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STOP calling Raspberries 'Power Pop'!


LarryGL

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I may get lambasted for saying it--but it's my post--so here goes.

I DESPISE the term "Power Pop."

And I DOUBLY DESPISE critics calling our Raspberries "the forerunners of power pop," the "godfathers of power pop," or any other such dribbley tripe to try and put a label on our boys.

First, let me say--that I do agree with the so-called definition of power pop. And I even agree that power pop bands do exist--even today.

But therein lies the problem. Do the Raspberries really deserve to be categorized "power pop"--and consequently thrust into that dubious bag along with such groups as Big Star, Artful Dodger, Blue Ash, Dwight Twilley, Shoes, the Replacements, the Knack, Fountains of Wayne or even Cheap Trick?

I mean COME ON! If anyone has bothered to actually LISTEN to the full catalog of any of the above groups--they would HAVE to agree that besides a mere handful of songs each--most of the above's recordings are spotty, scattershot and disposable at best.

Obviously--this is NOT the case for Raspberries. Out of the full 39 songs the group released (all originals by the way)--one could argue the group never recorded even ONE true clunker. That's my first argument for banning the term "power pop" when describing our heroes.

My second argument is a bit more straightforward. Do we call the Beatles "power pop"? The Beach Boys? The Small Faces? The Kinks? Have we ever once said "Hey, the Rolling Stones are a great 'power-pop' band"--OF COURSE NOT!

OK, I can hear one push-back on my argument here--as legend says it was Pete Townshend who actually coined the term in describing the Who to the press. HOWEVER--that was back in 1967--and I HIGHLY doubt that Townshend would feel that term applicable in describing his group's legacy as we know it today.

Futher, if you think about it--tagging Raspberries "power pop" is actually a slap-in-the-face to the boys. It insidiously implies the group is not deserving enough to be included when discussing the great rock groups of music history. In fact, the very term gives off the impression the group in question is sort-of a "bastard child" of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds--and not worthy of thoughtful consideration when discussing great rock.

OK, sure--we all know Raspberries didn't fly in the lofty realms of success as the Beatles, the Beach Boys or the Who (not that they didn't deserve it)--but if we're discussing this in terms of sheer musical merit--Raspberries definitely and definitively deserve to be categorized alongside those very groups indeed.

So what DO we call Raspberries then? How do we label them? Well, ask yourself: How do we label the Beatles? The Beach Boys? The Stones?

Answer: We DON'T label them ANYTHING. Certainly not the belittling and debilitating classification of "power pop." And furthermore, when that tag is slapped on our Raspberries like some cheap stick-on tattoo--the term itself becomes in-effect--a contemptuous epithet instead of a resounding hallmark.

EricH mentioned the other day on the board that Eric Carmen himself was explaining to the Cleveland Scene Pavillion crowd that Raspberries were the "first alternative band"--and the recent Daily News article suggests that as well. Perhaps that's a good place to start in figuring out a way to label the Rab4--if label them we must.

But for me--I say we should ditch the term "power-pop" when describing Raspberries--and just go with the one single term they so obviously are entitled to: "Great."

Light,

--Larry

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Do the Raspberries really deserve to be categorized "power pop"--and consequently thrust into that dubious bag along with such groups as Big Star, Artful Dodger, Blue Ash, Dwight Twilley, Shoes, the Replacements, the Knack, Fountains of Wayne, Rooney or even Cheap Trick?

I mean COME ON! If anyone has bothered to actually LISTEN to the full catalog of any of the above groups--they would HAVE to agree that besides a mere handful of songs each--most of the above's recordings are spotty, scattershot and disposable at best.

--Larry

Ummm....no, they wouldn't. For example, I am a big fan of Fountains Of Wayne. I have listened to their entire catalog many times. Currently I have 2 of their CDs in my 6-CD changer. I'm one of the biggest Berry fans there is (been to all 3 Cleveland shows, HAD to do the 1st meet & greet, etc), but I also LOVE FoW. In fact, I actually like their lyrics better in some cases than the Berries, because they deal with many themes besides boy/girl romance/heartbreak. With the exception of a few songs like Overnight Sensation and Play On, the Berries kinda stick to that. FoW and Berries on the same bill would be my dream concert right now, in fact.

And The Replacements don't deserve to be on your list at all. They are in no way a "Power Pop" band, IMO. They certainly had no lush vocals or jangly guitars, like you would normally expect in a PP band. Their recordings are cheap, lo-fi drunken messes (intentionally), and I always thought of them as being Punk/new Wave. I love them, too. Went to see Paul Westerberg just a couple of months ago - he was GREAT!

