raviller Dr., Downey, of course.
Drums 6 I was wondering whatever became of Karen's drums.  Are they in a museum, the hall of fame, or in a trap case in a warehouse somewhere? I remember she was a Ludwig player and used Vistalites for a while. Your music inspires me, daily I use it to find power, I hope you know that it will never be forgotten. You're absolutely correct in that every drum kit Karen owned was a Ludwig. The original silver sparkle is on display at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. The first set was a Ludwig entry level, painted forest green with a gold strip around the middle. 
Drums 6.5 Continued The 2nd silver sparkle set is the one that went on the road.  It is packed and stored. The others that came after the second silver sparkle set were donated due to space limitations. I did keep the jelly bean set, each drum a different color, and quite an eyeful.



Fakes 7 I have recently acquired an RIAA Gold Record award presented to Karen Carpenter for the 45 single "We've Only Just Begun". I am a fan, not a collector. Could you tell me if this award is authentic. It was sold through Christie's Auction House on December 17, 2004 for $1,314.50.USD. It is not authentic.There is no way to know to whom this belonged; anyone who performed on the recording and could offer proof (along with a check) could get the same gold record award that Karen and I received, although obviously not with a plaque stating " Presented to Karen Carpenter". I feel whoever had this just had a new plaque made. Neither Karen nor I gave away or sold any of our awards, and I inherited Karen's, which are packed at my warehouse.
Karen 8 What was Karen like as a person? She came across in you TV specials, music, etc. as a cheerful, upbeat and happy.  Karen was just like what you saw and really serious about recording and performing. Being a perfectionist, the same as I, everything had to be the best it could be. On the whole she was upbeat, and had a great sense of humor.
Songs 9 Do you remember which was the recording session that Karen and you enjoyed the most?


"Close To You", with the vocals stacking up and on the "tag" at the end. ("wah, Close To You"...) The experience of creating something that catchy, well-arranged and so perfectly in tune coming at you over 15" Tannoy monitors cranked up to  "excitement level" as our engineer Ray Gerhardt called it, cannot be put into words-at least by me. The hardest all involved ever laughed during a session was during the construction of the DJ and radio contest bit on 'Now and Then".
Misc. 10  I was wondering if "This Is Your Life" was a pleasant experience for the Carpenters. I've read not all the celebrities who are surprised liked being surprised. You are correct about some celebrities not enjoying the experience one whit. For Karen and me it was a hoot, other than our mom inadvertently embarrassing the hell out of us on two or three occasions. The late Ralph Edwards and his people were terrific folks with whom to work.
Misc. 11 How many hours a day did you and Karen practice? We were  not that much into practicing, which was a shame. I spent, at first, 1/2 hour a day, under duress (duress being my mother), then when I started classical training at Yale and USC, an hour a day. Karen practiced on her drums or drum pad not much more than a half hour. What we did spend time on was the stuff I was creating for us with the Trio. We would spend hours a day, all three of us, then I'd spend additional hours on new songs and arrangements. When we were making records, hours and hours every day.
Misc. 12 What high school and church did you and Karen attend? Karen and I attended Downey Senior High.  Though not regular church goers, we belonged to the Downey United Methodist Church, but at Christmas time, every now and again, we would be invited by our neighbors Tex and Charlene McCallister to the "Living Christmas Tree" service at the First Baptist Church in Downey.
Misc. 13 What's the story on the "Lead Sister" tee shirt Karen wore?  We got a kick out of "Lead Sister" because it is an example of one culture getting something from another. We were in Japan and there were interviews and articles about us; we hoped what we said in interviews didn't get lost in translation. Every now and then we would ask someone who spoke both languages what was being said in a Japanese article and it was brought to our attention that one of the journalists had gotten "singer" and "sister" mixed up. While writing that Richard's sister was the lead singer the article read " Karen... lead sister" and we got a great big kick out of that. It happened around the time of our ' 74 Japan tour. When the idea for the drum number surfaced in late ' 75, Karen came up with the idea to have the shirts made.
Richard 14 Which "classical" composers do you like most?  I actually prefer the Baroque era most with/ J.S.Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Purcell being my "faves." Classical would be Mozart and Beethoven. Romantic: Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rachmaninoff and Chopin  to name a few.
