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Eric Carmen

Hindsight, Band Names, Labels, Success, Failure, Democracy and Entitlement

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I've been reading the "Renaming (The) Raspberries" thread for a few days, and I think it's one of the most interesting discussions I've ever seen on ec.com. I don't have much time to respond at the moment, but I thought I'd at least begin by putting up this new topic. I started to respond a couple of days ago, didn't have enough time to finish, and when I went back, later to write more, what I had written was gone.

Let me give you a little bit of insight regarding my mindset back in the late 60's and early 70's.

Almost all the music I loved, in the beginning, was created by "bands." As essential as Jim/ Roger McGuinn and his Rickenbacker 12 string were to The Byrds, what "made" "Mr Tambourine Man," for me, was the harmonies. It was McGuinn's lead vocal, but without David Crosby's high harmony part, it wouldn't have even been close to being the same record. 

And as good as "Ticket To Ride" was as a song, it was John's lead vocal and Paul's harmony above it that "made" THAT record.

I never wanted to be a "solo" artist, because all of the magic was being part of a vocal blend like John and Paul had. To this day, the stuff that got me off most, onstage, was singing the bridge of "Baby's In Black" with Wally, or Paul's part on "Ticket To Ride" while Wally sang John's part.

So THAT'S where I was comin' from in those early days. 

The other thing you need to know, and I've talked about this before, is that "The Choir" was like "The Beatles," but on the "local" level. They played all the same music I loved (Byrds, Beatles, Hollies, Who, Stones) plus they had really long hair, and great equipment (does anyone remember how important THAT used to be?) and they were just plain cool. And then, "It's Cold Outside" was released, and they had the number one record in Cleveland , and then it charted nationally and it looked like they were REALLY going to make it. I wanted to be in The Choir more than anything in the whole world (except, maybe, being in The Beatles).

So it is from that vantage point, standing in the audience, looking up at that stage, hearing the music I loved, played with the right chords, on great instruments, through big, cool amplifiers, LOUDER than anyone else's, by a bunch of skinny guys with long hair, who looked like they were having a ball, while all the eyes of the girls in the crowd were fixated on that stage, that the story of the creation of Raspberries begins.

At that point in my life, I was a shy, skinny introverted kid. But I dreamed BIG dreams. And when I saw Wally playing that Rickenbacker 12 string, while chewing a big wad of gum, and just generally being a complete "badass," I recognized that he and I could be that perfect "Yin and Yang" combination, if only I could get into the band.

To make a long story short, I had been rehearsing a new band that had been formed from the remnants of my high school band, and another local band, "The Rebel Kind." I had approached Kenny Margolis, the lead singer and keyboardist of the band, shortly after both of our bands had broken up, and suggested that we should form a band with two lead singers, who both played keyboards. Kenny brought his drummer, Ange LaMarco, and I brought guitarist Marty Murphy, and we rehearsed in the basement of Ange's dad's beauty salon. We added a girl singer, Karen Shane, and after about three months of rehearsal we were actually sounding really good, playing songs by The Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Procol Harum, and a lot of other diverse stuff. Every day, Kenny would tell me stories about The Choir, knowing how infatuated I was with them. His band had opened for them on numerous occasions, and he delighted in telling me what "stupid morons and hillbillies " they were. I would stare at him in disbelief as he ran my idols down, and I remember frequently telling him his stories couldn't possibly be true. He would just laugh.

One day, I arrived at rehearsal to find Kenny packing up his gear. When I asked him what he was doing, he said "I'm joining The Choir." Dumbfounded, I asked him why he would jump ship to join the "stupid morons and hillbillies" and he replied "It's just business." And with that, he hauled his gear up the stairs, loaded it into his car and drove away, leaving the rest of us stunned, standing in that basement knowing we had just wasted three months rehearsing for nothing.

I was pissed. And I was determined to do something about it.

I called a cute, local "groupie" and asked her if she could get me the phone number of The Choir's manager, Ray Taylor, and she said she could. Within 24 hours she called me and gave me his number. I mustered up all my courage and called him. The phone call went something like this: "Hi Ray, you don't know me, but my name is Eric Carmen and I've been rehearsing in a band with Kenny Margolis for three months, and he just quit our band and announced he was joining yours. I've never been very good at shameless self promotion, but I think, before you make your final decision, you should let me have an audition. I play piano (with BOTH hands) and guitar, and drums, and I can sing (higher than Kenny) and I write songs, as well, and....overall I'm a better fit for The Choir than Kenny is." 

