Carole King Biography - 1964 to early 1969 (Chapter 7)


Page 175 - The Beatles meet their idols: Goffin & King

Carole and Gerry were the objects of the Beatles' fascination.  "In England, Goffin and King were huge - they were legends," says Peter Asher.  "We were crazy about them. We didn't know who they were, just the names.  But they wrote all the song we loved - 'Crying In The Rain'; we were huge Everly Brothers fans.

Well before their stardom, the Beatles had covered Carole and Gerry's songs; Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Take Good Care Of My Baby and they had just recorded Chains on their debut album.  Peter Asher recalls: "When the Beatles first came to America, that's who they wanted to meet: Goffin and King."

Al Aronowitz ferried Carole and Gerry to the Beatles' suite at the Warwick Hotel. "John made come-ons to Carole,' Gerry later said, 'but in a kidding way."  While the media and teenyboppers lusted for John and Paul, it was Carole King from Sheepshead Bay upon whom their idols showered awe.


Page 176 - Aronowitz coaches Gerry

Al Aronowitz had a knack for befriending musical legends.  Bob Dylan wrote Mr. Tambourine Man at Aronowitz's house: "sitting with my portable typewriter at my white Formica breakfast bar in a swirl of chain-lit Camels cigarrette smoke, his bony, long-nailed fingers tapping the words out and playing Marvin Gaye's Can I Get A Witness over and over for inspiration." the journalist recalls in his memoirs. 

Aronowitz's friendship with Dylan and his keys to the kingdom of "deep" songcraft made him a kind of life coach for Gerry.  Aronowitz used drugs to help push Gerry out of his three-minute wonders to the Other Side.


Page 179 - Tomorrow Records meets The Myddle Class

Carole, Gerry and Al Aronowitz formed a partnership, Tomorrow Records, to try and write and produce Beatles and Dylan-sounding music from talent that Aronowitz would scout for them.  He found a young group that high school and CYO dances called The Myddle Class.  It featured a brilliant guitarist, Rick Phillip, a gifted singer and writer, Dave Palmer, and a handsome but moderately talented bass player, Charlie Larkey.


Page 184 - The music of San Francisco

The movement started in San Francisco.  Its psychedelic culture seemed to have popped out of the oven fully baked one magical day, with the same suddenness as the Beatles-borne British invasion.  With the graphic designs of the suddenly flowering posters for the Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom rock concerts, for Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Sopwith Camel, Big Brother and the Holding Company and assorted musicians who had mystically synergized a sensual, LSD-heightened hard rock, the style was baroquely feminine in the extreme - everything swirled or sinewed.


Page 188-89 - Monterey Pop Festival 1967

At the Monterey Pop Festival the Mamas and the Papas were passing the baton to Big Brother and the Holding Company's Janis Joplin.  The festival which featured Jimi Hendrix's first filmed guitar immolation, drew a glamorous young elite that seemed to have just materialized one day.

Laura Nyro performed, while the exact setlist for her is unclear, her Stoned Soul Picnic was hailed by Steve Katz with "That should be the National Anthem", while Stephen Sondheim declared: "In ecomony, lyricism and melody, it is a masterpiece."  Joni considered Laura Nyro her only female peer, and Carole's hits had influenced Laura, just as Carole would be influenced by Laura's first album. 

In the spring of 1967, if you walked down the street as the Young Rascals' Groovin' drifted from one of the brand new head shops, you had to agree with that dreamy song: there wasn't "anything that's bet-ter" than this golden moment.


Page 190 -  Natural Woman

Though Carole and Gerry's marriage was crumbling, they would be awarded entrance into the new Dylan and Beatles led form of music by way of their Wasn't Born To Follow, a folk-rock-like melody with airly poetic lyrics.  It attracted the hipness-gatekeeping Byrds, who eventually chose to record it.

