Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Building a Better Boats

So it’s too late, here in fall 2007, for a celebratory 30th-anniversary Boats Against the Current boxed set. Besides, the recent “two-fer” issue of Boats paired with Change of Heart at least gets this Eric Carmen classic on an American CD release. Even so, Boats deserves a full-scale production as a multi-disc boxed set — and soon, before the CD-buying public goes away, converting full-time to MP3s, iPods, and downloaded music.

So if I were the All-Powerful Caretaker of Boats Against the Current, here’s how I’d put it together.

DISC 1: Boats Against the Current as we know it, but remastered to be the best-sounding version available.

DISC 2: Boats in its original order — which was in reverse of the sequence as we know it. In an EricCarmen.com thread called “Desperate Fools," Eric casually revealed that his original vision had the album starting with "Run Away" and progressing backwards all the way to his original closer, the song "Boats Against the Current." The lost gem "Temporary Hero" was to fit between "Nowhere to Hide" and "Marathon Man."

Eric's “oh, by-the-way...” comment might have seemed innocuous to him, but it sent Boats-ologists (if I may coin a term) scurrying back to the album to re-consider its message and theme and atmosphere.

DISC 3: Outtakes, demos, and covers. Which ones? Well, let’s see. At EricCarmen.com, we've have heard beautiful demos of “She Did It,” “Run Away,” and “Temporary Hero.” These would all be musts for Disc 3. And there must be more where those came from: I’m certain the 46 boxes of Boats session tapes that Eric has mentioned would yield all kinds of gems. Imagine piano-only versions of “Boats” and “Nowhere to Hide” and “Love Is All That Matters.” And perhaps a demo of “Someday” is available, since Eric wrote that song during the Boats period. And how about procuring a few covers for Disc 3: Yvonne Elliman’s “Nowhere to Hide” and Frankie Valli’s and Olivia Newton-John’s versions of “Boats Against the Current” come to mind. And how about Eric’s performance of “Boats” at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame a few years ago, and/or Eric’s version of “Boats” from the Ringo Starr tour from 2001? A more contemporary reading of the title song by the songwriter would make the package complete….

(If we’re really doing some blue-sky thinking, we might ask for a fourth disc that would contain, say, a new live performance by Eric, with band, playing the whole album.)

I’d have the Boats box issued in an LP-sized package with a lithograph of that original piece of interior artwork and a thick, handsome booklet of text.

The handsome booklet I'm envisioning would include an Eric Carmen essay on the album's creation, commentary from the musicians who played on it, and, of course, the lyrics and music. Most important, I'd complement these elements with essays by fans who truly connected with this album so many years ago. It would be enlightening to hear others put into words what Boats Against the Current means to them, and why.

What do you think?

Friday, August 31, 2007

"Nowhere to Hide"

As Don Krider points out elsewhere on this blog, "Nowhere to Hide" was one of the titles Eric Carmen considered for his Boats Against the Current album back during its writing and production stages. At least that's what the music press was reporting at the time. Certainly "Nowhere to Hide" captures the mood of much of the album as effectively as "Boats Against the Current" does: it's despondent and depressing with a hint of desperation but also has an ever-so-subtle ray of hope, as some (including me) can hear in "Boats."

In June 2007, Eric himself wrote a couple of posts at EricCarmen.com in which he shared some insight about the creation of "Nowhere to Hide." Personally, I had never heard or read the tidbits he posted, so it was a revelation to get the "inside info" straight from the horse's mouth (er, keyboard). As such, it belongs on this blog, so, here goes. In the words of Eric Carmen:

"'Nowhere To Hide' was a bear to write. I painted myself into a corner with the very syncopated melody, which I then had to find words to fit....

"One night, after trying in vain to find the perfect couple of lines for the better part of a week, I got into my car to just go for a drive and 'air out my head.' It was a warm, late-summer night at about 4 a.m., and there wasn't a car on the road. I drove down Lakeshore Boulevard for a while, and then I turned around and started back.

"Just before I reached my apartment, a solitary sheet of newspaper blew slowly across the road, from one side to the other, the way tumbleweeds do in the desert. No sound, no movement --- just that newspaper in a kind of slow motion, tumbling on the summer breeze. I felt a sense of intense loneliness come over me, and in my head I heard the lines, 'I've been floatin' 'round like an old newspaper, blowin down some windy street, feelin so alone and incomplete....'

"I labored over every word of that song. It was grueling. But I think it's one of my finest songs (and one of my very best bridges!)."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stuck on Boats

You know those little stickers that record companies affix to CD packaging? I’ve had this habit of keeping them, dating back to the days of 33 1/3-RPM vinyl records. Some of the earliest ones I collected came from — surprise! — Raspberries and Eric Carmen albums.

The two Raspberries stickers I managed to squirrel away came from the band’s first and third albums. The former featured a bright red, large-type announcement that stated, simply, “Go All the Way.” Still attached to the same piece of cellophane is a neon orange $2.99 retail price sticker. Yes, both still bear the faint scent of raspberries, thanks to the legendary scratch-and-sniff sticker Capitol put on early pressings of the Raspberries’ 1972 debut. In 1973, the Raspberries' Side 3 LP had a 2½-inch-wide sticker reading, “Includes their Smash Hit TONIGHT.” It wasn’t a brilliant bit of marketing by Capitol, but the company gets extra points for the unique shape of the die-cut LP cover.

I also held onto stickers from Carmen’s first four solo albums, including the distinctive copper-tone call-out adhered to his 1975 Arista debut. The sticker’s verbiage: “Contains the three smash hits: Sunrise, All By Myself, and Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.” (Sometimes, the songs speak for themselves!)

Skipping ahead, Arista put fittingly loud call-outs on 1978’s Change of Heart and 1980’s Tonight You’re Mine. The former received a high-contrast sticker (white type on a black background) reading, “Includes the hit songs: ‘Change of Heart,’ ‘Baby I Need Your Lovin’,’ ‘Haven’t We Come a Long Way.’” It’s one of the biggest stickers you would have seen on an LP, measuring in at 4¼ by 2¼ inches. As for Tonight You're Mine, the underrated gem "It Hurts Too Much" received a nice plug via a loud, red, 3½-inch sticker.

And what about Boats Against the Current? Well, I saved a small section of the cellophane wrap bearing one sticker showing the album’s price code (G), another showing its bar code plus artist/title info, and a third that reads “Includes the Hit Single ‘She Did It.’”

