martes, 19 de junio de 2012

69º-The Rolling Stone Magazine Article-


JULY 4, 1974



We're just. . . normal people.

Karen Carpenter, the solo singing half of a brother and sister musical duo that has sold over 25 million records world-wide, has classic "good looks" but with something extra. It is the something extra that makes her interesting to look at, some unrealized firmness in her features, a womanliness she does not always allow herself to express. It comes out when she sings – in the emotion that makes her voice intriguing and beguiling.
Karen insists on the right to be normal, even though she is a celebrity known all over the world, but it is impossible for her or for her brother Richard to regain the placid existence of their youth.
At a back table in Beverly Hills' La Scala restaurant, Karen described some conditions that would tend to make an "ordinary" life impossible for her. While everyone else at dinner (including her brother) was enjoying sumptuous pasta, she had before her a simple green salad and iced tea. She was, as usual, on a diet.
"A lot of kids write and ask me for advice," Karen began.
"Some of the things they ask are normal. How do you get into the business? How do you learn to sing?
"A lot write and say they were hung up on drugs, but since they've heard our music they've gotten off of them.
"But a lot of kids who write have mental hang-ups. They're lonely, they want to know why their parents don't love them, why do their brothers and sisters hassle 'em. They haven't had a good life at all, and they just live for our music.
"They ask for advice that I'm not capable of giving. Because I'm not a doctor. It's hard to tell someone how to live their life even if you know 'em, let alone if you've never seen them. It's hard. It really is.
One girl, her boyfriend had gone to Vietnam and gotten himself killed. She wanted to kill herself, and what should she do? I said, God, don't kill yourself! I mean . . . what do you tell 'em?
"Another girl, in Phoenix . . . Remember, Richard?"
"Oh yes," Richard Carpenter said, looking up from his meal. "The first time we played Gammage Auditorium. That big hall Frank Lloyd Wright designed."
"This girl. It was her mother's third marriage. The stepfather hated her. Truly sad. What else, Richard?"
"Something to do with her brother," Richard said slowly. "I can't remember."
"The ones that are really . . . freaky, if you answer once and they write back, then I give them to our manager, Sherwin Bash. You can't really get involved. It gets too heavy. You have to handle each one in a different manner. When you're playing with personal feelings, with someone who's that hung up on you . . . "
One of the first times the Carpenters worked with their current opening act was in a huge coliseum in Houston. During Skiles and Henderson's comedy turn, a young man walked up the ramp to the stage and sat down at Karen's drums. Skiles and Henderson thought maybe the Carpenters were putting them to some kind of test, and the group supposed the guy at the drums was part of the comics' act.
He punched a policeman who approached him and was forcibly carried off, shouting, "Don't touch me! I'm engaged to Karen Carpenter!"
At the jail it was found he had on his person a wedding ring and airplane tickets for the honeymoon.
Another man who inserted himself memorably into Karen's life began his courtship with a letter which she received while they were playing Tahoe. Torturously scrawled like a five-year-old's mash note, it read, "Guess what. I've been waiting all this time to marry Melanie but it looks like it's not gonna come off, so you know who I picked to be my next old lady? That's right, Karen – you!" She and Richard laughed and kept the letter just for kicks, as they keep all the "strangies."
Three months later a GTO with Jesus saves stickers on the back bumper pulled up in front of a home in Downey, California, where Richard and Karen lived with their parents. Their father was in the garage working on a car. The fellow in the GTO got out and asked him if Karen was home.
"Yes," said her father, who cannot learn to lie.
"I'd like to speak to her."
"I really think she's busy right now."
"Oh," the fellow said, "she'll want to speak to me."
"Why is that?"
"Well," he explained, "you know all those songs she's been singing for the last four years? She's been singing them to me."
He showed up the next day, and the day after that. They came to recognize his car as it approached, the GTO of this guy who was not playing with a full deck, the guy who had written the letter they laughed at in Tahoe.
The night Richard and Karen went to the Ali-Norton fight at the Inglewood Forum with Herb Alpert, they returned to find the GTO parked and empty in front of their house.
While their parents were away GTO had pried open a door, setting off the burglar alarm. The police had come instantly. GTO had been very calm. He was not there to rob anything. He was engaged to Karen Carpenter and he had just come in to say hello.
They locked him up for 72 hours, after which he returned for his car.
He sat in the car for another day.
A neighbor called the police. As he was leaving, the black-and-whites pulled up, fencing him in. That was the day Karen had had enough. The police said they couldn't arrest him, all they could do was escort him to the city line, to Norwalk, mere minutes away. "Look," she said, "let's be serious about this. The guy has broken into my home. I don't know anything about the law. But don't tell me I'm supposed to be calm about this guy sitting and staring at my house, looking for me. If you just take him to Norwalk he'll turn around and come right back here."
Sitting there, day after day, staring at the house.
The police said that he had spent some time in a home. He had been in a mental home.
The police wanted her to go outside and say hello to him. Since he wanted so badly to speak to her, maybe that would satisfy him. She told them they were crazy.
The final day of his vigil he got out of his car and walked to the far end of the house. Perhaps that's where he thought her room was. He stood there ten minutes and at the top of his lungs screamed her name, over and over . . .
"Some people center their whole lives around us," Karen continued. "They only live to see us, to hear us. That's getting awfully heavy.
"People get so involved. It's sad to see kids cry if they can't get backstage to see us. They go to sleep with our album covers. Sometimes their mothers send them to be autographed. Especially Close To You. You should see them . . . all crumpled up . . .

