Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Friday Feature Special: The Carpenters

I keep on listening to new music. I'm keen on finding out if there's a band, which could shook me like my all-time favorites Interpol, Nirvana and Bloc party, just to name a few. The chances are small, as it's become hard to stick with one act for no more than a week. Not to mention every single band, which is labeled as indie has started to sound just the same as the previous and the next ones. It's like tasting so many different beers that in the end you can't taste the difference anymore.

Then you move on to the wine.

Sitting in a hot van for several hours, many days straight and the same record on repeat... It's a scenario I could see governments using for human torture. But if you have good speakers and great pop tunes playing, it's a brain wash I kindly accept. Suddenly, the van was not an unpleasant place to be in.

It's sad that I'm not one of those kids, who had gone through their parents' record collection and discover something magical (MTV did it for me). There simply wasn't much to find, except for a couple of Abba and Queen cassettes. But this time I was sure that I'd find something to get excited about, so I asked my mother: Don't you have The Carpenters at home?, with a spark in my eyes. The spark died, when she replied no.

Off to an unexpected record shopping then.

As the new proud owner of a 40th anniversary 40 track edition album and DVD, I showed everyone what I got. My sister asked me if it was for our mother, to which I replied slightly offended no. It is weird, though, to be the one to have this on my record collection. All I knew was that January was dedicated to The Carpenters.

Watching the DVD surely shocked me, as I've never seen live footage of the brother and sister duo playing. Learning that Richard played the piano instead of the guitar (not too dramatic) and Karen not only singing and being a pretty face, but playing the drums as well (WTF!) gave an even more interesting aspect to one of the most successful music acts of all time.

According to Richard, Karen had always thought herself as a drummer who sang. One year she was chosen as the best drummer by a music magazine, leaving Led Zeppelin's drummer second on the list and very pissed off. Another thing what surprised me was the fact that they were the first bands to include electronic guitar solos in their songs. This, on the other hand, angered some of their fans, who called the band sell outs. It's hard for me to imagine something like that happening in the 70s, but then I didn't think that women played drums either. 

Although, to hear that many of The Carpenters' hit songs are actually covers or taken for example from commercials, was quite disappointing. Then again, if it wasn't for Richard's composing and arrangement skills and Karen's killer voice, the songs wouldn't be what they are today- an influence to the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys and many more.

The Carpenters recorded 11 albums and toured massively. In 1974 they did over 200 gigs, which is astounding, since successful musicians didn't have to perform as much, as records were bought- the complete opposite of today. Consequently, the exhausting life on road and personal challenges took a toll on the duo. Especially on Karen, who tragically died at the age of 32 of a heart failure caused by anorexia in 1983. At that time there was little knowledge of eating disorders, but Karen's death urged for a change. It even helped celebrities, like Princess Diana, to openly talk about their sickness. 

Richard considers himself lucky, because they were not only able to make timeless music, but also that his sisters is regarded as one of the greatest female singers of all time. I will always be amazed of how she was able to use her voice in the way she did. And to keep the whole band in rhythm at the same time. Pff.

The longer you keep a wine, the better it will get.

And perhaps the strangest song I've heard:

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