Alas, the Boats sticker wasn’t Arista’s most creative piece in terms of design or copy writing. Heck, the company’s publicity department could have stayed late one night to give the sticker a little more oomph. They could have added some heft to its size, along with some words that trumpeted the album’s arrival with more flair than the usual hit single citation. Something like this might have attracted more attention:

Features the hit "SHE DID IT"

An eye-catching graphic touch might have helped — a boat-shaped sticker, maybe, or a color seascape background. (Where was Bernie Hogya when Arista needed him?) Now, I’m not saying a more attractive sticker ultimately would have made a difference in the sales of Boats Against the Current, but... considering that Eric Carmen went all out in writing, playing, and producing a pretty intense album, he deserved a marketing campaign to match — including little details like those eye-catching LP stickers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Eric And The Critics

Raspberries worked hard to win over critics during their short time as a band, and by their fourth and final album, "Starting Over" on Capitol Records, the band was on every major critics list for "Album Of The Year" (Rolling Stone, Circus, Creem, The Village Voice, and many more).

Besides naming "Starting Over" as one of their seven albums of the year for 1974 (along with an album by a young kid named Bruce Springsteen), Rolling Stone's Dave Marsh ranked the single "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" as the #1 single released that year. Though the single made Billboard's Top 20, the album was the band's poorest seller and the group called in quits in 1975 (for a while, anyway).

There was enormous pressure on Eric to serve up a hit album as a solo artist. Sticking with Raspberries producer Jimmy Ienner and bringing along Raspberries drummer Michael McBride (who also had played with Eric in '60s Cleveland bands Cyrus Erie and The Quick), Eric was signed by Clive Davis to Arista Records in 1975.

In 1975, that debut solo album, "Eric Carmen" on Arista Records, exceeded all expectations, reaching #21 in Billboard and the Top 20 in Cashbox magazine, selling the 500,000 copies needed for a Gold Record Album award by 1977. The album produced three Top 40 singles, including "All By Myself" (#1 in both Cashbox and Record World, #2 in Billboard).

Among those celebrating that album in print were Ben Edmonds, one-time editor of Creem, who wrote in Rolling Stone magazine, "Eric Carmen has long deserved recognition as one of America's best rock minds. Now, his first solo album backs up that contention!"

Dave Marsh, in his syndicated (sold newspaper-by-newspaper) Rolling Stone column, said, "Few artists have tried harder for stardom and few deserve it more."

Success creates more pressure, not less, for an artist. Eric faced many challenges making his second album, "Boats Against The Current."

Among those challenges, Eric ended his recording partnership with producer Jimmy Ienner (after four Raspberries albums and a successful solo album) to see what he and Elton John/David Bowie producer, Gus Dudgeon could come up with in the studio. Dudgeon replaced Eric's band from the first solo album with session players and wound up running the recording studio tab past the $300,000 mark.

After a number of disagreements in the studio, Eric parted ways with Dudgeon and took over production of the album. The pressure of taking an over-budget production and making a successful album now fell on Eric.

As Eric said in a cover story in Phonograph Record Magazine in May of 1977, "You've got to have one guy in control. I'm betting I've done what it takes to get it right."

Legendary music journalist Jane Scott, in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, praised Eric's work on the album, writing, "Carmen did a great job... I'm betting 'Boats' will be a big hit."

When completed, "Boats Against The Current" featured guest artists like Burton Cummings (The Guess Who), Andrew Gold (Linda Ronstadt's guitarist), Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Nigel Olsson (Elton John), Bruce Johnston (The Beach Boys), David Wintour (Neil Sedaka), Richie Zito (Neil Sedaka), and others backing Eric Carmen on eight of his best songs.

The album was Billboard" magazine's "Spotlight" album, a review category reserved only for album's that Billboard's staff believes have the greatest chance of topping the pop album charts. Billboard said the album showed Carmen's "prowess as a complete musician." Billboard also featured an advertisement for the album that spanned two full pages.

Sales were brisk --- Jane Scott reported that during the album's first month of release it had sold 343,519 copies, with record buyers in Eric's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, buying 34,913 (10 per cent) of the copies sold. Nationally, the album rose to #45 in Billboard for two weeks and made The Cashbox Top 40 Albums list.

The single "She Did It" made Billboard's Top 30, reaching the Top 20 in Cashbox. As reported by Jane Scott, the single had sold 254,300 copies in its first month of release (22,000 sold in Cleveland alone).

Not as successful as Eric's first album, but "Boats" was a major seller just the same. It could have been a bigger hit, but as Eric notes in Bernie Hogya and Ken Sharp's book, "Eric Carmen: Marathon Man," Michael Plunker had exited Arista as head of FM promotions two weeks before "Boats Against The Current" was released, and Arista did not replace him during "the whole time 'Boats' was out. It killed the album completely." Eric was stuck with an AM hit but no FM exposure for the album at a critical moment in time.

Some critics didn't like the album, like Circus magazine writer Paul Nelson who admitted to liking Eric Carmen, but said, "Except for the title track, 'Marathon Man' and 'Take It Or Leave It,' most of the songs here are totally forgettable."

Others, including another Circus magazine writer, Sally Rayl, praised the album, "It isn't an album that is easy to digest in one listening. Unlike 'Eric Carmen,' 'Boats Against the Current' departs from the collection-of-songs format and works as a conceptual piece."

However, most critics loved the album. Not only did Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Jane Scott love the album, but she thought the title track "is one of the most perceptive you will hear."

The Pittsburgh Press sang Eric's praise, stating, "You read it here first, 'Boats Against The Current' is the album that will do it for Eric Carmen. 'All By Myself' got Carmen into the public eye last year; 'Boats Against The Current' will keep him there."

Jim Girard of Cleveland Scene, wrote, "'Boats Against The Current' stands as the finest album I have heard this year. The proof is in the grooves."

The Hartford Courant said the album made Eric "a pillar of the rock establishment" and called Eric's production "flawless." England's New Musical Express called the album "clean, sophisticated pop."

Bruno Bornino in The Cleveland Press said, "His keyboard and guitar playing—along with percussion, harpsichord and synthesizer—are sensational. And his voice never sounded better. No doubt about it, he's a superstar."

Crawdaddy magazine said of the album, "'Boats' leans towards strings, building crescendos and Spector sound-walls, yet the delivery is clean, punchy and confident. Aesthetics aside, the LP is bound to have strong AM and MOR commercial appeal. Eric Carmen's music is the sweet funk record companies drool over."

Today, most critics and fans still love the album.

Back in 1977, Eric told writer Jane Scott, "When I was graduated some of my friends had decided I would most likely be a cartoonist with Mad Magazine." For me, I'm glad the music gig worked out...

Third & Fourth Verse

"Maybe we're older
Maybe we're colder
So we cling to our illusion
Seeking future absolution
From the pain"

The first iteration of the third verse of "Boats Against The Current" starts with two lines that were keepers, but Eric was still looking for the perfect conclusion to the stanza when he first committed it to paper. Strutting his lyric-writing prowess, he initially wrote a line that rhymed the word absolution with illusion—a really creative choice. Eric has always had a penchant for writing lyrics that read like poetry. Lines from other songs that come to mind include, "Buried my romantic inclination/deep inside of me/till I fell for you immoderately," from "Starting Over" and "In the spring the sun will shine and make the ice surrender/but it will not warm my heart as long as I remember," from "I Can Remember."

