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Tony Peluso

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Let me get the first thing out of the way: I don’t get the Carpenters. When I think of songs like “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “Sing,” “Close to You,” “Top of the World,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” … well, thinking of them makes me wanna puke, but that’s better than actually listening to them. What a pile of insipid tripe! I have friends, smart friends with good taste in music … you know who you are, you’re nodding your heads in disapproval as you read this … who seem to have a fondness for the crap that was the Carpenters, a fondness apparently lacking in irony. I don’t share that fondness; like I say, I don’t get the Carpenters. Explain to me the excellence of this:

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad

Now, one thing about Karen Carpenter, she played the drums while she sang, and that ain’t as easy as it sounds.

Of course, it was Hal Blaine playing on the records… you probably don’t know his name, but you know his drums, if you’ve ever heard a Phil Spector production, or a Carpenters record for that matter. Or the Beach Boys (Hal sat in for Dennis Wilson just like he did for Karen Carpenter). Or “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis. Or Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. When you hear “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes: that’s Hal Blaine. I’ll make it easy on you: go to Hal’s website with your soundcard on and listen to the virtual jukebox, and you’ll hear Hal Blaine, and you’ll recognize every song, and maybe you’ll remember his name in the future.

But the thing here is, that’s Hal on the drums for those Carpenters records, not Karen.

The Carpenters made a bunch of crap records, Richard took too many meds, Karen didn’t eat, end of story. But one time in all those years, they actually made a good record. The lyric was surprisingly different from the “sing good stuff not bad” pablum the group usually offered. The sound was different enough to inspire hate mail from their fan base, which should be proof enough that this was a better song than their other garbage.

It’s to Richard and Karen’s credit that they knew a good thing when they (finally) heard it… Richard liked this guitar player named Tony Peluso, he asked Tony to play a solo on a Carpenters’ song, the rest is history. Tony joined the touring band, played with the Carpenters for many years, went on to a career producing music from bands like Cafe Tacuba… and left the world a present, “Goodbye to Love”.

Context is everything. Listen to early Elvis today, or “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard, and you can still hear the excellence and wonder, but our context is different, we don’t really hear the revolution anymore. Little Richard makes sense to us now, so his Tutti Frutti tidal wave is decontextualized. But when it came out, in the context of the pop music of the day, well, that was something. Punk rock emerged from the boredom of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Rap music startled an audience tired of the same old same old.

Well, imagine a world where the Carpenters not only existed, but were immensely popular. A world where “sing, sing a song” actually mattered to people. And then imagine having “Goodbye to Love” dropped into the middle of that world. The lyrics were bad enough:

Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend
From this day love is forgotten
I’ll go on as best I can

But then Tony Peluso steps in, with a short solo in mid-song and then a longer blast to close out the record. And if it wasn’t for those two solos, I wouldn’t even know who Tony Peluso was, but off he goes, with Hal Blaine pounding beneath him… and the only crime is that there wasn’t a place for Tony on that Rolling Stone list of the 100 best guitarists of all time.

And I don’t care if the above pisses off you Carpenter fans, or if I sound like a snob, but fuckin’ A as they used to say, that solo at the end of “Goodbye to Love” is an inspiration, it suggests that anything is possible, it’s the most truly uplifting thing that ever appeared on a Carpenters record, it’s the artistic truth in opposition to the sap that was the Carpenters.

I think I better play the song one more time…

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About Steven Rubio

  • Eric Olsen

    I am a moderate Carpenters fan. The gist of it is Karen had a beautiful, warm, rich alto voice with an undercurrent of genuine sadness that comes through on all their best songs. The arrangements by Richard were interesting and sometimes inspired, and they had great taste for the kind of pop-rock they did.

    For me they were either all on or all off – the great songs are:
    “Close to You”
    “For All We Know”
    “We’ve Only Just Begun”
    “Superstar”
    “Rainy Days and Mondays”
    “Goodbye to Love”

    There are quite a few others I like somewhat less.

    If you hate anything like this, you won’t like them. But if you want to know how good a lot of the songs are as songs, check out the If I Were a Carpenter tribute collection with a bunch of mdern rockers doing their songs – it’s a revelation.

    If you like sophisticated pop, like say, Burt Bacharach, you can’t ignore the Carpenters.

  • http://www.zudfunck.com ZuDfunck

    The Carpenters were Pop Music! one of the greatest genre’s there is in modern Music. Don’t forget the producer, I forget his name, but he was one of the Best of his time in addition to the musicians he hired to pull it off.