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, and then he said "We're playing at the Lorain Hullaballoo this weekend. Why don't you come out and we'll give you an audition." So I drove out to the West Side and I ended up talking to Dave, Wally and Jim for a few minutes, but I kept wondering when I was going to get the chance to audition for them. It turned out that there was no keyboard there for me to play, and when the gig was over, they all just went home. I later learned that their manager had told them about this "wonder boy" who wanted to audition, and that they'd all had a pretty good laugh about it. And that was that. Kenny joined their band.

In the Shindig magazine article, Wally, rather disingenuously, made some statement about me "failing the audition." In truth, their was no audition. I never got to play, or sing or do anything else. Kenny was, and still is, a talented guy, but I was a much better match for the band. In some way, however,it was actually a good thing that I didn't get the audition, because, in hindsight, had I auditioned and been hired, I would have been the "junior member" of an already successful band. "The New Guy."

When they took Kenny, I made a vow that, six months from then, they would regret that choice, because I would have the best band in Cleveland, and almost six months to the day, Wally was fired from The Choir ( along with Dave Burke, their ASTONISHINGLY GREAT bass player). Wally came to see Cyrus Erie at Mentor Hullaballoo, and, after the show, he walked up to the stage and said "You were right. We should'a got you." I called the guys in the band, and the following day, I called Wally and asked him if he would like to join Cyrus Erie. He said "Yeah," and Cyrus Erie was soon the preeminent band in Cleveland, and on it's way to a recording deal with Epic Records in New York. We were eighteen years old when we signed that deal and flew to New York to record our first "professional record." With Sandy Linzer ("A Lover's Concerto") and Mike Petrillo ("Tell It To The Rain") as our producers, we headed into Columbia's Studio "C" to record three songs, "Sparrow", "It Won't Be The Same Without You" and a "B" side, that was supposed to "suck", "Get The Message."

This is starting to sound like the book I will one day write, so I'm going to have to skip around a bit. Otherwise, it will end up being a thousand pages and we'll all be very old.

So, to recap the story so far...I saw and heard The Choir. I imagined myself in that band, adding whatever I could add to what was already great. I started a new band with Kenny Margolis and rehearsed for three months. Kenny quit our band and joined The Choir. I asked them to let me audition before they made their final choice, but never got the chance. I went off to college, and a friend of mine met Don Ladanyi, the manager of Cyrus Erie, who was looking for a drummer so that he could bring Mike McBride, who was then the drummer, out front to do his very convincing Mick Jagger impersonation. My friend told Don he "knew a guy who played drums," and Don called me in for an audition. I had never played drums in a band before, except on a couple of songs in my high school band, but I showed up for the audition, sat down behind Mike's drum kit, and I bashed my way through a few Rolling Stones songs and got the job.

Their lead guitar player was on vacation when I auditioned, and I didn't think much of their rhythm guitar player, so I quietly suggested that I knew a better guitar player, and later brought my friend Marty Murphy into the band.

Cyrus Erie then fired their rhythm guitar player, and, when their lead guitarist returned from his vacation he became incensed that his buddy, Rob, had been "dismissed" during his absence. 

We had our first gig booked at The Agora (I think it might have been on New Year's Eve, 1969-1970.) Tim (the lead player) decided to teach us a lesson, so he came to the show, but never took the stage. He stood in the back of the room expecting us to crash and burn without his guitar playing. Mike, Bob, Marty and I sat backstage waiting for Tim to show up, and when we had delayed as long as we could, and it became apparent Tim wasn't coming, I told the guys that I could play guitar, and keyboards (a little fact I had kept to myself, until then) and that Marty and I could share guitar duty, and if Mike went back to the drums we could probably fake our way through the gig. So Mike went back behind his drum kit, and I pulled my guitar out, and we took to the stage and the "New" Cyrus Erie was born. Tim was so furious, standing in the back of the room, that he strode up to the stage and started to remove his equipment, right in the middle of a song! The whole situation had now become rather comedic, so, as Tim attempted to disassemble his amp, and the little lighting board at the front of the stage, we kicked on the strobe light, just to make everything look even more ridiculous, and Marty pulled his guitar off and pretended to smash it, Pete Townshend style, against Tim's amp. With the strobe light flashing, Tim really thought we were destroying his gear, so he leaped on stage and, in between the bright flashes, attempted to keep his balance, and find his amplifier. At some point, I remember him trying to unscrew the colored light bulbs ( which were VERY, VERY, VERY HOT by that time ) and I could literally smell his seared flesh as he furiously tried to take those light bulbs out. It was quite a scene.

