We’ve Only Just Begun

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We’ve Only Just Begun (m. Roger Nichols, w. Paul Williams)

From Wikipedia (image added):

Paul Williams and Roger Nichols (2)The song was originally recorded by Smokey Roberds, a friend of [Roger] Nichols, under the name “Freddie Allen”.[1] It debuted in a wedding-themed television commercial for [Crocker Bank] in California in the winter of 1970 with [Paul] Williams on vocals. Hal Riney, founder of the San Francisco-based advertising agency Hal Riney & Partners, commissioned the song to help Crocker appeal to young people. The song played over footage of a young couple getting married and just starting out. Direct reference to the bank was left out, in part to make the song more marketable. The commercial was very popular and [Crocker’s] business flourished.

Richard Carpenter saw the commercial and guessed correctly that it was Paul Williams (both of them were under contract to A&M records). Carpenter ran into Williams on the record company’s lot and asked if a full-length version was available. Although it had only two verses and no bridge, Williams confirmed that there was a bridge and an additional verse, forming a complete song; he and Nichols went on to write them. Carpenter selected the composition for the duo’s third single and included it on the LP Close to You.

Released in the late summer of 1970, the single featured Karen’s lead vocals and the overdubbed harmonies of both siblings. Following their hit, “(They Long to Be) Close to You” onto the charts, “We’ve Only Just Begun” hit #1 on the Cash Box singles chart and #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming the pair’s second million-selling Gold single. It was considered by both Karen and Richard to be their signature song.[2]

Selected links

Wikipedia:

lyric (Carpenter’s version):

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Crocker Bank commercial, vocal by Paul Williams — 1970

Portions of the complete song were used in at least two Crocker Bank commercials. The first, “Wedding” (below), uses the same first two verses recorded by the Carpenters (with a slightly different back vocal). A later commercial, “Moving,” uses an alternate first verse, which is a combination of the first two verses as published, plus the third verse. Neither commercial includes the bridge: “Sharing horizons that are new to us…”

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1970 recordings

Roger Nichols and Paul Williams — from the 1970 album We’ve Only Just Begun, Almo / Irving Music Records SP 8025

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1970 We've Only Just Begun-Freddie Allen-B-side of White Whale WW-345

Smokey Roberds (as “Freddie Allen”) — issued in March 1970 on the single White Whale WW-345, b/w “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

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1970 Close to You (LP) Carpenters, A&M Records SP-4271Carpenters c. 1970 (1)

Carpenters — from the Carpenters’ second album, Close to You, A&M Records SP 4271, released on 19 August 1970; also issued two days later as the single A&M 1217, b/w “All of My Life”

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(below) lead vocal with bass and drums; some back vocals can be faintly heard (1:00-1:06, and 1:51-1:57)

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Dionne Warwick — from the album Very Dionne, (US) Scepter SPS 587, released in December 1970

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Tony Mottola — from the 1970 LP Close To You, Project 3 Total Sound PR 5050SD, PR 5050 SD

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1971 It's Impossible (LP) Perry Como, RCA Victor LSP-4473 (d35)

Perry Como — from his 1970 album It’s Impossible, RCA Victor LSP-4473

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1971

Paul Williams montage 1

Paul Williams — side 1, track 3 of the 1971 album Just an Old Fashioned Love Song, (US) A&M SP 4327 (also SP-3131, according to Discogs.com)

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Curtis Mayfield — live at The Bitter End in NYC, January 1971

A recording of Mayfield and his band performing the song at The Bitter End in NYC in January 1971 was released on the album Curtis/Live! in May that year. His introduction to the song:

A lot of folks think this particular lyric is not appropriate for what might be considered “underground,” but I think underground is whatever your mood or your feelings might be at the time, so long as it’s the truth. I think it’s very appropriate that we might lend a few words of inspiration about here.

with intro

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without intro

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Carpenters —  live at the BBC, 1971

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Claudine Longet — from the LP We’ve Only Just Begun, Barnaby Z 30377, released in February 1971

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Andy Williams — from the album Love Story, Columbia Records KC 30497, released in February 1971

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1971 Visions (LP) Grant Green-Blue Note BST 84373 (1)

Grant Green — from the album Visions, Blue Note Records BST 84373, BST-84373, released on 21 May 1971

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Ramsey Lewis — from the 1971 LP Back to the Roots, Cadet Records CA-60001

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Billy Eckstine — from his 1971 LP Feel the Warm, (UK) Stax 2362-019, (US) Enterprise ENS-1017

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Continue on to page 2 of 3.

Pages: 1 2 3

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1jazzguy
    Oct 16, 2019 @ 07:55:06

    Good Morning Doc, I had no idea of the genesis of this song. Nor was I aware of the covers. The thing I love about Songbook is what I learn when dropping in. Be well and keep up this wonderful site.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • doc
      Oct 18, 2019 @ 19:14:10

      Hey Robert,

      Nice to hear from you, and thanks again for the encouragement. I remember very well seeing the Crocker Bank commercials in the early 1970s, though it seems curious that I did so since, according to Wikipedia, it was a California bank with most of its branches being in Northern California, and I’d never left New England at the time.

      It’s not clear to me whether I heard the commercial before the Carpenters’ version, but it definitely had a big impact and has always been one of my favorite songs. I probably wasn’t aware of Paul Williams for another year or two. As I recall, after he’d co-written a few hits he rather suddenly became a ubiquitous presence on television: talk and game shows, sitcoms, variety shows, etc. On talk shows (Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Carson) he would often perform a song or two, or a medley of songs, that he’d co-written.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • 1jazzguy
        Oct 19, 2019 @ 08:37:32

        Hey Doc,
        I’ve had some health problems in the past year, but was happy to get your link in an email and leading me back to this amazing Songbook. Hope you have been well, Doc.
        I never knew there was a commercial for the bank using the song. Of course, I never heard of the bank, being born and raised in the Midwest. But the song is one of my favorites from Carpenters.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply

  2. doc
    Oct 18, 2019 @ 19:37:28

    Upon rereading the Wikipedia page on the bank it appears that at the time the commercials using “We’ve Only Just Begun” came out, the bank’s name was Crocker Bank, not Crocker National Bank. I’ve modified the page accordingly.

    Like

    Reply

    • 1jazzguy
      Oct 20, 2019 @ 07:59:44

      I read the Wikipedia article on the bank, Doc. I also never knew that it was acquired by the bank that gave me my first mortgage. Histories of songs and artists are very revealing reads.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • doc
        Oct 22, 2019 @ 14:06:22

        Robert,

        The story told by Hal Riney in the video that I’ve posted in the comments here suggests that his ad campaign, a series of three commercials featuring the song “We’ve Only Just Begun,” was so popular that the bank eventually franchised the commercials, if I understand correctly, to banks all over the country. That would explain why I saw them in New England. Two of the three, at least. I don’t remember ever seeing the one called “New Job” before today.

        I don’t know when the bank became “Crocker National” or if it ever actually had branches around the country as that change would suggest, but I believe the franchising described by Riney happened in the early 1970s, years before the bank was purchased by the Midland Bank in 1981, and later sold it to Wells Fargo.

        Wishing you the best of health,
        ~ doc

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        Reply

  3. doc
    Oct 18, 2019 @ 19:53:13

    Like

    Reply

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