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Eric Carmen

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  1. Dirty Dancing's Eric Carmen: "I Wanted to Find Where the Magic Was" BY BOB RUGGIERO Very few articles about Eric Carmen (including, sadly, this one) do not include the term "power pop" somewhere to describe the music he's made with the Raspberries and in his lengthy solo career. But according to the singer/guitarist, if you gotta have a musical label, you could do much worse. "'Power pop' was the term Pete Townshend created to describe the music of the Who," Carmen says today. "The Beatles played power pop. It comes from 'popular,' and nobody sits down to write unpopular music. It was never a dirty word to me. "But once 1970 rolled around, the people who made that kind of music just weren't taken seriously," he continues. "The Raspberries, I mean, who loved us? Sixteen-year-old girls and rock critics. It just wasn't cool for an 18-year-old guy to like the same band that his sister did." Listeners new and old can get the full Eric Carmen experience, though, on the new anthology The Essential Eric Carmen (Sony/Legacy). Its hits, deep cuts and live material chart his journey from teenage garage rocker with The Cyrus Erie, the Raspberries ("Go All the Way," "I Wanna Be With You"), and both early ("All By Myself," "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again") and later ("Boats Against the Current," "Hey Deanie") solo efforts. There's also his hit from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack ("Hungry Eyes") and late comeback single ("Make Me Lose Control"). It finishes up with a 2005 live Raspberries reunion effort ("Ecstasy") and his first new song in 18 years, "Brand New Year." Carmen says he is "wowed" by the remastering on the material, which he and engineer Mark Wilder were able to do, making the songs finally sound in reality like he says they did in his head decades ago. The single-CD project quickly mushroomed into two CDs and 30 total tracks. And while Carmen certainly had more familiar musical influences in the '60s, his earliest included two people firmly set in the classical world -- his Aunt Muriel, who played with the Cleveland Symphony for 43 years, and piano teacher William Kurzban. He began taking music lessons at age two and a half, originally on the violin before switching to piano. "Violin to me is like golf...I don't know how anybody gets through it to where it becomes fun!" he laughs. Not surprisingly, Carmen says in the liner notes that some of his rock and pop melodies were inspired by, influenced by, adapted from or downright nicked off some of his favorite composers like Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Mozart. But as he matured into a teenager -- and thanks to his parents' nice hi-fi system -- he began to investigate not just how a song made him feel but how it was actually made. And that involved a lot of knob twiddling and needle placement, over and over and over again. Carmen calls himself a "singles guy" wholeheartedly, preferring the playlist he heard on WIXY 1260 AM on his transistor radio over more album-oriented material from the same groups. "I mean, it was songwriters like Holland-Dozier-Holland, Goffin and King, Burt Bacharach," he offers. "It didn't get any better. "I wanted to find out what made 'Ticket to Ride' great," he says. "Was it the Rickenbacker guitar? John and Paul's voices? The EQ levels? What about 'Mr. Tambourine Man' by the Byrds? What made me smile about that music. I wanted to deconstruct those songs, to find where the magic was." And while Carmen's solo career in the '70s and '80s was steady if not spectacular, no one was more surprised than him when the soundtrack to a 1987 dance movie set in the '60s that he had a tune on blew up big-time, leading to new interest in Carmen, his participation in a film-inspired concert/dancing tour and a video in heavy rotation on MTV. "Let's face it, Dirty Dancing was not Gone with the Wind, but it obviously struck a nerve with people," he says. "I was reading a list that ranked the Top 20 best selling albums of all time, and it was No. 7 with 42 million copies. I mean, Sgt. Pepper was No. 14!" Also on the list was Celine Dion's Falling Into You, featuring the French-Canadian chanteuse's cover of Carmen's most recognizable hit, "All By Myself." And the soundtrack to Footloose features Carmen again as co-writer of the film's love theme, "Almost Paradise," performed by Loverboy's Mike Reno and Heart's Ann Wilson. But as our interview winds to a close, there is one question to Eric Carmen that begs and needs to be asked (and queried last, just in case we get hung up on it). Eric, what the hell were you thinking with the cover to 1980's Tonight You're Mine? "HA!" Carmen laughs heartily. "Let me just tell you one thing. That girl and I were not in the same picture. We were never even in the same room! Some art director spliced us together to make that photo! I got so much flack for it. And I can tell you...we probably fired someone as a result!" —The Houston Press, March 26, 2014
