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Why Raspberries Will Always Matter To Me


marvin

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Yeah, I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I put this up on Facebook and some other sites:

Why Raspberries will ALWAYS matter to me, and why they SHOULD matter to you

Over the last 40 years (or so), I've been asked the question many times, in a variety of different ways: "What is it about the band Raspberries that makes you feel that they were something special?" It used to be that I was so passionate about the band, that I could speak endlessly about their worth. As the years have gone by, while that passion has never dissipated, I've come to accept that the band will probably never be more than a blip in the History of Popular Music, never receive their just due, and be regarded by most people as only a one-hit wonder. All these statements, while they may carry some truth, are nowhere close to the fact. I'd wager a bet that in the history of popular music, they were one of the most misunderstood bands. Misunderstood by the general listening audience, misunderstood by their record company (who couldn't figure out which hole to pigeon them into), and misunderstood by the record-buying public. If ignorance is bliss, then there was no group more blissfully ignored than Raspberries.

Now I fully realize that music fans everywhere could each pick an artist who they feel has been unjustly ignored and who should have had greater success. Fair enough. In my own library of music there are other artists who I feel very strongly about who have been heard by very few, so Raspberries are certainly not alone by any means. They are, however, one of a few artists who during their existence in the early 1970's, were (in my opinion), different from the rest of the class that was receiving airplay on AM and FM radio. Now this was a time when it seemed that it didn't matter what your song was, if it was good enough, or if you were popular, it could get played on the radio. A time when you could hear artists as diverse as Alice Cooper ("School's Out"), Lynn Anderson ("Rose Garden"), Al Green ("Let's Stay Together") and Andy Williams ("Speak Softly Love") on the SAME Top 40 station. Yet Raspberries still didn't seem to fit into an easy slot.

Raspberries lasted for only four albums over 2-½ years, but in my opinion, there have been very few Pop / Rock bands in the last 40 years that have come close to releasing four consecutive albums that showed a musical growth and maturity from album to album. They really were THAT good. Lead singer and songwriter Eric Carmen understood how to construct an addictive melody, and also HOW to sing. While many people would go on to know him better as the singer and songwriter of "All By Myself", "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again", "Make Me Lose Control", and the singer of "Hungry Eyes" (from Dirty Dancing), during his tenure in Raspberries, I'd venture to say that Eric was right up there with the best "rock" lead singers of the time. But Raspberries were not a one-trick pony. The other band members were also fine songwriters. In Wally Bryson, the band was blessed with an inventive lead guitarist whose incredibly exciting guitar work was only matched by his captivating stage presence. During the course of the band, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti were the bassist and drummer respectively, for the first three albums, and Scott McCarl, and Mike McBride took over for the final album. Dave and Scott both managed the McCartney-esque feat of playing melodic bass lines and contributing great songs, while drummers Bonfanti and McBride could go from the bombastic attack of Keith Moon, to the gentle percussiveness of Hal Blaine. And this musical tapestry led to some of the fascination (or confusion, depending on how you looked at it), of Raspberries — they could sound like the Beatles to the Who to the Small Faces to Free, and never miss a beat.

The band first hit the U.S. Top 10 in 1972 with "Go All the Way." It was a song that was rooted in the 1960's yet sounded totally new and relevant. It captured the pure essence of what made the Beatles and the Who so great, while throwing a nod or two to the Beach Boys. It was also the song that would define their career.

Follow-up singles "I Wanna Be With You", "Tonight" and "Ecstasy", from the band's next two albums Fresh and Side 3, continued to show how far Raspberries were progressing. Whether it was the lack of proper marketing or the wrong people at the radio stations, none of the singles caught on. When they released their final album (ironically titled), Starting Over, and especially the magnificent mini-overture, "Overnight Sensation", it was clear that the band had found that magical ingredient to making great records, melodic masterpieces. Publications like Circus, Hit Parader and Rolling Stone finally seemed to be listening a bit more closely, and they were universal in their praise of Starting Over and "Overnight." Maybe it was the musical style confusion, maybe it was the name "Raspberries" but the general record-buying public was not listening. Nevertheless, the music was proof that they were far and away the best band that no one knew about. Unfortunately by then, it was too late. The band broke up in 1974.

