It takes a lot of courage for a man to admit liking the music of Carole King
, for a man to admit owning a Carole King album that is not Tapestry
. It takes a lot of courage. It takes balls of steel. Knives of shoes. Slow-faced blushmantle cadaver. I've said it before, but I'll say it again; computer love
Anyway, it takes a great deal of courage for a man to admit owning a copy of Carole King: The Carnegie Hall Concert: June 18, 1971. It's a live recording of a concert that took place in 1971, in June, on the eighteenth of June, except that the record didn't come out then, it came out in 1996, the year of insect husk, and this is the eaglesnap. I don't know why the world wanted this record in 1996. There must have been a shudder in society's cultural consciousness, an ache that could only be soothed by Carole King's fingers and throat, and her cackleberry continuum. I have long been worried that my writing, indeed my persona, comes across as stiff and artificial, whereas internally I am a raging seething mass of ideas and words. So I have decided to introduce a quantity of chaos into my mixture, and thus when I think of a word or concept I will not hold back, I will express it. Even if that word is not related to the rest of my stream, I will just let it pop out, like a slut. Bifucate, ambulate, four feather falls. Perhaps these random motions will help me win the dogfight. My ultimate goal is to create a piece of writing that is composed entirely of spontaneous words and thoughts, because then I will no longer be constrained. I will be infinite. Pure salad. There will be no way back.
Before I achieve that, however, I have something to say about Carole King. I was born with a chance to tell you about Carole King, and I am going to have my chance. Lots of men own a copy of Tapestry, because it was a very popular record, back in 1971, and it's always a good idea to see what the other side is up to. Carole King's music is foreign territory for men, she is a woman's musician. She is not a sex kitten, or a disturbed witch woman, she is just a normal sensible nice reclusive rich person of a kind that men do not generally go for. Nonetheless she sold lots of records in the 1970s and made a fortune, despite not being conventionally sexy, and so clearly she appealed to a lot of people on a non-sexual level in 1971. Normal people wanted Carole King's succour. Hidden secret normal people that are not usually targeted by the record industry. It is understandable that a man would own a copy of Tapestry, so that he could understand this phenomenon, and perhaps pretend to like it, in order to impress women. But Carole King COLON The Carnegie Hall Concert COLON ETC is not Tapestry, it is an archive release of a long-gone live show, and the only people who buy archive releases of long-gone live shows are fans, and most men would not admit to being a fan of Carole King, but I am not like most men. I am better than most men. I have total cock control, and I have courage. I own this album. I like it. I am not scared of you, or of Carole King, or of women, or men. Your words bounce off me, because I have the pure light. Suppose I have a thought that cannot be expressed in words? There is so much of this essay that you will never experience, because you cannot hear the sounds I make as I type these words. Sometimes there is The Babyvoice. Sometimes I voice the woman.
1. I Feel The Earth Move
2. Home Again
3. After All This Time
4. Child Of Mine
5. Carry Your Load
6. No Easy Way Down
7. Song Of Long Ago
8. Snow Queen
9. Smackwater Jack
10. So Far Away
11. It's Too Late
13. Way Over Yonder
15. You've Got A Friend
16. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow / Some Kind Of Wonderful
17. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Yeah, that's a lot of songs. "Child of Mind" ain't got nothin' to do with Guns and Roses, it's a different song. The Guns and Roses song is mighty like a rose. Carole King's song is not mighty, but it is nice and pleasant, like a beautiful bumptious dopamine president. Carole King plays on all of the songs and sings on all of 'em, but she doesn't sing all of all of them, because James Taylor sings some of the last few songs If you're a fiftysomething middle-class white North American you're probably singing "I Feel the Earth Move" in your head right now. The thing is, I'm a thirtysomething working-class white British, and none of the songs mean anything to me except for "Tomorrow", and "Natural Woman", and that's only because I used to watch television a lot, grown-up television, documentaries about the past. Carole King meant diddly-squat in Britain in 1971.
