Before their 1975 split, the Raspberries scored a number of sizeable hits with their Beatles-meet-the-Who sound, including "Go All the Way," "I Wanna Be With You" and "Overnight Sensation." And while Carmen made his mark as a solo artist in the ensuing years ("All By Myself," "Hungry Eyes"), the Raspberries' shadow continued to loom large. So large that Carmen became squeamish about reuniting.
"Over thirty-plus years, a certain myth has grown up around the band. And the last thing I ever wanted to do was put us on a stage somewhere, in less than the best circumstances, and pop the bubble, have the fans come in and say, 'Gee, they weren't that good,'" admits Carmen. "It's your responsibility to give them something to be excited about.
"But it went absolutely beautifully," says Carmen of the group's experimental reunion gig at Cleveland's House of Blues the day after Thanksgiving. "We sold the date out in about four minutes, and everybody who was there had a phenomenal time." The show was such a success that the Raspberries decided to return for a New Year's set tomorrow night.
It was actually at another branch of the House of Blues chain that Carmen first gathered up the courage to consider playing with his former band -- while he was at the Los Angeles venue touring with Ringo Starr's Band in 2000. "The stages are all good, the house sound system is good, the house lighting system is good," he exclaims. "And because of those things, it eliminated a lot of the problems that I would have associated with putting the Raspberries reunion together. So we began talking about it."
Carmen was also particularly taken with Cleveland's talent buyer, Anthony Nicolaidis. "He was excited to try and do something that was very special," explains Carmen, who was then inspired to reach out to the other Raspberries members.
As far as the set list, Carmen and company decided to play the classics -- from both the Raspberries repertoire and others. "We threw in a peppering of things we used to play before we recorded our own stuff," he says. "We threw in a few Beatles songs, 'I Can't Explain' by the Who, 'Baby's in Black' -- I loved the bridge of that song, so we said, 'Let's do that one just because we want to.'" Other covers in the set include the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" (off the first LP Carmen ever bought) and Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me."
While only two more shows are confirmed at the moment, more dates should follow, with talk of a House of Blues club tour. No word yet of a new Raspberries album.
"We initially said, 'Let's just get these first two shows under our belt here, and then we'll go on and discuss what we should do from here,'" says Carmen. "I think we'll just see how this all flies."