Hyde Park, BST Summer Time Concert
3 July 2016
Carole King – vocal, piano, guitar
Danny Kortchmar -guitar
Dillon Kondor – guitar
Sean Pelton– drums
Zev Katz – bass guitar
Robbie Kondor- keyboards
Michelle John – vocals
Shane Waiting – vocals ?
Louise Goffin, vocals, guitar
Jamie Talbot- saxophone
(Corrections on misheard names welcomed!)
I Feel The Earth Move
So Far Away
It’s Too Late
Way Over Yonder
You’ve Got A Friend
Where You Leave + Louise Goffin
Will You Love Me Tomorrow + Louise Goffin
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Take Good Care of My Baby
It Might As Well Rain Until September
Go Away Little Girl
I’m Into Something Good
One Fine Day
Jazzman + Jamie Talbot (sax)
Up On The Roof
I Feel The Earth Move (with Cassidy Janson & the cast of “Beautiful”)
You’ve Got A Friend (solo)
Oh, Carol(e)… I will never forget two things. First, 65,000 people singing along so loudly and accurately to You’ve Got A Friend that she could just stop and listen. The other is walking back along Piccadilly from Hyde Park after the show in a huge crowd of people, and somewhere behind us a large group of women started singing You’ve Got A Friend again, and it swelled and filled the street. OK, I Googled. I found 65,000. The reviews in the press say 50,000. Who’s counting? Anyway, I’d bet the press were in one of the eye-wateringly priced premium / VIP arenas at the front. Back in General Admission it looked one hell of a lot. It was a pleasant audience … lots of women with female friends. A good few families bringing 30-something kids along. More than half female overall.
I have a few Goffin-King compilation CDs, some in the Ace Songwriters series. The first concert I saw was Little Eva, her alleged babysitter …they knew she was a singer before they employed her. Tapestry has a special place. An old friend called his bar duo then trio (after he ceased being a pro-musician) Tapestry and it financed his way through college. (Not to be confused with the late 60s mod group, Tapestry). My first date with my wife ended up in the bar watching them play, and yes, they did a lot of Carole King mixed with Elton John numbers. That era has the mix of Tapestry, the earlier Writer and Sweet Baby James indelibly for me. Writer has Goin’ Back, Up On The Roof, Child of Mine and Can’t Hear You No More. I can’t say I kept up with all her output after Music and Pearls, but I love the live album / DVD with James Taylor. Hyde Park was the first chance ever to hear her play the whole of Tapestry. Hyde Park was the first time she has ever done it.
She played the Tapestry album in sequence too, after a video tribute. I thought there was a slight wobble at the start of I Feel The Earth Move but it was never repeated. She was pounding away at the piano. I’ve been playing the album a lot recently in preparation, and even the remastered version sounds thinner compared to reality live. So Far Away was dedicated to James Taylor. During It’s Too Late I watched the backing singers and contemplated how much Goffin-King had created the girl group sound, and again how much of their output was seminal American soul music by black artists. Home Again and Beautiful have a glorious deftness of touch, the latter giving its title to the musical currently running in the West End.
The Oak Stage at Hyde Park. Carole King on screen
Way Over Yonder reminded me that Merry Clayton sang on the original version, and that deep soulful feel was there.
The back projection screens behind the stage were always fascinating, and we saw the original American Ode LP spinning (for a one-off concert, they might have noticed it was on A&M in the UK) and we were into You’ve Got A Friend. The last time I heard a mass choir that size was Bridge Over Troubled Water, in the same location watching Simon & Garfunkel. It is an amazing sensation from within the audience, and you could see Carole King was touched too.
She introduced Where You Lead, and explained that she had stopped performing it very early on, because of its “Stand By Your Man” lyric, which was already out of synch with the times as the album became a huge hit … 15 weeks at US #1, Grammys for Record of The Year, Song Of The Year (You’ve Got A Friend), Best Female Vocal Performance. She had been asked to allow it as the theme tune for the TV Show, The Gilmore Girls, and so asked co-writer Toni Stern to revise the lyrics, so that it was mother-daughter rather than wife-husband. So naturally she brought Louise Goffin on to sing it with her.
The back projection changed to pictures of Gerry Goffin, and Louise stayed on stage, as her mother explained that Will You Love Me Tomorrow (aka Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow) was one of the first songs she wrote with Gerry Goffin, and that the first time she heard it (I assume on the radio) was in a 1956 Mercury. The song was extremely controversial at the time, so much so that several radio stations banned The Shirelles version. Shirelles lead singer Shirley Owens had not wanted to record it, thinking it both too country and too controversial. Louise Goffin sang it with her, and it must be emotional to sing one of your parents first collaborations, recorded the year you were born, with pictures of your father huge on the screen behind you.
And on guitar … Carole King! Smackwater Jack
Then came a surprise as Carole King left the piano, strapped on a Stratocaster and went into Smackwater Jack with Louise Goffin on guitar too. You always get an earworm after concerts … Smackwater Jack has been playing in my head all day. It was a first rate rocking version and at the end, Carole shouted “This is what 74 looks like!”
