Published on May 12th, 2014 | by Gerry Galipault


Eric Carmen and ‘365 Days of Power Pop’

When Eric Carmen first heard The Byrds’ debut album, he knew his budding classical music career was over.

“I loved the Beatles, of course, but I actually liked the Rolling Stones better,” the Cleveland native says, “but it’s The Byrds that got me into rock ‘n’ roll. One day, I was listening to the radio and I clearly remember hearing ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ for the first time and those harmonies and that 12-string Rickenbacker.

“Then I went home that same day and turned on the TV to see ‘The Lloyd Thaxton Show,’ and who was the musical guest? The Byrds. They did ‘Mr. Tambourine Man.’ That was it. It was all rock ‘n’ roll for me after that.”

The classically trained pianist bought a Beatles chord book and taught himself how to play the guitar. His goals were ambitious – he wanted to join [easyazon_link identifier=”B077ZK3XLV” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]The Choir[/easyazon_link], one of Cleveland’s biggest garage-rock bands in the 1960s. They had a huge regional hit with “It’s Cold Outside” in 1967, but it was only modestly successful nationwide.

“The Choir, they were my heroes, they were our Beatles,” Carmen says. “They were playing all the right chords, they knew how to deconstruct a song, they played like no one else in our area. And I felt like their guitarist, Wally Bryson, was the yang to my ying.”

Carmen managed to hold The Choir’s attention long enough for an audition, but they passed on him. He went home despondent but undeterred; he joined another local garage-rock group, Cyrus Erie.

As luck would have it, The Choir started to fall apart. Carmen recruited Bryson, and when Cyrus Erie dissolved, they teamed with Bryson’s former Choir bandmates Jim Bonfanti (drums) and Dave Smalley (guitar) to form … the Raspberries.

They would, along with Big Star, become the definitive power-pop band of the 1970s.

For four years (1970-74), they cornered the market on melodies and harmonies, prominent guitar riffs and three-minute, radio-friendly pop-rock gems like “Go All the Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Tonight” and “Let’s Pretend.”

The Raspberries were exactly what they were intended to be: a return to the pop/rock basics of The Beatles, The Who and The Small Faces.

“I think I first heard the phrase ‘power pop’ back in the mid to late ’60s,” Carmen says. “I used to read Rave Magazine. I would read about The Who and The Small Faces, before they even made it big in the States. I was just as interested in their fashion sense as much as the music.

“Pete Townshend was interviewed in like ’67 and was asked to describe The Who’s music. He said they were a pop band but they were powerful. And that just stuck: power pop.”

Carmen theorizes that he, Alex Chilton (of Big Star) and Badfinger’s Pete Ham, without knowledge of each other, simultaneously got turned off by what radio was playing in the late ’60s.

“Instead of The Beatles and The Who, FM was playing Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull, playing 20-minute flute solos, and Traffic’s 12-minute keyboard solos,” he says, with a laugh. “I was bored by it. I longed for the days of Pete Townshend jumping 5 feet in the air and winding his arm around.

“We were guys that liked melodies and songs. Power pop became the name of the genre, but it’s very broad. It could encompass a lot of sounds.”

Carmen found his Townshend in Bryson, and together they sought to put the pop back in rock.

“Stoner music was starting to get big in the early ’70s, and everybody had long hair,” he says. “I wanted to do the opposite. We wanted to give people joy like the early Beatles records. ‘Beatles For Sale’ and the pre-‘Tommy’ Who, they were my test period.

“We wanted to play with the power of The Who but sing like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, but also have an image. We made Wally cut his hair twice before he joined the band. He was very unhappy about it. We wanted no jeans, no beards or mustaches. I hoped it would differentiate us from the others.”

It worked, mostly, up until they sported white suits on the cover of their second album, “Fresh” (1972).

“That was a nightmare,” Carmen says, laughing. “I just remember how miserable we were, wearing those suits and how hot it was that day. And the photos turned out terrible.