"Only the really important letters are handled personally. There was a 12-year-old girl in Utica, New York, who was dying and who wanted a drum set. We got her the drum set. She was supposed to die a couple months before we played Utica, but she wanted to see that show so bad that she stayed alive for it. A few weeks after that . . . that was it. That also happened with a little girl in Notre Dame.
"It's weird to think you could have a meaning like that for someone, to make someone go on living. That's a hell of a responsibility. Someone loving something that much, to keep them alive . . . It's a very strange feeling, to think you could have that much . . . power . . . "
Karen concentrated on articulating thoughts she did not seem often to entertain. "That you could mean that much to someone. It's an eerie feeling. I don't dig being responsible that way.

"I mean . . . we only wanted to . . . make a little music . . . "

I guess I'm really very lucky 

That I've got this thing to play 

Cause it can really make me feel good 

Even when it's cloudy and grey

Yes, after years and years of practice 

And awful allergies that made me sneeze 

And now the other guys are out playin' with their girlfriends 

And I was still. . . bangin' on the keys 

And it got me
Right where I am 

This is me 

Playing the piano 

I hope ya like what I do 

It's for you 
And I'll try and sing right too*

Sometimes I feel like a . . . robot.
Richard Carpenter is technically handsome but really much more interesting looking than that easy term implies. His face reflects his sarcasm, talent, arrogance and pride; his mere good looks are a product of careful grooming. He is a creature of his own design. As assiduously as he has done everything else, Richard transformed himself from a gangly, short-haired, hornrimmed music student into a chubby fellow with Prince Valiant bangs, then into a thin young millionaire with a certain poise and a Sebring cut.

