METH on ERIC CARMEN & The Raspberries 9/2/05

Raspberries: Back in Season

How do I love the Raspberries? Let me count the ways: “I Wanna Be with You,” “Go All The Way,” “Overnight Sensation”... I could throw in front-man Eric Carmen’s solo hits, penned after the band dissolved in the mid-1970s, but all that’s behind him now. Carmen is only looking forward as The Original Raspberries (with drummer Jim Bonfanti) recreate themselves as a viable stage show and, with any luck, a new recording entity.

Following two critically acclaimed, SRO shows in NYC, the Raspberries stop in Atlantic City on September, 17, and then it’s on to Los Angeles. These shows should sell-out fast, so act now my droogs! And if it isn’t the greatest power-pop spectacle you’ve ever seen, I’ll date your fat sister.

Meth: After the Beatles split up, it was up to Badfinger & The Raspberries to carry the title.

Eric: We played with Badfinger in those days. The first time, they were absolutely awesome. Remember that?

Jim: We begged to get on that show.

Eric: They had little amps and sounded like a great big record. We were duly impressed. Then the next time we played with them, maybe a year later, they sounded absolutely awful because everything had fallen apart.

Meth: After The Beatles discovered them, it was almost all downhill. Except for the music. The Beatles are also inexorably linked with you. Is it true that John Lennon mixed one of your LPs.

Eric: I don’t know if he actually mixed one. The story we heard is he stuck his head in the door, liked what he heard and sat down when “Overnight Sensation” was being mixed and decided to help out.

Meth: That was the extent of your contact?

Eric: Contact? Well, I knocked him down with the bathroom door once (laughing). I was in the studio one day and then he recruited me to go in and clap hands. He was producing Harry Nilsson’s “Pussy Cats” LP when we were doing “Starting Over” and he had a bunch of school kids—about 30 of them—and they were having trouble getting on the beat, so he came and recruited Michael and I to clap with them. It was a bit surreal standing in the studio and looking through the glass and seeing John Lennon.

Meth: Did you guys feel under-appreciated?

Jim: We couldn’t understand why more people weren’t getting it.

Meth: The critics liked you.

Eric: But we thought that more people would be missing the kind of thing that we were playing. It wasn’t just the Beatles breakup. That whole style of three-and-a-half-minute, well-crafted songs was suddenly gone. Our influences were far and wide: The Stones, The Who. The Small Faces. But what we saw happening in 1970 was FM taking over the airwaves, and we hoped there would be a way to bring the great songwriting of the ‘60s, and that kind of magic, into the ‘70s. We tried to get away from what we perceived as bogus, over-hyped, overrated technical playing. I think we all sat there when we heard Jethro Tull and kind of scratched our heads and went, “What? Why is this big?” We thought there would be more room for other things, so we were stunned to find FM’s new “heavy” format reluctant to play anything that sounded ‘60s. We saw ourselves as the next step forward, but we were marauders banging on the gates of bloated progressive rock.

Meth: How were your sales in those days?

Jim: Our 1st album did like 200,000.

Eric: And the 2nd album was 300,000. Then things started to decline. By the time we did “Starting Over,” which Rolling Stone picked as one of their Best Seven Albums of the year in their Annual Writers’ Poll – well, that album sold the fewest copies of any of our records.

Meth: Your fans never knew it.

Eric: You were in New Jersey, Cliff. In New York and New Jersey, they totally got us—they understood what we were doing. Springsteen was talking about the next Raspberries’ single.

Meth: A young crowd turned up at the recent NY gigs.

Jim: We’re seeing a large share of people our own age, but a mix of people down to their late teens. It sort of surprised me. I mean music today is so...so...

Eric: Bad.

Jim: Yeah. Bad. I was looking for the right word. So young people are discovering lots of music from days gone by.

Meth: Will there be new music?

Eric: We’ve started thinking about it, but it’s important not to record in a vacuum. If we do it, it’s a huge commitment for everybody. It won’t do us any good to be one of these bands who has a reunion and does a record that has no magic. I have to write things that are current and every bit as good, if not better, than what I wrote 30 years ago. But it’s kind of a nice challenge. And I like challenges.

(c) 2005 Clifford Meth

This article originally appeared in The Aquarian


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