The Raspberries' demo tape ultimately found its way to producer Jimmy Ienner, and in the wake of a major-label bidding war, the band signed to Capitol, issuing their self-titled debut LP (complete with a raspberry-scented scratch-and-sniff cover sticker) in the spring of 1972. The debut single "Don't Want to Say Goodbye," stalled, but the follow-up, "Go All the Way," a magnificent fusion of Who
-inspired guitar snarl and Beach Boys
-styled vocal harmonies, went on to sell over a million copies on its way to cracking the Top Five. Carmen
and Smalley swapped guitar and bass chores prior to recording the Raspberries' sophomore effort, 1972's Fresh; the record generated two more hits, "I Wanna Be with You" and the beautiful "Let's Pretend," and solidified the band's stature as critical favorites. Nevertheless, tension within the ranks -- sparked largely by Carmen
's creative primacy and the shadow it cast over the songwriting contributions of Bryson
and Smalley -- were beginning to boil over, and accordingly 1973's Side 3 boasted a more raw, aggressive sound than its predecessors, typified by the visceral crunch of the opening "Tonight."
Side 3 failed even to crack the Top 100, however, and following a triumphant Carnegie Hall date, both Smalley and Bonfanti exited the Raspberries to form their own band, Dynamite
. They were replaced by bassist Scott McCarl and ex-Cyrus Erie drummer Michael McBride. 1974's acclaimed Starting Over continued the harder-edged approach of Side 3, yielding the band's final chart smash, the superb "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)." A nasty post-gig confrontation between Carmen
soon resulted in the latter's departure from the group, and after playing a handful of shows as a three-piece, the Raspberries disbanded in 1975. Carmen
then mounted a solo career, tapping McBride to play drums on his self-titled debut LP, which launched the number two blockbuster "All by Myself." He did not return to the upper rungs of the charts for over a decade, however, scoring a major hit in 1987 with his Dirty Dancing soundtrack contribution "Hungry Eyes." "Make Me Lose Control" reached the number three spot a year later. Bryson
, meanwhile, resurfaced in the short-lived Tattoo before joining the power pop group Fotomaker
for three albums during the late '70s.
In March of 1999, all four original members (Smalley, Carmen
, and Bonfanti) met up for the first time in years sparking rumors of an impending reunion. A few months later (after three of the four members played together onstage in Cleveland to celebrate the 80th birthday of rock journalist Jane Scott), a Raspberries reunion tour was confirmed as fact by Billboard Magazine. Unfortunately for fans, the reunion failed to materialize. Carmen
continued to write and record as a solo artist, while Bryson
, Smalley, and latter-day member Scott McCarl opted to resurrect the Raspberries as a trio, issuing the album Refreshed in 2000. ~ Jason Ankeny & Greg Prato, Rovi