Cleveland Power Popstars: The Raspberries

The Raspberries should have been huge.  This has been acknowledged by everyone from John Lennon and Elton John to Kurt Cobain and Guns 'N Roses.

Bruce Springsteen once said in an interview with USA Today, "In the [recording "stretch" for 1980's The River] I had gotten into Woody Guthrie and country music and at the same time, I was listening to The Raspberries Greatest Hits.  It was one of my favorite records that summer.  They were great little pop records.  I loved the production, and when I went into the stuidio a lot of things we did were like that."

The Raspberries formed outside of Cleveland, OH in 1970.  It was a quartet led by a singer/songwriter named Eric Carmen.  And to be fair, while they weren't huge, they did have their 15 minutes of fame.   Their 1972 single "Go All The Way" managed to sell more than one million copies and broke the Top 5, in the process.  According to rock critic Mark Deming, the song "is without a doubt among the finest records ever made about one of the key subjects in rock 'n roll—convincing your girlfriend to have sex with you."  

While the irresitable melody and The Who influenced guitar riff made the song huge, the sexuality in the lyrics put a road block in the song's commercial potential.  The BBC were none too pleased by the sexiness and they banned it from the radio.  Kind of funny, if you ask me, because by today's standards, it would be the fucking tamest shit on the radio!—oops, I gotta wash my mouth out now.  

P.S.  Yes, the "come ons" in the lyrics were influenced by The Beatles' "Please Please Me."

"Go All The Way" by The Raspberries

The Raspberries had a few more minor singles but by the mid 70s they seemed to have gone "all the way" the public would let them.  It's not that listeners and critics disliked them, it's that they were filed more often under "guilty pleasures" and less under "classics." The band tried to remedy that in 1974 with a new-ish lineup and a record entitled Starting Over.  Ironically, Starting Over would be the The Raspberries' farewell album.

The album's opening track "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" was an instant classic and a truly incredible epic power pop track.  Like "Go All The Way" it is written about one of rock and roll's most loved subjects—dying to make it big!  I'm sure this was a track Springsteen fell in love with.

The song features an incredible Phil Spector-ish, wall-of-sound production, a gorgeous piano interlude which leads into a perfect guitar solo and later into an unexpected bridge.  The arrangement isn't quite a suite, but it has at least three totally distinct hooks and two codas—one of which is appropriately taken from the recording of "Go All The Way."   The band sounds like they are singing and playing for their lives. Without a doubt, "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" is an absolute masterpiece and should be studied by producers and songwriters everywhere.  

P.S. All you drummers out there should take notice, too. The drum fills are outstanding! 

"Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" by The Raspberries