Raspberries At HOB

Raspberries At HOB

So Eric Carmen's sitting as his keyboard. And he starts telling this story. Of lying in bed every night with his transistor glued to his ear. Listening to the Beatles, the Stones, everybody on the radio. And then his fingers start waltzing over the keys.

"Well I know it sounds funny
But I'm not in it for the money, no"

Rolling Stone was my bible. I read every issue. It took HOURS! I MEMORIZED IT! And I TRUSTED IT! When Lester Bangs said "Killer" was the record of the year, I purchased it and when the first notes of "Under My Wheels" emanated from my stereo, I was instantly converted. I'm STILL an Alice Cooper fan. And when, in the spring of '74, the same magazine said that "Overnight Sensation" was one of the best records of the year, I took another risk. I thought the Raspberries were AM fodder. But when I put this record on my Dual turntable and I heard that piano part Eric played last night, my ticket was taken, I was cashiered, I was IN!

They say the biggest non-hit of all time is "River Deep, Mountain High". I had to track that Phil Spector record down, and when I heard it I said HUH? My life wasn't changed, this didn't DESERVE to be a hit. If you want to discover a record radio missed, a true classic, one that will change your life just as much as any of the hits of yore embedded in your brain, THEN you've got to hear "Overnight Sensation."

It's a secret club. Of people who know the track, and those who don't. No handshake is involved, you just look at each other and thinly smile, like you just fucked the girl of your dreams. Like you ALL did. Your life is complete. Everybody else is still searching.

But I didn't expect the rendition last night to be "Bohemian Rhapsody", to lift me out of my seat and float me high above the band, doing cartwheels in the sky, mesmerized and elated by this SOUND!

They get no respect, these Raspberries. Or, at least they didn't USED to. You see they just weren't hip. They made singles in an era of albums. And Eric referenced this. He thought it would be REVOLUTIONARY to cut three and a half minute singles in an era of extended prog rock solos. But FM didn't get the joke. Oh, hipsters would understand today. AFTER the Ramones. When everybody got a sense of humor. Unfortunately, no bands with such a sense of melody, who could play hit delicious power pop, have ever walked the earth again. The Raspberries were the last iteration. In the early seventies.

But really, the Raspberries are a sixties band. When you saw the Vox amps littering the stage you realized you were home.

You see that's what the Beatles used. We all knew. We knew EVERYTHING about the Beatles. That's why we all picked up guitars and formed bands. We wanted not only to be the Beatles, but to be INVOLVED! In this music REVOLUTION!

As they're running through their hits, and there are quite a few, everything from "Tonight" to "Let's Pretend" to "I Wanna Be With You", I felt like I was at a high school sock hop. My life was flashing before my eyes. Somehow I was visualizing all the ski areas in Western Massachusetts. Most of which don't exist anymore. Like Jug End Barn. You see I was a believer back then, in music, skiing and LIFE! There was endless opportunity, and the tunes provided the grease, as we tried to discover and become who we wanted to be.

And back then there were no tapes. You slung your guitar around your neck and wailed. It was all about technique. And this guitar player in the Raspberries, this Wally Bryson, he didn't miss a note. He had the EXACT SOUND OF THE RECORDS!

And Dave Smalley still has his pure voice.

Actually, all three of them sang. And played. You see in the sixties it was about your talent, not your looks.

And then, we hit the piece de resistance.

"Overnight Sensation" starts with Eric's paean, sung to simple notes. But then the band comes in... It's Phil Spector's wall of sound, but a decade later. And, now it's being re-created LIVE!

What can I compare it to... The Tubes performing "White Punks On Dope"? When they'd troop fifteen people on stage to be the choir?

But that was comedy rock. That was about intellect more than sound. This was about sound. The guitars were wailing, the drums were pounding, and sitting on top of it all was the pure angelic voice of Eric Carmen.

They trucked all the equipment from Cleveland. Where they still live. They rehearsed at SIR. All to deliver, to show us, those who still believe, that it wasn't a mirage, that they could rock with the best of them.

You can go see Paul McCartney. You can see him mug as he plugs Fidelity Investments and Lexus. You can try to party like it's 1969.

But it won't work. You'll only be reminded of how old you really are. As a sexagenarian clinging to his fame tries to re-convince you, when you're already convinced.

Rock wasn't made for the arena. It only went there when the bands got greedy, when they wanted more money.

And rock wasn't hyped on TV. It wasn't covered endlessly in the press.

Rock was something that happened in your bedroom. Or between you and a girl. And if you saw it live, it was a sacred ritual, including only members of the tribe.

Last night was a religious experience. A forgotten band from a derided era went all the way, and we were along for the ride.

Just imagine it. If you were alive back then you know the riff. You're only a few feet away. And Wally slaps that sound out of his axe and it's like you're back in your car in 1972. Feeling that you've got this life thing nailed, that you're gonna make it work, that just like the song says, you're ready to GO ALL THE WAY!

Maybe you got sidetracked. Maybe life's just too unwieldy. But for two hours last night, the flame was rekindled. The assembled multitude not only had hope, they had faith. But really, it was the precious moment of being there. Listening to guys from our era, who we never got to see, knocking us dead.

Finally, I've got to tell you, "Overnight Sensation" was the best live performance I've heard all year. It was SENSATIONAL!

—Lefsetz Letter