“And it didn’t help that Capitol Records didn’t understand who we were. They didn’t even understand our name. It was a twist on ‘blowing a raspberry,’ a Bronx cheer. We were sticking it to the eye of prog rock. Capitol thought, ‘What are they, the Osmonds?’ They marketed us to teen magazines, who were asking us questions like ‘What type of girls do you like?’ That’s exactly what you should not do if you want to be taken serious.”

By 1974, frustrations overflowed and the group disbanded, with “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” oddly enough, being its final chart hit.

Carmen went solo and his early classical influences surfaced in his first two hits, “All By Myself” and “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.”

“When I was in the Raspberries, I wrote to tailor the strengths of the other guys,” he says. “When that was gone and there were no boundaries, it opened up a whole new world for me. I had my power-pop moments, but Arista wanted the ballads. They wanted the ‘Son of ‘All By Myself.’ “

The 1980s were lean for Carmen until 1987 when the Raspberries’ producer, Jimmy Ienner, asked him to sing “Hungry Eyes” for the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack album. The movie’s sleeper success led to another Carmen hit, “Make Me Lose Control” (1988). Both went Top 5.

These days, it takes a lot to get the 64-year-old Carmen excited, but he’s genuinely elated about “The Essential Eric Carmen,” released on March 25. The two-CD, 30-song set covers his time in Cyrus Erie, Raspberries and on his own.

“It’s the best package I’ve ever been involved in,” he says. “I’ve never plugged any compilation before, but I’ve been telling everyone that this is the one to buy. Mark Wilder, who is a Grammy-winning engineer, did a magnificent job with it.

“I am my harshest critic, I always knew where all the mistakes were in the songs. But I can honestly say that whoever buys this set, they will feel that these songs sound brand new. And I have Mark Wilder to thank for that.”


365 Days of Power Pop: A Playlist, Part 3

Back to our “365 Days of Power Pop.” See our first two editions here: Part 1 and Part 2. Here are 95 more, with 70 more to go. (Follow along with our Spotify playlist.)

201 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000WLRX7U” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Follow You Down, Gin Blossoms[/easyazon_link]

202 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0057RFGM8″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]I Don’t Mind At All, Bourgeois Tagg[/easyazon_link]

203 [easyazon_link identifier=”B003CEUTRK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]There Goes the Fear, Doves[/easyazon_link]

204 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01A7U3Z68″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Larry Storch, Larry Storch, Splitsville[/easyazon_link]

205 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01KASH4LE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]The Laundry, The Lilac Time[/easyazon_link]

206 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000W192P6″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Down to London, Joe Jackson[/easyazon_link]

207 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000THEDAC” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Big Sur, The Thrills[/easyazon_link]

208 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000020603″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Long Goodbye, The Hang Ups[/easyazon_link]

209 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00B9TQQDG” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Feed It, Candyskins[/easyazon_link]

210 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00AGVSALE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Vanishing Girl, The Dukes of Stratosphere[/easyazon_link]

211 [easyazon_link identifier=”B079ZBDR9R” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]My Own Reality, Francis Dunnery[/easyazon_link]

212 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01KGDBR5C” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]If You’ve Got the Time, The Babys[/easyazon_link]

213 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001RZ83L0″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Until You Came Along, Golden Smog[/easyazon_link]

214 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000WTYUNC” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]So Sad About Us, The Jam[/easyazon_link]

215 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00EUF0UHO” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]One of These Days, The Hang Ups[/easyazon_link]

216 [easyazon_link identifier=”B003TOSI2G” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Crystal Clear, The Darling Buds[/easyazon_link]

217 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000VZUJ1Y” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]In Quintessence, Squeeze[/easyazon_link]

218 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001KQM8Q2″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Veronica, Elvis Costello[/easyazon_link]

219 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001H4PEBI” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Heavenly Pop Hit, The Chills[/easyazon_link]