On the other hand, I do remember thinking that "Power Pop" seemed to be an oxymoron when I first heard it, like "Macho Wimp" or something. It's gotten more respectable to use that term, but I always just think of the Berries as a rock band. Like the Beatles, as you say.

So I guess I kind of agree, but wish you didn't need to trash these other great bands to make your point.

Jack

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It's not MY list, Jack. The bands I cite are described as "power-pop bands" in the Wikidpedia article on the subject which I linked into my post. Also, see the end of that Wiki article for an additional list of so-called "power-pop" bands.

As far as "trashing" goes--when you stack up that list of bands against the Rab4--well, I stick to my truth and proudly so.

Further, I do agree with you Jack, that the Raspberries were a bit stuck in a mere few lyrical themes. Having said that--if the original Raspberries had gone past a third album--the boys certainly would have visited the rockier territories explored in "Starting Over"--and then perhaps would have moved into the experimental themes chartered by the '66/'67-era Brian Wilson, and by the Beatles in "Revolver," "Strawberry Fields," "Pepper" and beyond.

Certainly with Eric's classical masterhood, Wally's rockmanship and Dave's knowledge of sweet country--Raspberries just might have wound up being one of the most influential American rock groups of the past century. I mean, look how influential they are with just the few albums they released--lineup change nonwithstanding.

Light,

--Larry

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It's not MY list, Jack. The bands I cite are described as "power-pop bands" in the Wikidpedia article on the subject which I linked into my post. Also, see the end of that Wiki article for an additional list of so-called "power-pop" bands.

As far as "trashing" goes--when you stack up that list of bands against the Rab4--well, I stick to my truth and proudly so.

Light,

--Larry

Yes, your confidence in your own convictions comes through loud and clear. Well, we can agree to disagree then.

I'm not sure they were saying the Replacements were PPop band - I think they were just saying "here's a famous band that cites PPop, specifically Big Star, as an influence". (They aren't on the extra list of "PPop Musicians".) And if they were saying that, I'd argue with THEM, too. Who is this Wiki guy? Why do we trust him?? ;-)

Not sure I would agree that the Berries would have gone into more diverse topics if they had stayed together. I don't think Eric much cares for "issues" songs. Look at what he's written for all these years - love songs. And why shouldn't he? He's great at it!

As for your "truth", that's a lot like religion, isn't it? Every person has their own perspective. I still maintain MY truth, which is that the Berries have nothing to be insulted about when they are grouped with Badfinger, Big Star, Cheap Trick, and yes, Fountains of Wayne. Whatever you want to call it. (Well, that Power POOP thing sounds pretty disgusting - let's not use that...)

Jack

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Indeed Jack--everything is philosophy until it is accepted by a person and deemed a "truth" to him/her. So I'll agree with you--let's agree to disagree!

To wit--I'll agree with you that The Replacements (and REM was mentioned as well)--weren't *obviously* cited as "power-pop" by the Wiki guy in the article. However, these two bands--and you could throw Badfinger into the mix here--are often times (yes, wrongly so) labeled as "power-pop" groups just as the Raspberries are--and it's usually always by ill-informed music writers--yes, of which the Wiki guy is one.

I went over-the-top perhaps about the Raspberries being labeled such--because to my *truth*--the Rab4 are one of the most consistently satisfying on record and I go mental when I see some jagash lableing them "power-pop." 'Nuff said!

Moving on a bit--I would argue that even Badfinger's catalog only boasts two albums that reached the consistency level the Rab4 displayed ("No Dice" and "Wish You Were Here")--so for me at least, Raspberries will always remain my number two band after the Beatles--or are at least tied for second with Beach Boys.

Jack, you can pump-up The Replacements all you want to me--and I respect that you love them and Westerberg--but I just don't *get* it--though I've really tried to many many times. Ditto Big Star. But everybody's got an opinion, right?

We could get deep into this discussion of 'woulda shoulda coulda' on the Raspberries musical direction--but IF the Raspberries had continued on--I feel they WOULD have gone a bit further lyrically/thematically.

If you think about Eric's first solo album--he was still deep into "Pet Sounds"--so besides mixing it up with hard rock on "Starting Over"--he was finishing out his Brian early '66 period--directly after the Raspberries disbanded.

I think what threw a curve to Eric's direction and artistic momentum--was the fact that "All By Myself" and "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" hit so big--that he succumbed to label pressure to produce more hit (love-themed) ballads. I can safely assume Clive Davis was pressuring Eric at the time to be his next Manilow.

