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Superstar power

A Carpenter“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby .. Oh baaaby .. I luuuurve you, I really do…”.

I’m tapping my fingers against my thigh as I strut through the office, humming the music to myself and only vocalising the ‘Baby oh baby’ part which – as hooks in songs go – is a bloody good one as it’s had me humming it all morning.

Actually, it may have had me humming it about a month ago which is when I first heard it on the radio, and then about a week later when I heard it again and I thought “That’s a cover of a Carpenters song isn’t it? I wonder who’s done that! I must google that and look it up when I get home”, and then of course never did.

And I forgot about it again until I heard it on a local station driving home on Tuesday night and then again on Wednesday morning driving into work – and it’s now so quite clearly stuck in my head that I’m humming the chorus and singing it quietly to myself as I go about my day — but not that quietly though it would seem.

“What’s the song you’re humming?” says Phil – A guy that works in sports and I rarely talk to, which goes to highlight the fact even the mere act of me singing something that he recognises prompts him to strike up a conversation with me. “It’s an old Carpenters song, isn’t it? I keep meaning to look it up!” I say. And there in that moment was the power that a tune and a little moment like that can have. Phil hears me singing it, picks up on it and in turn provides me (finally) with the impetus to go and research it.

So in the next ten minutes, the power of web tells me that yes – most people know it as a Carpenters song, but it was actually written by a 1960’s song writing duo called Delaney and Bonnie. And in fact over the years many people (including Elkie Brooks and Luther Vandross) have recorded popular versions of it, but it’s Karen and Richard’s version that stands out most in people’s minds.

I discover that the version I’m hearing is not a ‘current’ version at all, but was recorded by Sonic Youth back in 1994, when a whole tribute album to the Carpenters was recorded, and that the reason that it’s been played and picked up on now is because it’s on the soundtrack to Juno which is in movie theatres/cinemas at the moment, and thus the local radio station is playing it because it’s popular.

I read up on all about Sonic Youth, about their off-key sound how they found unlikely inspiration in the music of the Carpenters. About the tragic death in 1973 of Karen Carpenter and how it brought attention to the mass media about eating disorders such as bulimia, (and I spent another ten minutes reading up on all sorts of eating disorders too).

And above all, it made be go home that night and legitimately download the majority of the tracks off of the “Best of..” the Carpenters album, and that took me to a memory that had been locked away untouched in my mind for years – of my Mum and my Dad and happy times when we were a happy family, and the Carpenters used to get played at parties and my Dad (of all people) would sing along. And this makes me sad.

But then I realise that ALL THIS happened, just because I got humming a Sonic Youth cover version that I heard on the radio twice in two days. And that makes me happy.

And also leaves me wondering if anywhere in the world, anyone else can be quite this emotive or obsessive over the power that one song can have on you and how it changes your entire day, makes you find out things that you never bothered to find out before, and thus perhaps alters your life in a way which you never saw coming.

I come into work this morning. I don’t even realise I’m still singing to myself. “You still humming that song then?” say another colleague Abi as I walk past her desk. And I just smile.

Youtube Video – Sonic Youth – Superstar

6 responses to “Superstar power”

  1. Chris says:

    If you’re thinking catchy tunes then check your email…

  2. Shon K! says:

    It’s strange, isn’t it? Music has a way of transmitting you back to the stranges places.
    Even if you don’t really want to go! I guess it’s the way Scotch Tape always reminds me of Christmas.
    I’m most familiar with the Luther Vandross version of that song…as I have an older brother
    who thinks he IS Luther Vandross (he’s actually pretty close 🙂 Since we sing all the time, I know all the words to
    every Luther Vandross song from the 80’s.
    And Superstar…happens to be one of my favorites. It’s in my disc changer in my car right now…and I can’t wait to listen to it on my drive home!
    I will sing it and think of you fondly!

  3. Mum says:

    Oh, I had forgotten what a lovely voice Karen Carpenter had. I quite liked the ‘Youth’ version tho,different, I think it could grow on me, but wow I just had to watch all those little YouTube videos of the Carpenters. ‘Loneliness is such a sad affair and I can’t wait to be with you’ had me nearly in tears. I thought she had Anorexia though, sad died at age 32. What a waste.

  4. Paul Webb says:

    Ahh, American Alternative Rock before Mr Geffen spoiled it for us all. Get yerself a copy of ‘Daydream Nation'( I’m off now to put on my Mike Watts style plaid shirt…

  5. Fimb says:

    Its a great album, “If I were a Carpenter”.. a fave of mine. Hadn’t realised the Sonic Youth tune was in Juno.. Its a very spooky version of superstar, thats for sure.

  6. Richard says:

    Amazing how potent cheap music is…

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