I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Carpenters -- (They Long to Be) Close to You

One thing that I hadn't known about The Carpenters before I started this Reminiscings of Youth article tonight is that Richard and Karen didn't have their first TV special until 1976! I was close to eleven years of age by that point, and the reason that I am surprised is that in my increasingly hazy memories of my early childhood is that I'd assumed that the famous duo were having specials since the 1970s and their career began. They just seemed to be ubiquitous on television and radio with their easy listening songs such as "Sing", "We've Only Just Begun" and "Yesterday Once More".

I'm not sure how The Carpenters are remembered in their native United States or up here in Canada. The fact that I've barely heard anything about them on this side of the Pacific in decades is quite telling, though, since in Japan, they're adored as pop legends along the same lines as The Ventures and The Beatles. I basically had my reunion with Richard and Karen and their music thanks to my life in Japan.

A couple of their songs have become theme tunes verbatim for Japanese dramas, a lot of their tunes were part of commercials, and even a Fuji-TV nostalgic music show is now permanently intertwined with "Yesterday Once More". Plus, there's the fact that the longer one goes to karaoke with friends, the higher the chances that a Carpenters song will be sung....that is from personal experience. I've even bought a couple of their BEST compilations.

I think the last Carpenters reference I saw on this side of the Pacific was a montage sequence on "The Simpsons" when Homer first set eyes on Marge. "(They Long to Be) Close to You" was probably meant as a humourous counterpoint but it ended up for me at least being surprisingly poignant and moving.

And I guess that's why out of the entire Carpenters discography, "Close to You" will be the song for me by Karen and Richard. Released in May 1970, I was surprised to discover that this Burt Bacharach and Hal David creation didn't get its first rodeo with The Carpenters. Actor Richard ("Dr. Kildare") Chamberlain, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield all had their turns at it in the 1960s before The Carpenters recorded the definitive version of the ballad. I mean, perhaps I'm dating myself considerably more here but this would be an ideal (if a tad cornball) tune at the end of a prom. Mind you, "It's Been a Long, Long Time" might have taken over for about a year since "Avengers: Endgame" (that movie still packs a mighty Thor wallop).

So, what were the big hits during that time in Japan? Well, unfortunately, I couldn't track down any of the May 1970 Oricon hits so I'm once again going with certain award winners at that year's Japan Record Awards (its 12th, to be specific).

Best Performance Award: Hiroshi Uchiyamada and The Cool Five -- Uwasa no Onna

Best Performance Award: Saori Yuki -- Tegami

Best New Artist: Salty Sugar -- Hashire Koutarou

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