(March 14, 2024).  Upon learning on Monday (March 11) of singer Eric Carmen’s death in his sleep last weekend, I was saddened by yet another loss of one of the great musicians from my youth, and I immediately thought of the roughly three successful phases of his decades-spanning pop music career, and which song from those periods ranked as my favorite.  

The first era, of course, was as lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the Cleveland-based ‘70s pop/rock group Raspberries.

They scored a string of four top-40 hits beginning with 1972’s “Go All The Way” (No. 5 peak on the Billboard Hot 100) and ending with “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” (No. 16 in 1974).

Then, after he disbanded the Raspberries in 1975 fallowing a series of disputes and lineup changes, the man with the famous tenor-falsetto voice and equally famous, highly coiffed hair scored as a solo act with the power ballad “All By Myself” (No. 2 in 1976) and its followup “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again” (No. 11 that same year), both of which were built off compositions by late-19th/ early-20th century Russian classical musician Sergei Rachmaninov.

Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” (second movement) was the melodic inspiration behind “All By Myself,” while his “Symphony No. 2” (third movement) was the basis for “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again.”  The pair of hits showcased Carmen’s formal music training and his appreciation for the classics, which before then had rarely been interpolated in contemporary pop music, much less two consecutive hit songs by the same rock artist. 

Several minor hits followed over the next two years, including the top-30 single “She Did It,” which made its chart debut on the first full episode of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 I ever heard in September 1977, and a personal fave, “Change of Heart,” which reached No. 19 in late 1978.

But the hits dried up after that and Carmen wouldn’t return to the chart’s upper reaches until more than nine years later when he scored with “Hungry Eyes” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

That song reached No. 4 in February 1988 and was surpassed in performance later that year by “Make Me Lose Control,” his second-biggest chart single, which peaked at No. 3 that August.

And just when it seemed that Eric Carmen was back on the road to chart redemption, the hits dried up again… this time for good. 

Those three “eras” pretty much defined Carmen’s somewhat understated and highly underrated pop music career.  In total (not counting songs he wrote that were hits for other artists), he reached the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 twelve times — four with the Raspberries and eight solo — maybe not the numbers of a bonafide superstar, but a respectable showing nonetheless.

Yet, even with just moderate chart success spread over 16 years of sporadically placed hits, a couple of those songs are considered by pop music critics — and by yours truly — to be among the greatest pop/rock tunes of their era, and one of those is arguably on the list of all-time greats. 

The first one.

“Go All The Way,” the Paul McCartney-meets-Beach Boys-meets-The Who rocker with an inescapable hook that took radio by storm in the fall of 1972, is the song that put Carmen and The Raspberries on the map and, in my humble opinion, is the one that neither the band nor Eric as a soloist ever topped artistically. 

No offense to “All By Myself” loyalists — that classic ballad was a masterpiece in and of itself and is technically Carmen’s biggest hit — but “Go All The Way” tops that one for its deceptive simplicity and its mastery of the pop hook with a chorus and rocking guitar foundation that, to this day, rank among this blogger’s favorites of all time.

All of Carmen’s songs were well known for their addictive hooks — the man had a knack for grand pop refrains — reducing the songs’ verses to being obligatory setups for the anthemic power-pop that was to follow.  

But even Carmen must have known he was onto something special with “Go All the Way,” a song clearly dominated by its memorable chorus (the two verses — each clocking in at a measly seven seconds — merge into the chorus before you could even ask, “what’s the name of this song again?”).

The Raspberries perform “Go All The Way” in 1972 (studio version dubbed in)

Produced by longtime collaborator Jimmy Ienner, “Go All The Way” begins with a half-minute guitar-and-drum intro with distorted, Who-like riffs that did Pete Townshend proud and duped fans into believing on first listen that this was going to be an all-out rocker (and it kinda was).  

The 30-second guitar-and-drum fest then segues into a subdued Carmen doing his best McCartney impression at a time when Beatles knockoffs were all the rage (see Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and “Day After Day”).

That first verse consists entirely of the following line: “I never knew how complete love could be, ‘til she kissed me and said…”

That’s it. 

Then Carmen and Co. instantly kick in the chorus, that pop confection whose descending bass notes and impeccable Beach Boy-like harmonies made for one of the catchiest hooks of the ‘70s decade.  

