In the early 1970s, The Raspberries debuted, comprised of former members of the Cleveland bands The Choir and Cyrus Erie. When bassist Dave Smalley left The Choir, Denny Carleton joined the band. When Dave Smalley later left The Raspberries, Scott McCarl joined the group for their fourth and final album Starting Over, joining co-founders Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson and drummer Mike McBride, replacing Jim Bofanti.
GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine. On The Raspberries album Starting Over, the song you co-wrote with Eric, “Play On” is sonically and chronologically between Badfinger’s “I Can’t Take It” from their No Dice album and The Dwight Twilley Band’s “I’m On Fire” from their Sincerely album. This song is also performed by Eric on The Raspberries’ reunion concert CD Pop Art Live, where Eric dedicated it to you. Eric and I also talked about Badfinger when I interviewed him in 1979.
SCOTT McCARL: There are a lot of similarities between Badfinger and The Raspberries. With Eric being classically trained and liking bands like The Beach Boys, Faces, and The Who, this brought a whole different avenue for his writing and performing. In Badfinger, with Pete Ham and Tom Evans, they had their John and Paul, plus you throw in Joey who looks just like Paul, they certainly pleased fans in that post-Beatles era. With us, Eric liked my John Lennon style and Eric had a Paul McCartney style when he wanted to. Badfinger and The Raspberries were on a bill together, playing The Aragon Ballroom in early 1973 when I met them. I had first talked with Eric about a month prior to the show and he invited me backstage. What surprised me is that The Raspberries really didn’t fraternize at all with Badfinger. I thought they were so much alike musically that they would be hanging out with each other. When I later joined the band, “Play On” came from the first songwriting session that Eric and I had. I played him a verse and he took off from that, and we wrote it for the band, and I think it was the best one that we did.
GM: You co-wrote “Hands on You” with Wally, which ended up being the flip side of “Overnight Sensation.” This is quite a casual party record, like the treatment The Beach Boys brought to their version of The Regents’ “Barbara Ann.”
SM: Wally and I wrote that one evening on his living room couch, just fooling around, made a recording of it, and send it to our producer Jimmy Ienner, along with the other songs for consideration for the album, and he said yes to this one. He said to record it like it was a party in the studio. He had the roadie and engineer come in and told everybody to sing along. I believe it was recorded in just one take. It is a funny little song.
Flip side: Hands on You
A side: Starting Over (Hit Record)
Billboard Top 100 debut: September 14, 1974
Peak position: No. 18
GM: You do have a John Lennon vocal style on that catchy, campy favorite. After The Raspberries disbanded, you were involved with Ted Myers’ Glider project in 1977. I know his name through the Canadian band Chilliwack the following year on their album Lights from the Valley, co-writing the song “In Love with a Look” which I enjoy.
SM: With Glider, I was hired on from a club cover band along with another guy from the band to be background singers. The producers happened to be at the steakhouse where we were playing in Redondo Beach and liked our harmonies. Into the studio we went. I liked Ted and the people associated with the project a lot. When we were done, Ted said, “This is great. I am going to put you all on the back cover photo.” Which was nice, because we really weren’t in the band. The label never got behind the record, unfortunately. The drummer went on to do The Rhythmic Arts Project, percussion for kids with disabilities, which was really cool. Ted had previously received recognition for writing a song that Three Dog Night recorded, where each “dog” took a verse, on their Seven Separate Fools album, which made Brian Wilson’s all-time Top 10 album list. The song is “Going in Circles.” It also appeared on Three Dog Night’s live album.
GM: It was also used as the flip side of “Family of Man.” That is a great song.
SM: It is amazing how songs can be used. Recently my first record “Somewhere” by our group Yellow Hair got placed in season two of the Netflix series Dead to Me.
GM: Now let’s go to your album Play On from 1998 which has just been reissued by Liberation Hall with new tracks added. It opens with “I’ll Be on My Way,” which is the song with the most Raspberries and Badfinger sound, written by Billy Sullivan, who I just saw again last month as a member of Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, and Brent Warren, who I first met as the bassist of The Action.
SM: So, we picked a good opener. That’s terrific. Brent and Billy first performed it together. It was a finished recording with Billy singing the song. I told them that I was in love with the song, and I asked if they would let me sing it. They agreed to that, perhaps hoping it might get heard by a wider audience. Our combined recording blended nicely.
GM: There is a catchy pair of back-to-back songs “Fallin’ in Lovin’” and “In Love Without a Girl.” “Fallin’ in Lovin’” starts with a bit of a Micky Dolenz vocal and then transitions into a Christine McVie sound.
SM: I like that comparison. I have always thought it had a Christine McVie-like sound, but I had never considered Micky Dolenz as a reference, which is quite a compliment to be able to sing anything like him.
GM: With “In Love Without a Girl,” the guitar part reminds me of Davey Johnstone from The Elton John Band, who also has a new album this year that I am enjoying.