Richard never stops working. It is he who is the driving force behind the Carpenters. It is he who selects the material, arranges it, makes most important decisions and in general keeps the ball in the air. If he is not actively making music, he is thinking about it. His preoccupation extends from the most obvious attention to his own group's performance, through a general and encyclopedic awareness of current pop product, down to the tiniest particular factors bearing on actual sound: that the turntable at L.A. radio station KIIS is a mite slow, for instance, and that KLOS's is a bit fast. Recent cuts he likes include "Puzzle People" ("a perfect track!"), Paul Simon's ballads ("great strings, great everything") and "Jet." Among the pop musicians he has most admired are Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson and Jim Morrison.
Music is almost his sole interest in life. He does not read books. He is not concerned with politics and feels no affinity for either major party, although he was outraged at the 18-minute gap in the White House tapes and at the lenient sentence given Spiro Agnew, two developments which managed to come to his attention.
"I'm not into much besides my music," he says frankly. "And cars. And investing my money. I like to have money, because I like what it gives me. I like to buy nice clothes. I like to eat well at good restaurants. If I hear about some new amplifier or something I want, I like being able to say without thinking twice, 'Yeah, get it.'"
He did not always have that option, and some of his single-mindedness may come from remembering the financial difficulties experienced earlier in his life when their parents worked wonders with a lower middle-class income in order to give their children what they wanted.
"When we were trying to make a go of our music," Richard said, "our parents bought everything they could afford for us. We had a drum set, a piano. Basically the whole thing. But we couldn't really afford to buy amplifiers, or an electric piano, or even mike stands.
"When we wanted to buy a tape recorder, to make demos of this first group we had . . . Dad, he wanted to get it for me, but we just couldn't swing it. It took us months to save enough even to make a down payment on a little Sony."
The Carpenters' early history is not as smooth as some might assume. Children of a lithographic printer, they grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where 16-year-old Richard studied piano at Yale. The family moved to California in 1963, to Downey, a low-lying, bland suburb near L.A. International Airport. Richard continued his music studies at Cal State Long Beach, where he became interested in vocal arranging and was accompanist for the school choir. A few months after high-schooler Karen had begun playing drums, the Carpenter Trio was formed – a jazz instrumental group consisting of Karen, Richard and a bass-playing friend. In 1966, the trio won a city-wide "Battle of the Bands" televised from the Hollywood Bowl, with Richard taking the Best Instrumentalist award as well.
The trio was signed to an abortive contract with RCA, and some instrumental tracks were cut which pleased no one. Karen had started to sing by this time, but RCA was not interested in listening to her. While Richard and Karen Carpenter were recording light jazz instrumentals for RCA, the company was also cutting vocal tracks with a young unknown singer named Herb Alpert who was unsuccessfully trying to stir up RCA interest in an idea he had for a trumpet record.
When the trio disbanded, Richard and Karen became the nucleus of a vocal group called Spectrum which stressed the harmonies Richard had loved in choral work. Spectrum included four other members – all of them Cal State students – two of whom would eventually find a home in the Carpenters' organization Danny Woodhams, who sings and plays in the Carpenters' touring band, and John Bettis, a tail end folkie who became Richard's lyricist.
Spectrum, all dressed alike and singing original compositions, not pop hits, had difficulty getting gigs. For the year they were together (1968) they mostly played Hoot Night at L.A.'s Troubadour Club, waiting their turn to appear for 15 minutes on the same stage as other unknown hopefuls like Jackson Browne and Brewer and Shipley. After some unsatisfactory contract talks with White Whale Records, Spectrum disbanded.
Richard and John Bettis worked at Disneyland for a time, singing on Main Street dressed in 1900s ice cream suits, writing songs on Pepsi napkins during spare moments.
Soon Richard created a vocal sound similar to Spectrum's with a new group made up of just him and his sister Karen; they achieved harmonic blend through overdubs. Demo tapes were cut in the garage of well-known session bassist Joe Osborn, and Richard made the rounds of the record labels as he had done for Spectrum. He was turned away at the A&M gate, but in 1969 a friend of a friend got the Carpenters' tape a hearing from that company's now famous cofounder Herb Alpert. Alpert gave the Carpenters freedom in, the studio, said nothing when their first album stiffed, and brought them "Close To You," a little-known Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune which became their first Number One single.
The rest is well-known. Twenty-five million singles and albums sold. (Even their atypical debut LP, Offering, is headed for the million-dollar mark.) Three Grammy awards, phenomenal concert attendance in all countries, with concerts bringing them up to $30,000 a night. The Carpenters refrained from issuing figures telling their monetary worth, but they do state they are both millionaires. Their investments include two shopping centers in Downey and two apartment complexes, one named "Just Begun" and the other "Close To You." According to the success ethic, they should be completely untroubled. Life, alas (or fortunately), is not that simple.
The Carpenters have real pressures and problems, hard feelings and confusions which few would associate with the image of the group. Richard and Karen themselves are far from fully acknowledging these feelings. They suffer under strains which even they only dimly comprehend.
The Carpenters seem to be going through what they would like to be a transition period. They have an idea of what they are unhappy with but apparently no clear picture of what would make them more content. They would like to change the image people have of them. They would like to change their way of life. It is just that they are not at all certain what they would like to become. They are reluctant to give up the sheltered existence they have known, and change is such a foreign concept to them they can only approach it with great caution.
Well into their 20s, they still live with their parents in the suburb where they grew up. They are about to move from Downey at last – not into two separate homes, however, but into one home for the two of them.
There is evidence the Carpenters' special circumstances have made it especially difficult for them to break old habits. Their parents have remained parents. When told that Richard and Karen would be driving back to Los Angeles immediately after the final evening performance of a recent Las Vegas engagement, their mother warned, "I wish they wouldn't do that. They are just too tired after a show."
The Carpenters are protected from outside stresses not just by their parents but by a retinue of publicity and management people who carefully screen anyone wishing to make the acquaintance of Richard and Karen. One of the things Richard and Karen are particularly sensitive about at the moment is their home in Downey. It was decorated in their parents' taste, which embraces a Japanese garden, artificial waterfalls, and Astroturf and was probably always meant to be a present to the elder Carpenters.
Although unsure of where they are going and how to get there, they are on firmer ground discussing grievances incurred in getting where they are.
During dinner at Au Petit Cafe, a Hollywood restaurant the Carpenters frequent, Richard and Karen made forays into personal territory. Or rather, Richard expounded while Karen demurred to his lead. Richard had many things he very much wanted to discuss. It seemed he had had few opportunities to explain himself on these points, and what he wanted most was to be understood.
He was openly angry about the Carpenters' image, about the wholesome halo made to hover over the two of them from the very first. The problem, he thought, began and was perpetuated by the publicity pictures and album covers prepared by their record company.
"The pictures, the album covers, the eight-by-ten glossies." He sighed in disgust. "There had been no brother-sister act since Fred and Adele Astaire. They just hadn't known what to do in a photography session. You can't be embracing. And yet . . . they wanted that.
"We didn't say anything when we were getting started except 'yes sir.' So they said: 'OK, sit on the floor back-to-back and smile. Put your arm on his shoulder and smile. Richard, put your arm around her waist and smile.' Every stock Steve and Eydie pose you could imagine.
"In Europe, just last month, it was the same thing. Press conferences with 80 photographers, all saying. Smile! Cheer up! Come on, smile smile smile! I'm sick of smiling. But they're all upset if you don't. So we oblige them, and we get it back in the press. 'The sticky-sweet Carpenters – still smiling those Pepsodent smiles!'.

Con mucho cariño: Ignacio.

1 comentario:

  1. Así los visitantes de Estados Unidos y Gran Bretaña, no se podrán quejar de que no hay entradas publicadas en Inglés.