The "New Cyrus Erie" quickly began gaining popularity, and then there was the night Wally showed up at Mentor Hullabaloo. Fast forward to Columbia Studio "C".

I'm going to skip over Cyrus Erie, recording in NY, for the moment and get to "Band Names."

In hindsight, the name "Raspberries" probably didn't help our career. Although, when I think back on it, the name never seemed to hurt us when we started out, and it didn't hurt us when we played clubs all around Northeastern Ohio.

The moment when the name became an issue, was when Capitol released our first album. You may or may not remember the story of how we found out that our album had been released. Dave and I lived in two different high-rise apartment buildings on Lakeshore Blvd, once affectionately labeled "The Gold Coast," because the buildings were right on the lake, and brand new, and pretty plush by 70's standards. One night, Dave called me in a panic. He said he had just received a call from a female fan of the band, and that she told him she had just purchased our new album. She went on to say it "actually wasn't the album, but the eight-track, because the guy at the record store told her the album had been delayed a bit because when you squeeze it, Raspberry jam is going to ooze out." First, Dave challenged her by asking her what songs were on the album, and when she replied correctly, he knew she indeed had purchased the eight-track. Of course, the band had no idea the album or eight track had been released. Nobody bothered to tell us.

So Dave called me, and the next day I called Jimmy Ienner in New York, and he assured me raspberry jam was not going to ooze out of the record, but there WAS going to be a "scratch-and-sniff sticker" on the shrink wrap that smelled like...what else, raspberries. Initially, we all thought that was kind of hokey, but it did seem to attract a lot of attention. The problem was that Capitol had missed the meaning of the name (the Bronx cheer) and now we were forever going to be associated with the fruity smelling stickers, and fuzzy little berries. Not the image we were going for.

I think the name might have been ok, but for that sticker, and the assumption we were named after fruit. Add to that the very "uneven" quality of the recording of the first album. It didn't really sound like us, at all. Everyone involved was new to the recording game, the band, Jimmy Ienner, and even our engineer, Shelly Yakus. We were all just starting out, and Shelly was the only one in the room who had a bit of experience. The fact that we had two weeks to record and mix the entire album, and a budget of $20,000 didn't help. There was no time to experiment with different microphones, or discuss why the guitars sounded thin, and the drums sounded small. In the room, they sounded anything but wimpy, but what we heard in the room wasn't making it onto tape. 

To be continued...

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Hi Eric,

Yes, it's a VERY interesting topic for so many reasons, and would love to hear more about the timing between when you joined the Rs and the choice of band name, when your band mates let you become the "leader" and how you felt about that position.  I know it wasn't easy, especially when the joy began to fade from the dream.

Your topic title means you have a lot of ground to cover, dear. 

(Am in the middle of Mardi Gras here in N.O., but will wait expectantly for your response.)

As always, ;) M.E. 

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On 2/25/2014 at 2:14 PM, Eric Carmen said:

Hindsight, Band Names, Labels, Success, Failure, Democracy and Entitlement

That's one helluva subject!

Bernie

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Eric,

I knew something upset you (very much) about that Shindig article, so thanks for the explaination re the "audition fail" comment from Wally.

Will look forward to more of your story...

p.s. (I see you've added more since this morning; very cool. ;)

xoxo

M.E.

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Tim found out about Rob when he got back from vacation. No texts, emails, face book, a telephone call would have been expensive long distance and a SOS letter would have taken days. We lived so differently.

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Awwww, I just realized after re-reading the full post...

I was one of those little girls looking up at the stage at a skinny dark-haired boy.   

As always ;), M.E.

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When I first read this subject all that I saw was: "Success, Failure, Democracy and Entitlement"

Sorry—dyslexia and being blonde, a lethal combination.

Anyway...

I got tingly in places that haven't tingled in a while...a very long while, because I thought there was actually going to be an "amazing" debate on hand that would make me want to dive in blindfolded and hope for the best and then leave me wondering...what next??

But alas...(don't you love the word "alas".. I do.) it was not what I thought.

