Monday, 16 February 2009

One Fine Day

How old were you when you did something worth doing? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? One-hundred-and-two or err...never? If you really have produced a world changing work I’ll bet you were at the younger end of the scale (but perhaps not ten).

I am constantly amazed by just how young certain people were when they produced a major piece of work, be it art, science or whatever. The most awe-inspiring example was probably Einstein who was a mere 24 years old when he conceived his theories of Relativity. It almost beggars belief.

The music business is slightly different. By the nature of the beast, pop songwriters tend to be younger rather than older when they release their masterwork, but even knowing this I have been looking at the career of Carole King, who turned 67 this last week, and marvelling. Most of us know Carole from her ‘Tapestry’ album released in 1971 when she was 29 – a reasonable age one would think for producing one of the best selling albums ever. We tend to think of her as starting out at about that date and building a career throughout the 1970s and 1980s. I remember vividly going on a week’s geography field trip to Slapton in south west England in the early 1970s when ‘It’s Too Late’ was adopted as the project’s ‘anthem’, being sung lustily on long hikes over the fields to view Devonian geological formations and the like.

Yet if you go back a whole 10 years to 1961 when the 19 year old Carole was working in the infamous Brill Building churning out hits for others with her lyricist partner, Gerry Goffin, we find that ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’, a mega hit for Bobby Vee, emanated from her pen. As did ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ (Shirelles), a song she would resurrect for ‘Tapestry’ and the evergreen ‘Locomotion’ (Little Eva).

But the list goes on. It includes ‘One Fine Day’ (Chiffons), ‘I’m into Something Good’ (Herman’s Hermits), ‘Oh No Not My Baby’ (Manfred Mann) and one of my particular favourites, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ (Monkees) and many other minor hits for a whole range of acts and all written between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. This period in her life seems to be almost forgotten now that the glare of ‘Tapestry’ has been switched to full beam and this is a pity for her early work for other others is every bit as good as her later solo output. It seems that what we take for her known career is actually her Solo career and that her real work began much much earlier. To me, her sixties songs have a real joy to them and I still prefer them to her later more successful output. There is something about the creativity of a person in their early 20s that is difficult to recreate once age and experience has taken its toll. It seems that for sheer unfettered originality, young rules!


TR1-Guy said...

When Tapestry appeared, I was going full-blown into rock and roll and could not stand when "It's Too Late" would hit the AM radio waves 10 or 20 times an hour (it seemed). It was then I discovered her earlier writings and I have to agree, they are marvelous tunes compared to her solo work.

Carol did some nice stuff as an artist, but her talents were as a pop singles writer. Those days are long gone and one must evolve, but I hold those early songs near and dear to my rock and roll heart!

Nice one, Martin! :)

musicobsessive said...

I agree. Her best work was writing for others in the days of great true 'pop' singles. Pity someone doesn't compile a CD set of her early work as done by others. Oh no, that's what ipod playlists are for!

Sorry, still like 'It's too late'!