Songs 15 My friend and I discussed Karen's doubled lead on "I Won't Last A Day Without You" and he noticed that in the first chorus, the pitch of both voices doesn't quite match on the word "when there's no getting over that rainbow." He'd read that Karen had a sore throat when they were recording the " A Song for You" LP and that it took her several takes, and whether this had any bearing. I myself was wondering if this was deliberate, related to consonance pitch. Sometimes where you try and sing exactly the same note over a previously recorded note, there is a clash in the two voices because the frequencies are identical. So the two voices sometimes have to be ever so slightly out compared to each other, but just enough so that they remain in consonant pitch with each other. We wondered if Richard could shed any light on this? Regarding the recording of "I Won't Last A Day Without You", Karen had more than a sore throat. This was the first and only time in her life that Karen had almost a "cold sore" on her larynx. Normally, she never had any trouble matching the backgrounds or doing the leads. Regarding the "clash" you note, both takes are in tune and what you are hearing is a clash in the vibratos. If indeed the frequencies are identical the overdub creates an almost phased effect.
Songs 15.5 On a related note, when two recorded sections are played on top of each other, you sometimes get a distortion, like a "phaser'" effect. I wondered if this is how he achieved the effect we can hear during the drum intro of " Your Wonderful Parade"?  Regarding the "phaser effect", this just happened while Bernie Grundman, the mastering engineer, was mastering "Offering". He had no idea why, but liked it and asked our opinion. We agreed and in it stayed.
Songs 16 Having just completed the excellent biography, First Lady of Song, I am compelled to take issue with the author's comment on page 238 regarding Karen, Ella and "Ordinary Fool". "To wit.... Karen Carpenter later recorded the song for her last album, she very much followed Ella's vocal line". Mr. Carpenter, can you comment on this passage? Those who have spent any time listening to Carpenters recordings will notice that Karen's remarkable singing and style was beholden to no other and possessed no affectations, the same as Perry Como, which is why no impressionists ever try to imitate her or him. In addition, she possessed a remarkably small record collection, did her listening in the car  and, no disrespect intended, as she had no Sinatra, Cole, or Como recordings either, did not have an Ella record to her name.
Songs 16.2 (answer continued) I happened to see " Bugsy Malone" in 1976, heard "Ordinary Fool", got a demo and then played and sang the piece on a cassette for Karen to hear as I wasn't crazy about the demo.( Until reading the book First Lady of Song I did not know Ella had recorded it.) Karen and I recorded it in 1976 while working on our "A Kind Of Hush" album. Originally it was recorded the way we did virtually all our recordings, bass, piano, drums and a "work lead" so, as you know, the drummer and bassist could hear the melody while reading their charts. Karen was not that taken with the song and it did not make the album.
Songs 16.3 (continued) Following Karen's tragic and untimely death in February 1983, I put together an album of outtakes from various years that I felt were pretty decent songs, if not hits, and "Ordinary Fool", obviously, was one of them. I always felt the song perfect for Karen's voice and even though it is a work lead, it's flawless, so I completed the chart, adding strings, winds, brass and a tenor sax solo by John Phillips. The result remains one of my favorite Carpenters recordings and I feel if Karen could hear it a few times now, her opinion of it just might change.
Songs 16.4 (continued) I realize this is all much more than you need to know, but the upshot is that the only person Karen heard sing "Ordinary Fool" was I, in addition to the fact that ours was recorded before Ella's. Chalk it up to "brilliant minds think alike", and in this case these two incredibly gifted singers obviously both felt the same musical light when it came to interpreting "Ordinary Fool". Paul Williams is a talented chap, of course, but in this case, he's a very lucky one, as well!
Songs 17 "When I Fall In Love"- Was that in a musical or movie? It seems so familiar. "When I Fall In Love" was written by the late, great Victor Young who among other things led an orchestra. He was one of the leading scorers in Hollywood, and just had melody streaming out of him. Edward Heyman was quite successful writing lyrics to his tunes. This melody was first used in a 1951 Korean War film, "One Minute to Zero" starring Robert Mitchum. The lyrics were added in 1952 and soon  it was recorded by Nat "King" Cole. It was covered by a number of artists, and in 1961 The Letterman, looking for a follow-up to their hit "The Way You Look Tonight"( written in 1936 by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields ) recorded it with equal success. This was  the first version I heard, when I was 12 or 13, and later I heard Nat Cole's, whose terrific voice, along with a typically masterful arrangement by Nelson Riddle, made for a superior interpretation.
Songs 17.5 (continued) Through the years Victor Young was nominated for 22 Academy Awards and finally won in 1957 for 1956, the year he was nominated for " Written On The Wind" and "Around The World in Eighty Days". He died of a stroke at the age of 57 years and sadly, received the award posthumously. He also wrote the beautiful song "Love Letters" (1945) and another song with lyrics later added by Ned Washington that was in a great ghost movie "The Uninvited" with Ray Milland (1946).One of the character's names was Stella, and the song became "Stella by Starlight".Incidentally, Young also wrote the music to      " It's Christmas Time" featured, of course, on "Christmas Portrait".