But I still think the first Eric solo album featured several songs that lyrically went outside the realm of "romantic love."

What I'm getting at is--had the Rab4 stayed together for a fifth, sixth and seventh album (and perhaps beyond)--I feel Eric (and to some-degree Wally and Dave)--would've progressed to the Brian and Beatles stuff of '66 and '67. Here, we're looking at "Good Vibrations," "Smile"-stuff, "Strawberry Fields" "Pepper" etc.

I think Wally may have moved into writing the harder Bad Company material he was introducing in "Starting Over"--and perhaps dabbled in working in the mode of The Band and The Grateful Dead-type material.

For Dave--the obvious influence of the Eagles may have continued to seep in--but in a very artisic way--moving past the "Already Gone"-type stuff--and into "Long Run" harder-edged personally revealing songs.

It would've made for a grand mix and perhaps reaching those "lofty heights" Rolling Stone magazine (and all of us) believed the group would ultimately reach.

But then again--perhaps not--they MAY have made more of a move (because of Eric's classical influences)--toward prog-rock--which they actually did a bit of in "I Can Remember." So...

At the end of the day--who knows? It's all speculation central. Fun to discuss--but just a notion really...

Thanks for sharing, Jack.

Light,

--Larry

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Larry,

I think we're into areas of preference primarily.

On Badfinger, I like pretty much everything they did. (Maybe I'm just an easy grader?) No Dice and WYWH were certainly peaks, but I'd rank Straight Up at least even with them. One thing about Bad4, though - they were much more of a "jam" band, like Zeppelin or Cream, than the Berries ever wanted to be. In fact, wasn't that part of what the Rab4 were trying to fight against? But the Finger has tons of looooong jams on their records, and especially live. Much more into instrumental, blues-based jamming.

As for the Replacements, I understand completely. I've tried, but I don't get Big Star at all, so I know where you're coming from. And it took me years to get into the Replacements, which didn't happen until I heard Westerberg solo. I suggest if you're interested to try his "14 Songs" or "Eventually".

And I agree with some of your assessments of the post-Berry years, absolutely. I do think the 1st E.C. solo LP was much deeper, lyrically, even on the "relationship" songs. That's part of why ABM and NGFILA were such big hits. Sadly, I'm not as well versed on Wally's post-Berry stuff other than the 1st Fotomaker LP. Dave has just the one CD out, but it has several non-romantic songs.

One comment you wrote, about the Rab4 being more consistently satisfying on record, I absolutely agree with. One thing *I* get tired of is reading posts by folks who say only the EC songs are any good, and act like Dave, Wally and Scott were just lucky flunkees.

And speaking of speculation, what do you suppose the pressure would have been from the record company if they HAD stayed together? Disco?

It WILL (using Darlenism here) be interesting to see what topics they address on their NEXT ALBUM!!

Jack

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What a lot of trouble a couple of words can create! If Pete Townshend called what he was doing power pop, *I'm* not going to argue with him! Those songs are still around, and not "drivelly" by any means! And they're STILL power pop, even if Townshend wouldn't consider what he does now in that category. It was a *time,* a definition, a set of criteria. That's all! It doesn't mean we should over-analyze and change the definition of what p pop is if a band we consider weak is included in somebody's list of p pop bands. Oh well, we all *always* agree to disagree. That's who we are, thats what we do! The marvelous thing is that we are all devotees of Razz and Carmen and one thing is for sure: they have a collection of some of the most talented, knowledgeable and passionate devotees anywhere. And the greatest people, too. Now here's something to think about: Who knows what the next new music by EC and Raspberries will be like? It may not conform to the "definition" at all. Whatever it is, I'll be ready for it, and I'm looking forward to it.

smile --Darlene

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You guys are too easy. About a third of all the Raspberries and Fountains of Wayne stuff are clunkers. Myopia is running high these days. The 'Berries 4 releases were very good albums. Only # 4 was great, but it still had a couple of clunkers.

We can agree to disagree...Or I can be like a typical Democratic party leader and just trash EVERYTHING I don't agree with...

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Power pop should never be used as a term to describe a band, BUT should most definitely be used to describe a certain type of song...

it begins with The Beatles "Please Please Me" (the first ever power pop song) and from there it goes on and on: Dave Clark 5's "Glad All Over," Kinks' "You Really Got Me," Who's "Can't Explain," Small Faces' "Afterglow," Bryds' "Feel A Whole Lot Better," into the '70s with Badfinger's "No Matter What," and Big Star's "September Gurls"...