In 2004, over 30 years since the release of that first album, Raspberries reunited for a series of concerts. The buzz had been created thanks to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and others speaking about how much the music of Raspberries had meant to them. The reunion concerts were extremely well-received, and the band played with the same fervor as they had done in years gone by, but once again it was a little too late, and the reunion did not become anything permanent. In the end, all the hard work, great songs and new-found fans still couldn't make things click.

When the term "power pop" was coined, one of the first bands that everyone agreed deserved the title of "Kings of Power Pop" were Raspberries. The influence that they have had on future generations of musicians has been noted, and their songs, be it "Go All the Way" or something else, still have the ability to make a listener sit up and take notice. When I put on a Raspberries song, the music still sounds as refreshingly powerful and clear as when I first heard it. It still manages to bring back that initial passion and fervent belief that I once had in the band. I've almost even gotten over the hurt that this band never "made" it. Almost. For a long time, they were really the only band that meant anything to me. I can think of no higher praise than to quote a good friend who said, "They were America's Beatles." They mattered to me in 1972, they still matter to me today, and they SHOULD matter to anyone who has an ear for good music. .

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Marvin

I just wanted to add a more serious note...when I think of Raspberries legacy, first I think of timing (not on their side), but mostly, the fact that a great, proven live band with charisma and talent can go wholly unnoticed and underappreciated and yet be a base influence to bands coming after them. Eric and all the members of Raspberries can be proud that what they did DID matter..they influenced future HofF caliber talent.

Jean

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Well done, Marvin!

Question: Did you forget "Let's Pretend" when you were chronicling the singles (slotted between IWBWY and Tonight), or did a ballad just not fit in with the point you were making?

Keep the passion alive :cool:

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LatetotheParty said:

Marvin, any way this can be published? Wonderful tribute. Better yet...send this to the RR HofF...

MARVIN FOR PRESIDENT! (oh maybe not; you are Canadian.. :o )

Funny you should ask, but on a similar topic, the "Raspberries Reflections" book that I put together with the input of many fans, is now sitting with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame archives.

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Marvin has always had a keen ear for spotting groups that are fortunate to have a mix of incredible musicianship AND superior songwriting talent.

Unfortunately, many bands blessed with both at such a high level, like the 'Berries, don't stay together that long. Along with the superior creative talent comes large and fragile egos. If the bands are not nurtured by their labels/companies the proper way (or an honest way), the band implodes when all their hard work doesn't pay off...

That's why our boys lasted only 3 years...

And that's why Marvin and Bahoo aren't in a band together anymore...And that's why Bahoo only wants to play with his wife and Marvin only plays for free with a bunch of homeless bandmates!...What's that?...Oh,...OK, they only dress like they are homeless...

These guys would have been the Lennon and McCartney of Canada, if only their EGOS wouldn't have gotten in the way...As Bernie would say, "Sheese!" :(

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marvin said:

Funny you should ask, but on a similar topic, the "Raspberries Reflections" book that I put together with the input of many fans, is now sitting with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame archives.

WHOA......can this be accessed anywhere on this website????? I would LOVE the read that!!!! For real!! :blink: Jean

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LatetotheParty said:

WHOA......can this be accessed anywhere on this website????? I would LOVE the read that!!!! For real!! :blink: Jean

I think there was a time that the stories were available on the site, but you'd have to ask Bernie. I still have everyone's written contributions, and a couple of copies of the booklet.

At the very first reunion show in Cleveland, I had the immense pleasure of handing a copy to each of the band members. I heard back from most of the band members, and they were incredibly moved by the stories of their fans.

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Marvin, how wonderful that you were able to give each of the members a personal copy..quite a story. One last question, what do you mean by the RR HofF archives? If Raspberries aren't officially inducted, how is it they have an "archive?" Forgive me if this is a dumb question.

Jean

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LatetotheParty said:

Marvin, how wonderful that you were able to give each of the members a personal copy..quite a story. One last question, what do you mean by the RR HofF archives? If Raspberries aren't officially inducted, how is it they have an "archive?" Forgive me if this is a dumb question.

I'm not exactly sure where the Hall archives are, but the archives contain many different things, regardless of whether the act is / isn't inducted in the Hall. I don't know if you've been to the Hall, but there is actually a section devoted to the music of Ohio, with quite a few Raspberries momentos displayed.

