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Great Moments in EC.com History #6


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I'm always intrigued by twists of fate and how an act or a decision or happening will send life down one path instead of another.... So back in 2011, I put up a thread that didn't go on for very long, but is nonetheless one that I think about every now and then. I called it "Boats Against the Stranger," and in it, I went back in time, to fall 1977, when I was just starting college. Eric and Raspberries were my favorite non-Beatles artists; my friend Dave, a freshman from Long Island, loved Billy Joel, who I didn't know much about—I thought he was one-hit wonder ("Piano Man").

In 1977, Eric was the far bigger name in the music world, having just released the follow-up to his Top-40-single-packed first solo album. When I went off to start college, Boats Against the Current was the first record I plopped onto my cheap turntable on my first night, even while so many disco sounds were blaring in the dorm hallways.

So... I told the story of a fall 1977 day when Dave begged me for a ride to inner-city Rochester to the only area record store he could find that had a copy (a single copy!) of Billy Joel's brand new release, The Stranger. It just wasn't an album that every record store had to stock by the box-full.

That's where a twist of fate came in, dictating the direction of these similarly talented singer/songwriters: Boats got lost at sea, commercially speaking, and The Stranger became Billy's breakout album. 

Again, it's not a long thread—only two pages. But there are some neat stories by Bernie, Kirk, James, and others about the "LP days" (which have returned, for many). And there are some old friends who show up with comments, from Elle4c to Raspberrybelle to MissM to Naeko (Aventurine) to Wendy-Ann to Marathon Mama and others.

And there's this insightful analysis of "Boats" against "The Stranger" from John Booyah Graham (who used Angelina as his board name—never knew why!): 

To me, "Stranger" is an album which expresses outward emotion, while "Boats" (for the most part) is an insular, isolated, self-analytical album (especially if "Temporary Hero" had been included). Whereas Billy's celebrates heart...Eric's explores one's own soul.  

John, that was brilliant analysis! 

Anyway, what a great couple of albums, twist of fate aside, that landed within a couple months of each other:


1. "Boats Against the Current" ... "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"

2. "Marathon Man" ... "The Stranger"

3. "Nowhere to Hide" ... "Just the Way You Are"

4. "Take It or Leave It" ... "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"

5. "Love Is All That Matters" ... "Vienna"

6. "She Did It" ... "Only the Good Die Young"

7. "I Think I Found Myself" ... "She's Always a Woman"

8. "Run Away" ... "Get It Right the First Time"

9. [none] ... "Everybody Has a Dream/The Stranger (reprise)"

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I originally somehow missed that thread. So I'll comment here:

In 1977, I was still in high school and buying 45's like crazy...not too many albums. I had an older brother and relied on him to buy albums. At that time, the only Raspberries song I ever heard, and also owned was I Wanna Be With You. I loved it. But I guess I thought they were a One-Hit-Wonder group. I also owned All By Myself and Never Gonna Fall In Love Again. I loved these also. In those days, I was very limited in what I knew about music other than what I heard on my local radio station. If they didn't play it, then I didn't know it existed. Truthfully, I don't even remember hearing She Did It.

About a year later though, I decided to join the Columbia Record and Tapes Club, and selected 13 LP's for $1.00. Among those...The Stranger AND the newer release 52nd Street. After hearing these two albums, I became a pretty big Billy Joel fan. So I began the albums buying portion of my life, but never bought anything by Eric Carmen nor the Raspberries.

Fast forward to the summer after I graduated high school. (and by then had another Billy album, Glass Houses in my collection). Myself and three friends are preparing for another week long vacation at the shore. We were at a record store buying new cassettes to listen to in my car for the trip and on our Walkman's on the beach. I had selected about three cassettes and was on my way to the counter to pay. Right next the counter was a display that had some more cassette tapes that were on sale. I didn't stop to look at them, at first, until one that was standing up caught my attention. Best of The Raspberries feat. Eric Carmen!! What!! Eric Carmen was in The Raspberries? It suddenly all made sense. It WAS the same voice. I grabbed it from the display, and popped into the car player as soon as we got into my car. We all fell in love with it on the way home. It became the most listened to tape that summer for us.

I had to hear more. By then, it was very hard to find Raspberries LP's. On the other hand, Eric was already in the cut-out bins. So my first purchase? Boats Against The Current. Wow. Couldn't believe what I was hearing. Couldn't understand how these songs hadn't been radio hits. And the title song.....it became THE song I would play to anyone that would hear it. For years and years, every date I ever went on, heard Boats. As a matter of fact, anyone that ever got in my car, heard Boats. To this day, it still boggles my mind that this wasn't a major major hit.

So even though I rank The Stranger as a great album, and is easily among my Top 30, it just doesn't compare to Boats Against The Current. Artistic masterpiece.

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Craig, really great post. Thank you!  

I know what you mean about that "eureka" moment—my sister was the one whose "Go All the Way" and "I Wanna Be with You" records I borrowed and connected with. A few years later, when "All By Myself" was a hit, I didn't realize for quite a few listens that the voice—it was the Raspberries singer. Eric's voice is one that's always stood out as very distinctive and versatile and pleasant. There are a lot of singers out there who wish they had that tone and talent, right? 

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Very kind words LC. It is amazing the tipsy, analytical insight I have while drinking wine in front of the computer...LOL. ( as evidenced from some of my fantasy baseball moves....and mistakenly using my password "Angelina" as my screen name rather than my usual Jfglistens on this site!

In all seriousness. Like everyone else....I anxiously awaited (what seemed like forever) ec's follow-up album. Once "BATC" was in hand...I was completely blown away by the creative departure. Musically, lyrically and emotionally...…"Boats" remains one of my favorite albums EVER! The album still resonates to me as a man now as it did when I was 17.

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