I guess the 'Berries deserve to be honored as torch bearers of the style because most of their singles were quintessential power pop recordings... and quite arguably the greatest prime examples of the genre (i.e. "Go All The Way," "I Wanna Be With You," "Tonight," "Ecstasy," "Play On," "I Can Hardly Believe You're Mine")...

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My definition of "power pop" is any post-Badfinger group self-consciously attempting to re-create the spirit of "golden age" Beatles (up to "Rubber Soul"), as a response to the Beatles themselves having abandoned it. By this reckoning, the first power pop group to record was the Merry-Go-Round, with Emmit Rhodes. (Badfinger is disqualified from being first by their proximity to the Beatle establishment, and the role that actual Beatles played in their music.)

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the only problem with calling the Merry Go-Round power pop is that they lacked the "POWER"...

they were most definitely a Beatlesque pop band....

but that's not what makes something "power pop"--

it's about combining melodic pop with the power of rock and roll and avoiding things like country & western/blues influences... the Beatles did it first, but many others progressed with the concept (Who, Easybeats, Dave Clark 5, Kinks, Small Faces, etc...)...

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Raspberries were at the forefront of what became known as power pop, even if they didn't necessarily call it power pop during the early '70s.

I don't agree that any person who describes the 'Berries as power pop is a "jagash," either--especially since I am one of the many journalists who have described them that way!

:-) Wrong or right, people are going to put labels on things, let's face it. While some of these labels may be meaningless---what exactly did "new wave" mean, anyway?---I always thought that power pop perfectly described a lot of what the 'Berries did. It's pop music with power, influenced by acts like the Beatles, Who, etc. It's also a great term to describe the magic of Raspberries to the uninitiated.

And I must defend Big Star, Dwight Twilley, Shoes, the Knack, Fountains of Wayne and Cheap Trick here. "Disposable at best?" Yikes! I would put Big Star's first two records, Twilley's "Sincerely", "Get the Knack," Shoes' "Present Tense," any of Fountains of Wayne's records and a whole slew of Cheap Trick stuff in any "top 100" list of great power pop records (and I will be doing just that, when the book comes out. :-)

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It's obviously a matter of taste and thus there's no right answer.

But..... I have to respectfully disagree with my friends Tony and Ted. There's no way you can find 13 "clunkers" in the Raspberries' catalog. I find 3, maybe 4. You could argue there are 13 "average" songs but clunkers?....no

See what Darlenism has done to me! smile

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Funny,

I only find the first LP a little spotty (with MOSTLY GREAT tunes!) I can listen to FRESH from top to bottom and thoroughly enjoy it! In fact, the sequencing on that album is SPLENDID! As for SIDE 3, what's not to like there? C'mon, I want song titles! That LP is GREAT!

Bernie

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All the heavies have weighed in, and that's all you're going to say, Marvin? Go for it! I think if you look at the Raspberries body of work as evolutionary you don't have to spend so much time categorizing it. My 2 cents. Kirk.

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Side two of FRESH is my favorite. The songs roll right thru each other. I wonder if that was planned or just the luck of the draw when the album was put together. Who had final work of the cut placements, Jimmy?

Of course now there are no album sides.

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Tony: "We can agree to disagree...Or I can be like a typical Democratic party leader and just trash EVERYTHING I don't agree with..."

Uh, Tony, you DO realize how hypocritical that post is????

As for the discussion at hand, well maybe you'll kill me, Larry, but I don't think the term "power pop" categorizes the band in a belitting way at all. I don't think it marginalizes them either. On the contrary, it's a helpful shorthand to describe what they do...to a certain extent. And unfortunately, successful marketing of most bands depends to a certain extent on that shorthand. No, the Beatles didn't need it, but that's because the Beatles had other factors on their side...a unique mix of talent and exposure and timing that made it possible for them to develop a huge following without needing to be slotted into any recognizable musical category. The Rabs don't have that going for them. Many people have still never heard of them (whereas there came a point in time when it was impossible NOT to have heard, or heard of, the Beatles--and it has never ended) and people still ask about the band when they hear of them, "What kind of music do they play?"

Well, OK, one could go on to a five-hour-long explanation of how uncategorizable Raspberries are to attempt to sell this person on listening to them...or one can just say (as I confess I did to a stranger in the HOB restuarant in Chicago who asked me), "They're the godfathers of power pop!" Much more concise, much easier to understand, and it didn't take five hours to explain.

I think that kind of answer might go further toward getting more people to give them a listen. And that is the only reason I have used it. So people have a general gist of whether or not they might like this kind of stuff. And if so, to give it a listen...

The music will do the rest.

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