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Bob Lefsetz L.A. Show Review


Jeff

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OK, I'll start, as I am too far away at the moment to feel the electricity that was in my backyard last night ....

A friend sent me this -- from the subscription website Bob Lefsetz, who outs out the "Lefsetz Letter" a subscription site from L.A. that even Eric has read and e-mailed to:

__________

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 f****d 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!

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This guy gets it. In all the threads before the reunion concert when I tried to explain what Raspberries live was like, all I ever wound up saying was "electrifying." I couldn't find words to describe the experience. This guy did.

He hit it right on the button. Right on the money. DEAD on. I just can't wait for more reviews like this one! Jeff, thanks a multi-million for sharing this. Just reading it, I found myself nodding in absolute agreement.

:) --Darlene

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Thanks Jeff.I remember when I was younger-Rolling Stone would write "killer",long, in-depth articles and if you happened across one about a favorite artist it was heaven.The review you shared was on a par with those articles and gave me that same ol' feeling.The Raspberries sure took a long time to finally become "Overnight Sensations".

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Incredible....thanks, Jeff, for the review. Mr. Lefsetz eloquently stated what many of us have felt for a long time about this band and this remarkable reunion. Hope the message spreads further through the media. And I'm really glad to see the "West Coasters" witnessed what was, by all indications, a remarkable concert.

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Nice stuff in that review; I can appreciate the nostalgia rush, and man, it would have been nice to hear "Overnight Sensation" live.

But -- if I could be just a bit curmudgeonly -- I never thought of "Overnight Sensation" as this undiscovered, secretive, members-only, non-hit of a song that never made an impact. While it hasn't received "Bohemian Rhapsody"-sized attention, it did make some noise on the charts. Heck, it spent time in 1974 on the Top 40 chart in Billboard; in fact, I think it reached No. 20, right?

I suppose the story really was about the writer re-discovering a song he hadn't heard in years and realizing, finally, how powerful it is. For any of us who have listened to "Overnight Sensation" 8 million times since 1974, the song has never been a secret.

Then there was the writer's obligatory shot at Paul McCartney, as if that would strengthen a concept (Raspberries today) that didn't need it. I mean, in one breath he wrote about McCartney in 2005 by saying:

"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."

Yet he also compares the experience of being at a Raspberries '05 concert to a "sock hop." Geez, wouldn't a sock hop make somebody feel old?

Otherwise, the review had all kinds of great sentiments that any Raspberries fan can relate to. Thanks for putting it up, Jeff, and sorry for being a little nit-picky. Definitely worthwhile...

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LC said:

But -- if I could be just a bit curmudgeonly -- I never thought of "Overnight Sensation" as this undiscovered, secretive, members-only, non-hit of a song that never made an impact. While it hasn't received "Bohemian Rhapsody"-sized attention, it did make some noise on the charts. Heck, it spent time in 1974 on the Top 40 chart in Billboard; in fact, I think it reached No. 20, right?

NOT really true.... BEYOND it's deceiving #18 "chart position" "Overnight Sensation" really is exactly as he put it... It never got any REAL airplay (I never heard it on NJ or NY radio)...sorta like Dwight Twilley Band's "I'm On Fire"... as soon as it fell off the charts it was never heard of again...

AND, after that, despite "Rolling Stone"'s accolades, it fell on deaf ears, bar the diehard Raspberries fans... It's very obscure in the grand scheme of things...also: his "River Deep..." analogy is an amazing insight....

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Weird thing about my experience with "OS." The first time I heard it was when I bought the album in '74. The song received zero airplay in Montreal, but it must have received airplay elsewhere in Canada: There used to be a weekly music program called "Keith Hampshire's Music Express" (I think that was the title, but Andy will probably correct me). Hampshire had a booming David Clayton-Thomas type of voice, and had a few hits in Canada. One week on his program he did "Overnight Sensation." Imagine my surprise to hear this "undiscovered, secretive, members-only, non-hit of a song that never made an impact" being sung on a coast-to-coast program.

Marv

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It never received any airplay in Erie. Only after I got the album did I know it existed. And that's only because a friend who worked in a record store called me(oddly enough, the store was called Raspberry Records .... cool!)and said "there's a new album out by that Cleveland band you like".

