The Raspberries’ Bright And Shiny Power Pop
The most recent post on this site discussed the AM rock experience of the late-60s and early-70s. By the early-70s, though, that experience would not have been complete without the frequent appearance of the K-Tel compilation extravaganzas.
The name “K-Tel” was obviously intended to evoke a radio station playing an assortment of “original hits” by the “original artists,” even if some of those “original hits” were severely edited so they could all fit on a single vinyl platter.But at $3.98 for at least 20 songs, you couldn’t really complain about clipped version of some of the tunes. “Radio edits” appeared frequently on 45’s back then, so the practice was hardly novel.
The 1973 release, Fantastic, is the one that most sticks out in my mind. Besides its groovy rainbow cover, the record managed to combine some great moments in pop history with sheer, unabashed garbage. One minute, you’ve got Elton John at the beginning of the peak or his powers doing “Crocodile Rock,” the next minute you’ve got Donny Osmond doing “The Twelfth Of Never.” One minute, you’ve got Bill Withers’ soulful, earnest “Lean On Me,” the next minute you’ve got Focus yodeling their way through “Hocus Pocus.”
The best thing on the disk, however, was “I Wanna Be With You” by The Raspberries. Along with Big Star and Badfinger, The Raspberries comprise the holy triumvirate of early-70s rock bands that influenced all of the Power Pop that came afterward.
“I Wanna Be With You” was not, however, the first song by The Raspberries to grace a K-Tel disk. Their three-minute ode to convincing a certain lady friend to have sex, “Go All The Way,” anchored a prior K-Tel release, Believe In Music. On that one, K-Tel quite nicely displayed its penchant for the yin and the yang and the good and the bad. Believe In Music also included the aforementioned Mr. Osmond doing “Go Away Little Girl” as a kind of counter-perspective to Eric Carmen’s relentless persistence in trying to get his sweetheart to “please, please go all the way.” K-Tel was not about to be accused of bias.
“I Wanna Be With You” is a perfect pop song, with its ringing guitars, pounding beat, simple call-and-response chorus repeated several times and Carmen’s spot-on, expressive vocals. Although treading the same thematic ground as “Go All The Way,” ‘I Wanna Be With You” is a tad less blatant in its declaration of romantic desire. But only a tad:
If we were older we wouldn’t have to be worried tonight
Baby, oh, I wanna be with you so bad
Oh baby I wanna be with you
Oh yeah … well tonight
Tonight we always knew it would feel so right
So come on baby, I just wanna be with you
Perhaps you could say that “I just wanna be with you” is not the same things as “please, please go all the way,” but that might be making a fine line distinction that Carmen probably did not intend. Both are great songs, among the best of the entire decade of the 1970s. Here’s an excellent live performance of “I Wanna Be With You” from 1978:
The Raspberries’ influence on the music discussed on this site was immense, as we shall see in a future post.