Wikipedia: “The Rascals (initially known as The Young Rascals) was an American rock band, formed in Garfield, New Jersey (about 18 miles (30km) west of New York City) in 1965.
Between 1966 and 1968 they reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 with nine singles, including the #1s “Good Lovin'” (1966), “Groovin'” (1967), and “People Got to Be Free” (1968), as well as big radio hits such as “How Can I Be Sure?” (#4 1967) and “A Beautiful Morning” (#3 1968).”
Gene Cornish had moved to NYC from Ontario, Canada at a young age and learned to play harmonica and guitar. He became a member of Joey Dee and the Starliters in 1964. (Biggest hit – the immortal “Peppermint Twist.”).
During that period, he met vocalist Eddie Brigati and keyboardist Felix Cavaliere (also members of the Starliters). Drummer Dino Danelli – a jazz drummer by training – joined them and they called themselves the Rascals. Since there was another band with a similar name, they changed their name – for a while anyway – to the Young Rascals.
These guys were veterans of the bar band scene and were spotted by promoter Sid Bernstein* at a Long Island club who signed them to a contract. Even though the guys eventually wrote their own songs, their first song was written by two female songwriters, Pam Sawyer** and Lori Burton. (Burton and Sawyer also wrote and recorded together as The Whyte Boots, with Burton as lead singer, releasing the teenage tragedy record “Nightmare”, in which two girls fight to the death over a boy. You gotta hear this one – ME.)
That first Young Rascals hit was called “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.” It’s catchy, soulful and very 60’s. They say this was a “minor” hit but I recall it being all over the radio on Philly back in the day.
Rumor has it that Felix Cavaliere heard the song “Good Lovin” by R&B/doo-wop band The Olympics and just lifted the song arrangement and made it part of their repertoire. (Not the first time a white band has “borrowed” from black artists of course.) “Lovin” was a smash and just missed being in the Billboard Top 10 for the year 1966.
Good Lovin'” is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, and was ranked #333 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. And if you are into the Dead you know this song has been a big part of their repertoire for some time.
The Young Rascals were most definitely on the map after that. They had a nice combination of natural R&B feel, British Invasion energy, and pop sensibility. Their next album was a mixture of Motown songs along with the burgeoning songwriting team of Brigati and Cavaliere. They had hits with “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” (1967) and of course, “Groovin'”
What I always liked about “Groovin'” is how the music was really carefree reflecting the feel of the lyrics. Vocal by Felix:
Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon
Really couldn’t get away too soon
I can’t imagine anything that’s better
The world is ours whenever we’re together
That same album, Groovin‘, had another favorite of mine (and a lot of people), “How Can I Be Sure?” Cavaliere has stated: “The only reason we were brave enough to do that was [because] the Beatles did ‘Michelle’ and ‘Yesterday’.” (The Rascals opened for the Beatles at Shea Stadium 15 August 1965 promoted by none other than – Sid Bernstein.)
The track features the “sounds of a trumpet, bass, piano, drums, and strings, giving the feeling of cabaret music as well as a concertina, chosen to add the feel of a French café.”
They followed up later with “It’s a Beautiful Morning” and – in a peace/love vein – “People Got to Be Free.” But as a final tune, I want to leave you with a 1969 tune called “See” that as likely as not you may never have heard. I think it kinda bombed but I always dug it. It rocks hard and it’s got enough meaningless New Age-y psychedelic lyrics to make Jon Anderson jealous.
While we are riding on the avenues of time
The bird of life drinks from the cups of wine
Waits until we’re ready for the Prince’s gift of love
The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 by none other than huge Rascals fan (and friend) Steve Van Zandt. During his speech, he claims that the Rascals were the world’s first rock band. He says this somewhat tongue-in-cheek and it seems to be as much because they’re from Joisey as anything else.
According to his website, Cavaliere calls Nashville home base, where he is constantly collaborating and writing new material. He’s also finishing his memoir and has an active tour schedule with Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals.
On May, 8th 2017, Brigati debuted a cabaret show at the Cutting Room in New York City that was produced by Steven and Maureen Van Zandt. The show consisted of some Broadway tunes, some Brill Building hits as well as a song written for Brigati by Van Zandt.
All the guys are, as of this writing, still alive, kickin’, and living in Jersey and appear to get together from time to time. And there may well be two different Rascals bands touring around. So it goes.
*Wikipedia: Bernstein changed the American music scene in the 1960s by bringing the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Moody Blues, and the Kinks to America. He was the first impresario to organize rock concerts at sports stadiums.
**Sawyer also co-wrote Motown hits like “Love Child” and “If I Were Your Woman.” Burton, somehow, wound up singing backing vocals on John Lennon’s “#9 Dream.”