"A duo with the energy and sexuality of a broken leg." (Rock's In Trouble, Listener, 1973-11-22, reprinted in Olivetti Chronicles, Corgi, p.363.)

The Carpenters were an easy listening / country duo, made up of siblings Richard (1946- ) and Karen (1950-1983) Carpenter. They became phenomenally successful in the 70s with a string of LPs and chart hits [1] which showcased their lush, close harmony compositions. Richard was a skilled arranger and pianist, and Karen began by playing the drums but then moved on to vocals, thereby creating her hallmark sound of low register ballads and slightly uptempo pop. Her death from complications caused by the disease anorexia nervosa ensured that Richard would spend his remaining career reworking and 'rediscovering' Carpenters unreleased material from a seemingly inexhaustible vault.

The Carpenters Goodbye To Love **HQ**

The Carpenters Goodbye To Love **HQ**

Their crowning glory was probably either Goodbye To Love (1972), ostensibly a ballad which changed pace mid-section to feature a tearing, wrenching guitar solo from Tony Peluso that straddled adult contemporary and rock genres in startling fashion; or the overblown but completely memorable Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (1978) which in its original version was an 8-minute long epic based around the idea that aliens were attempting to contact Earth. The latter was covered by Babes In Toyland on the CD If I Were A Carpenter, which featured several bands JP admired and was in fact played by him on occasion.

Unexpectedly, Sonic Youth were great admirers of their work, and Superstar (1994 Festive Fifty #47), from the above mentioned If I Were A Carpenter, was a haunting and respectful cover. Previously, Tunic (Song For Karen) had reached #5 in the 1990 Festive Fifty. It tackled Karen's disease head on: "Now this tunic's spinning - around my arms and knees / I feel like I'm disappearing - getting smaller every day / But when I open my mouth to sing - I'm bigger in every way." Another cover version (which admittedly bore little relation to the original), A Song For You, appeared in the sole Peel session by Paul Johnson.

It has to be said that their music had zero appeal for John, who turned the radio off if one of their songs came on ([1]), and vilified them in print on at least one occasion, when reviewing their version of Slim Whitman's Jambalaya (it reached number 12 in the UK charts in 1974):

"Lots and lots and lots and lots of people think the Carpenters are just as neat as neat can be. I think they're revolting and they sing this righteous old country raver with all the verve and passion of a cadaver in an advanced state of decomposition. They make the soundtrack of Oklahoma! sound positively depraved. Such blistering wholesomeness is not a digestible commodity, Bring me my commode of burning gold." (Margrave Of The Marshes, Corgi, p.363. Reprinted from a singles review in Sounds.)

Unsurprisingly, it does not appear that he ever played any of their material, although the trailer for Only At Christmas (1987) features a snatch of their version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. No audio of this show has yet come to light, so an actual play of the song is unconfirmed. [2]

Festive Fifty Entries

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(The list below was compiled only from the Cover Versions page of this site. Please add more information if known.)

Artist | Track | First Known Play


  1. However, they never reached number one in the UK charts: the closest they came was with Yesterday Once More (1973) and Please Mr. Postman (1975), both of which got to number two.
  2. However, the recently published track listing suggests it wasn't.