However.

This post is extremely interesting, to say the least, and I am hanging on to every word...with bated breath of course (have you ever wondered why breath is "bated"—I have.) as I look forward to the next installment of: "Hindsight, Band Names, Labels, Success, Failure, Democracy and Entitlement." Geesh...I had to take a "dirty" martini break just reading that! But please know...if a debate does breaks out...I'll most likely join in with wits about me and "guns-a-blazing", like it used to be around here. And of course...with bated breath---(again, what is it with breath? Unless it is in one's ear.).

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marlene   
On 2/25/2014 at 2:14 PM, Eric Carmen said:

 We added a girl singer, Karen Shane, and after about three months of rehearsal we were actually sounding really good, playing songs by The Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Procol Harum, and a lot of other diverse stuff. 

 I remember meeting Karen at one of the Cleveland Reunion shows. (I'm thinking the first one?)

 I had no idea she sang with you...what a beautiful voice (and person) !!  

 Thanks for such a great post ! 

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James   

When I was a kid I hated the 24 hour wait between Batman episodes.  This is even worse. 

Let's go Eric.....we're Jonesing for the next installment!..

:-)

James

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Brian   

Ahhhh....I was there during those times,also. The Choir was the house band at The Stables in the Painesville Shopping Center.....played for us non-alcoholic types on Sunday afternoons....Eric, remember the Watergate Apartments you lived in??  Actually, the Gold Coast was referenced to the West side of Cleveland....the east side was just the east side....

A lot of Cleveland guys shared Eric's taste of music......the kick ass music came from bands........nothing beats seeing The Who onstage as one entity....wouldn't have worked if it was

Roger Daltrey and Friends.....

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For a long time, I really didn't even give the name "Raspberries" a second thought. What I have noticed over the years though is that when I mention the name of the band to someone who has never heard of them, I get a "look" or a snicker from them. I started thinking that maybe back in the 70's, Raspberries might not be the name of a band a red blooded male teen or young adult would want to listen to. Maybe I'm wrong.

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Brian always comes in with some interesting facts and info. to add to Eric's insights which are always great.

The girls definitely responded to everything about the Rs and even though guys liked some of the music, maybe they didn't want their little girlfriends being so enamoured with those 4 other boys?

I certainly did "Get The Message."  ;)

Hugz,

M.E.

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Buy the friends that "snickered" the new release. Within the booklet are testimonials from Bruce Springsteen, Paul Stanley ( Kiss ), Steve Jones, (  The Sex Pistols ) Slash ( Guns and Roses ) Courtney Love, ( Hole ) Cherie Currie ( The Runaways ), Alex Chilton ( Big Star, The Boxtops ) and Mathew Sweet.

Sometimes guys need to be "indemnified" before they can admit to liking music that is something other than Metallica and AC/ DC. They don't think it's "manly" to like "All By Myself." 

We had so many quotes we didn't have enough room to include Brandon Flowers ( The Killers ), Dave Grohl ( Foo Fighters ) and Greg Dulli ( Afghan Wigs ) who stated recently that " while studying to get his 'croon on' for their new album, he listened to Elvis, Roy Orbison and.....Me!  

That's pretty good company.

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Tom   

Psychology rules :P Capital decided the fruity named version would sell more than the Bronx cheer version.

True story related to the band. Not as good as Eric's stuff but good none the less.

I was a big fan of the band from the start. Saw them live in the early 70's. At the time I was working in a machine shop and I told a co- worker that I had seen the band. I can still see his mocking facial expression. Basically I had done a very uncool thing for a young guy in 1973.

I never forgot his reaction and in fact it was part of the reason I decided to pursue psychology as a career. I was fascinated by the whole emotional/cognitive element of marketing and sales. Why wouldn't this brilliant band take off into the stratosphere of success? It wasn't for lack of genius, "Tonight" is as good as anything put to wax.

Fast forward seven years and I am working on a Ph.D in psychology. My initial dissertation proposal was titled " Cognitive schemas and the marketing failure of the musical act Raspberries." Seriously. My doctoral advisor thought I had lost my mind. I ended up doing rat sensation/taste stuff

Names are important. That second album cover didn't help either. Mods were not cool. I was one.

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James   

I liked (maybe loved) the name "Raspberries".  But I did not like Fresh's album cover either.  At all.

P.S. ..that's a cool story Tom.

James

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