  2. Music Review - Eric Carmen: "The Essential" CD Eric Carmen's songs and voice are permanently engrained in the DNA of pop music. For over 40 years Carmen has been churning out pop rock gems and ballads that are as recognizable today as they were when released. From his 4 album stint in the "Raspberries" through a string of Top 40 hits in the 70's and 80's which culminated with 2 Top 5 chart busters from the 1987 multiplatinum "Dirty Dancing" soundtrack Carmen is a living legend. Carmen's best known songs have finally been given the remastered treatment with the release of "The Essential Eric Carmen." 30 tracks spread over 2 CDs and sounding better on these discs than I have ever heard them before. From "Get The Message" with his his first band Cyrus Erie to a brand new recording from 2014 entitled "Brand New Year" this set offers just about everything casual and fanatical music lovers could ask for with only a few missteps. The 2 exclusions that fail to make this a "complete definitive" collection are: ... the studio version of "That's Rock N' Roll" has been replaced with a LIVE version from 1978. It's a good version but not as good as the original studio track. ... the omission of the top 40 song "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips" which served as the comeback single off of Carmen's 1984 self titled LP. If those 2 tracks would have been included then "The Essential Eric Carmen" would be absolutely perfect. Drumroll please... 9 out of 10 drumsticks!!! —Pop Culture Beast, March 17, 2014
  3. Eric Carmen: Essential Eric Carmen (Sony Legacy) By Dave DiMartino Right around now might be a really good time to re-acquaint or actually acquaint yourself with the talents of Mr. Eric Carmen, who came to most people’s attention in the early ‘70s via his fab pop group the Raspberries (brought the energy and discipline of ‘60s pop to sloppy ‘70s rock, wore nice clothes and were well-groomed, had oddly retro hits with “Go All The Way” and “Tonight”) and then made the commercial leap to the acceptable face of solo stardom via such hits as “All By Myself” and, in general, stayed pretty true to himself aesthetically through thick and thin. This 2-CD collection offers the best known Raspberries tracks, a gem from his earlier, little-heard Cyrus Erie days, the solo hits and should-have-been hits (“Change Of Heart”), a 2005 Raspberries reunion version of “Ecstasy,” and “Brand New Year,” the man’s first new recording in almost two decades. It’s all very good, as Eric Carmen and the Raspberries always were. Highly recommended. —Rolling Stone, March 25, 2014
  4. Go ahead. Play "Planet Of The Apes." I double-dare you!!! Keep in mind, I own 75% of the writing and publishing. ( Raekwon sampled the intro of "Sunrise" and rapped/ sang(?) over it BEFORE negotiating. Oooops! ) It's a riot. I really was hoping the album would go gold, because I had visions of hanging it right next to Celine Dion's "Falling Into You" album on my wall. From "All By Myself" to "Planet Of The Apes!" Talk about versatile!
  5. Apparently, Hal's definition of "Monster Hit" is "Piano Ballad." When writing a review, why bother listening to the music? That's just so "old school." Write about what you "think" the recording is going to be, not what it actually is. In any case, I'm quite sure that Hal, or Evan, or whoever, has got one heck of a publishing catalogue just FILLED with all the great songs, and hit records they've written over the past forty-five years. I can close my eyes and almost see it......"The Essential Evan Schlansky"......"The Essential Hal Horowitz." Yep. I rest my case.
  6. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!????!!??!!??? Five stars, eh??????? So, let's see.....Note to self: For my next recording, I must be sure to use no more than three chords, fill my mouth with a beanbag, and shoot heroin. Lyrics must be unintelligible. No melody allowed. Must sound like I'm about to fall asleep in my chair. Got it! Five stars for me, next time!
