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Vinnie B Trask

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All the way to nowhere: The story of The Raspberries (msn.com)

 

Hard-rockin’ anthems; tender piano ballads; impeccable vocal harmonies; snazzy outfits; a charismatic frontman. That’s a fair description of the formula that took Queen to the top of the charts and global superstardom. It also describes US 70s band The Raspberries. While Queen conquered the world, however, The Raspberries remain overlooked and virtually unknown, despite having had John Lennon and Keith Moon among their fans. 

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Few songs from the early 70s epitomised the ‘power pop’ style as splendidly as The Raspberries’ Go All the Way. Three-and-a-half minutes of pure pop bliss it blended the best bits of early Beatles and Who. While the title gave a not-so-subtle clue to its lyrical content, the song offered a unique spin – it was sung from the point of view of the girl. 

“I always thought if it saw daylight, one of two things would happen,” says Raspberries singer/guitarist Eric Carmen (best-known for his solo big hit ballad All By Myself in ’76). “Either it’ll get banned because it’s dirty – then maybe people will buy the album to check it out; or if it ever gets on the radio, I think it’ll just be a hit based on the title alone.” It did get on the radio, and was almost a US chart topper. But for myriad reasons The Raspberries were unable to use that single to catapult their career skywards. 

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By the 70s, the US city of Cleveland, Ohio, had been hit hard when the once thriving steel mill and automobile manufacturing industries had come to a standstill. It was not the kind of place you’d you’d expect a sunny power pop group like The Raspberries to come from. But that’s where Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist Dave Smalley, and drummer Jim Bonfanti called home. 

Smitten by many British bands, during the late 60s Carmen had heard about a local band that was creating a stir: “I was going to high school, and there was talk that there was this really great band, The Choir. I ventured out to see them, and they were awesome – Wally, Dave and Jim were all members. They played all the chords right, they sang the harmony parts right. I looked up at that stage and said, boy, if I could get into that band we could really do some damage.” Meanwhile, Carmen bided his time fronting his own band, Cyrus Erie, who also became a local favourite. 

With The Choir and Cyrus Erie unable to expand their respective followings outside Cleveland, both bands eventually split in 1970. Soon after, Carmen hatched a plan: “At that time, all the stuff that I grew up loving, which was three-and-a-halfminute singles – well-crafted pop songs with great melodies; The Beatles, The Hollies, The Who, The Byrds – was going away. 

"Replacing it on radio was Cream and Traffic; it wasn’t the three-minute pop stuff that I loved. So Jim and I sat down and said what’s happening is not what we love, so let’s start a band and make it the antithesis of everything that’s going on now – three-and-a-half-minute pop songs; no extended guitar solos, no boring drum solos. None of this sort of self-indulgent stuff that all the bands were doing." YOU CAN FIND THE REST A MSN

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