Flashback: The Raspberries

The RaspberriesI’m on some kind of weird 70s kick as of late. Anchored by my long-time love affair with the Bowie Berlin Trilogy, it’s now progressed through an array of strange and obscure figures to emerge back in the mainstream with AM radio gold. That means snaking through the druggy proficiency of Todd Rundgren, the tragic history of Badfinger, and finally landing on The Raspberries.

Now this little journey has been kind of strange. Music from this era is what was being played in my house and in my parents’ cars constantly as I grew up. I once stated the Steve Miller Band as my favorite band in the 3rd grade. Mid-period Zeppelin and Who were my father’s power songs on long runs. My mother still sings along perfectly to Tom Jones and Air Supply lyrics despite her otherwise moderate command of the English language. The whole family knew an unnatural amount of Bee Gees trivia. I suppose it makes sense in hindsight — after spending adolescence having to gather musical satisfaction from pirate radio in Indonesia, my parents moved to the U.S. in the 1970s and began gorging on every little bit of contemporary rock and pop in sight. The American Dream dressed in a sequined leisure suit.

And despite that, I always thought of the decade as a campy novelty, lesser than others. It took the Raspberries to convince me otherwise. Their self-titled debut LP is a work of amazing breadth, skill and pop mastery. “Go All The Way” is undoubtedly what the majority of you will recognize from this album — especially since it was also featured recently in Guardians of the Galaxy as part of a sort of mixtape time capsule.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/jfgnc6Ey0q0%5D

At first, it does seem like a routine power pop single of the era. The unbelievably catchy chorus hook kept me coming back to it, but after a few repeats, I started listening to it differently. The mashup of styles is something that shouldn’t work. The intro, with its overdrive and arena rock call-outs, changes almost immediately into a British Invasion guitar line and harmony. Little flourishes here and there are all Who. The first bridge is pulled almost directly from “Please Please Me” and the second is a close cousin to a lost Byrds track. It all switches back and forth constantly in the span of a radio-perfect 3 1/2 minutes, and it was also written by Eric Carmen in a satin bodysuit, who also went on to write “All By Myself” and “Hungry Eyes.”

Like I mentioned before, the rest of album is also amazing, continuing to pour in the hard rock (“Get It Moving”) and baroque pop (“I Saw The Light”) influences and dialing the volume/crunch up and down as necessary. And then it even ends in an 8-minute stadium-quality anthem (“I Can Remember”). In all, one of the most memorable albums I’ve discovered lately, leisure suit or not.

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