  • Joe

    Steven you have no musical taste what so ever, you wouldn’t know something good if it hit you upside the head. “Goodbye to love” was good but nowhere near the best of their work, all the critics scathing remarks through the years has failed, 100 million plus recordings sold, the Carpenters concert tours had phenomenal attendance, sell out after sell out, there’s a damn good reason too they were great.’You may not get it’ but a hell of a lot of people do. The Carpenters legacy will long out last the shrill and idiotic yapping of another nobody critic like you.

  • John

    Steven: On your carpenter comments.

    I realy wouldn’t be so harsh. Hey I grew up loving Jazz, classical, pop and rock. Musical tastes are so subjective.

    At the time the Carpenters were big I was an avid Who fan. Used to see them all the time, follow them around and even spent some time with Roger. As a bassist I loved John Entwistle too. But there was somethong about the Carpenters that I liked. It may have been those over-dubbed harmonies, those great Wrecking Crew studio cats playing on their records and of course good, solid pop melodies.

    Karen actually was a very good drummer and I have seen cuts of her playing live jazz with Richard and they were super ! Of course though, Hal is amazing. The first time I heard his opening to Drag City I was in awe of him.

    I do agree with you on Tony Peluso’s solo. It is great! The distortion and the solo itself are among my favorites in all my years of listening to music.

    Just lighten up a little. The Carpenters made pretty good pop music at their best. And compared to that horrible Hip-Hop, Rap-crap and whiny American Idol stuff that is around today it sounds like Mozart.

    At least it was good melodies, harmonies and REAL musicians playing on the records. Something that has been lost to a great extent in today’s music.

    John

  • allan

    Ignorance can be a hinderance especially when it comes to music. I am watching the Carpenters documentary on PBS and if one takes the time to find out, the Carpenters may not have been mainstream rock artists but played great songs none the less.

    Look at who wrote their songs. Burt Bachrach, Paul Williams and others. If you listen beyond the pop sound, the songs were great, her vocals were great and the arrangements are great. The one guy likes the great guitar solo because that is what makes great music for him. There are other criteria.

  • Eric Olsen

    If you don’t like adult-pop, you won’t like the Carpenters, but they were great at what they did and the best songs hold up very well.

  • random idiot

    Philistine! get beyond your myopic worldview and see the carpenters for what they are..truly wonderful musicians using other truly wonderful musicians to interpret truly wonderful songs. no one is golden on every track on every album but if these siblings could get my butt to sit in my sister’s car listening to 8 tracks of the carpenters over and over, there is something there. my sister’s other records that i liked? Made in Japan and We’re An American Band…nothing subtle about deep purple or grand funk..ergo, there must be something to the carpenters…like quality. sheesh….subjective indeed. like a ten year old kid has any clue about anything other than “it sounds good to me”. Ha…pundits, give me a break. The Who were always the red headed stepchild of rock and roll coming in third to the beatles and Stones…but neither of those deserved legends could rock like THAT KIND OF THUNDER in live performance. anyway, ’nuff said.

  • Neil Hooper

    Steven: you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head.
    There’s no question that Karen’s voice was exceptional, but like e.g. Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, the choice of songs and the slick production resulted in a particularly bland end product. It’s background music for a supermarket.
    Any comparison with Burt Bacharach is an injustice to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. The Carpenters version of “Close to you” is dire (although to be fair, it’s probably not Burt and Hal’s best work).
    “Goodbye to love” is a classic. A couple of short verses (the sad tone to Karen’s voice matching the lyrics), a brilliant mini guitar solo between verses and then the crowning glory of the final extended guitar solo.
    I agree that Tony Peluso’s guitar work is astonishing and is backed perfectly by the soaring backing vocals. Why the hell didn’t he go onto bigger things?

  • corrina

    Eric you are talking so much crap, you are just so ignorant. Have you ever took the time to research your assumptions about the Carpenters? I don’t know where you got the idea that Karen and Richard ever stated that Karen played the drums at recordings?? Karen did play the drums on certain songs at their live gigs and for tv, it was something she was good at, and at the beginning she played them all the time until they decided she would be beter singing out front. So they hired a drummer to fill in when Karen wasn’t doing it, such as recording sessions. They never tried
    to pull the wool over anyones eyes by claiming Karen played the drums, it was only on certain occasions.
    Richard is a truly great arranger and came up with some masterpeices. They might not be everyones taste, but no one can deny they had something special. So what that Richard took “too many meds” and Karen “didn’t eat” whats that got to do with their music ability?
    Get off your high horse Eric , you dont know what your on about.