SM: Wow. I sing that song with The Rubinoos from Berkeley, California, including Tommy Dunbar on lead guitar.
GM: When we lived in Nevada, I saw Billy with Herman’s Hermits in a free summer concert and classic cars series called Hot August Nights, put on by the casinos. The stages would compete. In Reno, for example, were Herman’s Hermits and in the neighboring city Sparks, is where I saw Gerry Marsden perform. His band opened by performing Badfinger hits and then turned into The Pacemakers when Gerry took the stage, performing his hits including “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” which you stay very true to the original on your album.
SM: I did. I thought I just wanted to record it and maybe nothing would happen with it, but I really like how it turned out with The Rubinoos again. Tommy arranged most everything that you hear. I grew up with that song and their “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” It just gave me the chills every time I would hear those songs on the radio.
GM: “Suspicious” is guitar driven with a haunting sound. Richard Marx had a song called “Hazard” which caught my wife Donna’s ear when she heard it on the radio thirty years ago, and we bought the cassette single. This is what I am reminded of with that special rare sound, different from a Raspberries sound.
SM: I recorded that one in 1984 trying to create a Tom Petty-like sound. I was in a relationship where I was suspicious of this girl, but she is right there on the recording, whispering “suspicious.” It turned out it was all true, but at least we did get a good song out of it.
GM: Now let’s talk about a pair of new songs that you and Michael worked on together. “Doin’ It Right” has a very interesting point of view. I never thought about The Beatles that way, as a relatively unknown band starting out who have potential.
SM: I don’t think anyone has written the story from that point of view before.
MICHAEL PURKHISER: Scott and I hadn’t talked for a long time. I had reached out to him about six years ago and we tried to get together for lunch but never did.
SM: Then this came up and I reached out.
MP: When Scott called me last spring, it was convenient for us to get together at my home studio. I really enjoyed working with Scott again. I think both are wonderful songs.
SM: This will be the first time these songs will be available.
GM: “Like Nobody Can” is a nice, relaxing closing number. In 1997, The Stampeders released a CD of old and new songs, ending with a new number “Closed Monday,” my favorite of that collection, which has a similar relaxing finale treatment. On “Like Nobody Can,” your piano playing reminds me of Floyd Cramer’s slip-note style.
SM: When I came up with that, I was pleased that I found the right sound for those spots. The reason why I included this song that has never been heard by others is because in my first band Yellow Hair, the lead guitarist Ted Paxson is the only one of the four of us who has passed away, which happened less than two years ago, and it broke my heart. There was a demo made in the studio which never went anywhere, and I thought that I wanted to do it in Ted’s memory, otherwise his song will never get heard. So, this one is for Ted. Yellow Hair was me, Ted, Jeff Chandler and Tom Sorrells back in 1969 through 1970.
GM: There’s a line in there, “The only one who makes me lose control.” When I heard Eric’s song “Make Me Lose Control” on the radio in 1988, to me it was like an update of “Overnight Sensation.” I was so thrilled that the song did so well nationally, one position higher than “Hungry Eyes,” reaching No. 3.
SM: I really liked it with that Phil Spector wall of sound.
GM: With “Like Nobody Can,” I was also reminded of Dave Smalley’s solo work on his songs which were less country sounding. I just love it.
SM: I am glad you are loving it. I thought maybe it would be the final signature on the album and I am happy you picked up on the Floyd Cramer-like playing.
MP: I think we mentioned Floyd Cramer more than once when you were recording it.
SM: There are three guitar parts on it, and I think it was all you.
MP: Yes, we took the demo that Scott had and built from there.
GM: Michael, I also look forward to promoting your “surftrack” guitar driven instrumental sound with the vinyl release of your 3-D band EP when it is released this summer, which includes my favorite of the 3-D songs, “Moonshot ’69.”
MP: Thank you. I look forward to that.
SM: Thank you for promoting this updated Play On release for Goldmine.
The Choir’s bassist Denny Carleton has put out a steady stream of music over the decades, which we discussed in our 2020 Goldmine interview. Now Carleton is joined by his music friend Al Globekar as the duo The Troubadour (Denny) and The Cowboy (Al) on the release The Troubadour and The Cowboy. They split the fourteen songs on the CD in half with Carleton delivering lead vocals on the first half beginning with “Dover Fair,” joined by Choir/Raspberries drummer Jim Bofanti who provides a steady bouncing beat on this call for a simpler life, with Lori Rizzo providing backing vocals. “Dream Deferred” has an old Western sound, with Jeff Fricker on piano and Al Globekar’s electric guitar and backing vocals rounding out this nice 3/4 time selection from Carleton. Globekar’s “Elana” has a great cantina sound. He also delivers a wonderful finale, “Hangman’s Knot.” The duo performs around the Cleveland area, including Mentor this past weekend.
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