The Essential Carole King
(Ode Records / Epic Records / Legacy Recordings)


Long before she hit the big time as a solo artist, Carole King was a hugely influential songwriter—a fact made quite clear thanks to hit after hit, mostly co-penned early on with her partner from way back then, the great Gerry Goffin. As is told throughout pop history, the song writing team of Goffin / King was a huge influence on U.K. superstars The Beatles and to a lesser degree, The Rolling Stones. King’s Stones influence is best exemplified by Andrew Loog Oldham as retold in his liner notes of a 33 track, 2010 double CD set released by Legacy entitled The Essential Carole King. Teaming with Columbia Records, Epic Records, and the RCA label group, Legacy have a vast array of Essential best of collections from a number of the great recording artists on Columbia, Epic and RCA Records, yet their Carole King Essential package is quite unique. This double Essential pairs the best of Ms. King’s solo output on Lou Adler's Ode Records on disc one—including classics from her huge Tapestry and Music albums—while the imaginatively constructed disc two of the double CD set features the original “hit” versions of tracks written by Goffin / King that were recorded during the heyday of the golden age of pop by American music legends like Bobby Vee, Everly Brothers, The Monkees, The Byrds, The Chiffons and many more, all featured here on disc two. From the in-depth CD booklet, Andrew Loog Oldham’s liner notes sheds light on just how big of an influence King’s music was on the British Invasion superstars (the Stones worshipped at entrance of the Brill Building in Manhattan back in ‘64). Further liner notes—from L.A. rock scribe / pop culture historian and author of the 2010 book classic Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon, Harvey Kubernik—adds further insight into King‘s unique place in American pop songwriting history. Among the hugely popular tracks from King’s solo albums featured on disc one—and in contrast to the classics she wrote as part of the esteemed song writing team of Goffin / King on disc two—is a great rarely heard track from 1962 that kicks off disc one entitled “It Might As Well Rain Until September.” This underrated Goffin / King song, featuring Ms. King’s vocals, expertly links the post-Buddy Holly magic of the ‘50s with the coming rock and roll boom that the Beatles and Stones would bring to American ears two just short years later. The Essential Carole King serves as a primer on American pop music history. / speaks to HARVEY KUBERNIK
author of
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon
and writer of the liner notes for THE ESSENTIAL CAROLE KING

MWE3: How did you come to work on the liner notes for the 2010 double CD set of The Essential Carole King as well as the double CD Tapestry reissue that also came out on Legacy / Ode Records in 2008?

HK: Lou Adler initially called me on the telephone and mentioned some sort of collection was being planned with Sony Legacy's Steve Berkowitz and Rob Santos. I then received an email from project manager Howard Frank, who works with Lou at Ode, and then Gretchen Brennison at Sony, who told me Lou asked that I write a liner note for this package.

I am honored to share liner note text panels with a literary mentor of mine, Andrew Loog Oldham. The music journalist jealously line forms at the left. I had worked with this same Sony team in 2008 on their Carole King Tapestry expanded release.

In 2007 I did a series of interviews with Lou concerning the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival for the cover of MOJO and Goldmine magazines. He appreciated my techniques and research.

Lou likes my writing, and I will say he commented on the fact for the Carole King Essentials gig that I included a quote from his engineer on the original Adler and King Hollywood A&M studio recording sessions, Hank Cicalo.

MWE3: You interview Ode Records founder / L.A. pop mastermind Lou Adler extensively in your 2010 book The Canyon Of Dreams. What influences do you think Lou Adler had on the pop music world of the ‘60 and ‘70s, and on reflection, what do you feel were the biggest musical / cultural differences between those two eras?

HK: The influence and contributions of Lou Adler can't be measured, let alone properly documented.

Most people might inspect and cherish his production work on Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers, Mamas & Papas, Spirit or Carole King. Imagine a world without these recordings. Or, The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie that still plays globally, let alone his ownership of The Roxy Theater since 1973, and the piece of the action he has at The Whisky a Go-Go. Think of the music that has been played at the Roxy and the Whisky.

The legendary 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival that he produced is the model of festival rock and pop culture. From the bands booked to the groundwork and floor plan that triggered all the subsequent rock and pop music gatherings. It was also a nonprofit venture and look at all the dividends the Monterey International Pop Foundation has provided for over 40 years.

Maybe one of Adler's greatest achievements was co-writing and producing Johnny Rivers' "Poor Side Of Town."

I think Lou's monumental impact was when he helmed the Aldon Music office in Hollywood. It became Screen Gems Publishing a bit later. His stint 1960-1963 included over 30 top ten records. The songwriters signed or developed at Aldon, along with the existing staff writers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins had on contract, really impacted not only the listeners and consumers, but other songwriters that learned their craft from these blueprints.

It was a world post February 1959 airplane crash of Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and their pilot, then the 1960 car death of Eddie Cochran, and a time period just before The Beatles/Lennon and McCartney really started writing their own tunes. That 1960-1964 time frame yielded some copyrights and recordings that are still being covered and played publicly.