  • Eric Olsen

    I didn’t write this post

  • corrina

    Eric my sincere apologies, got the names muddled up, my above rant was aimed at the original comment by Steven Rubio. So sorry!!
    Steven, you’re talkin out the back of your arse.
    Thank you

  • http://www.carponline.bravepages.com Rick Henry

    Well Steve you are entitled to your opinion. But in the reality of music theory and vocal interpretation, the Carpenters were one of the finest and most accomplished groups in the history of music. http://www.carponline.bravepages.com

    Let me start first about Karen playing drums. She played all the drums on the 1969 album “Ticket To Ride” and the 1973 album “Now & Then”. She also played on several tracks on the following Carpenters albums “Close To You” (1970), “Carpenters” (1971), “A Song For You (1972) and “Horizon” (1975) – so it wasn’t all Hal Blaine.

    Professionals who understand vocal tachnique have claimed that Karen Carpenter is one of best vocalists in the history of music. claiming her tones are rich, pure and full bodied. Karen focused on complex jazz patterns in her drumwork and she was a master at the drums.

    As for the musical arrangements. the music was all performed to perfection. Tony Peluso was a master guitarist who effortlessly played smooth guitar chords with soul and inspiration. songs like “Superstar”, “Close To You”, “Only Yesterday” and “Goodbye To Love” have been revered by musicians and fans alike for the clean and fine tuned arrangements.

    as for lyrics go. Carpenters lyrics were just fine. so who cares if they didn’t make any political statements with their music. the songs were well crafted and cleverly written pop tunes. As for “Sing”, if you really look at it the message is quite powerful. It’s a song about innocense, about self confidence, and about the universal language of love.

    Sing, sing a song
    Sing out loud
    Sing out strong
    Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to sing
    Just sing, sing a song.

    Excellent lyrics – strong message.

    I’ll tell you I’d rather be singing of good things, not bad.

    All in all the Carpenters are one of the finest ever in popular music and that’s the reason why they still to this day (2004) still manage to seel something like three million units a year every year.

  • http://www.carponline.bravepages.com Rick Henry

    One more comment Neil said he understand why Tony Peluso didn’t move onto to bigger and better things. Would you move on from a multi-million selling group? I wouldn’t. I mean how much bigger and better can you get than a group which has sold over 120 million units worldwide to date? And acheived mass critical acclaim. The Carpenters are loved in every corner of the world. Obviously they really struck a chord in many many people and their legacy continues to grow every year.

  • http://www.wjdi.net Dave Schneuder

    That solo by Tony Peluso has to be in the top 10 of all time….It was the first time a fuzz solo came off like that….Never heard one again….I played that solo so many times….Its in a class by itself

  • http://www.yahoo.com Mike

    I have to whole heartily disagree with you. I used to think the Carpenters were simply a pop joke. But this was before I really started listening to then. Having spent years listening to greats like U2, Floyd,.. i wanted to try something new. i started listening to the Carpenters and I was amazed to realize how great their music really is. Karen has one of the best singing voices of all time. Bono and other great front men would love to have voices as great as hers. On a purely musical basis the Carpenters are one of the top groups.

  • http://www.skierpage.com/blog/2006/03/music-carpenters-and-no-apologies.html skierpage

    The producer of many of their albums was Bones Howe, it’s really strong production with cleanly highlighted instruments and drums like a white (very white!) Motown. There’s no point arguing taste, but what’s amazing to me is how their very first album, “Ticket to Ride” is so fully realized.

    Tony Peluso is in the “Close to You: Remembering the Carpenters” documentary that was just reshown on PBS, recounting how Richard Carpenter was telling him “No, no, no, just burn!” when he first played it Carpenters-style. He humbly acknowledges his contribution/invention of the power ballad with that shocking solo, though he says it was Richard’s idea.

    There’s a great quote from songwriter Paul Williams in the same documentary. He says “Somebody was talking about the sounds being vanilla … but what an exquisite flavor vanilla is”. So many of the songs are deeply sad despite the saccharine production, sort of like Peanuts cartoons at the time.

  • Jimi Lee

    For guitar sounds I normally listen to the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Buchanon, etc. However I just sat thru a boring meeting at work and found myself humming to the solo of “Goodbye to Love”. Wow, what a beautiful smooth solo. It was a great move by the Carpenters to get that Peluso into the band.