  7. "As far as the review goes...."....All art is subjective, so anyone can write or say anything, and no one can actually say they're "wrong." However, if you send a writer who loves AC/DC to review a Mitsuko Uchida concert, and the guy knows nothing about Mozart, or classical music, and doesn't really care for it, you're going to get a very uninformed review. I've been around for a long time, so my skin has thickened considerably since the early 70's, but when some nimrod, who wouldn't know a a great song if it bit him, writes that "Run Away" should have been half as long as it is ( a thought that never, ever occurred to me ) it makes me think that, perhaps, he should be writing a review of something he actually understands. I don't expect every person on earth to love every song I've ever written. I don't love every single song I've ever written. I'm glad "American Songwriter" chose to review the new release, but I had serious questions about whether Evan, or today, Hal, ( the "author" of the piece changed from Evan to Hal Horowitz, today ) really listened to it. The impression I got was that the reviewer looked at the track listing, played a bit of some of the tracks, randomly reviewed others, and had a preconceived idea about what he was going to write before he ever listened to the first track. The "snarky" tone of the piece suggests that the writer was "covering his ass", so as not to appear "unhip" to his fellow writers and/or readers. If he had glanced at the booklet, and seen the quotes from Bruce Springsteen, Paul Stanley, Steve Jones, Slash and Alex Chilton, he might have been less worried about appearing "unhip." In any case, there were other far more informed reviews yesterday, and I suspect, more to come.
  8. Yesterday, the review in "American Songwriter" that I posted, along with my comments, was sited as having been written by one "Evan Schlansky." Today, the review's author has been changed to "Hal Horowitz." Very strange.
  9. Oh, and one more thing, Evan. The first 45 I ever bought was "Got A Girl" by The Four Preps: I was ten years old, at the time. So, I guess my fondness for four-part harmonies, predated my "infatuation" with Brian Wilson by about ten or eleven years. It's kind of ironic that the lyric is about a guy who felt like he had to become a "pop star" to compete for his girl's affections, since she was crazy about "Fabian, (Frankie) Avalon, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Rydell and (Elvis) Presley." Hmmmm.......
  10. I think it would be a great addition to every magazine that publishes "reviews" to list, next to the writer's name, a short bio of said writer, including his favorite artists/albums, likes and dislikes, and whatever qualifies him to write music reviews ( M.A. in music from Oberlin College or The Eastman School etc., whether he's ever mastered an instrument, played in a band, written a song, or secured a recording contract ). That way, we could read the review knowing where the writer was coming from. For instance: Evan's band never made it out of the garage, so, yeah, he's a little bitter. His favorite band is Pere Ubu, but he also likes alt.country. He dislikes anything melodic, and believes ballads are for "sissies." He spent two years at Tennessee State University before dropping out to become a journalist. He would have trashed "Yesterday" by The Beatles, but he was sucking on a "binky" when it was released, and had not yet learned the art of being "snarky."
  11. Don't worry kids, I learned long ago that "opinions are like a**holes, everybody's got one," so this kind of stuff is just par for the course, but honestly, once in a while, I'd just like to slap some of these guys up the side of the head!
  12. I'd love to know what makes this guy think he's qualified to determine that "Run Away" is "twice as long as necessary, or call "Tonight You're Mine" a "lunk-headed rocker, that's "as bland as it's title." Makes me wonder if he even listened to the track. And, of course, everyone knows that all of my "piano-based ballads" ( beginning with "the melancholy 'All By Myself', in 1975 ) "CULMINATED" ( Yes, that's the word he used ) "in 1987's "Hungry Eyes" ( a song I didn't write, and would find difficult to imagine categorizing as a "piano-based ballad" or the "culmination" of ALL my piano-based ballads ). And are 30 tracks REALLY "pushing it, for all but the most adoring fans", or does this guy just prefer Ozzie Osborne? Yeesh! Give a guy a pencil.........!
