Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Rascals Review: Forever Young

A brief mention of a Young Rascals reunion concert on an XM radio program sent me deep into my archives and back down memory lane. As a summer intern for The Hartford Times, I got a backstage pass for their concert August 24, 1967 and a byline for one of my first music reviews:

Young Rascals Thrill Fans

All they see are lights—red, blue, green, yellow—changing constantly. Their fortune producing magic runs through a wire. They are the Young Rascals.

Twenty-four hundred people could see them, under the flashing lights, and twenty-four hundred people were turned on by their electronic New Jersey soul music Wednesday night in the Bushnell.

With girls shouting their names whenever the din diminished slightly, the four cats from New Jersey kept Hartford girls in 42 minutes of ecstasy with a medley of their hits.

Sustained by the driving Hammond organ which Felix Cavaliere dances across with both hands and feet, they opened with their first hit “Good Lovin” and followed it with “Grovin” and their current hit, “Girl Like You.”

(On the “lilting, dreamy Grovin”) Felix …leaned over the organ and sang gently into the mike. At several points he raised his arms over his head in a mannerism that looks like a cross between a signal and a religious ritual.

The review goes onto to describe how a groupie had thrown herself at Eddie Brigati backstage, how much drummer Dino Danelli was a dead ringer for Paul McCartney and how Gene Cornish demonstrated his guitar “virtuosity” on the group’s finale, “Kooks.”

This…opened with Felix’s organ at ear-splitting levels and went up from there. The 30-minute piece moved quickly into a jazz form (with each taking solo runs)…The long and beautiful improvisation proved tedious to much of the audience but its originality demonstrated while their singing was at times weak, they will be around for a long time as musicians. The crowd applauded wildly, however, when it was over. The Rascals are still theirs.

The callow reviewer, clearly infatuated by his chance to be backstage, was only partly correct in his forecast. The Rascals broke up in 1970, but their music does live on via classic rock radio. "Groovin" still evokes a wistful, warm summer of ’67 vibe, as does their hit from the next year, “A Beautiful Morning.” And their role in bringing a form of “blue-eyed soul” into the mainstream earned them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

A couple of interesting trivia notes: The original foursome first played together as members of Joey Dee & The Starliters of Peppermint Twist fame. In 1982 Dino Danelli joined Steve Van Zandt’s Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.

It was Little Steven who brought about the reunion concert with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $123,000. Once Upon A Dream, described as combination rock concert and Broadway show, is scheduled for December 13, 14 and 15 at the historic Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. It will be their first appearance together in 40 years.


  1. You wrote great stuff, even back then! Loved the Rascals.
    A little know fact-back in our WERK radio days, we were a small market test station. Claude Hall used our play list in his Billboard lists and record companies would send us records early-to test response. We got- People Got to Be Free. I listened to it, loved it, went into the studio and played it.
    After it started, I noticed it was embargoed until a couple of days from then. Ooops I thought. As soon as my shifted ended I called the record company, Atlantic,or Atco and told them what I had done.
    " Don't worry about it," I was told "you can tell your listeners you did the world premiere."
    I did, frequently. That's the story and I'm sticking with it.
    I still love that tune and the way it opens so strongly.