    To be honest I would not want to have been caught dead with a Carpenters album as a teenager in the 70’s. But I did secretly borrowed my friend’s and listened to their songs, esp the ones with good guitar sounds. Karen had a beautifully haunting voice, and to me she kicks Celine Dion’s ass.

    You know, I long for the 70’s again, because I believe that the greatest rock songs were from the 60’s and the 70’s and the Carpenters will always have a special spot during that era.

    Think I will listening to that solo again. BTW does anyone know where I get the tabs to the solo?

  • http://www.supanet.com Graham Vine

    Shame you don’t like the Carpenters. They were always consummate professionals – unlike the Rolling Stones whose songs are, largely, inaudible. Still you don’t have to like the Carpenters any more than you have to like the current purveyors of sheer misery to the masses, the group called, most appropriately I think, Coldplay.

    They’re enough to make anyone contemplate suicide.

    Not so “Good-bye to Love” far and away the Carpenters’ best track and lifted into the sublime by the greatest guitar solo of all time from Tony Peluso.

    He may not be as well-regarded as other great guitarists of the electric and elctro-acoustic instrument but this one track lifts him well above any of them for sheer, gut-wrenching, power.

    I’m 72 and a some-time toiler in the performance of music but I can think of no other track that moves me now just as powerfully as it did when it first hit me all those years ago.

  • fromcostarica

    i agree with most people, carpenters are still well known in every corner of the world including China, did you know that yesterday once more is the most popular not chinese song ever??
    I love goodbye to love and must add, the song was written by none other than richard carpenter himself, tony peluso wrote 2 songs for the carpenters both very upbeat
    happy (horizon, 1975) and sailing on the tide (voice of the heart, 1983)

  • http://snap-dragon.com Nick B

    Steve
    You are largely correct, that guitar solo is the best thing ‘they’ ever did, but the voice as thing of beauty and the orchestrations take some beating. The lyrics are poor.
    Cheers
    Nick

  • Mark

    I was surpised that to find that Tony Peluso wasn’t really Gary Quackenbush, I agree that the guitar work is great but the style has been borrowed so give credit where credit is due, check out SRC, SRC (first album).

  • Glenny Vee

    The solo is ace……he also played a blinding improv around the recorded version on the “Live at The London Palladium” with some very dated phaser on it. Sublime…

  • http://paulwilliamsconnection.org Sarah

    The Carpenters put some of Paul Williams’music on the top of the charts. Karen had an incredible voice.

    Sarah

  • John Taite

    Steve, you don’t have to like their music to appreciate their artistry if you’re a true music fan. And the Carpenters were superb musical artists. You can’t deny this. But then you may be the type that can’t appreciate Mozart or a Pucinni opera just because there aren’t any rock guitar solo in them.

    PS. The fuzz guitar solo was Richard’s idea by the way.

  • Roger Glover

    To write off the whole of the Carpenters’ catalogue on the basis of the one song, “Sing” ,is pretty moronic. This is a child’s song, from Sesame Street. It’s well sung and well played, but it’s a child’s song. You’re making the same mistake others did in 1970, i.e you’re simply projecting your own bigotry and prejudice about the Carpenters’ middle-class background. The music per se can’t be faulted.

  • Ritchie Blackmore

    Steve, You’re talking bollocks. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world disagree with you.

  • Jon Lord

    You have to “listen without prejudice”, Steve. Lie down in a dark room and play Carpenters Gold, whilst trying to forget the image you have of the Carpenters. Listen to whole songs at a time without interruption. If you just focus on the songs themselves and forget the album covers, you’ll realise just how brilliant the Carpenters are.

  • Ian Paice

    OK, so Hal Blaine played on some of the records. No shit. He also played live for the ballads when Karen sang out front.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    It’s nice to see 4/5ths of the entire membership of Deep Purple turning up in support of The Carpenters and Tony Peluso, although the odds of the four of you all being at the same computer at the same time must be astronomical! And what’s the matter; aren’t you guys talking to Ian Gillan any more?