The Carnegie Hall Concert is the most likeable album in my collection. It is more amiable than Michael Palin, it is the audio equivalent of Makka Pakka. On the record Carole King is endearing, she comes across as overwhelmed by the audience, a bit scared and uncertain. I am not sure if the concert predates or postdates the first million sales of Tapestry. Perhaps Carole King's humility is an act, I imagine she had an iron will to have get where she had got, and she was an old pro in the music business. If Carole King's humility is an act, it is a superb act. The audience is clearly on her side, they like her, and applaud. The songs zip past, and even though I am not a fan of Carole King, I find nothing to dislike in her music. She isn't an obnoxiously flashy vocalist like Mariah Carey. Her songs are clever enough to be clever without being clever-clever. She's not a ranting criminal mastermind like Goldfinger, the murdering bastard. She isn't a self-justifying, self-pitying creep like Albert Speer. She never ordered the terror bombing of a major city. Her voice wobbles a bit, and it shreds on "Song of Long Ago", but it doesn't matter. Carole King's music wasn't about virtuoso performance, it was about songwriting craft and extremely professional artificial sincerity.
The first half of the concert is basically Carole King singing and playing the piano. The recording tapes have nothing wrong with them. The song choice is heavy on material from Tapestry (the whole album appears, except for the title track) with some songs from her debut album, Writer, sprinkled here and there. The minimal piano-and-voice arrangement doesn't hurt, because King plays a lot of notes. I believe she plays all of the notes, several times over, even the black ones. I wonder; when she toured, did she have groupies? Did she tour the United States in a Boeing jet, with in-flight debauchery? Did she have a rider that specified only green M and Ms? I'm genuinely curious.
Towards the end of the record Carole King brings on James Taylor, and the audience applauds like mad. It is this, more than anything else, that anchors the album in the early 1970s. James Taylor is nowadays not the star he was. Carole King is not the star she was, either, but Tapestry will probably go into the time capsule, whereas James Taylor's records will remain buried.
Carole King interests me in one particular clever intellectual way. Her lyrics and music were deliberately simple and universal, and this is one of the reasons why she was so popular at the time. The people of America circa 1971 were scared and heartbroken and nervous. The Beatles had broken up, and the only films on at the cinema were A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs. Carole King was an escape from all that. The newspapers and magazines of 1971 and 1972 liked to run features about how Carole King was the harbinger of a new age of wholesome honesty in music, and in society. She emerged at a time when sincerity was valued in serious rock music, and her image was one of wholesome genuineness. At the same time, she was a professional musician and hitmaker, and her music was thoroughly constructed and artificial. She was a fake that seemed real, and it didn't matter. I have no idea if she really had experienced the emotions and sensations described in "I Feel the Earth Move" or "So Far Away" or "It's Too Late" baby now it's too late. I get the impression that she sat down in front of her piano at 09:00 each morning with a cup of coffee and some toast, and the goal of writing a song about being in a love, another song about being lonely, a third song about a failed relationship, and the end result could not have been more artificial if it had been constructed by a computer program. But, again, it doesn't matter, and I do not intent this as a criticism of Carole King's music. There is an art to fakery.
The Carnegie Hall Concert scuffs up this artificiality, because of its live nature; the minimal production style and wobbly vocals help the material. In comparison, the studio recordings from Tapestry sound very early-70s, with early-70s bass and drums, whereas this record is timeless. Even though I know that the songs are from the early 1970s, I cannot tell just from listening that this is a concert from that period, it could just as easily be a modern-day Carole King concert with a retro setlist. Except that she probably doesn't sound like this nowadays. Although having said that, I believe that she basically repeated the piano-and-voice concept in 2004, with another live record called The Living Room Tour, swankist, swallowkist.
DJ Crystl's Warpdrive / Meditation 12" is the greatest 12" drum'n'bass single of all time, and one of the greatest singles of all time in any genre. That has nothing to do with Carole King, I just thought I'd say it. And it's true.