Some years back, I was attending a performance of Carole King’s Living Room Tour at New York’s theatre-in-the round then known as the Westbury Music Fair, its cozy environs just perfect for King’s intimate show. Midway through the set, a fan shouted to the stage, “Release your demos, Carole!” King smiled knowingly. “Talk to the publisher!” she replied. It clearly wasn’t the first time she had heard the request; indeed, legendary isn’t too strong a word for the original vocal-and-piano tracks supplied by King and her frequent lyricist and then-husband Gerry Goffin to the likes of The Monkees, Bobby Vee, Aretha Franklin, The Everly Brothers and others. Well, it’s taken a while, but a number of King’s demos are finally seeing official CD release as, yes, The Legendary Demos. On April 24, Hear Music will release the collection of 13 demos from King’s extensive repertoire of 118 (!) hits placed on the Billboard Hot 100.
Most of the songs on The Legendary Demos were written within the confines of 1650 Broadway in the offices of Aldon Music. These are the songs which established King as the Brill Building Queen, even though the actual Brill Building was down the street at 1619. Regardless of address, the songwriters ensconced in these buildings’ cubicles defined the sound of American pop music throughout most of the 1960s. The collection leads off with King’s demo of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a 1967 hit for The Monkees. That fab foursome also recorded “So Goes Love,” one of the lesser-known tracks on the new anthology, which was also covered by The Turtles! King’s 1961 “Take Good Care of My Baby,” a number one hit as recorded by Bobby Vee, is included in its original demo form. Gene Pitney is most associated with Goffin and King’s “Yours Until Tomorrow,” although that smoldering ballad was also recorded by artists as diverse as Dee Dee Warwick, Engelbert Humperdinck, Johnny Maestro and Cher!
The very next year, King moonlighted from Gerry Goffin when she teamed with Neil Sedaka’s usual lyric partner, Howard Greenfield, to deliver “Crying in the Rain” to the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil were duly rewarded with a No. 6 pop hit. Goffin and King supplied “Just Once in My Life” to another group of Brothers, although unlike the Everlys, the Righteous Brothers weren’t related! The Top 10 hit followed “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which was actually written by Goffin and King’s close friends and closest “competitors” in the Brill Building hierarchy, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil!
Hit the jump for much more on The Legendary Demos, including the full track listing, a pre-order link and a song preview!
A full five songs, surprisingly, aren’t from the halcyon 1960s days but rather from King’s groundbreaking 1971 solo album, Tapestry. From that classic you’ll hear stripped-down versions of “It’s Too Late,” “Beautiful,” “Way Over Yonder,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and the title track. Well, a sixth Tapestry track actually appears here, but it does date from the sixties: “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” written by Goffin and King based on a title contributed by Aretha Franklin’s famed producer Jerry Wexler. Perhaps the most unlikely track on The Legendary Demos is “Like Little Children,” a song copyrighted in 1967 by Goffin and King but generally unheard until King’s original rendition appeared on the soundtrack of the film Crazy in Alabama in 1999.
Understandably, some collectors might be frustrated that this prestigious project isn’t in the hands of a collectors’ specialist label (you know who they are!) that might have included more songs and more true rarities; indeed, demos exist of most of Carole King’s classics, from “Go Away Little Girl” to “Porpoise Song.” But The Legendary Demos finally marks an opening of a long-locked vault, and that in and of itself is cause for celebration. You can preview Carole’s full demo of “Yours Until Tomorrow” here. The album hits stores from Hear Music on April 24, shortly after the April 10 release of King’s first memoir, A Natural Woman.
Carole King, The Legendary Demos (Hear Music, 2012)
- Pleasant Valley Sunday
- So Goes Love
- Take Good Care of My Baby
- (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
- Like Little Children (may have appeared on Crazy in Alabama, Silva Screen CD 1104, 1999)
- Crying in the Rain
- Way Over Yonder
- Yours Until Tomorrow
- It’s Too Late
- Just Once In My Life
- You’ve Got a Friend
All tracks previously unreleased except where otherwise indicated.