220 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001MCVTWS” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Down On My Knees, Bread[/easyazon_link]

221 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001OB2ZRK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Just What I Needed, The Cars[/easyazon_link]

222 [easyazon_link identifier=”B073TZCPLD” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Sing, Travis[/easyazon_link]

223 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00O6YWMJI” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Pictures of Lily, The Who[/easyazon_link]

224 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000THE8FW” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Fell, Let’s Active[/easyazon_link]

225 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001248HTY” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Where Have You Been All My Life, Fotomaker[/easyazon_link]

226 [easyazon_link identifier=”B002L19E76″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Hard to Laugh, The Pursuit of Happiness[/easyazon_link]

227 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01M0F21HU” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]I’m Not Talking, AC Newman[/easyazon_link]

228 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00K8HORJK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Yesterday’s Love, Any Trouble[/easyazon_link]

229 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0018Q2CI8″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Hazy Shade of Winter, Bangles[/easyazon_link]

230 [easyazon_link identifier=”B002ON1ELA” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Girl From Mars, Ash[/easyazon_link]

231 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00122Q8R4″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Crybaby, Utopia[/easyazon_link]

232 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000008LPX” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Time, Gregg Tripp[/easyazon_link]

233 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000V68TS8″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]In a Big Country, Big Country[/easyazon_link]

234 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01B6XTG6S” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Feel, Big Star[/easyazon_link]

235 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00HWV3YYE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Sugar & Spice, The Cryan’ Shames[/easyazon_link]

236 [easyazon_link identifier=”B005FOUV7S” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Closer to Free, Bodeans[/easyazon_link]

237 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00123HIDQ” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Girls Talk, Dave Edmunds[/easyazon_link]

238 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0018QZ6UY” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]The Letter, The Box Tops[/easyazon_link]

239 [easyazon_link identifier=”B077WW7NTS” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]The Bulrushes, The Bongos[/easyazon_link]

240 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000S3C7XM” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Listen to the Radio, Sloan[/easyazon_link]

241 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0011Z76W8″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Flying on the Ground Is Wrong, Buffalo Springfield[/easyazon_link]

242 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001BHG17C” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Under the Milky Way, The Church[/easyazon_link]

243 [easyazon_link identifier=”B005TM0YF0″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]This Charming Man, The Smiths[/easyazon_link]

244 [easyazon_link identifier=”B013MC1H7M” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]ELT, Wilco[/easyazon_link]

245 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0013AJBTC” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]I Want Candy, The Strangeloves[/easyazon_link]

246 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00137WZNE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]All I Really Want to Do, The Byrds[/easyazon_link]

247 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000002H5V” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure[/easyazon_link]

248 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000T03ZAS” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Mayor of Simpleton, XTC[/easyazon_link]

249 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LZBQ0Z1″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Something So Strong, Crowded House[/easyazon_link]

250 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00137QZRQ” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]That Thing You Do!, The Wonders[/easyazon_link]

251 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0030CIBC4″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Greener Days, David Gates[/easyazon_link]

252 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00AEVR85U” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]1979, The Smashing Pumpkins[/easyazon_link]

253 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001NB72WE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Glow Girl, The Who[/easyazon_link]

254 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001BZRWRM” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Don’t Call Me Baby, Voice of the Beehive[/easyazon_link]

255 [easyazon_link identifier=”B079ZWG81D” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Steady, Jules Shear[/easyazon_link]

256 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001NBIWTQ” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]A Day Without Me, U2[/easyazon_link]

257 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0025W53WG” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Outside Chance, The Turtles[/easyazon_link]

258 [easyazon_link identifier=”B005CCYJOY” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Deep Six Saturday, Tommy Keene[/easyazon_link]

259 [easyazon_link identifier=”B003WO0BKK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]That Is Why, Jellyfish[/easyazon_link]

260 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LEFTYBK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Little Girl, The Syndicate of Sound[/easyazon_link]