  13. Eric Carmen: The Essential Eric Carmen (Arista/Legacy/Sony) by Evan Schlansky 3.5 out of 5 stars “I’m a rocker,” Eric Carmen once sang as frontman for 70’s power poppers the Raspberries. And anyone who heard that or most of his other sexed up, adrenalized songs for that band would surely agree. There were some slow ones mixed into their albums such as the lush, lovely, Elton John styled “Starting Over,” but generally Carmen seemed most comfortable cranking out power chords and hooky choruses as on Beatles/Who rave up “Go All the Way” and “ I Wanna Be with You,” two Raspberries’ nuggets from this double disc Carmen career recap. Yet no sooner did he go it alone in 1975 than the melancholy “All By Myself” piano based ballads dominated his output. That culminated in 1987’s Top 5 charting, sugar slick “Hungry Eyes,” a tune destined to outlive Carmen with its featured appearance in that year’s Dirty Dancing film. To their credit, the compilers of these 30 tracks mix up the vibe with enough upbeat material, much of it tapping into the singer/songwriter’s lifelong Beach Boys infatuation, to keep the momentum going. That gets a little tough with mushy fare such as the string laden “Desperate Fools” and 1984’s soggy “The Way it Used to Be,” which sounds like a rejected demo for Barbara Streisand. A few lunk-headed rockers like the as-bland-as-its-title “Tonight You’re Mine” don’t fare much better. But anyone capable of writing a song as timeless, powerful and catchy as the classic “I just want a hit” musician tell-all “Overnight Sensation” (from ’74, with the Raspberries) deserves your attention and respect. Even if it means slogging through the extended eight minute “Run Away,” twice as long as necessary with the addition of a “MacArthur Park”-styled middle interlude. Like Billy Joel, Carmen is heavily influenced by early 60s Brill Building pop, resulting in 1980’s “It Hurts Too Much,” a tune with castanets and a honking sax break that even the great songwriter Doc Pomus would have been proud to call his own. While 30 tracks might be pushing it for all but the most adoring fans (who probably already own nearly everything here), this covers every album Carmen released from his first garage rock outfit, 1969’s Cyrus Erie, through Raspberries highlights (including three live tracks) and five solo albums. The extra room allows for deeper cuts like “Someday,” inspired by the singer’s appreciation of Lesley Gore, to get a much deserved airing. The closing “Brand New Year,” Carmen’s first new composition in 18 years, shows there is still gas left in his melody tank even if he remains in awe of “Surfs Up” era Brian Wilson. —American Songwriter, March 21, 2014 __________ And my comment to Evan: Do critics still write about Brian Wilson's "infatuation" with The Four Freshman, or, at some point, did a new generation just dig those beautiful harmonies, melded with the Chuck Berry instrumental approach Brian adapted? Yeah, I love a lot of what Brian did, and I used some of my friends from Brian's band to record "Brand New Year", but you might just as well talk about my "awe" for The Four Freshman, or any other great vocal group, for that matter. As for the song selection, over the years I've learned that when I read "string laden" or "soggy" or "mushy," I must be reading a review by a male writer who finds it difficult, if not impossible, to say anything nice about an orchestral ballad. Just for the record, I would rank "Desperate Fools" and "The Way We Used To Be" among the best songs I've ever written. I'm glad you like some of the other stuff, but unless you were listening over some shitty speakers, you neglected to mention one of the most important differences between this anthology and any other compilation: Mark Wilder's BRILLIANT remastering, which makes every one of the 30 songs included sound about 300% better than they ever sounded before. The sonics on this recording put all previous versions to shame. All the best, Eric
  14. A month or so ago, we took away my daughter's cell phone. The results have been nothing but positive. I'm now considering taking my son's phone, as well. Television, video games, texting etc are nothing but distractions that keep kids from ever thinking about the real world. I think MTV was the beginning of the downward spiral. That was the moment when being able to dance became more important than being able to sing, or write songs. It was when the "Madonna Factor" ( being controversial for it's own sake ) trumped actually saying something, musically. It's when videos became more important than music, and those who had the record sales to spend a ton of money making videos became more important than those who were great writers and singers and musicians, but didn't take their clothes off, and use sex juxtaposed over religious iconography to create a "buzz." Now we've got "artists" that can't sing, can't write, sample other artist's work, and SUCCEED!!!. The bar has been set so low, I find it unbelievable, but we live in a world where The Kardashians and Kanye West and reality television rule, and distract us from ever thinking about any of the important things going on. I actually think that's the point of "pop culture" today. Distraction from the real issues. Oh well, it's bedtime. 'Night all, e