Gerry had run into Jerry Wexler one day, and from his limousine window Wexler had shouted: "You and Carole should write a song called 'You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.'"  A few weeks later the pair showed up at Wexler's Atlantic office, he recalls, "they said, "Here's 'Natural Woman.'  You told us to write it.'"  Carole sat down at the piano and played it.  Wexler recalls, "I thought - Oh, my God, is this wonderful or what?!  It was a hit, I knew it."

Wexler wanted to get it to Aretha Franklin.  She had been dubbed the Queen of Soul, largely as a result of her biggest hit to date, Chain Of Fools. which was tweaked by a Brill Building touch:  Ellie Greenwich, who with her husband, Jeff Barry, had written Da Doo Ron Ron and Leader Of The Pack - she added the irresistible "chain, chai-ain, chaiiins in the background.

The Queen not only recorded and released it, but the song has become part of Aretha's persona, a product of her soul.  For young women in the fall of 1967, Natural Woman was a watershed - a hymn to female sexuality right after the summer of love.


Page 195 - Carole King moves to Laurel Canyon

Carole King Laurel Canyon

Living in California, and especially in Laurel Canyon, Carole said, around that time, "enabled me to take things as they come a lot more, without going into the type of thing that many New Yorkers will do, and as I used to do: intellectualizing everything saying, 'Why did I do this?' and 'I wonder what he meant by that?' You just don't get into that out here."  "But I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now," the Byrds had sung, interpreting Dylan's My Back Pages.

  Like the song's narrator, Carole was dusting off the premature responsibility she'd rolled into at seventeen.


Page 201 - Carole records new album as "The City"

The four of them - Charlie Larkey on bass, Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar on guitar, Carole pumping the piano, Jim Gordon on drums - put a sophisticated gloss on a raft of new Carole-Gerry songs, three Carole-Toni songs, and two songs Carole wrote with Dave Palmer. 

During the sessions that led to The City's album, Now That Everything's Been Said, "Carole would sing or play parts to Charlie and me", Danny has said, "and once we got it right, we could hear how great this record was going to be." 


Page 202 - A Man Without A Dream

The album's most compelling cut was A Man Without A Dream, with Danny singing Gerry's lyrics ("It was such a good song," Danny says, "even my singing couldn't diminish its power") and with Carole's melody echoing the infectious plaintiveness of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.

Now That Everything's Been Said was the first album Danny had ever played on, so it seemed like a big accomplishment.  But meanwhile, over in England, Danny's friend James Taylor was one-upping him.


Page 203 - James Taylor meets Peter Asher

Once in London, James dug into his jeans pockets and pulled out an address that Danny (Kortchmar) had given him: that of singer and Beatles intimate Peter Asher.  Danny had met Peter several years earlier, when Danny's King Bees were touring with Peter and Gordon, Peter's duo with Gordon Waller.

Peter beheld, at the front door of his London maisonette, not Kootch, but Kootch's friend - a handsome, rangy young man bearing a demo tape.  James Taylor would be the first non-Beatle produced on Apple Records. 


Page 205 - Fire and Rain

Now, in the summer of 1968, in London, James and Margaret welcomed house-guests - Joel and Connie O'Brien and Richard Corey - bearing unhappy news. There was a girl, Susan Oona Schnerr, from Long Island, whom they all knew.  James had had a brief romance with her when both were psychiatric patients at McLean: James and Joel had hung out with her in the Village during their Flying Machine and scag-shooting days.

The severe depression that had landed her in McLean had over the years gone unabated.  Susie Schnerr had killed herself, by overdose.  Joel, Connie and Richard had known this for a while, but had not told James because they thought it would dampen his spirit at a critical moment: the acquistion of his record contract.

James absorbed the shock of the news.  Then, in a brooding, reflective mood, he used the unsettling fact that they'd delayed telling him to craft the opening bars (changing "Susan" to "Suzanne" for rhythm) - "Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone.....".  He called the song Fire and Rain.