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I just searched the Forum (back 7-8 years ago!) and it seems the fan reflections were never posted, but were emailed to those who sent in a submission. There was a set done before the reunion and another after—possibly 100 or so pages! Now that bandwidth is so plentiful (everyone remember dial-up?), I'd be willing to house them here at the website if someone can send them to me.

Bernie

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Raspbernie said:

I just searched the Forum (back 7-8 years ago!) and it seems the fan reflections were never posted, but were emailed to those who sent in a submission. There was a set done before the reunion and another after—possibly 100 or so pages! Now that bandwidth is so plentiful (everyone remember dial-up?), I'd be willing to house them here at the website if someone can send them to me.

Bernie, is right - there was a pre-reunion and a post-reunion set put together. Let me dig up the info, and I'll send it along.

Thanks.

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Tony Cartmill said:

Marvin has always had a keen ear for spotting groups that are fortunate to have a mix of incredible musicianship AND superior songwriting talent.

Unfortunately, many bands blessed with both at such a high level, like the 'Berries, don't stay together that long. Along with the superior creative talent comes large and fragile egos. If the bands are not nurtured by their labels/companies the proper way (or an honest way), the band implodes when all their hard work doesn't pay off...

That's why our boys lasted only 3 years...

And that's why Marvin and Bahoo aren't in a band together anymore...And that's why Bahoo only wants to play with his wife and Marvin only plays for free with a bunch of homeless bandmates!...What's that?...Oh,...OK, they only dress like they are homeless...

These guys would have been the Lennon and McCartney of Canada, if only their EGOS wouldn't have gotten in the way...As Bernie would say, "Sheese!" :huh:

HAHAHAA!!!!.....well I can tell you that my ego is WAY bigger than Marvin's...but he has a better record collection and a damn helluva good writer...my talent lies in recognizing talent and marrying that talent ;-)

bahoo

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While the Raspberries were a bit before my time, I have come to really appreciate their powerful performances on their recordings. Sorry I never knew about the reunion shows. I would have definitely gone to see them perform live. Never say never...anything can happen in the future.

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marvin said:

Ha! Actually, I was the one who recognized Lori's talent and got her into our band. Andy was the one who recoginzed what a fine person she was, and married her.

"Fine person" translation in my neighborhood: "Gawd I can't take my eyes off that fine a-- in those tight rock star jeans!"... :blink:

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Marv, this is fabulous! And the "Reflections" and "Post-Reflections" are amazing! Bernie, what a terrific idea, to give both a place on the website so everything is there for all to enjoy.

I have my copies of both on disc and I cherish them. :)

Those who contributed to Reflections each gave a completely unique perspective on why Raspberries were so great (and still are.)

:)--Dar

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Tony Cartmill said:

"Fine person" translation in my neighborhood: "Gawd I can't take my eyes off that fine a-- in those tight rock star jeans!"... :blink:

HAHAHA...obviously you have been paying attention to Lori...I remember Dave Smalley (after the first Cleveland gig) saying that Lori was easy to watch from the stage, dancing up a storm...he could spot the talent too ;-).....

bahoo

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  • 1 month later...
marvin said:

I posted this on a Springsteen forum, and it was nice to read the comments from many other 'berries fans. There seems to be a correlation between 'berries and Springsteen fans, generally speaking.

I TOTALLY agree marvin.........Raspberries was VERY popular in NJ back in the early 70's...then BAM....Springsteen comes racing up Rt 9 as our boys are winding down. Heck..both acts covered many of the "obvious" young rocker themes...but also tackled some of the "inside music biz" themes as well. To me, "Overnight Sensation" has a similar thematic feel to it as Bruce's "Meeting Across The River". Plus.....as irony would have it, Clive Davis thought "Greetings From Asbury Park" wasn't commercial enough.

Of course "Born To Run" steals the "I Wanna Be With You" drum intro (yes.....both intros send such strong shivers down my spine that Chris Matthews is jealous). Plus you have tough blue-collar Cleveland with tough "Monmouth/Ocean County Jersey as a common geographical backdrop.

Yes marvin.....Springsteen/Berries certainly have a strong connection!

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