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.