The mood switches for Tapestry, as on the album. Beautifully sung.
There was a clever video for (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman … footage of a young Carol singing it while we could see her lips were out of synch, and the sound was coming from herself 35 years on. At the end, I think they cut in the original vocal for the last couple of lines. With an Aretha Franklin associated song, the black backing singers really shone forth. Soulful background singing from Michelle John.
The album was over … so what next? I was expecting a “greatest solo hits” with Nightingale and Sweet Seasons, but I was wrong. It was finely judged nostalgia … a visit to the Goffin-King songbook with projections in black and white of transistor radios and early Goffin & King pictures. The medley showed her range. Take Good Care of My Baby was a hit for Bobby Vee, a US and UK #1 hit in 1961. It Might As Well Rain Until September was Carole King’s first solo hit. Like The Locomotion it was recorded as a demo, intended to be a Bobby Vee solo track, but he put it on an LP but not as a single. Carole King’s demo. It was a bigger hit in Britain (#3) than the USA (#22) and I bought it new … ah, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Third up was Go Away Little Girl, a third aimed at Bobby Vee, though Steve Lawrence had the American number one hit. It didn’t even chart in Britain. I wondered about her choices … they were showing the range, it’s true. Steve Lawrence reminded me of an odd Goffin-King anomaly. I have several CD compilations, but not one includes Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme’s I Want To Stay Here, and that was a big British hit (#3) in 1963. A dozen years ago we re-recorded several songs for an ELT (English Language Teaching) course series, IN English, and I Want To Stay Here was one of them. At that point we couldn’t find a CD or MP3 version, and the producer learned it from a recording of my original 45 rpm single. I still wonder why it gets missed in Goffin-King lists. I used to play our faithful re-recording on promotions and (a) everyone loved it and (b) no one could believe they hadn’t heard it before.
Back to the medley … “recorded by one of yours” i.e, I’m Into Something Good a hit for Herman’s Hermits. I bet she hadn’t predicted that the entire audience would instantly start singing along. She only did a verse and chorus, and given the reaction, she should have carried on and played it in full! The rock snob in me can’t avoid pointing out that I have the original version by Earl Jean of The Cookies from 1964. But in the words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know that. Herman’s Hermits had a #1 hit in Britain, but I hadn’t realized how deeply it was embedded in our national singalong consciousness. I bet no one else had … and OK, I’ll throw away my rock snob credentials, and admit that Herman’s Hermits did the definitive version.
The medley continued into One Fine Day as recorded by The Chiffons (a version that retains Carole King’s demo piano track). I’d say the medley stopped there, because the next song, Hey Girl was done in full. The US hit version version by Feddie Scott in 1963 did nothing in Britain. Carole King re-did it for her Pearls album in 1980, a trawl through the Goffin-King songbook. That album also had covers of Locomotion, One Fine Day and Chains. Actually, I always mildly disliked Hey Girl and a glance at Pearls reminds me that I had my fingers crossed, hoping desperately for her to do Goin’ Back, but she didn’t.
Chains. Cavern walls projection … OK, it’s iPhone and I was singing along at the time
The projection went to red, and pictures of The Cavern, so it was Chains as covered by The Beatles on Please, Please Me and the British reference was fair enough … another where the Merseybeat era cover would be vastly better known to the crowd than The Cookies original … phew, rock snobbism just doesn’t go away, I have a 45 single of that too. Chains started with just drums, claps and vocal and people joined in the chant before the band came in. Both backing singers were to the fore. It was a long version, with a harmonica solo … perhaps echoing 1962 era Beatles in general, and a guitar solo from Danny Kortchmar.
The final song of the main set was the only post-Tapestry new song, Jazzman from Wrap Around Joy, also the opening track on Her Greatest Hits. The 1974 version was loved for its Tom Scott saxophone part, and she brought on Jamie Talbot to play it sublimely here.
Jazzman: Jamie Talbot on sax
After the band bows, the projection turned into a blue starry sky over a London skyline, and I said Up On The Roof before the notes even started … At night the stars put on a show for free … it has to be in a Desert Island selection of favourite Carole King songs. The song started my rock snobbery, I suspect. I heard The Drifters version on Radio Luxembourg, thought it the best thing ever, and felt personally affronted when feeble British covers took the chart places in Britain (sorry to Kenny Lynch and Julie Grant). Carole King finally did her solo version on Writer just before Tapestry.
I’d been hoping for The Locomotion, and with Louise Goffin there, you have to think that Little Eva was HER babysitter when she recorded it. (See Toppermost for my article on Little Eva). We got the dance moves … apparently hastily invented for a TV appearance.
The Carole King musical Beautiful is running in the West End, and she brought on the whole cast of the musical to join her for a reprise of I Feel The Earth Move duetting with Cassidy Janson, who plays Carole King on stage.
And finally … You’ve Got A Friend reprised. Carole King, solo piano, and 65,000 voices, and she had new lyrics in the middle thanking the crowd and talking about the evening.
Every review I’ve seen gives her very special concert five stars. Obviously.
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