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Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 9:17 am
by garth cartwright
I was wondering if I should read the Carole King autobiog'. This morning Bob Lefsetz newsletter suggests not:

"I spent half of the flight finishing Carole King's autobiography.

It's trash.

She doesn't tell you what you want to know and the only dirt she slings is against local Idahoans. Funny world we live in, where everybody knows the truth, but to get ahead they believe they can't speak it. Really Carole, you worked that long in the music business and everybody was a prince? I'd say I want my money back, but what I really want is my time.

There's very little about the "Loco-Motion", you'd think she never wrote those Goffin-King hits, and the only redeeming factor is when she talks about her four husbands and living in the wilderness. At least we get some insight into the human condition, which her songs delineate so well but she could not articulate in this book. Which she wrote herself, which is one of the problems. Why does everybody think they can do everything? Especially when on most of her hits she wrote the music, not the lyrics."

So perhaps not. I know Andy has purchased a copy and imagine Adam too but no one posts book reviews here these days. Perhaps a better investment is Something Good: From The Goffin & King Songbook,the second volume on Ace - they have been doing a great series of Brill Building songwriters and this volume offers up lots of Goffin-King tunes I did not know.

To coincide with the autobiog there is The Legendary Demos, a 13 track compilation that gathers recordings of Carole testing out songs that went on to be huge hits. It's an odd compilation, jumping as it does between early-60s and Tapestry, no chronological flow. And for hardcore fans far too slim - why only 13 short songs? Why not a double CD with 50? Cos, as Lefsetz would surely observe, the artist and record label think they can make more money thru ripping off fans like this.

Just as some people have never seen Star Wars I've never heard Tapestry. Oh, sure, I recall songs being played on Kiwi radio when a kid but I've never sat down and listened to a copy. As you know early-70s LA singer songwriters are not my thing. And listening to the tunes gathered here I won't be in any rush to hear it. Always hated You've Got A Friend and still do. Makes my Lester Bangs loving genes boil!

Interesting that Carole wrote (or co-wrote) so many fabulous songs in the 60s and effectively tapped into the Me Generation with Tapestry then faded from view. I guess she was very young and very much in love with Jerry Goffin when she wrote her best songs. By the 70s she was wealthy and into multiple marriages. Jaded. Anyway, get the Ace comp's as they are fabulously mastered and come with great sleeve notes. Ignore the Legendary Demos - Adam, you can have my copy - and should I read the Autobiog'?

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 9:45 am
by NormanD
garth cartwright wrote:...should I read the Autobiog'?
Like me, maybe you'll wait for a library copy (assuming our local libraries are still buying books by then).

The charm and thrill of the Legendary Demos might just be the act of hearing Carole King playing and singing solo,as a writer with something to sell rather than a star in the making. I suspect they've been cleaned up, and maybe even over-recorded. I do know - as does Adam - that she, or rather her legal teams, spend time outbidding offers for the occasional acetates that come up on eBay, or threatening those who circulate copies. I'm an avid collector of early CK demos, so offers to the usual place, please.

I also suspect that the particular tone of her autobiography / memoir reflects the level, and kind, of therapy she may have had over the years. It may have helped her, but takes the interest off for us.

CK legal eagles please note: I said 'may'

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 9:48 am
by john poole
I had a quick glance through the book (and the index) in Waterstones - not really aimed at the likes of me I suspect. I'll borrow a copy from the library if available - if not I'll wait until it inevitably becomes available cheaply in due course.

The Legendary Demos collection is just about worth getting for true fans I think, although five songs from Tapestry represents four too many for me (It's Too Late would have sufficed). A nice, although very short, clip of Carole preparing Merry Clayton for a 1972 version of Oh No Not My Baby has been posted to YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhYGbWnpjh4

The Ace Goffin/King CDs (there are three in the series) are of course all highly recommended

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 10:59 am
by AndyM
I've been dipping into the autobiog (I can never read non-fiction books sequentially when I first get them - an odd quirk - I dive into the bits I most want to read first and only go start-to-finish afterwards) and it is a little disappointing. It can't help but be interesting, given the magnitude of her talent and the contexts she's worked in, but there's an odd lack of passion and not much humour.

A couple of years ago I read Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us (think I said something about it on here) which, perhaps weirdly, traces the triple biographies of Carole, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. That was a much more involving read, to be honest.

And Garth, I'm not surprised you don't like 'Tapestry' - I would have been shocked to the core if you had! A bit domestic for you.

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 11:24 am
by Adam Blake
garth cartwright wrote: Adam, you can have my copy - and should I read the Autobiog'?


Thank you, Garth. That's very kind of you. Last time I posted a book review here I think I got into a huge fight with you. I'm glad you're not the grudge holding type. I find it to be harder and harder myself these days.

