Raspberries bass player Scott McCarl wrote this song with their frontman, Eric Carmen. Most Raspberries songs have Carmen on lead vocals, but McCarl sings on this one.
McCarl joined the band for their fourth album, Starting Over, which ended up being their last. He told Songfacts the story behind "Play On."
"I'll be honest and tell you that Starting Over
is not my favorite of the Raspberries albums," he said. "That would be Fresh
, the second one. It kicked off with 'I Wanna Be With You,' a thrilling Raspberries/ Beatles concoction that left me breathless upon my first hearing, in an Arby's as I recall it! So, when I got to join the band a little later, I yearned to bring that same electricity to my own song for us, if I possibly could. I had that opening guitar riff, with the first verse all in place... and then nothing.
Eric and I went to McDonalds, grabbed two extra-large Cokes, and went back to his place. I can still see it like yesterday, me playing him ideas on acoustic, and him on piano, back and forth, both of us nudging it further along. The lyrics came rather easily. Not really important stuff perhaps, just the rock 'n roll life we were living.
We got to what we thought was a pretty good chorus - though not quite good enough perhaps? - and split up for the day. I lived 10 floors below him in the same building, the Watergate Apartments, of all names. Early the next morning I got a call from him, this wild voice on the other end saying 'you've got to come up - you've got to come up!' And he had tweaked our chorus, re-done as you know it now, the perfect complement to my original verse, with its Beatlesque chorus harmonies reaching higher and higher. Oh man, it was magical.
A song like that, you need to have that chorus, you just have to have it. And now we did. From there we went nonstop until we'd finished it. It was fun going from the key of E to the key of C for the bridge - beware, sharp turn ahead! And I dearly like a part I wrote that you may not have ever noticed: the turnaround near the end, A flat minor to A - I 'borrowed' it from 'Nowhere Man
.' It's our favorite song that we wrote together."