January 27, 2014

Carpenters Naked Truth

Even as they were on their way to becoming the largest selling act on A&M Records, it was generally understood that the label didn't have a clear idea of how to successfully market Richard and Karen Carpenter. Much to label head and musician Herb Alpert's delight, the music did it for them. The runaway success of their  recent 1970 album, which included hits Burt Bacharach's epic (They Long to Be) Close to You and Paul Williams' beautiful We've Only Just Begun, guaranteed another collection would soon follow. 

The duo's next release Carpenters, also known as the Tan album, was an instant smash. How could it now be when it included radio successes Superstar, Rainy Days and Mondays, For All We Know and fan favorite Let Me Be the One? Karen sounded incredible on every cut, and Richard's work shone brightly.

Even if some inside A&M were embarrassed by having the uncool Carpenters as part of their family, they had to work with Karen and Richard, acknowledging their success since the cash they made the label continued to roll in. 

The image above comes from a trade ad that poked a bit of fun at the duo's image. Whether it was meant in good humor or whether it was a jab at their image, it was a pretty unique piece of marketing magic. "A&M execs stand by their artists", I believe was another tag line. In the image, it is one time Carpenters producer Jack Daugherty who is fully clothed standing behind their Tan album.

The debate about the musical genius from a production standpoint was eventually settled. It was Richard, not Jack, doing the arrangements and working with the musicians. Starting with the classic album Now & Then, Richard would get the production credit he long deserved. The naked truth eventually came out that Jack just booked the studio and session players. So, even though he looks fully dressed, the Emperor really had no clothes.

(Image copyright A&M Records.)


steve2wdw said...

Just thinking about The Carpenters makes me smile. The musician/songwriter/arranger in me was highly influenced by many "uncool" acts as well as the "cool" ones. I'm proud to have been influenced by The Carpenters, The Partridge Family (the real musicians and singers), as well as The Association, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, The Mama's and the Papa's and even Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66. There's something to be said about great vocals/harmonies, song arrangement, and melody. So much of that is missing in today's "music".

Mark Taft said...

Your last two sentences in particular ring true. I didn't even watch this year's Grammys!