Well, they weren’t actually known as The Carpenters just yet — in this early incarnation, from 1968, they were still going by the Dick Carpenter Trio. But it’s basically the same thing, minus this random bass player guy. Either way, I love this clip, as it’s an excellent showcase for what brother and sister Carpenter brought to the table.
Despite their immense talents, this duo was always considered the epitome of AM radio lite rock, i.e. about as “lame” as it gets. But the funny thing about some of these mellow pop acts from the 60s and 70s is that if you dig a little deeper, they are often much more edgy and demented than their rock n’ roll peers ever thought about being. I kind of mentally lump these two into the same category as the Beach Boys in that respect, coincidentally (or maybe not) another family-based pop act with at least one parent attempting to call the shots. They were battling their demons, too, after all, as Richard wound up getting pretty messed up on Quaaludes, and Karen of course struggled with anorexia for much of her life.
Whatever the case, I certainly think a cut like this cooks a lot more than “rock” bands like BTO or Foreigner ever did. Karen I believe preferred drumming to singing, in fact, and it was only pressure from others which moved her away from the kit. Session drummer Hal Blaine, who played on many of their eventual hits, has said that she was too loud for their soft rock jams, and they couldn’t seem to get her to tone it down a notch in the studio. Meanwhile, out on the road, once they blew up, the record company demanded that she come out in front to sing for most if not all of the show. They didn’t want her buried back there behind the drums all night.
The cover of their fifth album, Now And Then, depicts Richard & Karen sitting in a car, with a house that they bought for their parents directly behind them. This has become something of a tourist attraction in their hometown of Downey, CA, probably because it is also the house that Karen died in, on February 4, 1983. If one positive came from her passing, it’s that this certainly put a face to what had previously been somewhat of an obscure or at least undiscussed disease, and public awareness of anorexia increased dramatically. And we will always have their music. Sure, they released their fair share of sappy ballads. But they were also often much more weird, original, talented and yes rocking than they are given credit for.