The Raspberries Biography

Formed in 1970, this popular US band evolved from several aspiring Ohio, USA-based bands. The original line-up included two former members of Cyrus Erie, Eric Carmen (11 August 1949, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Marty Murphy (guitar), as well as ex-Choir drummer Jim Bonfanti (b. 17 December 1948, Windber, Pennsylvania, USA). Murphy was quickly replaced by Wally Bryson (b. 18 July 1949, Gastonia, North Carolina, USA), a veteran of both acts, who in turn introduced John Aleksic. However the latter was removed in favour of Dave Smalley (b. 10 July 1949, Oil City, Pennsylvania, USA; guitar/bass), another ex-Choir acolyte. The Raspberries’ love of the Beatles was apparent on their debut ‘Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye’. Its melodic flair set the tone of ‘Go All The Way’, a gorgeous slice of anglophilia which rose to number 5 in the US chart in 1972. The same year’s Raspberries confirmed the quartet’s undoubted promise, but it was on Fresh, released a mere four months later, that their talent fully blossomed. Here the band’s crafted harmonies recalled those of the Beach Boys and Hollies, while a buoyant joie de vivre was apparent on such memorable songs as ‘Let’s Pretend’ and ‘I Wanna Be With You’.

This cohesion, sadly, was not to last and while 1973’s Side 3 included wider influences drawn from the Who and Small Faces, it also reflected a growing split between Carmen and the Bonfanti/Smalley team who were summarily fired in 1973. Scott McCarl (guitar) and Michael McBride (drums, ex-Cyrus Erie) completed the new Raspberries’ line-up which debuted the following year with the gloriously ambitious ‘Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)’. In that one song they packed hook after hook, change after change; it was for many the most perfect pop song written since ‘Good Vibrations’. The attendant album, cheekily entitled Starting Over, contained several equally memorable songs, but it was clear that Carmen now required a broader canvas for his work. He disbanded the Raspberries in 1975 and embarked on an intermittently successful solo career, while Bryson resurfaced in two disappointing pop rock bands, Tattoo and Fotomaker.

In the 90s the Raspberries contribution to power pop was freshly examined. Two reissued packages from the excellent UK collector’s label RPM were released in 1996 with copious sleeve notes from Raspberryologist Ken Sharp. Bryson, Smalley and McCarl subsequently reunited to record the mini-album Refreshed. In view of the fact that the Raspberries always left a good taste in the mouths of fans and critics, it was with some joy to hear that Carmen, Bryson, Bonfanti and Smalley reunited for live performances in Cleveland during 2004, and a mini-tour the following year.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.