  • http://braindump.chuckbrown.com Chuck Brown

    I was young when I first discovered the Carpenters (probably 13), and was a huge fan of a lot of pop music at the time. I loved Karen’s voice, and devoured their first 2-3 albums. Eventually, I moved on to different styles, of course. But they simply WERE the sound of adult contemporary music in the early Seventies. I think you’re not only being way too harsh, but also ignoring a huge factor here: The Carpenters were single-handedly (well, I guess they had 4 hands between them…) responsible for exposing some really great songs to the world. Some excellent Burt Bacharach stuff, a couple really fine Leon Russell compositions and more. Leon Russell may have been much “hipper” by your definition, but there’s no way he reached nearly as many people with his renditions of Superstar and This Masquerade…both of which were hellaciously well-written songs, whether or not you liked The Carpenters versions. Paul Williams was also a heck of a writer (Old Fashioned Love Song and Out in the Country for Three Dog Night, plus Rainbow Connection), and they had big hits with 3 of his best pieces. By the way, Sing (which you make such a point of loathing), was written by Joe Raposo for SESAME STREET. It’s a children’s song. You may notice the CHILDREN singing thru much of it. It still happens to be a well-crafted pop piece, but maybe you just should admit that you’re not the target demographic there and move on, eh? ;-)

  • rob

    The Carpenters is the wrong title.Carpenters would be correct and they were really good at what they did.You never heard karen miss a note.

  • bill walker

    who cares that they made pop music gosh music is for us the people if we like it bugger the critics

  • David F

    Only a complete idiot or a(n) (un)musical bigot would write this about the Carpenters. They were one of the best acts in the history of pop and rock music. Karens singing was simply amazing and the musical arrangements were brilliant. They are up there with the likes of the Beach Boys, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa etc. You need to acquire a brain and a knowledge of music old chap.

  • Roger Rheingold

    It is a pity that sites like this give such a poor service to popular music legacy , Your are of course entitled to an opinion. But to see the way that you dedicate a good part of this blog to descredit one of America’s top acts of the 70’s and in my opinion one of the most interesting voices pop music has delivered in all of these years, is , to say the least…disturbing. Mr. Carpenter’s arrangements were crafted. Maybe one of the most outstanding arrangers of popular music. Do you perform or arrange , sir? If you do , chances are that in your search for knowledge of this difficult craft , you have studied one or more of Richard’s arrangements. So…please sir… in the future… you maybe could be more considerate when making a blog about the facts and not issues of your personal dislikes and issues.

  • John Gebhart

    It breaks my heart to report that my beloved friend Tony Peluso succumbed to a heart attack on June 5, 2010. He was a remarkable talent and will be sorely missed.

  • Margaret Osborne

    Tony is a great loss, both professionally, and personally, to all of us who knew him and loved him. He had a big, warm heart and told a joke better than anybody on the planet. Tony, you will be terribly missed…

  • George

    I did enjoy the music of the Carpenters, starting with Close to You when I was age 18. I am a pianist and singer, and I identify with what Karen and Richard put together. I think their best efforts were some of the jazzy items on their early records – and in fact it was from the album “Horizon” that they became excessively commercial for my tastes. Still we saw some brilliance – what about Tony Peluso written “Happy” for a great example.

  • steve from manila

    im a metallica fan , yet cannot deny the music of the carpenters as one of the best in history.

  • Paul Cantillon

    Goodbye to Love was the first record that made me want to play the guitar – at seven years old. I’m now 45 and a guitar tutor and am embarrassed to say I never knew who Tony Peluso he was till he died.

    The chord structures in many a carpenter song and in fact many an easy listening song are about as advanced as you get in music.

    As you can imagine, I have a hard time telling my students that when they think 30stm are the be all and end all of musicianship (though I admit the frontman does have nice hair and looks good in make up)….. ;)

  • mariana

    You dont have to like, just respect their sucessful carrer

  • David Dunkin

    Today I returned from a cross country road trip during which I listened to Goodbye to Love and was blown away once again with Tony’s musicianship and artistry. As a Guitarist and Guitar teacher I am very picky about which Guitarists I compliment. Tony deserves this compliment and I miss his presence in the industry.

  • Mark C

    To the original writer of this blog: right on. Seriously, I grew up at a time when you couldn’t turn on the radio for fear of hearing a Carptenters tune. Sugar overload before modern fat people made it commonplace. Thank God for Tony Peluso and may he rest in peace (along with Karen who had a terrific voice despite the material she had to sing). Peluso did indeed leave a gift to the world.

  • ryan

    i am a fan of a three brothers once gave us wonderful songs, and at the same time a fan of karen carpenter, the only female i like to add in my roster of collection and goodbye to love is just one of my favorite of their hits songs…