When I hear
"I Want to Be With You," I can easily imagine I wore a powder-blue tuxedo to my prom in Cleveland in 1972, driving a car that was about 17 feet long.
Oh what a night!
The fact is, however, I was only one year old at the time and they didn't make tuxedoes that small. But it speaks to the power of the Raspberries--so lofty and lush with pop aspiration and divinely naive about how uncool it was to sound like 1963 in 1972. Chalk it up to Cleveland, city of outdated dreams.
Listening to Fresh Raspberries, the first album, you can hear the unstable seeds of a breakup right away--three different band members taking turns singing, each giddy with the belief that they're going to, um, go all the way, with the unlikely pairing of Wally Bryson's Zep power chords and Eric Carmen's Frankie Vallie vocals ever threatening to spin out of control. But the center held, if only for a berry, berry brief moment. And Eric Carmen put up with his less talented cohorts just long enough to make the best music he would ever make.
As is mandated by Rock History, they were eventually torn assunder by ego battles, with Carmen going on to make the Top 40 cheese for which he was destined ("Almost Paradise" from Footloose comes to mind). The rest drifted off into obscurity. But before some record company convinced them to streamline their sound and format exclusively for hawd rawk, they lighted the way to a future full of the ahistorical pop hybrids, from The Romantics to The New Pornographers. Only the Raspberries didn't call it ahistorical pop hybrid-ism, they called it Cleveland.