Listen to this track by British Invasion enthusiasts and power pop founding fathers from Cleveland Ohio, The Raspberries. It’s “Go All The Way”, their top five hit single also featured on their 1972 debut record Raspberries.
The Raspberries were a pretty singular group, even if you can tell they’re wearing their influences on their sleeve. By 1972, those very bands who had furthered the cause of guitar-based pop music you hear in this song had gone on to other projects. Art rock, rock operas, confessional singer-songwriter albums were common artistic avenues by the early ’70s while the four bobbing heads and catchy choruses model of the ’60s was left behind. Rock music as a form had expanded beyond that. Some would say it had grown up.
So, how did the Raspberries get their top five hit, given that the musical traditions they’re drawing from had been largely left in the past?
I think it’s pretty simple, actually. The love for well-constructed, unassuming, and supremely catchy pop singles were still an appealing prospect to record buyers, and to songwriters, too. One such songwriter was Eric Carmen, singer and guitarist/bassist in the Raspberries. He took the early exuberance of the Beatles, matched it with the hard edges of the Who, the harmonies of the Hollies, and the song structure and melodic approach of Brian Wilson. Even if rock music had grown up, it still thrived on youthful enthusiasm found in the place where innocence and experience meet. That’s where it sprang from, after all. And that’s where this song lives.
“Go All The Way ” hits all of the marks, aimed at a teenage record buying audience with the very things that made rock songwriting appealing since it began. It captures the spirit of young love in a moment that is remembered for a lifetime; one’s first time. It supports that theme musically, with direct and unabashed references to the past while framing universal themes in the present. So, it appeals to rock fans of all stripes, the young and the more experienced. No wonder it was a hit.
Along with Big Star, The Raspberries would prove that high-concepts and expansive musical palettes were all well and good, but that pop hooks and universal themes that appeal to the masses didn’t have to mean insubstantial music. In fact, it would be the idea of writing songs to a young audience and their experiences that would stoke the fires of whole careers. This approach would inspire bands for decades to come, some following the template of what would become known as “power pop”. But beyond musical subsets, the Raspberries helped rock music grow up in a new sense by not jettisoning what made it what it was when it first began, and by not taking itself so damn seriously. This song helped to make it clear that rock songwriting could in fact go in any direction, that its development need not be so linear.
The Raspberries would break up in 1975. That year, Eric Carmen would go solo with another hit single, “All By Myself”, later to be covered by Las Vegas resident Francophone belter Celine Dion. Later on, “Hungry Eyes” would appear on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in 1987, which was another backward-looking collection of pop songs with the 1960s in mind.
The band would reunite in 2005 with all four original members, and even embark on a mini tour. By then, the establishment of power pop as a unique avenue in rock music history and the Raspberries role in it was a matter of record.
You can learn more about The Raspberries at theraspberriesonline.com