"Maybe we're older
Maybe we're colder
So we disregard solutions
While we cling to our illusions
once again
And we keep remembering when"

It's no surprise that even though he opted for a different set of lines to frame out the third verse, they still read more like a poem than a song.

"Guess it's the season
Must be a reason
'Cause it seems so self defeating
And we can't go on pretending
Nothing's wrong
And the nights are getting so long"

In Eric Carmen: Marathon Man, Eric has admitted that "Boats Against The Current" was not about a romantic relationship, but about the dissolution of his partnership with Jimmy Ienner. "I knew the song was about us," said Ienner. “'Boats Against The Current' expressed exactly who Eric was at that point in time."

"Seasons are changing
Reasons are changing
But the story isn't ending
So we find ourselves pretending
one more day
And the years keep slippin' away"

“At the time I wrote the song I said, ‘This is the most depressing, sarcastic, cynical song I ever wrote," recalled Eric in Eric Carmen: Marathon Man. "It came to a head one day when I was listening to some of the tape from the previous day's recording that I had written the most depressing song ever written in the history of the world. I wrote it with a great deal of cynicism. Since then, I’ve met countless numbers of people who thought it was a positive song. That just flipped me out completely.

“I’d say, ‘How could you think that 'Boats Against The Current' was a positive song?’ They’d say, ‘Well, tomorrow, we’ll run a little bit faster tomorrow.’ They saw it without the cynical side. It totally befuddled me that it just went right by people. If they were optimists, they saw it as a negative song. If they were pessimists, they saw the song as positive. It’s held true with almost everyone that I ever met that had an opinion on that song one way or the other. It never even dawned on me that people could take it any other way than the way I’d written it."

Such is the mystery of music and how it effects people. Sometimes an artist writes a song and the interprestation is exactly as he or she had devised. Other times, like with "Boats," the perception lies in the mind of the listener. Oh, and curiously, I am an optimist that sees it as a positive song :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scrambled Boats

For short period of time in the 1970s, a “hot” new music playback medium swept the nation. Well, maybe “swept” is too strong a word. And certainly "hot" is too strong a word. But 8-track tapes did indeed catch on for a spell. The question now is, Why?

I remember 8-track tapes as being clunky, problematical, and suspect in terms of sound quality (and I was just a kid at the time!). But yes, I’ll admit, there were a good couple of months where it was cool to have a portable 8-track player in your room, where you could plug in Chicago IX or the Beatles' “red” or “blue” tapes and hear some great music without having to deal with needles and arms on record players. Plus, 8-tracks were handy for use in the car (standard cassette tapes had not yet emerged). If you were a kid in the back seat of the family vehicle, you’d carry your favorite 8-tracks with you so you could pass Abbey Road, The Best of Bread, or even The Partridge Family Album to the front seat and say, “Dad, can you put this in?”

A few years later, in August 1977, I drove off to college in my “wheels” (an old blue Plymouth station wagon cast off by my dad). Because the car had an 8-track player, I brought along my stash of tapes, including Boats Against the Current. The car’s sound system was terrible, and the tapes themselves sounded horrendous, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers. (And besides, the Compact Disc was still a loooong six years away from its introduction to the U.S. market.)

If you remember 8-track tapes at all, then you likely know about one other major flaw with the format. Record companies liberally reorganized an album’s songs --- original sequencing be damned --- so the 8-track’s four programs would be relatively equal in length.

If re-sequencing didn’t work, well, Plan B was to chop songs in half. Seriously. Midway through your favorite song, it would fade out, you’d hear a big “thunk!” come out of the 8-track player, and then the song would fade in again.

Not even Boats was immune to random re-sequencing and song-splitting. Arista re-ordered the track listing for release as an 8-track while also chopping two songs in half.

I haven’t listened to an 8-track tape since I sold that beat-up old Plymouth wagon after my freshman year of college, but I still have Boats on 8-track --- in fact, two of them: a well-worn copy plus an unopened copy still bearing its “2/$1.00” sticker. Here's the song listing on Boats, the 8-track; each program times in at 9 minutes, 30 seconds:

Progam 1: “Boats Against the Current,” “Nowhere to Hide”

Program 2: “Love Is All That Matters,” “She Did It,” “Take It or Leave It” (cont’d)

Program 3: “Take It or Leave It” (cont’d), “Marathon Man,” “I Think I Found Myself” (cont’d)

Program 4: “I Think I Found Myself” (cont’d), “Runaway”

What a scrambled, choppy way to listen to Boats, huh? Not surprisingly, 8-tracks died faster than we could say “Saturday Night Fever.” In fact, one of the least-surprising developments in consumer electronics history was the demise of the format. It was convenient, maybe, but ultimately a terrible idea on every other front. Even so, they did have a certain charm, don’t you think?

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Temporary Hero

According to Eric, "A Temporary Hero" wasn't cut from Boats Against The Current.

"When Gus Dudgeon 'left' the project," Eric explained, "he also left me with 46 reels of 2-inch (24-track) tape. Everything we had done, which amounted to piano, bass and drums with the odd guitar here and there, recorded over a period of perhaps five months, was somewhere within those 46 reels of tape.

"Normally, the producer and/or engineer keep detailed notes, contained on a 'track sheet' or each 'take' of a song (the date of the recording, which track the bass is on, which tracks the drums are on, stereo piano, guitar etc.). These track sheets are kept inside the box with each reel of tape, so, when you open the box, the first thing you see, sitting on top of the tape, is the track sheet that contains all the pertinent information pertaining to what is on that particular reel of tape.

"Each of those 46 reels contained multiple tracks, cut on different days, over a period of five months. Often, Gus would record takes from different months on the same reel, so, on one reel of tape, you might find four takes of 'Run Away' (just piano, bass and drums) one take done in March of 1976, one take done in May of 1976, another take done in January of 1977 and still another done back in February of 1976.

"The nine songs on the Boats album were all somewhere on those 46 reels. The only problem was, and I'm quite sure this wasn't an 'accident,' there were NO TRACK SHEETS!

"So, when I became the producer of the album, the first thing I had to do was go through each reel of tape and try to 'find' the good take or takes on each reel. Let's see, 46 reels of tape with approximately 4 takes per reel is roughly 184 performances, each one about six minutes long. That translates to about 19 hours of solid, high intensity, microscopic listening.

"I never could find the magic take of 'A Temporary Hero.' None of the takes within the 46 reels seemed to be the one. That's why it isn't on the album. Too bad, because it was really a magical take. I remember David Wintour's bass playing was the thing I was keying on as I listened, because his superb playing on that take was what stood out the day we played it."


