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How GATW Changed My Life


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How "Go All The Way" Changed My Life
by Larry Lange

The summer of '72 had been a bleak one so far. Fear and war and terror seemed a permanent presence in the world now—even reaching into the cozy confines of suburban Long Island where I was busy growing up sixteen.

I could hide for a while in TV's Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family, but just a channel away, the news was always bad. While Idi Amin wreaked havoc in Uganda, Islamic terrorists in black ski masks were murdering athletes at the Munich Olympics.

Life magazine images from Vietnam depicted the unspeakable: naked bloody children, faces fraught with horror, fleeing for their lives as black smoke billowed in the distance. The Watergate break-in suggested that the once irreproachable Presidency was involved in something insidious. The Godfather, The Poseidon Adventure, Deliverance—even the movies reflected the panicky angst I felt.

For respite in music, I desperately sought to fill the void leftover by the Beatles break-up two years earlier. Alas, the FM airwaves offered only the joyless clang of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. And AM radio sent no solace—"Nights in White Satin" and "American Pie" were incessant reminders that indeed, the music, along with a slice of my innocence, had died.

By July, I was working for peanuts in some thankless summer job, when suddenly—finally—a song burst forth and leapt into my heart. A song of such sheer exuberance and joy—it flooded me through with exhilaration.

That song was "Go All The Way"—a three minute and nineteen second masterstroke of pop perfection—which combined a frenetic Who-style riff, plush Beach Boys harmonies, and a Beatles-style section spilling over with relentless "c'mon! c'mons!." The high-pitched lead singer knew me and sang my song when I couldn't—a gangly geek struggling mightily with peers, with girls, with sex—with life.

Marked by Music

As this was long before the web or MTV, information on the band was scarce. In time, I was surprised to learn the four with the curious name, Raspberries, were American—not British, as I'd expected. Nevertheless, I took them to heart; over and over setting the needle to the vinyl of their debut album—poring over the blurry picture and scant liner notes of the cover—which itself reeked of a treacly scratch n' sniff raspberry scent.

Despite the knockoff jacket, my summer and my life were forever lifted because of Raspberries—Eric Carmen's vision, craft and musicality had seen to that—along with Wally Bryson's elegant lead guitar, Dave Smalley's countrified mellowings, and Jim Bonfanti's manic power-drumming.

Music was important in those days—it marked you—it marked me as a hopelessly romantic pop-rock naif, but I didn't care. I finally had my Beatles—even if none of my friends understood, mired as they were in the jaded muck of Harvest, Eat a Peach and Can't Buy a Thrill.

That autumn swiftly ushered in new Raspberries music, the perfectly-titled Fresh became a soundtrack for my teenage existence. The electric blast of "I Wanna Be With You" was complemented by the yearning ballad "Let's Pretend." And turning the platter over unveiled a set of songs woven together so perfectly, its only match was the B-side sublimity of Abbey Road.

Poised for Success

It took a year of haunting my local record store, but finally the new album Side 3 was in the racks, covered in crisp oversized pictures of a basket of raspberries. Inside, the group sported superbly flashy clothes—each outfit providing rare insight into the four's personalities: Eric the star, Wally the dark prince, Dave the stylish country-boy, Jim the low-key rocker.

"Tonight" was simply, what?—complexly explosive!—I played it over and over and over until the vinyl grayed and skipped. And I celebrated Rolling Stone awarding it "Best Record of the Year"—I felt vindicated!

With little music news to go around in '73, I'd heard about the group's Carnegie Hall concert too late to attend—but still, I was vicariously proud of them. Raspberries seemed destined for greatness—for the worldwide success and acclaim they rightly deserved. I looked forward to the coming wave of respect and adoration for my group—a group I believed I alone had discovered and championed.

Yet at the same time, something seemed off, amiss. While I did come across a lone article in Circus magazine, there didn't seem to be much being reported about them in Creem, Crawdaddy or Melody Maker. It was maddening for me, but still I figured the group was enjoying sold-out arena concerts around the world, and racking up huge hits, despite my barely ever hearing them played on the radio.

Beginning of the End

The cover of next year's Starting Over threw me deeply. Who were these two strangers on the cover—where were Jim and Dave? For the remaining four, the smiles had dissipated, the hair now shoulder-length, the clothes mere t-shirts and jeans.

Still, the music ravished me. They'd grown, matured, as I had, and it was beautiful to be part of. I rejoiced with Wally's profanity on "Party's Over," Scott's Lennonistic "Cry," and Eric's near X-rated "All Through The Night." I rejoiced again when Rolling Stone named the album one of the best of the year, and called "Overnight Sensation" "stunning." But of course it was!

I went down on my knees to watch the group perform a powerful trio of sets on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, but I couldn't understand why the audience received them with such little enthusiasm—they even seemed bored! What was going on?

