"Can we, as a country, all
: August 2004: The
When people come up to me on the street and say,
"Hey, Sugar-Tush, what's
the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band of all time?"--a
question I'm asked at least twice daily--my answer
depends on my mood and how I feel about British
people. If I'm feeling charitably disposed toward
our Limey progenitors and partners-at-war, I might
say Slade or The Sweet or even Mott the Hoople.
If I'm in a nationalistic mood, I'll toss out The
Standells or Johnny Burnette's Rock 'n' Roll Trio.
These days, I feel confident to announce that The
Raspberries--and no one else--are indeed The Greatest
Rock Band Ever. I've reached this conclusion for
they rocked harder than almost anyone;
despite this, their songs were sweeter than a bowl
of Cap'n Crunch;
2004, for cunt's sake, and "rock band" is synonymous
with "nostalgia act." After several years of clinical
research, it's undeniable that rock 'n' roll music
was never really able to change anything besides
people's haircuts. At base--and at its best--it
is a mating soundtrack for human insects to hook
up and reproduce. Great rock 'n' roll leads invariably
to pregnancy, and I'd wager that a few hundred babies
were birthed as a result of "Go All the Way," The
Raspberries' first monster hit which roared from
AM radios in 1972.
bleeding Jesus, those opening power chords--the
massive rusty grinding gears of a dying industrial
Midwestern town, the ugly flat Midwest exploding
in boredom--and then comes the unmistakable gaybird
trill of Eric Carmen, a giant lonely effeminate
purple dinosaur roaming the countryside looking
for a purple girl dinosaur to love. Above the sonic
blast fluttered Carmen's almost-a-girl voice singing
about GETTING INSIDE A GIRL'S VAGINA, which is what
it meant to "Go All The Way" back in 1972. (Today,
the song might simply be called "Fuck.")
(the penis). SWEET (in most cases, the vagina).
GOING ALL THE WAY. The ultimate song for the Urban
Mating Soundtrack called rock 'n' roll.
With their massive layered production piling one
Gigantor guitar over the next, there was an inherent
LOUDNESS to The Raspberries. It was music played
in all capital letters, thanks mainly to guitarist
Wally Bryson (don't you hate the name "Wally"?),
a vaguely Injun-looking Clevelander adept at jet-plane
power chords. The 'berries bore the unmistakable
lion's-roar of Midwestern power rock, from Nugent
to Alice Cooper to the James Gang, and, yeah, even
to the Stooges and MC5, although, let's be honest
with ourselves, neither of the latter ever wrote
a song as catchy and hard-driving as "School's Out"
or "Cat Scratch Fever."
despite all the Sturm und Drang, there has
never been a prettier love song than The Raspberries'
"Let's Pretend." I have actually cried--MORE THAN
ONCE--at this song, and I state this as a red-blooded
heterosexual male and a card-carrying member of
most heterosexual organizations. 99% of their lyrics
are about love and romance (and the implied vaginal
secretions), all purtied-up with sugar-dipped symphonic
production awash in cavity-inducing harmonies.
Raspberries released one album bearing a scratch
'n' sniff patch that smelled like raspberries. And
despite the fact that they rose from the industrial
muck of Cleveland--a city of horrid ghettos and
fine corned-beef sandwiches, a town so polluted
that the Cuyahoga River CAUGHT FIRE in 1969--The
Raspberries were so shiny-clean, you could eat dinner
off them. They inhabited a non-dysfunctional world
where injustice and venereal disease and the Vietnam
War didn't exist. There's an unflappable cheeriness
smeared like raspberry jam
their music. They would have been Walt Disney's
idea of a good rock band around 1972. They were
able to take Cleveland and turn it into Disneyland.
'N' SWEET. It
has to be the right balance of hard 'n' sweet.
If it's too hard, it's ugly and sweaty and smelly
like gay sex. If it's too sweet, it's annoying
and nauseating like dyke sex. The Raspberries
found the perfect mix. They were harder than Napalm
Death and sweeter than The Beach Boys. They achieved
an unprecedented collision of raw power and pure
sugar. Their sound is simultaneously violent and
wholesome. It's like being fucked really hard
by Mickey Mouse.
rock is glam rock stripped of all the beauty,
an ugly black-and-white carbon copy of the Multicolored
Sex Popsicle that was glam. And though it wouldn't
be fair--neither to glam nor to The Raspberries--to
call them a glam band, they were hard 'n' sweet
like the best glam acts, they achieved their success
around the same time as glam, and Eric Carmen
was a faggy not-a-fag like most of the best glam
Carmen was the sweet vagina to guitarist Wally
Bryson's hard penis. And Carmen was, of course,
a total dorkasaurus--Freddie Mercury as a heterosexual
Midwesterner. Few things are worse than appearing
to be a homo and not actually being one. I just
feel like slapping him around sometimes. Still,
he had one of the purest, most beautiful testicular-soprano
voices ever set to wax, probably better than Roy
Orbison's, which I'm not afraid to say because
Roy's dead now and he can't hurt me anymore.
had been a veteran of mid-60s Cleveland band The
Mods, then as a member The Choir, he and two other
future Raspberries had a minor national hit with
the jingly-jangly sorry-for-myself garage nugget
"It's Cold Outside" in 1967.
Carmen was a purple Mod powderpuff in a silly
late-60s Anglophilic combo called Cyrus Erie.
Sharing a mutual passion for All Things British,
Carmen and the other boys finally joined together
as The Raspberries, releasing four albums between
1972 and 1974: Raspberries, Fresh, Side 3,
and Starting Over. The latter was chosen
by the crusty poopstains over at Rolling Stone
as 1974's Album of the Year.
Raspberries were the rarest of artists, ones who
were able to improve upon the source materials
they plagiarized. They gobbled up all their musical
influences, digested them, and shit out a sweet-tasting
raspberry pie. It gives me a sense of cultural
closure to behold American bands imitating British
bands imitating American bands. The Raspberries
were simultaneously able to vampirize British
Invasion music while upping the ante. Referring
to this ability, a Rolling Stone critic
once wrote this:
more importantly, the end results of their adroit
collages of musical knowledge often equal or surpass
their models' original creations.
not kidding. He actually wrote that. And
he probably even expected to get laid after
after four albums came the inevitable implosion,
with only Eric Carmen going on to achieve solo
success. His whiny 1975 smash "All By Myself"
and follow-up megahit "Never Gonna Fall in Love
Again" highlight his smooth voice and knack for
melody, as well as his propensity for infantile
romantic self-pity. Somebody give the boy some
for three years, he was in the Greatest Rock Band
ever. And back in 1972, he gave me hope that one
day a girl would let me Go All
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