A Temporary Hero
(Words and music by Eric Carmen)

Needing you, so far from home
Trying to think how we ever could have known
And I'm all alone

Limousine, take me away
Find me a stage and another town to play
Just like yesterday

Sometimes I feel so strange and empty
But then, I never let it show
I guess that's how it all was meant to be
Beneath the spotlight's glow

Just a temporary hero in the kingdom of hype
Shining like a star in the night
Riding on the glory of a heartbreak song
Shivering in the cold morning light

Like a Gallahad in denim with a six-string sword
Playing out his dreams on the stage
Frozen for a moment in the spotlight's moon
Waiting for the turn of the page

I ask myself, is it a game?
Who really cares if the whole world knows my name?
Am I still the same?

Heroes fade, and in the end
Will I be someone you used to love back when?
Will it matter then?

Sometimes I feel so strange and empty
But then, I never let it show
I guess that's how it all was meant to be
Beneath the spotlight's glow

Just a temporary hero in the kingdom of hype
Shining like a star in the night
Riding on the glory of a heartbreak song
Shivering in the cold morning light

Like a Gallahad in denim with a six-string sword
Playing out his dreams on the stage
Frozen for a moment in the spotlight's moon
Waiting for the turn of the page

Slip off your shoes
Turn out the light
Come hold me close
Just for tonight

Someday soon I'm gonna rise above it
Say goodbye and be free
But till then I guess I'll be what I must be

Just a temporary hero in the kingdom of hype
Shining like a star in the night
Riding on the glory of a heartbreak song
Shivering in the cold morning light

Like a Gallahad in denim with a six-string sword
Playing out his dreams on the stage
Frozen for a moment in the spotlight's moon
Waiting for the turn of the page

A temporary hero in the kingdom of hype

Original demo ©1976 Eric Carmen
Eric Carmen Music, Inc.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Has it been 30 years?

Has it been 30 years?

In that time I've gone from a college kid buying the LP "Boats Against The Current," been married and divorced (with a son named after my favorite singer), seen highs and lows of my own, watched wars come and go, and two heart attacks later, I still love the music of an artist I discovered at the age of 15 in 1972.

Eric Carmen's music may be the greatest constant force in my life.

Eric Carmen fans like me were spoiled enough in 1977 to have reached a point where it was a given that every year we would get a new album from Eric. From 1972 to 1975, we had four Raspberries studio albums and Eric's first solo LP.

In 1976, despite press reports announcing the "coming release" of Eric's second solo album (under titles including "Nowhere To Hide" and "There's No Surf In Cleveland"), we didn't get a new studio album, but we did get "Raspberries Best Featuring Eric Carmen."

In 1977, fans waited with anticipation for Eric's long overdue second studio album to appear.

I remember seeing Eric on the cover of Phonograph Record Magazine on newstands in May of 1977 with reports that the album, "Boats Against The Current," would soon be out. With a return to college coming in August of that year, I spent more months searching record store bins and speaking to store managers seeking information on when the album would be out.

Finally, that August, I discovered the album in Disc Records in Louisville. They had hanging mobiles of the album cover, an endcap display of the album, posters on the walls and windows announcing the album, and a well stocked bin section with dozens of copies of the LP. It was like Christmas in Carmenland as I walked through that store, buying the LP and a picture sleeve 45 rpm of Eric's single "She Did It" before leaving.

On the limited budget of a college journalism student, I went on a buying binge at book stores, too, buying issues of Creem, Circus, Crawdaddy and any rock magazine with a story on Eric and the album.

More than that, I discovered the music and lyrics of that two-sided vinyl masterpiece. It was richly textured melodies with some of the best lyrics I've ever heard. To this day, I judge all lyric writers by the standards Eric established with this album. Eric is at his very best when he writes his own lyrics.

The album was Eric's autobiography in song. It was perfect. I was 20 when that album came out, eager to explore all the world had to offer, and Eric's depth of emotion captured for me what I was feeling at the time: darkness, despair, sadness, happiness, hope, love, all on one album.

At the age of 20, still in school, lyrics like "twenty years with my brain in a book, tryin' to find out who I am" from "Marathon Man" really hit home. Problems with the girlfriend? Well, a line like "in the bank of my love, your account's already overdrawn" from "Take It Or Leave It" summed up my feelings pretty well at the time.

At that age, with the pressure to succeed and my own desire to do so, a tune like "Nowhere To Hide" with its lyrics of "sippin' on a scotch and soda, a shadow in the corner booth, so philosophic and drunk on grown-up truth," really hit home for a guy who on dateless nights went with my buddies to smoke-filled bars to check out local bands.

As a hopeless romantic, "Love Is All That Matters" really fills the bill, while as a horny college kid "She Did It" was pretty inspiring, too!

I think I love "Marathon Man" as much for its driving rock 'n' roll as I do for the fact that my college roommate hated most of Eric's music, but even he had to admit, "Marathon Man - now that's a great song!"

"I Think I Found Myself," though, was the most amazing song on the album, at least to me. It was different from everything else on the LP. And on the edge of turning 21, the lyrics really meant a lot to me. When Eric sang, "I trusted everyone else so completely, well I was deaf, dumb and blind, but I'll be damned if I'll let 'em defeat me," it was a battle cry for the underdog.

And like many fans, I found hope in the album's title track. Eric told an interviewer that it was "a song to hang yourself by," but I have never heard it in that way. For me, at 20, and that's the image that lingers three decades later, it was a song of hope when Eric sings "we're gonna find what we're after at last, feelings that we left in the past, there's romance in the sunset, we're boats against the current to the end."

And in an age where my favorite band reunites ("the story isn't ending") after three decades, I find great hope still listening to "Boats Against The Current." Now if we could just get back to annual album releases from our favorite artist...

The Best of Boats

Want a near-impossible task? Rank the songs on Eric Carmen’s Boats Against the Current in order of preference, starting with (if I can borrow a phrase from my youngest daughter) your "most favorite."

As many times as I’ve listened to Boats, I’ve never actually tried to make such a list, because, frankly, it’s not fair to whichever song I’d put at the bottom. Boats, after all, is powerful from start to finish, with no “let-up” in between. At least, that’s how I’ve always heard it. And that’s what makes it so timeless --- the depth, honesty, and consistent quality from those first few notes of “Row, row, row your boat” all the way to the driving fadeout of “Run Away.”

Nevertheless, I’ll give it a try… and maybe you’ll do the same. Let me know if you end up where I do.

1. “Boats Against the Current.” This just might be my favorite song ever. At the very least, I’d rank it on my own all-time Top 10 list with the likes of “Hey Jude,” “Surfer Girl,” “If I Fell,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Go All the Way,” “Good Vibrations,” “Born to Run,” and a select few others. The intense --- and tense --- lyrics of “Boats Against the Current” got to me right away, even as a 17-year-old, and they still resonate. It’s pure poetry. And the melody is the perfect match, intensifying with each verse and each repeated chorus. And, of course, the vocal might be Eric’s best ever.

