How a Bank Commercial Inspired The Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’

The Carpenters made some of the most popular music of the 1970s. The Carpenters’ song “We’ve Only Just Begun” was inspired by a bank commercial. During an interview, songwriter Paul Williams explained the song’s origin.

The Carpenters' Richard and Karen Carpenter near a plant
The Carpenters’ Richard and Karen Carpenter | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Paul Williams co-wrote 2 of The Carpenter’s biggest hits

Williams is a songwriter and actor behind many famous songs. He wrote hits for Barbra Streisand, Three Dog Night, and The Muppets. He also co-wrote two of The Carpenters’ classic hits: “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” During an interview with Music Radar, he discussed writing “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

“It had all the romantic beginnings of a bank commercial, Williams recalled. “Tony Asher, the great lyricist who wrote ‘God Only Knows‘ with Brian Wilson, had been asked to write a song for The Crocker Bank. Tony broke his hand while skiing and decided to pass on the job. He recommended Roger Nichols and me. It was, forgive me, our lucky break.”

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Why Paul Williams wrote The Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ when he didn’t initially want to write it

Williams described the commercial. “The Crocker Bank contacted Roger and me about the commercial they wanted to do: a young couple getting married, they get a kid, they kiss at the wedding and the reception, and they drive off into the sunset,” he said.'” There’s not going to be any sales pitch,’ they said. ‘It’s like a little movie’ — what we would now call a music video. And at the end, it was going to just say, ‘You’ve got a long way to go. We’d like to help you get there — The Crocker Bank.'”

Williams didn’t want to write a song for a bank commercial. He saw himself as an edgy rock ‘n’ roll artist rather than a sentimental person. He would later realize he was sentimental and he wrote and performed “We’ve Only Just Begun” for a Crocker Bank commercial. Subsequently, The Carpenters covered “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Williams praised Karen Carpenter’s performance on The Carpenters’ cover of the song, calling her “an angel.”

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The way the world reacted to ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’

“We’ve Only Just Begun” became a massive hit. The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 17 weeks. “We’ve Only Just Begun” appeared on The Carpenters’ album Close to You. Close to You peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and remained on the chart for 87 weeks.

“We’ve Only Just Begun” became popular in the United Kingdom as well. The Official Charts Company reports it hit No. 28 in the U.K. and lasted on the chart for seven weeks. Meanwhile, Close to You peaked at No. 23 and remained on the chart for 76 weeks. “We’ve Only Just Begun” became a huge hit even if Williams didn’t want to write it.

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