“Baby, pleeeease, (baby) go aa-a-all the way.  It feels so right (feels so right), being with you here tonii-i-ight. Please, (baby) go aa-a-all the way. Just hold me close (hold me close)… don’t ever le-et me go-oh!” This was repeated a second time because, well, once was clearly not enough.

Seven seconds later, after another lightning-fast McCartney-esque verse, we’re right back to the chorus, repeated again for effect to give us nearly a half-minute of it!

So, halfway through the song and we have a 30-second instrumental intro, two verses that last all of 14 seconds, and nearly a full minute of that glorious chorus.

I can just imagine Carmen in the writer’s room wondering, “should I extend these verses out a bit, maybe cut the choruses in half?  Nah, this hook needs to carry the tune. It’s just too good!”

After the second chorus, it was back to the distortion in guitars — those six-note riffs that form the beginning, the middle and the end of the song — and a bridge that seemingly belies the tune’s whole lyrical message.

In that section, Carmen — now shouting and clearly excited — laments having been a heartless playboy prior to meeting this new flame (“Before her love, I was cruel and mean, had a hole in the place where my heart should have been”). We’re left to envision a latter-day Eric Carmen à la this album cover from 1980.

Eric Carmen didn’t chart any hits from this 1980 album with the risqué cover: Tonight You’re Mine.

But he then sings of being a changed man from the time that she entered his life, noting that he “comes alive” when she does “all those things” to him (we’re left to wonder what those things were, specifically, but some wild imaginations apparently got this song banned in some parts of the world).

Which is ironic, because those choruses portray our protagonist as the innocent one, with her begging him to “go all the way,” a role-reversal that Carmen had said in interviews was completely intentional.

He stated that he flipped the normal script of the guy coming on to the girl so that the song wouldn’t seem so run-of-the-mill (and perverted).  Yet he also wanted the lyrics to be sexually explicit in a way that wouldn’t get it banned from pop radio.

Those sweet, Brian Wilson-styled vocal harmonies by Carmen and his fellow Raspberries during the chorus further served to obscure the song’s R-Rated intent.  

And it all worked.  “Go All the Way” reportedly sold 1.3 million copies (of its 7” vinyl 45 rpm record) in its initial release, earning a gold certification from the RIAA in the process.

It would remain a recurring radio staple throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, populating both classic rock and retro-pop playlists, somewhere along the way becoming one of my favorite songs of its era. 

“Go All The Way” may not have been his biggest chart hit — that honor, perhaps deservedly, belongs to “All By Myself” — but the deceptively simple guitar/bass/drum rocker Carmen wrote all by himself in 1972 was his (and his band’s) best among many other greats that followed.

At least in this blogger’s opinion.

And it was all about that hook, and those guitar riffs… but mainly that hook!

”Go All The Way” performed live during a 2007 Raspberries reunion (sounds incredible 35 years after its initial release)

May Eric Carmen (1949-2024) rest in peace.


Quick note: Eric Carmen’s four top-10 hits (one with the Raspberries, three solo) collectively managed to occupy every position in the top ten at least once during their chart runs, except for the top spot:

No. 10: “Go All The Way”

No. 9: “Go All The Way”; “Make Me Lose Control”

No. 8: “Hungry Eyes”

No. 7: “Go All The Way”; “All By Myself”; “Make Me Lose Control”

No. 6: “Hungry Eyes”

No. 5: “Go All The Way” (peak); “Hungry Eyes”; “Make Me Lose Control”

No. 4: “All By Myself”; “Hungry Eyes” (peak); “Make Me Lose Control”

No. 3: “Make Me Lose Control” (peak)

No. 2: “All By Myself” (peak)

Each song spent either five (“Go All The Way”; “Hungry Eyes”) or six weeks (“All By Myself”; “Make Me Lose Control”) in the top ten.

Songs Carmen wrote or cowrote were also top-10 songs for other artists.  “That’s Rock and Roll” and “Hey Deanie” — both recorded by ‘70s teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy and solely written by Carmen — reached the top ten in 1977 and ‘78, respectively.  

In 1984, Ann Wilson (of Heart) and Mike Reno (of Loverboy) took “Almost Paradise,” the rock ballad from the Footloose soundtrack cowritten by Carmen and Dean Pitchford, to No. 7 on the Hot 100.

DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.

DJRob (@djrobblog) on Threads

You can also register for free (select the menu bars above) to receive notifications of future articles.

By DJ Rob

Your thoughts?