'Go All the Way' back to the 1972 debut LP by Cleveland's The Raspberries
This Sunday marks 50 years since the debut album by one of the north coast's most popular bands.
The Raspberries' self-titled debut LP was released April 10, 1972, sporting a dusky-yet-artful cover photo and a scratch n' sniff sticker that has retained its raspberry scent for decades. Between the grooves were nine rollicking power-pop cuts, written or co-written by bassist Eric Carmen and guitarists Wally Bryson and Dave Smalley. Drummer Jim Bonfanti still lives in Northeast Ohio and remembers that The Raspberries were excited about their first album coming out on Capitol Records, the same label as their heroes, The Beatles.
Bonfanti: We wanted to do a really a good job, so much so that when we recorded it the first time, it was terrible; we just we were trying too hard to be perfect. We actually recorded that album twice. The second time was the one that came out. It still wasn't, I don't think from any of our perspectives, the best job we could have done. But it was the best that we had. If we had another chance at it, we wouldn't have turned it down. So, I have really good memories [but also] stressful memories.
On November 13, 1973, The Raspberries performed "Go All the Way" on "The Mike Douglas Show." Lead singer Carmen was also interviewed by Douglas and his guest co-host tennis legend Billie Jean King:
KB: The first album's credits say it was recorded at The Record Plant, in New York, and at Abbey Road, in London. So was one version recorded at one studio, and one at the other?
Bonfanti: Well, I'm not sure what the Abbey Road part is. It was recorded at Record Plant, both of them. Our producer, Jimmy Iovine, lived in New York so he set up The Record Plant. And the engineer was Shelly Yakus, who went on to engineer some amazing records [for Tom Petty].
The first thing we would do is, whatever the rhythm tracks of the song was—rhythm guitar, bass and drums—we would do that first. And actually one song, I think it was "I Saw the Light," actually Eric and I recorded with piano and drums first and then we did bass and stuff. So, then you just build on that. “I Can Remember,” if I had to pick a favorite song that I really liked, that would be my favorite on that album. There was no click track; you just played it. It took us a month; we did every album in a month. We all went to New York and stayed together in a suite at the Hotel Elway, I think it was called. It's amazing that somebody even cares about it 50 years later.
KB: After the release, what was the response back here in Northeast Ohio? I imagine it must have been explosive.
Bonfanti: Well, it's funny you should mention that. Cleveland never quite moved on from The Raspberries playing at Padua High School or Bedford High School. We played so many high schools, on purpose, and that was part of what we wanted to do. They never really got what we accomplished. I'm not saying we didn't do well here, but we got a lot more in the major cities, in New York, Los Angeles, it was a much bigger deal.
KB: Tell me about the packaging of that first album. I see so many copies with the scratch ‘n sniff sticker.
Bonfanti: That was Capitol’s idea. The sticker was actually on the cellophane. If you were very careful, you could separate that sticker from the cellophane and put it on the album. When you went into a record store, you could smell it. Some of the reproductions afterwards did not have it. However, there was a Japanese reissue some years ago that they actually recreated the sticker.
There are several names under “special thanks” on the back of the first album, which Bonfanti says were likely Capitol Records’ marketing employees. But the name of assistant engineer Dennie Ferrante immediately rang a bell.
Bonfanti: He was Shelly Yakus' assistant in the booth, and he's since passed away. Such a great guy. Our paths crossed again when we played in New York City at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill. Our sound engineer was sick and couldn't run the board. Dennis [stepped in and] mixed us that night. We actually had a friendship with Dennis. Definitely a great guy. Sorry that he's not with us anymore.
KB: Do all of you keep in touch after those mid-2000’s reunion shows?
Bonfanti: I mean, there's not going to be any more Raspberries shows. It was amazing how that all lined up and all worked out. I think it was great that we got the opportunity to do that because, for example, my kids actually could see the band. My youngest daughter went on a bunch of our tour dates with us to live the whole experience that they had heard stories of. I also think it was a blessing that we were all healthy enough to do it.
But 50 years ago, The Raspberries saw their first album hit #51 and spawn the #5 gold record, "Go All the Way.” The song gained a new generation of fans when it was included on the chart-topping "Guardians of the Galaxy" soundtrack in 2014. The final lineup of the Raspberries (with Scott McCarl and Michael McBride in place of Bonfanti and Smalley) broke up in 1975. Vinyl and CD reissues of their albums have been sparse, but their music remains available online.