YOU’VE GOT AN (OLD) FRIEND

Occasionally I have posted an article originally commissioned by Discrepancy Records here at Vinyl Connection. This is one of those posts, the catalyst being comments on the appearance of Carole King in the recent Album Cover Quiz.

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No matter what the decade, a good song is a good song. And they don’t come much better than the dozen on Carole King’s 1971 album Tapestry. In fact, it is fair to say that Tapestry set the bar for seventies singer-songwriters… and set it very high indeed. This, her second album, was well received and remains enduringly popular—a classic, even—but there is more to Ms King’s life than this worldwide hit. In fact you could probably write a musical about her.

Carole had changed her name from Carol Klein while at high school in the fifties, hoping for a reduction in anti-Semitic attention. While at college, she received a more positive kind of attention from Gerry Goffin, a fellow student, who she married at age seventeen after falling pregnant with her first daughter. Music was there right from her teen years, whether recording demos with Paul Simon or dating Neil Sedaka. But it was writing ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ that changed everything. The Shirelles 1961 recording of this Goffin and King classic shot to Number 1, allowing its composers to give up their day jobs and become full time songwriters.  Their register of hit songs throughout the sixties is huge, including ‘The Locomotion’ (Little Eva), ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ (The Monkees) and ‘(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman’ (Aretha Franklin).

After splitting with Gerry Goffin, King moved to the West Coast of the USA and began to establish her own musical career. Her first LP, Writer, was a modest success, but her second became a phenomenon. Tapestry spent fifteen weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Chart and more than six years in the charts overall. It was a top five album in Australia, Spain, Canada, the UK and Japan and has clocked up sales of over 25 million world wide.

So much for facts and figures. The truly memorable aspect of Tapestry is its songs. As well as the previously mentioned ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ and ‘(You make me feel like) A natural woman’, the LP is one of those special albums that doesn’t have a dud track.  Somehow, King’s songs of human connection (or disconnection) manage to be as intimate as warm breath on your neck while communicating to millions. Personal yet universal; it’s some feat. From the rolling, gently funky ‘I feel the earth move’ through the resigned heartbreak of ‘It’s too late’ to the loving celebration of friendship in ‘You’ve got a friend’, Tapestry has something to thaw the coldest heart. And for those feeling heartless, there’s always ‘Smackwater Jack’.

Carole King changed the game for female singer-songwriters. So it is no surprise that someone did indeed writer a musical about her life. It is called ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ and of course there is an original cast recording.

It’s also worth noting that, in addition to the recent vinyl re-issue of Tapestry (with two bonus tracks), there is also an MFSL Original Master version for audiophiles and a 2017 live recording (from London’s Hyde Park).

Nothing about this tapestry has faded.

This article was written for Discrepancy Records, and first published at their blog in October 2019. It is re-posted here with the kind permission of Discrepancy, who have a range of Tapestries to choose from.

© Bruce Jenkins 2019

22 comments

  1. Thanks for this post! If you can just listen to Smackwater Jack, without adding any context from the real world (of Bushmaster AR-15’s etc.) it’s a rollicking little tune, like a condensed spaghetti western. Even when it’s the lightest weight of anything on the album, it’s still a great little tune, and the rest are wonderful. Would you happen to know what are the bonus tracks on the re-issue?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, Robert. 🙂
      The bonus cut on my 2016 re-issue is “Out in the cold”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The classic album of my junior year of high school and it’s lost none of its joy and heartbreak. Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late’ peaking on the charts while a number of us teens went through the inevitable breakup we’re sure nobody ever has gone through, or survived! Even if we learned that wasn’t true, her song, along with this wonderful album, still encapsulates the time splendidly. Now, excuse me while I bring out the LP and spin it up once more.

    Great one to highlight, Bruce. Stay well and safe, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True! “It’s too late” captured something poignant and timeless, personal yet universal.
      Enjoy your spin, Marty. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely LOVE this album. It was one of the very first records I ever heard when I was like 8 years old. My six-year older sister had it on vinyl.

    Together with other ‘70s gems like CSNY’s “Deja Vu”, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Greatest Hits” (1972 compilation) and Santana’s “Greatest Hits” (1974 compilation), “Tapestry” helped introduce me to the beauty of music, which has been my passion ever since.

    While I didn’t understand a word of English at the time, I was immediately attracted to “Tapestry”. The music and Carole’s amazing voice were enough. Only years later was I able to understand her great lyrics. This only makes things better!

    “Tapestry” is one of those rare albums that are timelessly beautiful.

    I also like many of the songs Carole wrote with Gerry Goffin – what an impressive list indeed!

    And I also dig Carole’s solo album that followed “Tapestry”, but “Tapestry” remains her masterpiece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely to read about the personal resonance this one has for you Christian. As most agree: a classic!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At times, I can get emotional, especially when it comes to music, so I guess I got a bit carried away with this one.😀

        It’s funny at the time my sister had no idea that she essentially introduced me to what would become my big life-long hobby. She was just a young teen listening to her records – good thing she had some true gems!

        I’m not even sure she realized I was listening as well! I’m not saying my love of music is all because of her, but she definitely helped spark my early interest!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Absolutely appropriate to get carried away! Older siblings can have a lifelong impact on their younger brothers (or in my case, sisters!). It’s great!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice one, Bruce – personal yet universal is the great challenge. And she did a magnificent job of it here, apparently celebrating anniversary # 50 next year? I imagine if there is Top 71 list, this would make a cameo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reckon so Geoff. Though for future years I think “71 from’71” etc might be a bit much. I’m considering “1971–Forty Favourites”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Though I support the snappier 40, It may be tough to narrow the list down (Have You Read 1971 – Never a Dull Moment?) – I think the 1001 list includes something around 40 and I’m sure they missed a bunch!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I know, I know. It’s doing my head in already Geoff, and there’s 7 months to go! And we might all be dead anyway!
          Get this. Here’s the VC holding for the next few 50th anniversary years:
          1971 – 234 albums
          1972 – 276 albums
          1973 – 307 albums.
          Hell’s Bells!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. My goodness, Bruce – I’d say it’s a good problem to have (too many deserving albums) but that doesn’t make it any easier!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Whether they are all deserving remains to be seen. 😉
              But yes, I’m fortunate to be well provisioned for the seventies!

              Liked by 1 person

  5. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    “Nothing about this tapestry has faded,” that’s lovely Bruce. I think I’ll try to cue this one for a country drive now with Lily. Sunday morning. You’ve got a friend…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds perfect, Bill.

      Like

  6. Definitely one of the seminal albums of the seventies, for sure. As you point out, Bruce, every single song is a masterpiece; there was no getting up and walking over to the turntable to lift the needle and move to the next cut. Danny Kortchmar’s guitar is all over the place, which for me always made it extra special. And who can’t love that Taylor/Mitchell vocal contribution? Great review. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice one Bruce. I think she’s a remarkable person, cool as can be and I can totally appreciate the art and craft here but, like James Taylor, I find it simply does nothing for me at all. My wife, who unlike me is not stuck in perennial adolescence, loves her stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t think you are alone, Joe. To be honest, I rarely listen to the singer-songwriter albums of my moody 20s… Carole, James, Jackson, et al. Although et and al get a spin now and then.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Imagine what it feels like to record an album which such staying power, that means so much to so many people…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A small circle of immortality right there.

      Like

  9. avantikapinku · · Reply

    Informative post.

    Liked by 1 person

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