Songs 18 What is the history behind your recording "Jambalaya"? Does this song have some particular significance to Richard and Karen?  We, of course, were born into middle class suburbia, and the version we heard was Jo Stafford's, as the Hank Williams version was hard-core country, and not played on pop stations. "Jambalaya" is a magical song, fairly simple, and brilliant in it's own way. Although one would have to be from the region to understand some of the words, just the melody alone brings a smile to one's face. It's fun to listen to , and fun to sing. That's why I chose to do it. It worked very well for Karen and the Carpenters'  multi-harmony sound. The Dutch and the Japanese loved it and it "went gold" in both countries. Here in the US things work differently as to how many singles are released by an artist at approximately the same time. "Yesterday Once More" was in release at this time and on it's way to becoming a million seller, so Jambalaya remained an album cut.
Songs 19 Since 1971, "For All We Know" has been among my favorite Carpenters songs. I've always loved the oboe intro. Did you have this in mind when you initially arranged it or were the oboes added after the basic tracks were recorded? "For All We Know" remains one of my favorites as well. No, I didn't have oboe in mind originally. We had run into Jose Feliciano at one of our favorite restaurants- and a music business hangout- Martoni's. He really admired our records and asked if he could play on an upcoming one. It so happened to be just at the time we were rush recording "For All We Know". Karen and I were honored, answered in the affirmative and in no time we were in Studio A at A&M Studios. Jose came up with that lovely intro and played here and there on his nylon string acoustic  through the rest of the recording and all ended well. Or so we thought. The following day I received a call from his manager, an incredibly rude man who so much as ordered me to remove Jose from the recording.


  19.5 (continued) I took an instant dislike to this SOB- who did not remain Jose's manager for very long- and explained that, with all due respect to Feliciano, the Carpenters were one helluva lot hotter than Jose and in addition, it was Jose's idea to begin with. We then simply replaced the guitar intro with the oboe.
Songs 20 How can the song "Someday" from "Offering" not be one of the 40 best songs on the the "Gold" CD? "Someday" I agree, is a heck of a song; hell I co-wrote it! But between Karen never being satisfied with the lead and the harp sweep into the second verse being distorted, something that rarely happened on our records, and it never really turning out the way Karen had planned singing it (she was quite young, 19 and had a cold at the time) and me not being absolutely delighted with the production work and the flute solo that's on it not being played very well, well that's why. Karen and I were planning on redoing two songs from the first album that were always near and dear to us, "Someday" and "Eve".
Songs 21 I read in one of the fan club newsletters c.1978 I think it was that you were considering putting "Thank You For The Music" on an album. What wound up happening to this track? A terrific song and even better record, but, of course,  nobody does ABBA like ABBA. I was really taken with that song. We first heard them perform it on a highly popular music program in Europe called " Starparade" on which we were both performing in Bremen, Germany, 1978.We laid down a track, but the more I thought about it, I realized that, as usual, Benny and Bjorn had done the definitive arrangement and all I'd be doing was copying it; something I just don't do, of course. It's an outtake, never completed and in storage with the rest of the stuff in Pennsylvania.


Songs 22 How did Albert Hammond come to be one of the co-authors of "I Need To Be In Love"- and was his contribution lyrical, melodic or both? Albert wrote the opening melodic line (the first two or three bars) which is terrific, and the title. The bulk of it both lyrically and melodically belongs to Bettis and me, but it would not exist if not for that title and opening melody!
Songs 23 For 30 years, I've wondered how you devised the coda on "Close To You". Do you remember the moment when the idea came to you and can you speak to the inspiration for it? I'd been given the lead sheet of this little-known Bacharach-David song by Herb Alpert, who wanted me to work up an arrangement. We were set up on the A&M sound stage at the time. I took the lead sheet, put it on my Wurlitzer, came up with a slow shuffle, the modulation, trumpet solo etc.  All the while, I have to tell you, I'm not exactly taken with this song ( I've been saying this for 36 years; it took a while to grow on me.) I was doing this because I had been asked by Herb. I got to the end of it, and working with the lead sheet, which is just something basic for an arranger to work with, it ended, "Just like me, they long to be close to you." I'm thinking "this needs something more". I didn't want to end just like the intro; it just wasn't strong enough. I always liked records with arrangements that had something at the end that came out of left field; just when you thought the record was over, something out of left field shows up . A perfect example is by Bacharach himself on the end of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". That's where I got the idea of the ending for " Close To You"; I composed the "wah" bit.