261 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01M0JJCID” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Cherry Baby, Starz[/easyazon_link]

262 [easyazon_link identifier=”B013HD8AAI” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Streets of Your Town, The Go-Betweens[/easyazon_link]

263 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001O4P8LW” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Needles and Pins, The Searchers[/easyazon_link]

264 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BV335EM” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Fade Away, Todd Rundgren[/easyazon_link]

265 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000SZIPP4″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Going Down to Liverpool, Katrina and the Waves[/easyazon_link]

266 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001230P6I” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Big Bang Baby, Stone Temple Pilots[/easyazon_link]

267 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000W177WG” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]One More Time, Joe Jackson[/easyazon_link]

268 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00ATLTYKC” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Driver’s Seat, Sniff ‘N’ Tears[/easyazon_link]

269 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01L9V9SMO” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]This Is How It Feels, Inspiral Carpets[/easyazon_link]

270 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0043WCOMI” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Where the Colors Don’t Go, Sam Phillips[/easyazon_link]

271 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000VZSBPK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]You Get What You Give, New Radicals[/easyazon_link]

272 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001UVCZWE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Add It Up, Violent Femmes[/easyazon_link]

273 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01I0ZELA6″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Metropolis, The Church[/easyazon_link]

274 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001UFOQY0″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]No Myth, Michael Penn[/easyazon_link]

275 [easyazon_link identifier=”B079LPHY1H” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Obscurity Knocks, The Trash Can Sinatras[/easyazon_link]

276 [easyazon_link identifier=”B010PPS2OU” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Cool Hearted Girl, The Spongetones[/easyazon_link]

277 [easyazon_link identifier=”B008A38KVU” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]What I’m Looking For, Brendan Benson[/easyazon_link]

278 [easyazon_link identifier=”B002L1IYZ4″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]I’m an Adult Now, The Pursuit of Happiness[/easyazon_link]

279 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00123G32I” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]There She Goes Again, Marshall Crenshaw[/easyazon_link]

280 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001NU1YII” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Staying Out for the Summer, Dodgy[/easyazon_link]

281 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BUR8OAY” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Sons of 1984, Todd Rundgren[/easyazon_link]

282 [easyazon_link identifier=”B005LYCLJS” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]The Door, The Toms[/easyazon_link]

283 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TDX1PE” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Holding On to the Earth, Sam Phillips[/easyazon_link]

284 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JID61U2″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Sodajerk, Buffalo Tom[/easyazon_link]

285 [easyazon_link identifier=”B016S7ZU8A” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Rock ‘N’ Roll, The Velvet Underground[/easyazon_link]

286 [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LZ46LOZ” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]On the Table, AC Newman[/easyazon_link]

287 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001NCS94I” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me, Paul Stanley[/easyazon_link]

288 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0015FW76O” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Time Won’t Let Me, The Outsiders[/easyazon_link]

289 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0014KBBS0″ locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Fortified Grapes, Gordon[/easyazon_link]

290 [easyazon_link identifier=”B0017KIXMY” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Caroline Knows, Splitsville[/easyazon_link]

291 [easyazon_link identifier=”B003A9EMRK” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Don’t Show Me Heaven, Jason Falkner[/easyazon_link]

292 [easyazon_link identifier=”B003EX8JBM” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Somebody Made For Me, Emitt Rhodes[/easyazon_link]

293 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00HKST2HC” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Do You Love Me?, The Explorers Club[/easyazon_link]

294 [easyazon_link identifier=”B001FXAV7I” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]Say Hello to Another Goodbye, Linus of Hollywood[/easyazon_link]

295 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00124AA2G” locale=”US” tag=”pauplathemuss-20″]My Best Friend’s Girl, The Cars[/easyazon_link]

Editor’s note: Eric Carmen photo taken by Alex Castino

Next Edition: 365 Days of Power Pop, Part 4

365 Days of Power Pop, Part 1 / 365 Days of Power Pop, Part 2

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About the Author

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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