In Concert

Now old enough to be carded, I would finally get my chance to see them live. Newsday announced the group would be playing on Long Island at My Father's Place, which was another surprise to me. The place was a club, not Carnegie Hall or Madison Square Garden, where I'd expected them to be. The house only held a couple of hundred people, who had to sit at dinner tables—but still, I was in delirium when I caught Eric's eye as he sang "number one" during "Overnight Sensation." He winked and smiled at me. "You know", he seemed to say.

A month later, I was shocked to hear a radio ad saying Raspberries would be at the Shoreham in Sayville, ten minutes from my house. What the hell? Them?—at a dumpy bar in my neighborhood? I went anyway, hours early, thinking it a mistake—but it wasn't.

When the group showed up for sound check, I found myself alone in the dusty parking lot with Eric Carmen—who waved at me and asked "where can I get a cup of coffee around here?" I stuttered and hawed out an answer, then drove him to a 7-11 up the street—gushing compliments while he chain-smoked, and stared out the window forlornly.

Only three Raspberries showed up that night: Eric, Scott and Mike (they said Wally was "sick")—and the trio gallantly played Beatles covers, or cranked their amps to 10, covering over musical intricacies. They looked like stars, even if they didn't sound like it—and invariably, the motley crowd, inexplicably finding someone famous at their disposal—heckled them for the forty minutes the show endured.

Perspective came all at once in July '75, with four curt lines in Rolling Stone announcing their breakup. It was exactly three years to the month when I'd first heard "Go All The Way." I wanted to cry, but tears wouldn't come, only a numbness borne of disappointment—for them, for me.

Lessons to Learn

In retrospect, the story of Raspberries has impacted my life profoundly. They've meant more to me than simply a "rock n' roll group I used to follow in the '70s." Rather, Raspberries offered a life lesson to me, and it was a harsh one. Indeed, how could something so magnificent—perhaps even approaching sheer genius in its spectacular artistic vision, creation and presentation—go almost completely unnoticed by the world at large? If a dream as lofty as Raspberries could not be realized—then I wondered, what exactly was the point of dreaming? And why bother pouring out the Herculean energy necessary for accomplishing such a dream—only to be recompensed with what—indifference? Ridicule?

These were questions without easy answers. After Raspberries, I somehow realized that life would be much more difficult and complex than I had previously believed. After Raspberries, I knew subconsciously that I needed to learn to live with disappointment and disillusionment, because this world was not necessarily going to be one of fairness and justice.

So, yes, today I go about my life somewhat cautiously, a bit guarded perhaps—call it lessons learned from being a hardcore Raspberries fan. Yet, at the same time, I'm also one of the elite few who were forever changed for the better—enlightened, as I was by the message inherent in their music. Because in the end, I am left with four albums of this wondrous music—music I've cherished for over three decades. And that of course, is the overarching redemption of Raspberries.

I don't believe in nostalgia. When I play Fresh or Side 3, Raspberries are as brand new—as real and relevant to me—as they were thirty years ago. There is no time with Raspberries—it's a be here now experience, a spiritual ritual to be enjoyed every time out, simply by placing their music into a CD player.

Theirs is a message of optimism and wonder, of romance and joy, of light and love. And today, in a world of fear and war and terror—a world virtually identical to the one I knew back in that bleak summer of '72—it remains a message to take deep to the heart.

About the author

Author and journalist Larry Lange has written on the music industry for Hit Parader, Mix and Discoveries. Lange is also author of the personal-growth book The Beatles Way: Fab Wisdom for Everyday Life (Beyond Words Publishing), which is a perennial seller in the U.S., and is in six languages worldwide. He can be reached at llange@well.com.

For Shake's Sake, Spring 2006

__________

I found this very interesting. Any comments?

Enjoy,

Phil

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I love Larry's "Reflections." It cuts right to the heart of the essence of being a Raspberries fan and really "getting it," the absolute mark the music left on everyone smart enough to recognize the sheer genius of talent and artistry.

I, too, thought they were a British band, and was shocked to find out they were American.

Great piece of writing that should *definitely* be forever linked to this great website!!!

Larry, come back!

:) --Darlene

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All I can say is WOW!! What an article!

I've always said to people if I had to take music to listen to on a desert island my top 4 choices would be anything Beatles, Raspberries, Moody Blues and Sparks.

I firmly believe that most Beatle fans wound up Raspberries fans.

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For those of you who have the "Special Edition" of "Raspberries Live on Sunset Strip," Larry Lange is the last fan interviewed in the documentary. He gives the final quote calling Raspberries, "the American Beatles." Larry is a fine writer, an accomplished songwriter and one heck of a GREAT guy!

Bernie

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Yeah, I miss Larry. I'll never forget what a great time I had sharing a table with him at the Chicago show while we sang every damn song they played, experiencing that unique wonderful feeling of being in a whole roomful of other people who are singing a Raspberries song along with you because they, too, KNOW EVERY WORD.

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I spoke with Larry a few minutes ago and told him about the lovefest that was happening here over his story and his MIA status. He certainly has vivid memories of writing the "Reflections" story. In fact, I can recall that he went through a few re-writes before he settled on the final piece that he sent to me.

In any case, he's been very, very busy, but he said that he will be back here soon.

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