Goodbye To Love

Our past influences shape our personalities sometimes in ways we seldom realize. We adopt a saying our mom or dad always used, or we tend to do certain things because of the structure of how we grew up and what we were exposed to.

As I grow older I am taken by how many times I catch myself thinking jeez, that’s just like my father.

Some time for the better and other times…

As I think back on my childhood there was always music. I remember the radio or the record player going all of the time.

The very first song I remember where I could identify what it was was the Irish Rovers ‘The Unicorn.’

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1969 or so and my dad had a maroon 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS with a four on the floor and a 396 big block (one of the things I inherited from my father was an affinity for sportier cars) and I was in the back seat with my brother.

We had just pulled in to my grandmothers house and the song came on the radio. My mom stopped everyone before we got out of the car and we listened to the whole song while sitting there in grandmothers driveway.

It was the first time I remember ‘listening to a whole song’, lyrics and all. I remember thinking to myself when I heard the line:

“And the waters came down and sort of floated them away”

I kind of thought to myself, gosh, the poor things (unicorns) drowned…

Here are the full lyrics:

The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers

A long time ago, when the earth was still green
And there were more kinds of animals than you’ve ever seen
They’d run around free while the earth was being born
But the lovelies
t of all was the unicorn

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

Now god seen some sinnin’ and it gave him pain
And he says, “stand back, I’m going to make it rain”
He says, “hey, brother Noah, I’ll tell you what to do
Build me a floa
ting zoo”

And take some of them green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
Don’t you forget my unicorn”

Old Noah was there to answer the call
He finished up making the ark just as the rain started fallin’
He marched in the animals two by two
And he called out as they went through
“Hey, Lord”

I’ve got your green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but Lord, I’m so forlorn
I just can’t see no unicorn”

Then Noah looked out through the driving rain
Them unicorns was hiding, playing silly games
Kicking and splashing while the rain was pouring
Oh, them silly unicorns

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Noah cried, “close the doors ’cause the rain is pourin’
And we just can’t wait for n
o unicorns”

The ark started movin’, it drifted with the tide
Them unicorns looked up from the rock and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
And that’s why you’ll never
see a unicorn, to this very day

You’ll see green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
You’re never gon
na see no unicorn

Obviously a play on the biblical story of Noah and the ark, it was a lot for an eight year old to digest.

I felt pretty bad for those unicorns.

So music was a big part of my childhood. I know that both my mom and my dad where big music lovers and had the same sort of tastes in music. Though my dad tended to lean a little more to the country side and my mom tended to lean a little to the ‘easy listening’ or ‘pop’ side.

My mom was a stay at home mom and so she would be the one around after school and over the summer break. She was always playing that record player. Always.

The two big influences that stuck with me from those early listening days were Glen Campbell and The Carpenters.

As I listen to much of my early engineer/production style there were obvious correlations with those two artists.

But the two songs by those artists that really got under my skin were ‘Wichita Lineman’ by Glen Campbell and ‘Goodbye To Love’ by the Carpenters.

Goodbye To Love was a standout in that is was not only a well crafted song with great lyrics, it was the first time that I remembered a guitar solo.

Goodbye To Love The Carpenters

It could be considered the first ever power ballad in history. I’m not sure if it is, but it has to be one of the first that was popular.

The solo featured a fuzz guitar solo by Tony Peluso. In an interview, he told the story of how Karen Carpenter called him up to play on a song that she and Richard thought he’d be perfect for.

From Wikipedia:

Tony remembers: “At first I didn’t believe that it was actually Karen Carpenter on the phone but she repeated her name again. … It was at this point that I realized it was really her and that I was speaking to one of my idols.” She told him that she and Richard were working on a song called “Goodbye to Love”, that they were familiar with Tony’s work with a band called Instant Joy, and that he would be perfect for the sound they were looking for.

Peluso first played something soft and sweet, but then Richard Carpenter said:

“No, no, no! Play the melody for five bars and then burn it up! Soar off into the stratosphere! Go ahead! It’ll be great!”

So the solo became famous.

If you listen closely to the arrangement and production of the song you’ll hear the trademark Carpenters sound. Strings, lush background vocals and a clarity that is quite astounding. And those thuddy drums. Love ‘em.

The lyrics, written by John Bettis were very poignant in their telling of giving up on ever finding love. For anyone who has ever had their heart broken and thinks that it’s all over, the lyrics really hit home.

That classic sound with that fuzz guitar solo was something that just got a hold of me. Something that to this day gives me chills. I don’t believe I ever heard a fuzz guitar before. It was my first time I remember hearing anything that would be considered a ‘rock’ sound.

Later in life I listened to an interview by Richard Carpenter talking about how controversial that guitar lead was to Carpenters fans. It’s interesting how that particular solo really got to me.

From Wikipedia:

The finished product was released on June 19, 1972, and reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first song written by the songwriting team of Carpenter/Bettis to reach the US top ten. The Carpenters received hate mail (claiming that the Carpenters had sold out and gone hard rock) because of Richard’s idea for a fuzz guitar solo in a love ballad.

This was the Duo that did ‘Close To You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ so ya, a fuzz guitar was a bit of an anomaly.

It’s funny how things get seared into our memories and we end up being unintentionally influenced by certain things.

Another thing that the Carpenters used extensively was an oboe. Through the years I’ve found my self using both the oboe and french horn for many of my melancholic productions. A true concession to listening to those Carpenters records for so many years.

There were quite a few folks who didn’t like the Carpenters for what they thought was a syrupy sound. In her 2009 interview with Richard Carpenter Terry Gross (from NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’) said:

GROSS: OK, I’m going to make a confession to you here, OK? I used to think that you guys were really corny, and it took me a while to really hear what was so good about, you know, the melodies, the arrangements, her singing. I mean – so it took me a while to come around, I’ll confess.

Richard Kind of fended it off. He was a gentleman. Here is the transcript of the Terry Gross, Richard Carpenter interview.

The music of the Carpenters was genuine, polite, skillfully arranged and produced. Pop music at it’s finest. It was like padded velour, soft and dreamy. There is a precision in Karen Carpenters vocals and Richard Carpenters production. Flawless comes to mind. All those stacks of background vocals…

And with as many records the duo sold, quite a few others liked them too.

As an interesting observation, I often wondered what my musical life would have been like if my mom and dad listened to the Stones, Beatles and Hendrix when I was growing up.

Just a thought.

Author: Chad