  15. Dino, was my Grandfather's favorite singer!I used to see him, eating dinner by himself in a little restaurant on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They would play his songs over the sound system every evening. He looked so frail, a broken man, ever since his son died. I attempted to buy him a drink, once, just because he was my Grandpa's favorite singer. He sweetly declined, but was appreciative of the compliment. It was so sad to see this wonderfully cool, handsome man turned into a frail, depressed human being. He obviously never got over the loss of his son. Life can be so unkind. It can give you everything, and then take it all away in a moment. That's what I learned watching Dean Martin, from Steubenville Ohio, eating dinner all alone in his late 70's. He was my Grandfather's idol, reduced to a frail, lonely man, eating dinner by himself, every night. Crushed by life. Reminded me of that Lenny Kravitz song, recorded by Mick Jagger, "God Gave Me Everything." It seems such a cruel irony that life gives you everything you desire, and then takes it all way, one piece at a time, until it leaves you destroyed. That's all I could think of, every time I saw Dino. And the more life gives you, the more it has to take away. Pretty brutal, if you ask me. I'll never really understand the point of it. e
  16. All I remember about that show was standing just offstage, watching Stevie Wonder close his set with a twenty-five minute version of "Superstition", with his amazing twenty-piece band. And we were up next! We walked onto that stage, and looked out across the 75,000 people in that stadium, and launched into "Go All The Way." After that, it's all a blur.
  17. "All Through The Night" was my way of helping Mike McBride share in some of the writing and publishing royalties. Mike wrote all the verses, lyrically. I helped him out with the title and chorus lyric, and wrote the music. The song began with Mike's notoriously sarcastic, and misogynistic sense of humor. I'm pretty sure it was influenced by a Rod Stewart and the Faces song, "Stay With Me," which featured a pretty similar "attitude," lyrically. I felt no "emotional connection" with it. It was just a song. I CAN tell you a story I thought about, today, after reading some of the posts in this thread. In 1968, The Quick ( Danny and Randy Klawon, Mike McBride and yours truly ) went to New York to play a three night gig at a huge, crazy, psychedelic club/ ballroom in the East Village called The Electric Circus. It was kind of like a big fun house with weird, angled walls, and mirrors and strobe lights. After our first show, we walked offstage and into the dressing room, where, three minutes later, the door flew open and in walked four or five girls. One of them walked up to Danny and shoved her hand into his pants. I was sitting in a chair, tuning my guitar with a strobe tuner, when another girl began to undress herself, completely, and then came over and sat down on my lap, naked ( making it pretty difficult to continue tuning ). She asked if I had a girlfriend in New York, and when I said "no," she said "Great! I'll be your girlfriend, then!" I don't remember what the other girls were doing because, frankly, I was pretty "stunned" by the whole scene. We told them they had to leave the dressing room so we could get ready for the second show, and they dutifully exited. The stage was shaped like a large "half circle" with the front of the stage being the rounded part. The band had set up across the front of the stage in a straight line, leaving the round part of the stage, closest to the audience, unoccupied. When we eventually took the stage for the second show, the girl who was naked in the dressing room was about half dressed, and sitting in the middle of the round part of the stage, facing the band. She had her jacket on, but seemed to have forgotten her blouse. She just sat there, cross legged, Indian style, facing us, and when we began to play, she calmly unbuttoned her jacket and opened it wide for everyone to see, including anyone offstage, who had a good angle. Amazed, we continued to play, and throughout the show, she alternately closed and buttoned her jacket, and then unbuttoned it again, holding her arms as far apart as she could. We finished the second show, and when we eventually piled into our waiting van, the girls were already there, asking to go back to the hotel with us. I will end my story there, for everyone's sake, but, suffice to say, The Quick witnessed a pretty mind-blowing experience that evening. Being "rockers", we didn't want to let on that we were shocked, but we had never seen anything like that before.
