Back in 1994 I got my first credit card.
Armed with it, I ventured into Cardiff, determined to purchase some music.
My girlfriend at the time feared the outcome, thoroughly expecting I would blow the whole of my credit limit in one go.
Obstinate bugger that I am, I returned home with just one CD, one of those tribute albums, where current cool bands cover songs by one particular artiste.
This particular one was called “If I Were A Carpenter”, a tribute to – you guessed it – The Carpenters, featuring acts like American Music Club, Sonic Youth, Grant Lee Buffalo, Sheryl Crow, Redd Kross and, as they say on irritating adverts, many, many more.
The Carpenters are, I think, one of those bands that people consider sickly sweet, a bit naff, a guilty pleasure, but as you know, we don’t like that phrase round these parts.
No, as the sticker on the front of the CD proclaimed “The Carpenters are cool!”, and these bands and this album gave those who secretly liked their records permission to out themselves as fans.
When I worked in a motorway café as a teenager, often after work we would go back to someone’s house, have a few drinks, play a few records and have a bit of a sing-song. And The Carpenters, without fail, were always played, because everyone knew they were great, and everyone knew all of the words.
Curiously, though, I’d never owned anything by them.
Until recently, when I stumbled over a double Greatest Hits album of theirs, on sale second hand. Ker-ching!
The story of The Carpenters is, of course, tragic. Karen never wanted to be the front woman; she was a drummer by trade, and as fame found her she yearned for nothing more than to be allowed to get back behind the skins, sticks in hand.
Conversely, brother Richard did want the stardom, but the public, and, more importantly, the record label, wanted Karen out front. As a result (probably) of her unwanted place in the spotlight, Karen developed anorexia nervosa, and died from heart failure caused by complications from her illness at the tragically young age of 32. Too young, far too young.
Here’s some of their finest moments which I now proudly own, sugar sweet, glorious and catchy as hell:
And, featuring one of the greatest rock guitar solos ever committed to record: