Friday, July 8, 2011

The Young Rascals

It was 1965 in the town of Garfield, New Jersey when organist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere, vocalist/percussionist Eddie Brigati, guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer extraordinaire Dino Danelli formed The Young Rascals. All four were previously members of Joey Dee And The Starlighters of "Peppermint Twist" fame. At the time, however the group was actually called Them and was managed at the outset by Billy (Amato) Smith. Smith introduced the group to television and radio personality Soupy Sales and their initial work was as Sales' backing band using the name The Rascals. When they signed with Atlantic Records it was discovered that another band called The Harmonica Rascals objected to the group recording under the name The Rascals. Sid Bernstein, a well known manager and friend of Smith, began working with the group and changed their name to  The Young Rascals to avoid conflict. Exactly how the name change actually addressed the problem is unknown to this writer in that all three names had the word Rascals in it and later in the band's career they would again be known as The Rascals. Anyway, the group built up a large following at local clubs and eventually recorded their first single "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" which they performed on their first tv appearance on the show Hullabaloo February 27,1965. The song touched the lower end of the U.S. charts but got to #23 in Canada.

This modest success was followed by a release in 1966 that went to #1 in the U.S. and Canada. This song was a remake of a 1965 hit for The Olympics called "Good Lovin'". At this point Cavaliere and Brigati began writing original material for the band starting with two follow-up singles "Come On Up" and "You Better Run", the latter being a future hit for Pat Benatar, although for The Young Rascals they barely charted.

The band was steadily developing their signature blue-eyed soul style and sound, becoming a potent and popular live act. This began to pay off as their 1967 release "I've Been Lonely Too Long" charted much higher than its predecessors and later that year "Groovin" returned them to the #1 spot in the U.S. and Canada.

The band were doing well in The U.S. and were extremely popular in Canada, although they struggled somewhat in the U.K. They continued to turn out a string of top 20 U.S. hits including "A Girl Like You", "How Can I Be Sure", and "A Beautiful Morning". In the U.K. only "Groovin" (#8) and "A Girl Like You" (#35) had any significant success. It was with their 1968 release of "It's Wonderful" that they would be billed as The Young Rascals for the last time, thenceforth to be known simply as The Rascals. Time Peace:The Rascals Greatest Hits topped the album charts in 1968 and that same year the single "People Got To Be Free" became their final #1 hit.

Other songs followed in the 1968-1969 period such as "See", "Hold On", and "Carry Me Back" and though they all hit the top 40, none went higher than #24. In Canada however, the band remained huge with all these songs hitting the top 10 and completing a string of 11 top 10 Canadian hits.
The group disbanded in 1970 with Cavaliere and Brigati going solo and Cornish and Danelli forming  and recording with first their band Bulldog and then Fotomaker, the latter producing two respectable power-pop styled albums. They are definitely worth seeking out. The band briefly reunited once in 1988 and again in 2010. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on May 6, 1997.

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