Richard and Karen Carpenter had a spectacular 1970. It started slowly, with their interpretation of The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride” stalling at No.54 in the US. But by the summer, they were ruling the Hot 100, spending a month at No.1 with the Bacharach & David composition “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” You can read more about the letter that A&M Records’ co-founder Herb Alpert sent to the siblings when they made the top spot here.
Then came the Carpenters’ British breakthrough. The single was an interesting choice, first recorded by actor-singer Richard Chamberlain in 1963 and then by Dionne Warwick – with a Bacharach arrangement – for the 1964 LP Make Way for Dionne Warwick. The next year, it became the B-side of her “Here I Am” single, and was also cut in 1965 by Dusty Springfield, but her version remained unreleased for two years. The potential of “Close To You” remained untapped.
The Carpenters’ version charted in the UK in September, peaked at No.6 on October 10. Their debut UK hit made a cautious start on the bestsellers, edging up the chart, and in the last week of September, the track seemed to be running out of steam when it improved just one place to No.14.
But then came its surge into the Top 10, as “Close To You” raced eight places to No.6. Seven days on, it fell two places, but still, it wasn’t done, climbing back to No.6 before starting a slow descent that earned it three more weeks in the Top 20.
In the week of its first peak, with the Carpenters creating the hottest new sound in easy listening pop, Freda Payne was in the fourth of a six-week reign with “Band Of Gold.” British record buyers were showing their affection for reggae (Desmond Dekker), hard rock (Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, side by side in the Top 5 five with “Black Night” and “Paranoid” respectively) and more soul sounds by Diana Ross and Chairmen of the Board.
All the same, perhaps surprisingly, the Carpenters’ transatlantic success didn’t immediately lead to UK chart domination. The Close To You album only reached No. 23 there, and they would have to wait another two years for a second Top 10 single with “Goodbye To Love,” backed with “I Won’t Last A Day Without You.”
Buy or stream “Close To You” on the Carpenters’ album of the same name.