Carole.... (sigh)

She's probably my all-time favourite songwriter but the huge elephant in the room is the indisputable fact that after "Tapestry" her work became increasingly dull. Not long ago I picked up an 80s album of hers for peanuts in a charity shop. Got it home, played it, had to take it off. It really was quite unlistenable. It may be that her genius lay in providing the stage upon which others might shine. Also, much overlooked by Carole fans is that she rarely if ever wrote the lyrics to "her" classic songs. Gerry Goffin was as essential to her as Hal David was to Burt Bacharach. For what it's worth, I think that "No Easy Way Down" is the best song ever written about the 60s - but its lyrics are every bit as important as its majestic music.

Carole made her lasting mark a very long time ago. She achieved material and artistic success on a scale which is almost impossible to countenance nowadays. She is a very private person and she will never, ever dish the dirt. I think that's taken as a given. I will glance over the book (Andy, I read those books exactly the same way! I don't think I've EVER read a biography from start to finish without dipping) but don't expect much.

By the way, the bridge to "You Got A Friend" is utterly sublime. The fall to the chord of the flat VII on the word "ain't" in the line: "now ain't it good to know..." is pop songwriting at its absolute peak. I could go on.... ...but perhaps I better not.

(A vast swathe of demos and early CK work is available on a marvellous bootleg here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brill-Building- ... 598&sr=1-1

I know we're not supposed to like bootlegs but in this case I think CK deserves to be bootlegged thoroughly and with love and great attention to detail.)

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 11:31 am
by AndyM
She obviously inspired all her lyricists. 'Crying in the Rain' (miniature pop perfection) has words by Howard Greenfield, who usually knocked out amiable fluff with Neil Sedaka. And 'It's Too Late' (where do I start?????) is Toni Stern.

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 11:35 am
by AndyM
Oh, and a muso question for our Mr Blake - what happens chord-wise in 'It's Too Late' on "something inside has DIED", because that's when my heart leaves my body and ascends to realms of bittersweet rapture ? And is that a change/device that anybody else has used to such effect ?

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 11:50 am
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:Oh, and a muso question for our Mr Blake - what happens chord-wise in 'It's Too Late' on "something inside has DIED", because that's when my heart leaves my body and ascends to realms of bittersweet rapture ? And is that a change/device that anybody else has used to such effect ?


"It's Too Late" is a complex structure. The song establishes itself in a dorian minor, only to unexpectedly modulate to the key of the flattened sub-mediant (the VI) by use of the chord of the flat II on the word "maybe" in "maybe we've just stopped trying". Having landed there, it reaches out to what has now become the IV chord and falls back again onto the newly established root chord on the bit you're talking about. This is effectively a plagal cadence - an "Amen" - and never fails to jerk the heartstrings. That's why it has been used as an "Amen" in our culture for at least 300 years. To wend its way (by use of the relative minor) back to the unforgiving original dorian minor (on "oh no no no") is so cruel and ruthless - and brilliant.

Well, you did ask! (And, no, I can't call to mind anyone using this trick so effectively. But Burt has certainly used slushier versions of the same thing. Probably Laura too.)

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 12:01 pm
by AndyM
I love it when you talk musicologically dirty!!

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 1:23 pm
by Adam Blake
One thing that I hope isn't too obscure is the idea of the plagal cadence (a IV chord falling to a I chord), being the "A-men", being used to pull heartstrings at least since the time of J.S.Bach, if not before. In Gospel music, a common device is to have two plagal cadences on top of each other - flat VII, IV, I - or, in simple guitar chords: C followed by G followed by D. You get this all the time in songs that are striving for qualities of 'sincerity' and 'authenticity'. Pete Townshend has used it almost exclusively for about 40 years. You see? Musicology can open up a whole new branch of critical cynicism!

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 1:38 pm
by Adam Blake
And by the way, Garth, getting back on topic, this magnificent record is not cosy, domestic, safe, gentle or easy listening in any way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uCGjTWlXzc

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 2:02 pm
by AndyM
My 'joke' wasn't a dismissal, Adam (though it wasn't a bad joke!). I do find that stuff really fascinating, much like formal analysis of poetry or paintings. The lingo is not home territory, but there's that glossary at the back of 'Revolution in the Head' as a starting point. The 'Amen' thing is especially revealing, though for some reason I badly need to know if the 'g' in plagal is hard or soft.

And it's good to know that a song I've worshipped for years has all these formal complexities to go with its emotional ones. Reinforcing each other, in fact, in hitherto unsuspected ways.

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 2:07 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:I badly need to know if the 'g' in plagal is hard or soft.


Hard. And I learned as much musicology off Ian MacDonald as I ever did at school!

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 2:07 pm
by NormanD
Ah, I couldn't hold out any longer. Had to play this. Listen to the way the third line of the chorus changes, and goes into the bridge. Gorgeous. Lots of versions of "So Much Love", especially Dusty's, and I'm partial to Ben E. King's
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etOAW4TzC4U

Re: Carole King

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2012 2:11 pm
by Adam Blake
Swoon....

(I sometimes wonder what Carole would make of her devoted but sternly critical fanclub here on SOTW...)