2. “Nowhere to Hide.” The opening piano notes here hint at a light “soap opera” feel, but the lyrics quickly take you to a far more complex place: complete and utter depression. Heck, no soap opera could get this despondent. Has there ever been a line in a pop ballad as depressing as, “Happiness is hard to show when you’re numb to all the pain”? Unless maybe it’s the next one: “And I’ve been floatin’ ’round like an old newspaper, blowin’ down some windy street/Feeling so alone and incomplete”? These are gripping, imagistic lyrics that may have more impact now, 30 years later, than they did in 1977.

3. “Runaway.” Eight-minute songs run the risk of losing you, but not this one. "Runaway" takes hold early on with more great lines that, again, read as poetry: “She was just an average blue-eyed golden high-school dream, an illusion nothing real could ever touch.” Who hasn’t been there? The playing and production are brilliant, and the pacing gives us those musical changes that made “I Can Remember” so great. And I love the long tag that pounds away for a couple minutes before fading. This is the type of song that would make an ideal soundtrack for a movie (any scriptwriters out there?).

4. “Love Is All That Matters.” Judging by my top three picks, this album’s most dismal moments are the ones that have the most appeal to me. Yet I love this little slice of heaven, too --- a perfect respite from the gloom and darkness, thanks to the positive lyrics and symmetrical melody. Upon the album’s release, I remember thinking, “This should be a single.”

5. “She Did It.” How can you not dig a song with the line, “Set to sea on a ship called Emptiness, cast away on the island of Loneliness, looking for love”? Not even the Beach Boys themselves were this good in the mid- to late-1970s.

6. “Marathon Man.” If there were a Hall of Fame for songs that are ideal companions for roadwork (as in, running or jogging), “Marathon Man” would be a first-ballot inductee. I’ve always found it to be an inspiring three and a half minutes, thanks to the tension in the song, the off-beat production (I especially love the drumming), and the determination in Eric’s voice.

7. “I Think I Found Myself.” This was the only Boats track that didn’t make an instant impact on me: It took a few months to sink in. But sink in it did, and once I “got it,” it became a source of inspiration. The turning point was a winter night in 1977, not long after the album’s release. I always fell asleep with a radio on, and one particular night, the haunting sound of “I Think I Found Myself” awoke me from a deep sleep. It was weird, because here’s a song that you’d just never hear on the radio. Ever. But that night, it got air time on some late-night show during which a calm-sounding host imparted bits of inspirational advice to listeners and complemented it with fitting songs. When he played “I Think I Found Myself,” it pulled me from my slumber and I just soaked it in. Ever since, I’ve treasured it as a song that, in times of doubt or confusion or self-pity, can actually get your thinking back on track: “I’m on the line and out of time/For once in my life, I’m gonna do what I think is right….”

8. “Take It or Leave It.” It’s not fair, I know, to put any song on Boats Against the Current at the bottom of this list. And I hate myself for doing it. But just keep in mind that No. 8 on an album that’s packed with A+, A, A-, and B+ songs is still pretty damned good. And by no means do I consider this a “weak” track. To the contrary, "Take It or Leave It" boasts an instant hook, great guitar interplay, and fully believable anger in Eric’s voice. It's an awesome rocker and ideal “scram!” song. And I have no doubt it sits at No. 1 or 2 on the lists of other Boats fans.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I'll run a little bit faster

It all comes down to this simple word change for me. Eric first pens "I'll" and in an instant replaces it with "we'll." If he alone saw tomorrow as a day when he would "run a little bit faster," it would signify that the relationship was indeed, over. Changing it to "we" brings up a totally different meaning. "We" cracks open the door to hope for the couple to not only survive, but to thrive—in spite of the rough waters they had sailed.

"But tomorrow
We'll run a little but faster
We're gonna find what we're after
At last"

"We're gonna find that the future
Has passed"

"We're gonna find that the moment
Has passed"

"When we remember the dreams
of the past"

Eric once again gets it right in his first attempt by writing, "We're gonna find what we're after at last." Possibly struggling with the renewed optimism in the lyrics, Eric tried a few other lines with less promise for brighter days ahead. Each alternate line dashes hopes for a better future, but in the end Eric goes with his initial thought.

Even with his disclaimer that "Boats" is a "song to hang yourself by," I can't see anyone getting to this line and feeling like all is lost. In fact, I have always felt that the chorus to "Boats" is a promise of redemption for anyone feeling lost and at odds with the forces working against a relationship.

"And even when the dream has passed"

"Feelings that we left in the past"

"Feelings that we lost in the past"

Once again, Eric pens three lines, each of which brings a completely different interpretation to the lyrics. The line he sticks with is the one with the greatest optimism. If the thing we're going to "find what we're after at last" is "feelings that we left in the past" then we're talking about love that is not relinquished or lost but love that is rediscovered and redefined.

"There's romance in the sunset
We're boats against the current
To the end"

Just like the change from "I'll" to "We'll" in the first line of the chorus, saying "We're boats against the current" to me can be assigning that phrase to the couple—together, not apart—as they struggle to face the world rather than their individual problems. And of course, how can you not feel hopeful when there is "romance in the sunset?" I'm not sure how that can be bad.

"But tomorrow
We'll run a little bit faster
We're gonna find what we're after
At last
Feelings that we left in the past...
There's romance in the sunset
We're boats against the current
To the end"

It's clear from my interpretation of "Boats" that I'm a "glass half full" kind of guy. It's also clear that I'm one of those people who has always seen "Boats" as a positive song. I've never wanted to "hang myself" after listening to it—quite the contrary. The song makes me feel that love can flourish in unlikely places, even when it is not smooth sailing. It also comforts me because I have always felt that sometimes couples face great odds when trying to establish their love. At times it may not look like their love will survive, but there is always hope. There is always tomorrow. And by sticking together (even when they face off against the rest of the world) they can (and will) survive.

Your mileage will certainly vary on this interpretation. I'm sure Eric himself might disagree with a few of the things I've said. But the song has always meant these things to me. My glass is half full.

Coming up next: the third verse.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Second Verse

"Dreams are forever
Never say never"

The first shred of optimism shines through the gathering storm in a discarded pair of lines that yearned to start the second verse to "Boats Against The Current." The next four lines, however, return solidly back to an examination of the vulnerabilities and human frailties that make relationships akin to ships tossed about on stormy seas:

"But perfection is consuming
And it seems we're only human
After all
And we've both been takin' the fall"

Even though Eric once described "Boats Against The Current" as a "song to hang yourself by," it is a song that many people have found optimistic rather than pessimistic. Perhaps struggling with this dichotomy himself, Eric decided that starting the second verse with a blatant ray of hope was sending too much of a positive signal for the second verse of his love song S.O.S., so he abandoned the "never say never" idea and finalized the stanza by recalling a hint of optimism from days long passed rather than the present.