  18. During the Reunion Tour, someone brought up the idea of doing ATTN. I nixed it, for the same reason that Rod Stewart may be a bit reluctant to do "Hot Legs" or "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." What might have been acceptable if you were in your 20's could REALLY BACKFIRE when you're in your 60's. Ugh.
  19. That song was sheer torture to write., but I listened to it a few nights ago, and thought " Hey, That wasn't too bad...considering the circumstances! Pretty good "middle eight" as always, made it palatable . Not my crowning achievement as a songwriter, but not bad, considering what it was.
  20. ‘Brand New Year’ for songwriting legend Carmen First new release in 16 years Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 CARLO WOLFF CJN Staff Reporter The voice hypnotizes even by phone. It belongs to Eric Carmen, the child prodigy from Lyndhurst who became a sensation in the Raspberries, the band he and guitarist Wally Bryson led from 1970 to 1975. As identifiable as those of contemporaries Elton John and Billy Joel, it’s a voice built for lyrics of desire and vulnerability, a blend Carmen perfected in his power pop and soft rock of the 1970s and 1980s. Mellifluous and wet, it’s also just right for “Brand New Year,†Carmen’s first solo recording in 16 years. A ballad in unusual time, “Brand New Year†caps “The Essential Eric Carmen,†a two-CD, 30-track anthology set for release on Tuesday, March 25. The compilation opens with “Get the Message,†the B-side of a 45-rpm single he recorded in 1968 with Cyrus Erie, a band that also included Bryson, his chief Raspberries associate. It’s an energetic track Carmen dissects in candid, personal liner notes accompanying the anthology, noting the 2014 version is a great improvement on the original. This “Essential†features all of Carmen’s hits, from the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way†and “Overnight Sensation†to “Make Me Lose Control,†a 1988 smash that lays Meatloafian bombast over sultry Latin rhythms conjuring an old Ben E. King track. The anthology affirms Carmen’s talent for writing songs of broad appeal, including the 1974 solo hit “All by Myself†(which incorporates a melody by Sergei Rachmaninoff); the confessional, literate “Boats Against the Current†from 1977; the souped-up ’50s rock of “Hey Deanie†and “That’s Rock N’ Roll†(also late-’70s hits for teen throb Shaun Cassidy); and “Ecstasy,†a hormone-heavy Raspberries tune recorded live in 2005 during a reunion tour. Does the set signal a full-blown Carmen revival? It was hard to tell from a Feb. 27 interview with Carmen from his Gates Mills home. For now, he’s focused on spreading the word of the anthology and its stunning closing track. Though he’d love to tour with the band with which he recorded “Brand New Year†in Los Angeles in December, Carmen said that at 64, he might not have as much appetite for the road as he used to. At the same time, he said playing dates with these musicians – all close to the iconic Beach Boy Brian Wilson – would be fabulous. “I know the band would be great,†he said. “The question is, would it make enough money to afford it? It would be great fun, on a limited basis, because they’re kind of my dream band, these guys. On the other hand, I don’t see wanting to go on the road 150 days a year. It was fun in my 20s, but not so much now.†Working with three members of the Wondermints, a vocal group of remarkable versatility that animated Wilson’s “Smile†tours nine and 10 years ago, and Beach Boys musical director Jeff Foskett was great, Carmen said, noting Wilson, the head of the Beach Boys, is one of his idols. The “Brand New Year†project took seed last fall when Wilson and guitarist Jeff Beck co-headlined a date at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron. Backstage last Oct. 27, when Carmen told Foskett he was working on the collection, Foskett said he would love to work with Carmen, who calls himself one of “Brian’s groupies.