      Ultimately, the arrangement concluded with two endings; to " bookend" it I played the same riff as the intro, albeit in A flat and not in C. The first time one heard the recording, he or she for a split second, would think it was done. But wait, there was more. For as strong as the song and arrangement are, for as well as every person involved sang and played until that point, try thinking of it ending without that tag. I'm not certain " Close To You" would have been quite the hit it was.
Songs 23.2 (continued) If by "coda" you are referring to the extended "wahs" on the album, here is the story. " Close To You" may sound simple, but it's quite deceiving. Hal Blaine and I tended to rush and that arrangement had to be deliberate. After the first few takes, and with the problem we were having of it getting away from us, we bit the bullet and used a "click track" .Even at that, to get it just the way I wanted it , took 47 takes.
Songs 23.3 (continued) Regarding the fade- you always leave yourself enough extra length on a fade. We went on plenty long. the "click" was going, we were all getting worn down, and once we got to the point where I knew we didn't need to play longer, I started to play a "tick-tock" octave-like thing to the click for fun. I knew none of this would matter at all because it was way past where the record was to end. I made it from the root A flat gradually up to D flat. I thought I had to resolve, it was building up and the D flat would go to an E flat, and at that very moment Hal struck a tom-tom and went into a fill, so we all went into the tag, louder this time, just screwing around.
Songs 23.4 (continued)  In the next session Karen and I did the background vocals. Just for kicks, as it built up in the track we built up in our voices and made it louder. It was too long for a single but all involved liked it, so we included it in the album. Aren't you glad you asked?
Songs 24 I have always wondered ever since the " Voice of the Heart" album came out what the noise is that you can hear at the beginning of the song "Make Believe It's Your First Time". The noise occurs right after Karen says " I have to get into a serious mood here". Someone once told me it was an echo caused by Karen clapping her hands, but I am not sure this is true. The noise is a little fun thing the group did among ourselves called a "tap dancing cheek". You just pull with thumb and forefinger on your cheek, three quick pulls, making a tap dancing sound. ( Karen's cheek of course.)
Songs 25 " Love Me For What I Am" was written by Palma Pascale, and recorded by the Carpenters. What was it that caught your ear? Were other songs by Palma recorded? The entire song caught my ear, especially, of course, the hook. I felt some of Palma's lyrics weren't on par with the melody and with her permission brought in John Bettis for lyric revisions. One other song of Palma's considered was "Box Office Movie King".
Technique 26 How long did it take to record a Carpenters track in those days at A&M Records? Ordinarily we didn't do a whole track start-to-finish at one time; it is not efficient nor cost effective. The few times out of necessity that we did (e.g. Merry Christmas, Darling, For All We Know, and Bless the Beasts..) I would estimate that from  initial downbeat through mixing and mastering, about ten days.
TV Specials 27 I'm curious to know what it was like to have John Denver on your TV special. Did you and Karen keep in contact with him after this time? John Denver was very personable and professional. We all got along swimmingly, Victor Borge, John, Karen and I. We would bump into John and Victor from time to time. Very nice people.
Videos 28 "Ticket To Ride" video-where was it filmed? Who came up with the idea of shooting it in the snow? Was it fun to make?  The song "Ticket To Ride" was introduced in the Beatles film "Help" (1965), and if you recall, the song sequence was shot in the snow. The producer or director may have had this in mind when they designed our video. Overall, the "Ticket To Ride" video was well thought out, storyboarded, and filmed over many hours. It was shot on Karen's 20th birthday in Squaw Valley, California. The film crew  and post-production folks did a marvelous job of it. We had a lot of fun making the film and it was a great experience, although, even with a trailer in which to relax and the sun shining outside, the outside temperature was VERY cold. I feel it is probably the best "video" ever made of us. Incidentally it was for a short-lived, syndicated music show named "Something Else".
Voice 29 Why did Karen re-record her vocals on certain tracks like "Top Of The World" and "Merry Christmas Darling"? Until she was around 21 Karen had a huskier sound, which she didn't care for as much as what her voice ultimately became, and she preferred her matured sound. As a result, when the time came in 1978 to make "Christmas Portrait" she asked to record a new lead.         "Top Of The World" -she felt she could do it better. The original  is perfectly fine, however, Karen just felt she could do better.


Last Updated Tuesday, October 24, 2006
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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