"I was a dreamer
You were a dreamer
But perfection is consuming
And it seems we're only human
After all
And we've both been takin' the fall"

Eric has undoubtedly painted a pretty bleak picture here. Starting with the opening strains of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," the first two verses of the song pits the struggle to keep a relationship on course with the hope for happiness at the end of the journey as its reward. But is the effort needed to keep the boat afloat worth the effort if the reward never comes? And what of the optimism people swear they hear in the song's lyrics? Where is that light at the end of the tunnel that we're all looking for? Does unbridled hope for the future always lead to dashed dreams?

Coming up next…the chorus.

Monday, August 6, 2007

First Verse

"I know it's over
You know it's over"

The first two lines of "Boats Against The Current" that Eric committed to paper defined the song. This would be a break-up song, perhaps the ultimate break-up song. The third line needed some embellishment, so Eric made a few adjustments to his lyrics, crossing out and replacing one word for another to strike the perfect balance:

"But the story isn't ending
And we find ourselves pretending"

He changed "And" to "So" in the fourth line and then alternated between words for the last:

"And the years are slippin' away"
"And the years keep fadin' away"
"And the chance is slippin' away"

For the moment landing on:

"And the years keep slippin' away"

Disgarding everything but the first two lines, Eric then put pen to paper and completely reworked the balance of the stanza.

"I know it's over
You know it's over
We're just going through the motions
But we're sailin' separate oceans
Worlds apart
And you know it's breakin' my heart"

It's hard to say just how many steps were in between the first iteration and the last—perhaps all of the changes were done in Eric's head—nonetheless, the first verse was quickly 100% complete.

Then, at the piano, Eric jotted down chords and melody next to the lyrics of his first verse.

"I remember waking up at 4 a.m. one night with a couple of verses,'" says Eric, "or a verse and the chorus idea almost fully formed in my head. I had a notebook and pen next to my bed (as was my custom, back then ) and I just scratched out a few notes and went back to sleep. I heard the music so clearly that I didn't even get up and go to the piano to try it out. I woke up the following morning and went right to the piano. The song just kind of fell out, all at once, lyrics and music. I refined it over a few days, but it wasn't one I had to struggle with.

"I remember, at some point, wondering whether I should write a bridge for it, but, as with 'All By Myself,' I realized I had said everything I needed to say in the verses and the chorus. Sometimes, the song tells you when it's finished. Sometimes, as a writer, you work very hard to get it just right ('Nowhere To Hide') and sometimes it's almost like taking dictation ('Boats').

"Therein lies the great mystery that is songwriting. As Forrest Gump said, it's like a 'box of chocolates.' You never know which one you're gonna get."

Coming up next…the second verse.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


In a post last month at EricCarmen.com, Eric wrote: "When I sequenced the Boats Against The Current album, it STARTED with 'Run Away' and ENDED with 'Boats Against The Current.' It was sequenced chronologically, like life. Clive [Davis] didn't like starting with 'Run Away' because traditionally labels like to lead off with the 'single.' You know, back before 'concept albums' when all of us artists started taking ourselves too seriously. I told Clive the sequence had to remain as is and that I really wanted it to start with 'Run Away' but, if he insisted, he could start with 'Boats' and run the sequence backwards. That, of course, was his choice.

'Boats' was always supposed to be the album 'closer.' That's the way I planned it, but heck, what do I know, It was just my life story and I only wrote the damn thing.

My original sequence was:
Run Away
I Think I Found Myself
She Did It
Love Is All That Matters
Take It Or Leave It
Nowhere To Hide
A Temporary Hero
Marathon Man
Boats Against The Current

It tracked my life from 1967 (the year I graduated from high school) through 1977. Fortunately, I'm a bit more optimistic now."


Friday, August 3, 2007

Getting Personal

There are records you listen to casually, records you dance to, records you enjoy a few times and then forget.

Then there are records worthy of long-term study and scrutiny and analysis. For me, that’s Boats Against the Current. It became an instant favorite starting with the first time I listened to it all the way through (that would have been the day it was released back in August 1977, when I was just a kid of 17). I could sense the honesty and emotion in the album, and it moved me to dissect every song.

I really did wear out one LP copy of Boats Against the Current (I bought another, naturally). I also bought an 8-track for playing in the car (somewhere around here, I still have an unopened “extra” copy of Boats on 8-track). And, of course, I made several cassette copies of it. And that was just back in the late 1970s.

A few years later, I found myself editing a magazine called Digital Audio (retitled CD Review in 1988). I spent more than eight years in that job, and I loved it for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it gave me the chance to plug Boats, Eric, and Raspberries to our readership whenever I could find a reason, whether it was a feature story on new Eric music (the Geffen album and Dirty Dancing), or a “Wanted on CD” feature, or a review of a Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E Minor compact disc. Heck, I found a way to work Boats Against the Current into my first editor’s note in Vol. 1, No. 1 of Digital Audio (September 1984).

Another reason I loved that job: the daily shipments of new CDs that came in. I got exposed to all kinds of music, from Miles Davis to Mozart, and from (ugh) Yanni to (double-ugh) 2 Live Crew. But I always seemed to come back to my own “basics,” and that included Boats.

Most of all, I loved traveling in music circles. I’d find myself on business trips comparing “desert island disc” lists with new acquaintances and old friends alike. Finding out which albums people hold dear, after all, is a great way to get to know ’em better.

Every time I’d draw up my “desert island disc” list (usually inked on the back of a business card), I’d put Boats right at the top. The Beatles’ Revolver and Abbey Road were always on my list, as were the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Raspberries’ Best. I also included my favorite Springsteen CD (for me, Tunnel of Love), along with Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. The other spots alternated between several other favorites, but Boats Against the Current was a constant at the top. And within my circle of contacts, it always prompted the question, “Why?”

Well, I’d say, I love sad, emotive music. Even though Boats has its ray of sunshine (“She Did It”) and a bit of rock’n’roll (“Take It or Leave It”) and determination (“I Think I Found Myself”), the aura is overwhelmingly gloomy, dismal, and depressing. I love it!

Yep, there’s a lot of pain on this record: a lot of frustration and confusion and “incompleteness.” When an artist can capture those emotions so powerfully, you just soak it in --- particularly if you were only 17 the first time you heard it. It likely helped you get through hard times, and made you feel a little bit better about your own struggles. Thirty years after it came out, Boats Against the Current can still do just that.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Not a one-hit wonder

Some artists never have even one Billboard Hot 100 Single in their careers. Eric Carmen has more than two dozen as a performer and as a songwriter for other artists.