†And when Timothy J. Smith, who produced the anthology for Legacy Recordings, told Carmen he planned to launch it with the Cyrus Erie track and needed something new to bookend it, Carmen thought of the Wondermints and Foskett. But first, Carmen had to deliver his first song since the birth of his son, Clay, now 16. (He and his second wife, Susan, also have a daughter, Kathryn.) The new song seems to have dropped from the sky on the night of this winter’s first big snowstorm. To hear Carmen tell it, that chilly November night prompted the confluence of emotion and thought in “Brand New Year,†a hypnotic, ravishing tune that starts somberly and ends on a note of renewal. Not only does the song speak to Carmen’s empathy for two women he has come to know over the past several years, it also may help soften the aftershocks of a protracted divorce. “Between having babies upstairs and not being able to play at 2 o’clock in the morning and what had happened to the music business in general, there wasn't a lot of impetus for songwriting,†Carmen said. Nevertheless, he told Legacy’s Smith he’d give it a try. The night the weather knocked out the power and “I had no heat, no Internet, no anything,†so Carmen gravitated to the warmest place in the house, the living room, where he began to read by flashlight. Something about that “atmosphere, that complete vacuum†led him to put down the flashlight and “put my fingers on the piano for the first time in years,†he said. What issued astonished Carmen, a self-styled project writer, whether for an album or a soundtrack. “For the first time in at least 16 or 17 years, this song just kind of fell out,†he said of “Brand New Year.†“By the time I finished that night, I had the melody, the verse and the chorus.†Determined to craft something unmistakably different from “All by Myself†or “Go All the Way,†Carmen found himself writing in 12/8, a rhythm not common to pop music, with a major key and a minor feel, key changes, what he called “very sophisticated chords†– and, to his surprise, a falsetto this natural tenor has craved since “Day One, when all I wanted to do was sound like Brian Wilson in the Raspberries songs.†The backstory of “Brand New Year†involves a trauma nurse who served in Iraq and Afghanistan Carmen met through Facebook and a local woman who “has had an absolutely hellish year,†he said, refusing to identify either. The nurse is struggling with what he called an antibiotics-resistant illness that has sidelined her for two years. Reflecting on these women and the “four-and-a-half-year nightmare of divorce and what it inflicted on my children†informs “Brand New Year,†Carmen suggested. He thinks the tune strikes the universal note he always seeks, he said – and, in the first line, “drink a toast to all the ghosts we leave behind us,†leverages the notions of renewal and the holiday season. (The tune was released online on Dec. 31.) “It wasn’t cathartic so much as the song happened very quickly,†he said. “It was much easier than most of the things that I’ve ever written.†Part of that involved rediscovering his love for the piano, and part may have involved a “lot of stuff inside me that hadn’t expressed itself,†he said. The bottom line is that the tune conveys “the hope everyone has on New Year’s Eve.†cwolff@cjn.org
  21. Everyone is not a songwriter. There, I said it. Sometimes, a guy comes along who writes one good song in his lifetime. And sometimes, a guy comes along who writes lots of great songs. When you play in a band, your job is to do the best job you can, on whatever instrument you play, to contribute to the success of the song. If you came up with a good bass part, that doesn't make you a "co-writer", not even if the bass part becomes the intro. Is there a more memorable guitar riff than Duane Allman's intro on Layla? Or one more instantly identifiable? Probably not, but that STILL doesn't give Duane a writer credit, anymore than Steve Lukather, or Davey Johnstone, or any of the other great session guitarists I've worked with over the years would get a writer credit for doing exactly what I hired them to do. The difference with session guys is they have NO SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT. I hired them because I thought they were great, and because I thought they were the right guitarist for a particular song, they came in, did their job, and charged me "double-scale." That's what "pros" do. They give you their best, and you pay them, and you have fun, and hopefully something good comes out of it. I just thought of THE PERFECT EXAMPLE to demonstrate my point. It's amazing I"ve never thought of this before! When I signed with Geffen Records, in the mid-eighties, the "A & R" guy