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Lew Bundles

Starting Over Review...and song lyric of the day...

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Bonus Quote of the Day (Billboard, on the Raspberries’ Classic Final Album, “Starting Over”)

“Eric Carmen must be considered one of the strongest rock vocalists around, and it is a mistake to consider this band for kids only. There are a lot of music fans waiting for the kind of skillful, good rock this band serves up. Probably the strongest overall effort yet from this band, thematically and musically. Best cuts: ‘Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),’ ‘Play On,’ ‘I Don't Know What I Want,’ ‘I Can Hardly Believe You're Mine,’ ‘Starting Over.’” --“Pop Pick,” Billboard Magazine, September 28, 1974, on The Raspberries’ final album, Starting Over (from Eric Carmen’s Web site)

All hail The Raspberries! Most of the rock critics of the time wouldn’t give the power pop group of the Seventies a break, and the pressure from the record company just became too great to endure.

Two members left, but it still didn’t help. The title Starting Over took on unintended irony when the band collapsed. By the following spring, it was, as Carmen later sang on his eponymous solo album, time for “Ricky and the Tooth” (i.e., producer Jimmy Ienner).

All I know is that throughout high school, I wore out Starting Over—and, if I’d been able to get my hands on the Raspberries’ earlier LPs, they probably would have received the same treatment. For true believers, none of what I say is necessary.

But for anyone else—well, just think of some of their biggest fans: John Lennon, Keith Moon, Kurt Cobain, Bruce Springsteen. From great, full-out rock ‘n’ roll (“Cruisin’ Music,” a Beach Boys tribute covered in a prior post of mine) to the most hauntingly tender love songs (the title track), this album had it all.

But towering over it all was the first song, perhaps the great production masterpiece of Carmen’s entire career: “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” a thunderous five-minute extravaganza packed with piano, guitar, all-stops-out lead vocals by Carmen--and one hell of a lot of heart. It shows the struggle to get a creative product out there for fans to appreciate (“Well the program director don’t pull it/Then it’s bound to get back the bullet”), climaxing in the magical moment when the song-within-a-song issues from a transistor radio.

That LP has been consigned to history in the CD era, but I played it so often I can hear it still, as much as I can the heartbeat of my youth.

In my head I hear
The record play, hear it play…


Song Lyric of the Day (The Raspberries, Keepin’ the Summer Alive with “Cruisin’ Music”)

“Get up in the morning
Check out the weather
If it looks like sun
I get my things together
Throw some cutoffs on
Got my tank-top and tennies now
And head for the beach.”—The Raspberries, “Cruisin’ Music,” written by Eric Carmen, for the band’s album Starting Over(1974)

Some might say that “Hot Fun in the Summertime" is the greatest song that Brian Wilson should have written but didn't. My own nomination is for this one, the last chart entry before lead singer Eric Carmen left The Raspberries. It’s got all the essentials for The Summer Song—sun, sand, cars, and, of course, girls.

When he wasn’t channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald (see the song titles “Boats Against the Current” and “Winter Dreams”), Carmen was literally channeling the Beach Boys on his transistor radio. If you don’t believe me, try listening to “She Did It” from his Boats Against the Current solo album, or, in his Raspberries days, his take on the romantic dilemma of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”, “Let’s Pretend.”

(A word of advice: Steer clear of the cover version of the latter by The Bay City Rollers. While Carmen sings the tune with conviction, you’ll probably feel the goo coming off your hands from the overhyped Seventies answer to the Beatles.)

A week ago, Carmen turned 60. It’s hard to believe that the composer of “Go All the Way,” “Ecstasy,” “Tonight,” and “I Wanna Be With You” is now a settled-down family man.

But the sound of this particular Raspberries single is so fresh that it’s easy to overlook the time-capsule lyrics (“Those suntanned girls/Are lookin' outta sight/A beach-drenched chick/Would never get uptight”).

If there were any justice in this world, the Raspberries would have been hailed as the greatest thing to hit pop since—well, The Beach Boys. But life isn’t fair.

The hell with it. Find this song on iTunes (or, in my case, a Raspberries CD), and play it loud.

Summer’s here—late, it’s true, for the New York area—but not too late to “check out the weather,” hop in the car and catch a wave.


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