"The Kid," as Eric was once called, is no "one-hit wonder." His songs have scored on all three of the major U. S. record charts (Billboard's Hot 100, Cashbox's Hot 100 and Record World's Top 40), sometimes charting higher on one chart than they did on the other charts.

To bring all this chart data together, I've done a lot of research of my own magazines and of chart publications in libraries. Not an easy task, when you have to use aging eyes to look for a name or song title in small print, and when sometimes a song is charting on one chart but not the others.

Still, it's been a fun task, so here's the results so fans and future researchers can have them available with ease.

Raspberries hit singles:

With Raspberries, Eric scored his first chart hit with "Don't Want To Say Goodbye" in 1972. The tune peaked at #86 in Billboard and at #90 in Cashbox. It sold 5,000 copies the week it was released, according to Capitol Records, pushing the single onto the charts in May of 1972.

Raspberries "Go All The Way" made the Top 5 on all three charts in 1972, peaking at #5 in Billboard, #4 in Cashbox and #3 in Record World. The tune sold more than 1.3 million copies and earned Eric and the band their first Gold Record Awards. In 1989, Spin magazine named "Go All The Way" to its list of the "100 Greatest Singles Of All Time," ranking it at #91. "Go All The Way" also appeared in Blender magazine's July 2006 issue as one of its "Greatest Songs Ever." The tune ranked at #33 in Billboard's Top 100 Singles of 1972 Year-End list (#39 in Cashbox's year-end best-sellers countdown). Raspberries-fan director Cameron Crowe used the tune in his film "Almost Famous."

"I Wanna Be With You," Raspberries third hit of 1972, remained on the charts into 1973, peaking at #16 in Billboard, but going Top 10 in both Cashbox (#10) and Record World (#7). While it didn't make the Billboard year-end list, it ranked at #100 among Cashbox magazine's 100 biggest selling singles of 1973.

"Let's Pretend" in 1973 hit the Top 40 in Billboard, peaking at #35, but went Top 20 in Cashbox (#18 for two weeks) and Record World (#14).

"Tonight" in 1973 peaked at #69 in Billboard, but went Top 40 in Cashbox, peaking at # 37 for two weeks.

"I'm A Rocker"in 1973 reached #94 in Billboard and #75 in Cashbox.

"Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" reached #18 in Billboard, #24 in Cashbox and #26 in Record World in 1974. In 1989, the tune (a favorite of John Lennon of The Beatles) was named to Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 100 Best Singles Of The Last 25 Years," ranking at $#90. In Dave Marsh's (Bruce Springsteen's biographer and Rolling Stone music critic) book, "The Heart Of Rock & Soul," Marsh ranked the tune at #890 among his personally chosen "1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made," and in Rolling Stone in 1974, he listed "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record" in his Top 40 Singles Of The Year list at #1. Though it didn't chart in England, it did make Britain's Sounds magazine Top 10 Singles Of The Year list. The album the single came from, "Starting Over," was named one of the seven Albums Of The Year for 1974 in Rolling Stone magazine's Year-End List (alongside albums by such acts as Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones).

Eric Carmen solo hit singles:

You will hear that Eric never had a #1 Pop single, but only if the critic has only studied the Billboard charts. "All By Myself" was released in 1975 and peaked in 1976. In Billboard, it reached #2 for three weeks, but in both Cashbox and Record World it peaked at #1. It peaked at #6 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary (AC) chart as well. The single sold more than one million copies in the United States to earn Eric a Gold Record Award. In England, the tune became Eric's only British Top 40 hit, peaking at #12 on the BBC charts. Billboard's year-end countdown listed "All By Myself" at #40 among the year's 100 biggest hits (Cashbox ranked it at #41 for the year).

"Never Gonna Fall In Love Again" peaked at #11 on Billboard's Pop chart, but reached #9 in both Cashbox and Record World in 1976. (On Billboard's AC chart it reached #1.)

"Sunrise," Eric's third Top 40 hit of 1976 and his third hit from the Gold-selling Arista "Eric Carmen" album (which sold more than 500,000 copies, and includes the original Eric-penned version of "That's Rock 'n' Roll," later covered by Shaun Cassidy for a Top 10 single), peaked at #34 in Billboard, #38 (for two weeks) in Cashbox and #28 in Record World. The flipside of the white label DJ promo of "Sunrise" sent to radio stations by Arista was a live performance of the tune.

"She Did It" in 1977 peaked at #23 in Billboard and at #27 in Record World, but went Top 20 in Cashbox (#15).

"Boats Against The Current" peaked at #88 in Billboard in 1977 and at #92 in Cashbox in 1978. (It had fallen off the Billboard chart before appearing on the Cash Box chart for the first time on Jan. 14, 1978.)

"Change Of Heart" in 1978 went Top 20 on all three charts, peaking at #19 in both Billboard and Cashbox, and at #20 in Record World.

"Baby, I Need Your Lovin'" in 1979 (Eric's first cover tune as a single) reached #62 in Billboard, #60 in Cashbox and #63 in Record World.

"It Hurts Too Much" was the "highest debut of the week" in Billboard's July 12, 1980, issue, hitting the chart at #75, where it peaked and stayed for two weeks. It peaked at #83 for two weeks in Cashbox and at #71 in Record World.

"I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips" (released as both a 45 rpm and as a longer running 12-inch Maxi-Single) moved Eric to Geffen Records in 1985. The tune reached #35 in Billboard and #37 (for two weeks) in Cashbox. (Record World ceased publication in 1982.) On Billboard's AC chart, the single hit #10.

"I'm Through With Love" in 1985 rose to #87 in Billboard while peaking at #79 (for two weeks) in Cashbox. On Billboard's AC chart, it hit #16.

"Hungry Eyes," released on RCA in 1987, peaked in 1988 at #4 in Billboard and #3 (for two weeks) in Cashbox. On Billboard's AC chart, the song rose to #2. The song is from the multi-platinum (some 11 milion copies sold) soundtrack to the film "Dirty Dancing." The tune is ranked at #25 among the 100 biggest singles of 1988 in Billboard's year-end issue (one of two Eric Carmen singles on that list in 1988, the other being "Make Me Lose Control"). In Cashbox's year-end 1988 issue, "Hungry Eyes" is ranked at #30 (and "Make Me Lose Control" also gives Eric a second single in their year-end Top 50 singles of the year list, too).

"Make Me Lose Control," which brought Eric back to Arista Records, rose to #3 in Billboard and #4 in Cashbox. It was #1 for three straight weeks on Billboard's AC chart weeks beginning July 16, 1988, while Eric toured as part of "Dirty Dancing - Live In Concert" in support of the #1 soundtrack album from the film "Dirty Dancing." The song ranked at #38 in Billboard's year-end issue (which also ranked Eric at #7 among the biggest Pop Singles Artists of 1988). In Cashbox, the song is ranked at #43 among the year's biggest singles.

