I don’t have much to say today, but I felt like posting anyway. Sonic Youth’s cover of The Carpenters’ “Superstar” is a real head scratcher. Released in September of 1994, this CD single called If I Were a Carpenter seemed destined to be a collector’s item almost instantly. Richard and Karen Carpenter became ridiculously famous in the early 70′s with songs like Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun. I hate to admit this, but I owned a 45 RPM copy of Close To You way back in 1970. There isn’t enough sugar substitute on hand to describe Karen Carpenter’s dreamy voice crackling over the AM airwaves. At 10 years of age I was not smart enough to know The Carpenters were definitely not cool. Thurston Moore and I must have a little something in common I figure.
“Superstar” is a story about a groupie who scores her rock star only to find herself trying to continue the relationship with nothing but a radio after he leaves town. It was written by Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett with help from the venerable Leon Russell. Originally released as a B-Side to a single called “Coming Home” by Delaney, Bonnie & Friends, it became popular because it was included on Joe Cocker’s star studded Mad Dogs & Englishmen live performance release in 1970. Allegedly named “Groupie (Superstar),” it was shortened to “Superstar” obvious reasons. Already covered by Bette Midler, Cher and an Australian singer named Colleen Hewitt, Richard Carpenter re-recorded it with Karen’s vocals and released it in 1971 on the album “The Carpenters.” It included Rainy Days & Mondays and sold a gazillion copies for their A&M label. The song was also featured in movies like “Tommy Boy” and “The Ghost Rider.” Gotta love that permanent movie exposure for posterity.
Then Sonic Youth came along, added about 20 seconds of classic SY feedback, and turned it into an ethereal hazy alternative remake. Clearly they liked the song, which is very important in doing a different sounding cover. Groupie songs are always kind of sad I figure. Even though “What’s Your Name” by Lynyrd Skynyrd will never be my favorite Skynyrd song, at least it has something to say, good or bad. I didn’t do any research on groupie songs, but I bet I could really come up with a healthy list with a little digging. Anyway, I present to you Sonic Youth’s version of The Carpenters’ 1971 hit “Superstar.” Hope you like it even as you find it a little bit creepy (the way I do).