Lou was the perfect person to talk to at length for the "Canyon" book. He lived in Laurel Canyon in the late 1950s and then built an empire. Lou's influence as a songwriter is also evident. His co-writing "Wonderful World" with Herb Alpert and Sam Cooke inspired many budding tunesmiths. I love his song writing work with Jan Berry. His production of Tapestry and the 25 million record sales really changed the game for many songwriters and stage performers who then wanted to also be the writer, the singer and performer, let alone make records under their own names.

The biggest difference between the eras you are asking about? Well, in terms of records, the sonic forum was usually 2-2 and a half minute records. This goes back to Buddy Holly and other pioneers in the late 1950’s. In the 1970’s the songs and recordings were longer, 3-4 minutes. AM radio in the 1950s and '60s wanted shorter 45 RPM records so more of them could be crammed into hourly DJ shifts.

That changed in the later sixties and into the seventies partially because of free form underground FM radio. Maybe in the sixties the focus was a bit more on the physical song writing and the execution of the records.

In the seventies perhaps, because the songwriters as musicians were playing on most of their sessions, the songs were longer, way more different themes than love songs and alienation topics, and a bit more improv. The role of the arranger, who was very important in the 1940-1970 world became diminished and label artists and acts in the late sixties started to write the bulk of their own material.

MWE3: Is Lou Adler still living in L.A. and how much was Lou involved in the reissue of The Essential Carole King two CD set?

HK: Lou lives in the Malibu area of California. And, very involved in The Essential Carole King retail release and on all levels. He's the physical producer of the King solo recordings on just about every track on disc one. He helped pick album photos, the recordings and the sequencing.

MWE3: How about future plans on upcoming Ode Records reissues and possible box set / retrospective on Lou’s productions?

HK: Lou is always working on reissues and timely re-releases. A plethora of Merry Clayton CD's recently came out in Japan. Cheech & Chong projects in 2010. Lou's Ode work with rock and jazz band Spirit has been out in CD format for a handful of years through Sony.

MWE3: Was Carole King involved, and to what extent, in the double Essential CD set?

HK: I don't know but Carole's manager, Lorna Guess, receives a very special thanks in the album credits, so I'm pretty sure Carole was involved or provided feedback on track selections. "The Singer" disc one was pretty much guided and assembled by Lou Adler. I was working with his office as the collection was developing. The Sony Legacy record label folks created "The Songwriter" disc two. The Beatles' version of "Chains" almost made the compilation instead of The Cookies’ original.

MWE3: Do you have any personal preferences and favorite songs regarding both King’s ‘60s and ‘50s music / songs compared to her ‘70s music?

HK: I just can't believe how great The Righteous Brothers' "Just Once In My Life" sounds in 2010. The Phil Spector production is remarkable. "Pleasant Valley Sunday" is a Goffin/King gem, too. And, The Everly Brothers' "Crying In The Rain" is awesome. Lou Adler, then in his job capacity at Aldon Music 1960-1963 supervised the production of that song when the duo were on tour. I am also partial to "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin, owing to the taste given to co-writer Jerry Wexler, who suggested the song title.

As far as King's '70s, Lou Adler's production on her recordings is something to really admire. His implementation of a core rhythm section allowed Carole's songs to breathe and certainly helped define a new sound identity, away from the classic songs and bigger rock anthem-recorded tracks she penned with Gerry Goffin. King in the late '60s and early '70s enlisted the likes of Toni Stern as co-writer on some compositions like "It's Too Late' that might have only sprung from a combined female viewpoint. I love "I Feel The Earth Move" that Carole wrote and "Jazzman," a tune done with David Palmer.

One of the things Lou Adler stressed to me about Carole King, the musician, was that she is underrated as a piano player. Her work on the instrument really push these songs. I sat at her piano at a recent rehearsal in 2010 as she was getting ready for her tour with James Taylor, and just imagined how her finger tips aimed some of these songs at our ears.

Years and years ago at some award show rehearsal, on some fanboy level, I requested her to play a few notes of "Hey Girl" that Freddie Scott sang, and Billy Joel covered. I then asked, "Did you play the piano opening blast on "One Fine Day" that the Chiffons cut?" She just smiled...

MWE3: Summing up, can you reflect back on the big change or changes of music from the heady days of the mid to late ‘60s to the dawn of the big singer-songwriter movement of 1970-71?

HK: Most of the singer/songwriter movement of the era you ask about was record label, agent and management dictated and controlled. FM radio was guided by these forces as well. Advertising played a role. I think most of the singer/songwriters and that world was sort of bland. Some genuine artists were on display, obviously Carole King, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, and the first few solo albums of Neil Young, but I usually return to Love, Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Kaleidoscope, Chris Darrow, Beach Boys, Turtles, the Rolling Stones' mixed Hollywood albums, Monkees, and the immortal work and sonic gifts of arranger/producer Jack Nitzsche that set the foundation for the singer/songwriter scene and sounds for others that followed through the 1970s.

MWE3: Speaking of Carole King, do you hear any word these days about her song writing partner from the ‘60s, Gerry Goffin? I know he worked quite a bit with Barry Goldberg too.