"Reason To Try" (with Mark Hudson of The Hudson Brothers on backing vocals) peaked at #87 in Billboard in 1988, while not charting in Cashbox. The single is from the Gold-selling "One Moment In Time" 1988 Olympics soundtrack album.

Odds and ends:

A number of acts have covered Eric's tunes over the years, including Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, Oliver, Frankie Valli, The Lettermen, Frank Sinatra, Sheryl Crow, Motley Crue, Guns 'n' Roses (Axl Rose likes to perform Eric's "Everything" on tour), The Bay City Rollers, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Donna Fargo, Hank William, Jr., Jewel, Il Divo, Yvonne Elliman, Sha Na Na, and many others.

Shaun Cassidy scored two million-sellers with a couple of Eric-penned gems in the mid-'70s. Cassidy's cover of "That's Rock 'n' Roll" (from the platinum-selling "Shaun Cassidy" album) spent 23 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #3 in 1977. The same year, Cassidy followed with his remake of Eric's "Hey Deanie" (from the platinum-selling "Born Late" LP), which spent four months in the Hot 100, reaching #7.

Eric Carmen produced two hits singles for The Euclid Beach band: "There's No Surf In Cleveland" (which reached #82 in Record World in 1978) and "I Need You" (written by Eric, which peaked at #81 in Billboard in 1979).

Mike Reno of Loverboy and Ann Wilson of Heart scored a #7 Billboard hit with "Almost Paradise" from the multi-platinum soundtrack from the movie "Footloose," a song written by Eric Carmen and Dean Pitchford in 1984 (both Grammy-nominated as songwriters for the film's soundtrack; Carmen and Pitchford also wrote Eric's Top 40 singles "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips" and "Make Me Lose Control").

Eric's solo single "The Rock Stops Here" (written with brother Fred Carmen) on Cool Records in 1986 to promote Cleveland as a potential site for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum rose to #4 on WMMS-FM in Cleveland.

"As Long As We Got Each Other" on RCA was a duet with Louise Mandrell that didn't make the Pop charts, but did rise to #51 on the Billboard Country charts in 1987. Louise Mandrell also scored two Top 40 country singles penned by Eric with "Maybe My Baby" (which went Top 10 on the country chart) and "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips."

Peter Cetera (former lead singer of Chicago) and Crystal Bernard (from NBC-TV's "Wings" series) hit #86 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1995 with the Eric Carmen-Dean Pitchford tune "(I Wanna Take) Forever Tonight."

Celine Dion covered Eric's "All By Myself" in 1996 for her multi-platinum "Falling Into You" album and in 1997 she released it as a single. The single rose to #4 on the Billboard Pop chart and to #1 (for three weeks) on the Billboard AC chart.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Perfection Is Consuming

"But tomorrow
We'll run a little bit faster
We're gonna find what we're after at last
Feelings that we left in the past
There's romance in the sunset
We're boats against the current to the end"

A couple of weeks ago, I received an Express Mail package from Eric. Inside, was an old manilla folder containing a dozen or so carefully preserved sheets of paper, some haphazardly torn from an old school composition tablet, others neatly removed from a three-ring binder. Together, they represent the birth of a song. Not just any song, mind you, but THE song—"Boats Against The Current."

This is the song that started it for me. It's not a rocker, but it certainly rocked my world! "Boats Against The Current" without hesitation, is my TOP song of all-time. Not just Raspberries or Eric solo, but throw in every other masterpiece that makes lists—from "Hey Jude" to "Good Vibrations"—and it still comes in at #1 on my list!

Over the next several weeks, using Eric's original notes and lyric sheets, I will be delving into the song verse by verse. You'll also be able to hear some rare demos of songs that ultimately appeared on the Boats album, along with some others that didn't make the grade. There will be other contributors posting here, including Eric himself. And the best thing of all is that you can join in as well—not just as a reader, buit as an active participant, sharing your own thoughts and comments.

So hang onto your hats as we kick off this celebration for the 30th Anniversary of Boats Against The Current. It should be quite an extraordinary journey.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Boats Blog

Eric's second solo album, Boats Against The Current, was released in August 1977. Boats Blog will go live on August 1, 2007, the 30th Anniversary of Boats Against The Current. We'll feature exclusive interactive content, audio and video downloads, unpublished photos and manuscripts, and more. So, mark this page, and save the date. For many of Eric's fans, Boats Against The Current was a triumphant album and for Eric, himself, it was a watershed musical highlight. Stay tuned…

Saturday, June 30, 2007

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

"I had finished touring for about a year on the first solo album," says Eric, "and had done absolutely nothing other than see hotels and backstage areas and airports for a year.

"I thought, 'What on earth am I going to write about?' My brother handed me an anthology of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories. He starred certain stories for me in the book and said that I should read them in a certain order. The first one I read was 'Winter Dreams,' which is to this day one of my three or four favorite Fitzgerald short stories. I read it and thought, 'How could this guy know so much about me?' It was scary.

"Fitzgerald got into the darkest recesses—the stuff you don't even want to admit to yourself about yourself. Things about relationships with girls that you would never want to admit—horrible, rotten guy things that you’ve done to some girl that you knew you could take advantage of.

"She was there, she was nuts about you, and you thought this is really cruel because I really don't love her, but you did it even though you felt guilty about doing it. All of a sudden I'm reading this stuff saying, 'God, this is scary.' I read that book from front to back and wondered, 'What else has this guy written?' I then read The Great Gatsby, This Side Of Paradise, and Tender Is The Night. I even read The Last Tycoon. Then I got his journals. I became a complete Fitzgerald freak because there was so much incredible, quotable stuff, and the themes he wrote about were the same things that I had been thinking about and on the verge of writing about for a long time. It was really great stuff.

"Sometimes when you're sitting in a hotel room after going onstage and mindlessly playing the same songs over and over again, you forget why you're there. When it comes time to write, there's nothing that is stimulating and turning your brain on. Fitzgerald turned my brain on every night and elevated my thinking.

"I would read a Fitzgerald short story, put the book down, and be completely depressed. Then I'd walk over to the piano and these great thoughts would come on. It was an amazing thing. It took elevating my brain to the level of reading great literature. It was just one of the things that was necessary to write lyrics as good as the lyrics on that album.

"I write better when I'm depressed. I don't know about other people. Fitzgerald said that all writers really have one story to tell and they keep rewriting and retelling it. A lot of the short stories that Fitzgerald wrote are basically the same theme as The Great Gatsby. The more I read, the more Fitzgerald's prose blew me away. It was sheer poetry. I started to think along those lines on the conscious level. On the subconscious level, I was fast becoming disillusioned with the music business—both with all of the people I was dealing with, as well as with the music business in general. I was starting to know too much about how it works."