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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

If I Were a Carpenter

If I were a Carpenter, and you were a lady....... No, wait a minute.....I only was pretending to be a Carpenter. Karen, that is. In spite of the fact that I was painfully, youthfully, enamored with sexy Richard. Who wouldn't be? Seriously. In that skin-tight white suit. And delicious high thick-soled shoes. And the feathered hair. Umm.

The year was 1974. I had done nothing but wear additional grooves into my copy of The Singles 1969-1973 -- Richard and Karen Carpenter's album....certainly you remember, don't you? The brown covered one with the gold lettering? I still have it. And I have the piano music book too....tattered and worn like a bad girl in a cheap Winnemucca whore house. I got a copy of the record (that's what they used to be called, my dear youngsters....) when it came out. And the song book came shortly thereafter. I was in the height of my glory when I had that music in front of me at the piano. I was quick to discover that I did not have Richard's piano skills, nor Karen's drumming skills. But I thought I could give Karen a pretty good run for her money on the vocals. And so, I tried. Regularly. Say, like, every afternoon after school. No one would be home after school for some reason. My parents had a Magnavox console stereo -- which I had to dust on Saturday mornings while armed with a can of Pledge and my mother's dust rag which was always neatly shaken out and folded and resting just-so on top of the Pledge can. I would high-tail it home, lock the doors, and hit it. I'd turn up that record as loud as I could get the (now) cheap and old fashioned stereo speakers to go. I wouldn't only pretend to be Karen Carpenter....I would actually BE Karen Carpenter. The vocal runs up and down the scales -- she and I would race through the likes of We've Only Just Begun, Rainy Days and Mondays, and (of course) Top of the World. There was just no limit to what I could accomplish when I combined my innate vocal skills with the Magnavox and The Carpenter's album. Oh, and the kitchen spoon too. I had to have a giant kitchen spoon as my microphone. I sang into that bad boy like nobody's business.

So, 1974 rolls around and two girls in my church invited me to go with them to see The Carpenters at the (then) Boise State College Gymnasium. I swear, I was beside myself with giddiness. Until the afternoon of the scheduled concert when they cancelled "because Karen was sick." I could say that I cried. But that wouldn't be appropriate. I bawled. And bawled. I was 12 years old, mind you. In Idaho. By all rights, I should have been helping someone plow the fields, castrate the cattle, or picking potatoes in the field. But, no, I was bawling because The Carpenters cancelled their concert. The good news is that the concert was reschedule a few weeks later and I did go. Ahh. Delight. Karen in a long, flowing pale yellow dress....ankle length, wrist-length sleeves. She glided back and forth while Richard sat at the piano in the aforementioned white Angel's Flight sort of suit. I still remember it fondly. Gayly.

I'd like to tell you that my love affair with The Carpenter's went by the wayside. Alas, it continues its strange little perverse grip on me. I think it's because that was such a formative period of time for me and that I was in such a position of discovery then. We have yanked that piano book out of its storage in the piano bench more than once in our nearly 12 years together. Combine that with a bottle or two of Chardonnay and you've got a perfect recipe for a night of fun and frolic. I remember one such evening with several friends, even, when we sang the entire album. Shh, don't tell anyone, please. They may get the wrong impression of me....as if the impression they already have isn't bad enough. I mean, hey, I just wanted to be a Carpenter.

20 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

rainy days and mondays ALWAYS get me down!

Princessa lil mexico said...

Have you seen Superstar:The Karen Capenter Story. You might like it

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=622130510713940545#

Christopher said...

You're forcing me to go to Itunes to make a Carpenter's purchase!

ps: LOVE the new pic!

Jim said...

If you're a purist you won't like this... but I really like the album talked about in the movie Juno called: If I Were A Carpenter. Several songs redone by rock style bands. I love it!

Ur-spo said...

they were fun were they not?
Alas, I can't listen to her without becoming sad, how she ended up.

Java said...

She could sing those songs with such passion! At least that's how it seemed to me at that age. I was in awe of Richard for his piano virtuosity and his handsome sexiness.

tomaspdx said...

OH...I just knew that one day this would all be out in the open.....!

:)

wcs said...

Now that you've set the trend, I'm coming out, too. I was (and am) a huge Carpenter fan. That voice gets me every time.

You know I've had a tad too much wine when I put the Carpenters on the cd player. I don't have the records any more, and I don't have all the cds. But I have enough. :)

Lemuel said...

O Lewis, I'll admit to being a big Carpenter's fan, too! Still am! Furthermore, I did not know you lived with us. Records, sons required to dust with pledge, Magnavox stereo (console?) in the living room - only I was doing that in the 60's sans Carpenters. My own "Carpenter concerts" were given to the sounds of a cheap Columbia component system in my dorm rooms.
I loved their music, and now you've made me recall one of my favs: "We'll Be Back" (correct title?) *giggle*

Wayne said...

'We've only just begun' was our class song.
There was a lot of good music back then.

Birdie said...

I've got "Greatest Hits." That velvet voice.

I sing along to all my songs in the car. I can't hit all the high notes like I used to, but Carpenters comes easy.

tornwordo said...

You and Serge will have to sing together, they have the same effect on him.

Thimphu David said...

I too was in the BSU gym that night-- I was the OTHER giddy 12 year old gay boy, feeling very very lucky indeed. Seem to remember opening act was Skiles & Henderson?? After the show, some friends saw Karen & Richard eating at the Big Boy on Cap Blvd.

A Lewis said...

Thimphu David: Email me.....you from Boise? Do we know each other? I'm at alewispdx@gmail.com

Mark in DE said...

I remember the Carpenters from back in the day, too (being just slightly younger than you) but I remember it wasn't cool to like them. It was only years later when I didn't care what other people thought was cool that I came out of the closet about my Carpenters love. And when I learned that my Spouse-to-be loved the Carpenters? I knew it was a match made in pale yellow polyester heaven.

Rick said...

Oh how I do love The Carpenter's. So nostalgic. However, I prefer Bette Midler's version of "Superstar" of her Divine Miss M (1972) album...beautiful and haunting.

Geoff said...

Wonderful post! I remember when she died....I was working at my first job (Safeway) and was stocking the shelves. The assistant manager had changed the muzak to a radio station and it came as a news bulletin. I was so sad. (And I was an "Idaho boy" too)

annie said...

brother, i remember that book and album very well. (ummmmm, is THAT why i couldn't get in when i came home from school)? i think she still has that spoon. AND! hey everybody, my brother has an amazing voice. i recall fondly in more recent years, driving to the ocean with tomas, singing all the songs we could think of. and again, with tomas, singing around the piano on another trip to your house.

but the olden days? ahhh, "we've only just begun". how do you think i know all the words? it's cuz of you, dear handsome brother.

p.s......mom still keeps the dust rag neatly folded on top of the can of pledge! I LOVE YOU!

Wendy said...

I SOOOOO loved the Carpenters growing up! Karen Carpenter was the only Alto in a world of Sopranos. And I was definitely an Alto! I wanted to "be" her... as far as beautiful music...

HUGS!!!

PS- did you get the new "key" to the bridge?

CJ/Rick said...

A local station has been playing Carpenters Christmas music no stop it seems. Why does it depress me so???? I think it reminds me of choral group in junior high--so many Carpenters and Ann Murray songs.