who signed me was a lovely, if eccentric, guy named John Kalodner. John LOVED "Go All The Way", and begged me to write him another "Go All The Way." When I attempted to explain to him that I wrote "GATW" when I was 21, and I was ( at that time ) 35, and that it would be uncomfortable, and perhaps even "unseemly" to write a song projecting that theme at my age, he shrugged it off. He wanted his new "GATW." So, by the time I gave in, and began writing "You Took Me All The Way" ( gag, wretch! ) I was doing it just for John, and against all of my natural instincts which told me this was going to be an imminent disaster. Long story short. Eventually I came up with a song John loved. Fast forward to the studio. I'm not absolutely sure, but I seem to remember the "hot" guitarist in L.A. back then was a new kid named Dan Huff ( now a superstar producer in Nashville ). Danny came in and I showed him the chords to the intro ( which were a bastardization of my own song ) and he played them beautifully. Great big power chords, just like the intro of "Go All The Way." They were, however, "different" chords, not exactly the same as "GATW", just similar in approach. I explained to Danny just what I was looking for, exactly the same way I explained to Wally what I was looking for. Different chords, different song. Would it ever have occurred to Danny Huff to bitch and moan about "writing the intro, and not getting a credit"? Of course not. He was a "hired gun" who came in and did exactly what I hired him to do: Play the hell out of that intro. That's NOT WRITING!!! He played the chords I wrote, in the rhythm I explained to him, and he did a great job. End of story. He didn't write one word of the lyric, or one note of the melody, or one chord of the song. Period. He was part of the "arrangement." When you play in a band, that's your job! If you're the lead guitarist, it's to come up with terrific lead guitar parts. In the case of "GATW", Wally didn't have to come up with the chords, or the rhythm in which to play them, he just helped me determine the "voicing." Where, on the neck of his guitar, the part would sound best. He tried three places. I picked the one I liked. And that was that. Wally didn't do anything different from what Danny Huff did. The DIFFERENCE was that Wally was "in the band", and Danny was a hired session musician, but they performed exactly the same function. It's that sense of "entitlement," combined with not getting enough of the spotlight, that ruins bands. It certainly ruined Raspberries. Paul McCartney wrote ( and played ) the intro of "Ticket To Ride." If George had come up with it, would that have made him a "co-writer"? Great as that intro is, the answer is no. I close my case.
  22. Actually, I don't think any of us made much of Jimmy's logo, and "Production and Sound". We loved Jimmy, and it was all "ok" with us, even if we weren't quite sure WHY the credits were that way. "Building a brand" is a fairly new phenomena. No one thought about it in 1972. Jimmy was always very smart. He parlayed the success we had into producing numerous other groups. It also didn't hurt that his little brother, Donnie, was on his way to becoming, arguably, the best promotion man in the history of the music business, and the future president of Sony Records.
  23. When the band was formed, the "model" was The Beatles. My thinking was,"If you're going to pattern yourself after another group, why choose any one but the most successful group of all time?" The concept came from many, long conversations between Jim Bonfanti and I, in Jim's living room. We literally spent months discussing every aspect of what we wanted our new band to be, from the music, to clothing to haircuts, to "image." Then we went about looking for the right guitar player and bass player. Our original bass player didn't seem to quite "fit", and left the band, so I became the new, de-facto bass player, and soon found out I really liked playing bass. I think , in the beginning, everyone "got" the concept and went along with it, and all of us would have ranked The Beatles in our "Top Five" picks for "favorite band." But, as time went on, it became apparent that Wally's favorite band was Free, and Dave loved The Eagles, while Jim and I stayed true to our original concept.
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