Carole King – Tapestry

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Alt='My LP vinyl collection, Carole King, Jackson Browne. Neil Young' Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon"
My musical loves – a Vinyl collection

Carole King – Tapestry       1971

I was not one for spending money, of which I had little, on music. Music came in and out of my life, but sport was my main interest. I do recall though cycling around the whole town, visiting every newsagent, to try to buy a copy of a music magazine that was offering full lyrics of the latest hits. A girl I adored as a ten-year-old loved the Walker Brothers and I thought she would be truly impressed if I knew the lyrics. I failed to get a copy as all were sold out – so back to football instead.

An older brother of a friend had a singles collection. Mainly Beatles, Creedance Clearwater Revival and Diana Ross and various Motown singles. I quite liked the CCR but again the Beatles passed me by and Motown was really not for me.

My good friend Derek in the Fifth form played me Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence LP. They would become my favourite artists, especially Paul Simon, in the next few years. He had an S & G poster on his wall which I found a bit strange. I liked the music but surely there are more important things in life. Others in the fifth form observed that the Bookends album was rubbish and the earlier Paul Simon Songbook proved he couldn’t sing. So, naïve chap that I was, who was I to argue with my contemporary social and music commentators. So back to cricket instead.

Next year in the sixth form I found that the curriculum demanded the drinking of much coffee and eating of biscuits. Actual lessons were few and far between. We had our own exclusive form room, a room into which one of the girls had installed a record player. I recall very little of what was played but it was the girl’s domain and their choices dominated. We boys were too tight with money to buy any music anyhow.

One day, that day, I experienced my musical awakening. It was the start of a lifetime love of music, and I am thankful for that day and this girl student of impeccable taste.

What was this?

I never knew you could be so moved by a piece of music. I was spellbound. This was Carole King – Tapestry. Newly released – it was like nothing I had ever heard before. These were the words I was looking for but what wonderful music accompanied the words. It set the pattern for everything that followed in my musical education.

Carole King was a hugely successful songwriter but had modest success in her own right as a performer. Many, many hits that are so familiar to us were written by her – but who knew? Now, she had brought all her talents together to produce this masterpiece, an album that fifty years on has never dated. One of her great earlier songs that was a hit for others, ‘Will you still Love me Tomorrow’ is on the album but otherwise it showcases where she has arrived at musically and as a performer.

Whether my head was turned by another new life changing interest, or it may have just been the fact that education seemed in short supply, I left school shortly afterwards. Rather, I along with several others were asked to leave. You see, we had all decided to apply for the same job and the headmaster was asked for references for us. He declined, but desired we remove ourselves from his sight. We didn’t get the job either.

I did not get a ‘job working construction’ but rather one comfortably sat a desk, pen in hand. Many years later after a short break away I retired from the same firm. It paid £9.50 a week rising after the first week to £10 as I had done so well! LPs were around £2.10 at the time. My first purchase with my pay packet was not a new cricket bat but Carole King’s Tapestry from Ames Record Store. I still have it and I still regularly play the album although streamed rather than through a needle.

So, what was it about this album that struck such a cord with an impressionable 16-year-old. Indeed, why does its appeal still endure.

I loved the words, the poetry of her writing. True, Carole King does not write with the same depth as a Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell. So, in some ways it should not make such an impact on me. But, to me these expressions of love, loss and relationships were a window into a new soon to come adult world. If this is what I had to face, then I needed to know. It held out the prospect of hard to make choices and disappointments along the way. However, it was all going to be OK, there would be that relationship that was worth the pain of getting there. Then when you feel it is getting too difficult you will always have a ‘Friend’. ‘You’ve got a Friend’ was perfect for a young boy having just gone through torturous exams and facing the choice of enduring an education that was just going nowhere – or heading into the unknown world. Yes, of course, look around and see your friends are there and a great life lies ahead with them. It is that balance she achieves of realism at our life but also that it can be better that shines through and makes this album such a joy.

Musically it is near perfection. A collection of the finest musicians plays around the album in complete synch with the artist. King’s voice is powerful, yet fragile, poised on breaking with emotion. It finds its full expression with one of the great moments of recorded music. On ‘’Natural Woman’ she reaches the point where her emotions are stretched as she sings the phrase ‘Close to me’. Her voice trembles and breaks and the emotion conveyed is breath-taking. Surely a one take wonder, impossible to repeat. Pure magic.

Her piano playing is exclusively hers, loose though melodic at the same time, always with the tension that she is stretching for the right note. She always finds it. Overall, the musical mix and balance achieved by Lou Adler in producing make an album without one jarring note or over intrusion by any part of the band. There are some truly sublime, gorgeous melodies. The short (just over two minutes) ‘Home Again’ is beautiful and the words life affirming. The whole album is full of inspired melodies.

I suggest if by any chance you have not heard this album (is that possible?) then find a quiet place, headphones on, eyes closed and enjoy. Do not try to multitask, it deserves and must be listened to without distraction.

Sadly, Carole King I never saw in concert. She was one of the few artists I admire that escaped my ticket obtaining ability. I treasure though the BBC ‘In Concert’ performance from the time period, including the complimentary performance with her by James Taylor.

As I say this was my first purchase. My mother always was of the opinion that all modern artists were degenerate or worse. The Tapestry cover is simple, and the dominant feature really is Carole’s cat. Mother felt that implied sinister forces at work. But no Carole King was no witch but she certainly was inspired from somewhere. My first album but still hovering around my top three of all time.

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My French Travel Book series and New book Off the Autoroute

Published by Neal Atherton

My passion is writing about travel and particularly French travel. I have traveled extensively in France and wine and food has always featured on my travels and now in my books. My friends always await our return from France with the latest new finds from the vineyards and I was more than happy to keep sampling. I am from Lancashire in the north of England but have now relocated to Somerset (nearer to France) and able to enjoy devoting my time to writing and new discoveries. France came late to me as a destination, in fact so conservative was my travel upbringing that it was a long time before I even ventured to Cornwall. I have more than made up for the slow start and have enjoyed helping many others with their travel plans to France and especially to Paris and Provence. I have written a series of four books on France - Three are now on Amazon:THE FIRST TIME WE SAW PARIS about our first steps in French Travel, THYME FOR PROVENCE our discovery of that glorious region and the people and places we met and discovered, A DREAM OF PARIS a personal memoir of our times in Paris with friends. France has been fun, we have been burgled on our very first arrival, we discovered the best cafe that changed our travel lives on the very next day, we learnt about French wine, we escaped from the most horrendous gite, we found the best of gites, B & B's and people, we laughed and cried with dear friends in Paris, I was hosed down by a crazy owner to cool me down in Provence, our breakfast in a remote village was served by the French army, we stepped totally out of our comfort zone and discovered the best of French culture. The experiences are varied and many and please come with me as I retell the stories and my footsteps are there to follow. I am also writing about ancestry and genealogy and my first book about our incredible family story themed around war and the military is now on Amazon - A BULLET FOR LIFE. I love the English game of cricket, golf, soccer, photography, walking and cooking. Oh, and travel of course.

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