Written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody, “Solitaire” was originally recorded by Sedaka himself, and is one of those much-covered songs that seems to have been around forever. It’s been interpreted by numerous other artists, ranging from Elvis to Sheryl Crow as well as Tony Christie and The Searchers. But there is one version that is, arguably, head and shoulders above all others and that’s the one by the Carpenters, recorded in 1975 for their album Horizon.
Sedaka’s original was the title cut for his 1972 album recorded with 10cc members Lol Creme, Kevin Godley, and Graham Gouldman, and engineered by the other group member, Eric Stewart, at their Strawberry Studios in Manchester. The first release of “Solitaire” as a single was by 1960s stalwarts the Searchers in February 1973, before a version by Andy Williams reached No.4 on the UK chart in the autumn of the same year.
Richard Carpenter knew both Sedaka’s and Williams’ versions, but was apparently not convinced that the song was right for his sister Karen. However, once she had recorded it, he described it as “one of [her] greatest,” adding the caveat that “she never liked the song [and]…she never changed her opinion.”
“Solitaire” was the third single to be taken from Horizon, and differed slightly from the album version, as on the single, a lead guitar solo was added between the first verse and chorus. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 in early August and went on to make No.17 on the chart. In so doing, it became the Carpenters’ least successful single since their pre-stardom A&M debut “Ticket to Ride” in 1969. It only made No.32 in the UK, where the duo’s singles success was on the wane, although there was one further surprising top ten hit there to come in 1977.
The Carpenters were never as successful on the Billboard charts after “Solitaire,” but it’s nevertheless become an absolute favorite among their legions of fans.