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..and I've never stopped being amazed by the genius of that song. After all these years, hearing the band do the song live still brings chills and tears.

I would love to have been a fly on the all when Eric played the song for the band, taught the song to the band for the first time...to see their expressions/hear their comments etc.

In the history of popular music the word 'classic' gets bandied about too easily, but in my mind, there are very few pop/rock songs that deserve the title like "OS" does.

Marv

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Pierson, as a fellow NJer . I remember hearing Overnight Sensation on progressive rocker WNEW-FM and we played it at college rocker WSOU-FM but I'm not sure I remember hearing it on any other NYC radio station not even rocker WPLJ who did play "I'm On Fire" quite a bit. Neither of these songs do you ever hear now on any NYC station.

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Pierson, I agree with you that "Overnight Sensation" is "very obscure in the grand scheme of things" (hence my "Bohemian Rhapsody" point.)

But I also agree with myself---it wasn't a TOTAL secret. How could it have hit #18 on Billboard's chart if DJs weren't spinning it at least a little, prompting at least some people to buy it? Marvin's and TommyTunes' replies bear me out: Maybe there were stations that maybe NEVER played the song, but there also were stations here and there that did.... (Maybe you were listening to the wrong stations? If you heard "Kung Fu Fighting," "Rock Me Gently," and "You're Havin' My Baby" a lot in 1974, you might have been tuning in to the wrong stations.) (No offense to anyone who loves those songs!)

Also, I'm not sure how chart positions can be TOO deceiving, unless Billboard practiced some sort of sinister record-tracking scheme that made certain songs look like Top 20 hits when they really weren't.

Certainly, though, we're in agreement that "OS" is a classic---a brilliant bit of songwriting and a stunning production. I could listen to it all day.... In fact, after I kept playing it over and over in the car the other day, I heard this, again, from my 6-year-old daughter: "Dad, why do you like that song so much?" (I explained the sentiment of the song to her; she got a kick out of the way people used to use the word "bread" to mean "money.")

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And again, I don't mean to be splitting hairs, because overall, the review Jeff posted is great. (In fact, I was originally going to debate the writer's description of Eric's voice as "angelic." Critics have always used that word to describe Carl Wilson's voice, but Eric's is more versatile---sometimes innocent, sometimes snarling, sometimes urgent, sometimes tough, yet always so recognizable. But... I figured I was starting to sound too contrary, so I deleted that paragraph.)

Anyway, as others have pointed out, the fact that the reviewer was so blown away by "Overnight Sensation" makes him okay in my book! I think it was his gratuitous shot at McCartney that got me going.... It just reminded me of all the years that Rolling Stone seemed to regularly beat up on Paul, no matter what he was doing. RS, for all its appeal, made it seem like it just wasn't cool to dig McCartney.... Or Eric, for that matter. Does anybody remember the RS review of Boats Against the Current? I still have that issue, with (I think) Elvis on the cover. But I digress....

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Well, this is my first post here. And it was my FIRST time seeing the Raspberries ever! And what a GREAT first experience it was! I really had an amazing time! Until recently, I had never known who the Raspberries were except through my boyfriend who's a huge fan.

I thought their music was great, but it means nothing until you see them performing their memorable tunes live. Well, I shouldn't say 'nothing,' they ARE fabulous songs, but they mean all that much more once you've seen them in performed and seen the band in person. And boy DID I get to see them in person!

My boyfriend and I went to the meet and greet before the show on Friday night, and it was really fantastic. To see them up close and personal, as it were, and to be able to shake their hands and introduce ourselves. They were super friendly and really personable. They even made a cute comment about how I was too young to know who the heck they were, and I then explained that my boyfriend had brought them into my life, and they thought that was pretty cool. I won't disclose my age, but they were at their peak before I was even around!

Getting out picture taken with them as well was also something very special.

The show, as I briefly mentioned before, was incredible. They still have it! I couldn't believe how great they still all sound, and after having heard the CDs again and again, I was really surprised at how great they still were together, both in sound and overall performance. Magic.

Hearing 'Go All The Way' 'I Wanna Be With You' and 'Overnight Sensation' live was just too awesome for words! I will never forget that night as long as live. It was so awesome to see all the fans still so excited too. It really adds to the energy of the show.

My boyfriend and I had a wonderful evening, and I know HE'LL never forget it either. ;)

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