HK: Gerry is around town and writing songs with Barry Goldberg. I used to see him at a local health club. I know he's a Lakers' fan. If he never wrote another tune, his teaming with Carole already informed and changed the world. I seem to remember Kelly Clarkson did her early demos with Gerry and Barry Goldberg before she was discovered.

MWE3: What’s been the reaction to your book, The Canyon Of Dreams and what was your main motivation for writing the book?

HK: The motivation came from a phone call from a book packager as a company was looking for a writer to do a book on Laurel Canyon. I had already been researching a potential book project partially along the lines, stemming from my 1975-1980 weekly Los Angeles column in Melody Maker, and over the last few decades doing informative and unique original stories on the neighborhood and coupled with the Tapestry liner notes being out, the opportunity came my way. I was born overlooking Sunset Blvd. right near East Hollywood and Los Angeles. I was the obvious choice. No one else would have had my personal history and regional knowledge that covered 1920-2009.

I went to Fairfax High School in the West Hollywood area. Everyone else who usually tries to chronicle the region is from out of town, out of country, out of the district or born out of county. They may move to Hollywood or Los Angeles from other suburbs, but they did not walk on Hollywood Blvd. in 1957 or hear the potent R&B and popular music on the AM radio dial in the 1950s or absorb the swinging sounds in the 1960s and early '70s that still have durability and impact in 2010.

The reaction to my book has been very nice and positive. It continues hourly and globally. BBC Radio has just been in town for a two-part Laurel Canyon radio documentary that airs in the Autumn. 13 million people will listen to it. Every week there is a new review. MOJO with 5 stars and a recent Shindig! Magazine rave. They also did an advance news story in another issue. I appreciate the love. "Take It As It Comes" as the Doors' instructed. I'm happy anything has emerged. Not one advertisement has been taken and the word of mouth and person-to-person pass around aspect of the book is what really counts. It's influence is just starting.

I can attend the THC Expose and sign autographs and be at a concert and someone will ask me to sign a book that they have in their car. Dudes at record swap meets want their books inked. It's a trip. The mention and book cover reproduced in "Lucky" caused the most reaction from teenage chicks and college girls. That was really cool. The book has become a bible to some people, a trusted print friend to others, a musical and geographical guide to record collectors and fans, even fellow authors have gone out of their way to congratulate me on doing the Laurel Canyon legacy and the current musical residents right. Facts, photos, captions, memorabilia and the multicultural vision. As Dennis Dragon told me, "We don't define it. We just do it."

The history and mystery view of this magical world will never be the same owing to this book, added to the the hundreds of published articles I have done in and about around this neighborhood, the liner notes for Tapestry, and the current work I am doing in TV and movies. One documentary where I'm in one of the production roles involves Carole King.

MWE3: What's the big news from L.A. these days and where do you think the L.A. pop sound of the future is going these days?

HK: I can't tell you about the future of the L.A. pop sound, but I like the band Entrance, Billy Mumy, Jenny Lewis, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson, English-born and Laurel Canyon based singer/songwriter, Zowie Scott, and the gals in Pearl Harbor are really cute. Piper looks like Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las.

I still listen to radio. Some of the big news will always be Rodney Bingenheimer's "Rodney on the ROQ" program on KROQ-FM. 106.7. Lots of things he spins, even in demo, end up garnering some sort of record deal or even added to the regular KROQ-FM play list. I also like Pat Baker's "Twisted Roots" show on KCSN-FM. 88.5 along with Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, especially Little Steven's Underground Garage channel.

From my viewpoint, the new L.A. pop sound is DJ created and driven. The person with the turntable is the buzz. The DJ on the airwaves is usually the music supervisor for movie soundtracks. The next L.A. pop sound will be centered around bands or musicians who are in films and on soundtracks without record deals or a CD out. That has been happening for a while. Who needs pundits to tout your action or a major record label anymore?

MWE3: Can you let us in on any new projects your planning in the future?

HK: It looks like myself and my brother Ken will be working on a book examining the influential and seminal 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival in association with Lou Adler, who produced the event.

In 2010 I've done a slew of cover stories for Goldmine Magazine, including Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Runaways, and The Rolling Stones, contributing to on a regular basis, the monthly "Record Collector News," and this spring working with editor Rob Hill in the creation and vision of the very topical and regional "THC Expose" Magazine. The periodical has just published my long form 4,000 word profiles and interviews with Ray Manzarek of The Doors as well as KLOS-FM DJ Jim Ladd. I'm also currently working on some music and pop culture documentaries for 2010 and 2011 broadcast and retail DVD market.

I also nurture and help develop cultural creatives that will be making a mark in the sound and vision world. I've provided many opportunities and breaks for a third of a century and happy to see some of my work, contributions and helping hands making an impact.

MWE3: Thank you Harvey.

HK: Thank you. Good work and research. I appreciate the opportunity.

Thanks to Harvey Kubernik and Sterling Publishing.
Photos courtesy of Henry Diltz.



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