Eddie Brigati of the (Young) Rascals is 70

For DECADES, I misheard the line in Groovin’, “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly.”

Top: Dino, Eddie. Bottom: Felix, Gene.
Top: Dino, Eddie. Bottom: Felix, Gene.

The day the Beatles broke up in 1970, my favorite active band became the Rascals, formerly the Young Rascals, out of Garfield, New Jersey.

Vocalist/tambourine player Eddie Brigati and his fellow Rascals Felix Cavaliere (organ/vocals) and Gene Cornish (guitar/vocals) were once part of Joey Dee and the Starliters of “Peppermint Twist” fame. (David Brigati, Eddie’s brother, was in an earlier incarnation of the Starliters, and sang occasionally with the Rascals.) The Rascals’ drummer was Dino Danelli.

Felix and Eddie were the primary songwriters. In 2009, Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I had, and have, all of their albums, save for the first one, on vinyl.

When the Rascals, proponents of what was dubbed “blue-eyed soul”, left Atlantic Records and signed with Columbia Records in the early 1970s, and segued into a jazzier mode, Eddie and Gene left the band.

Thanks to the efforts of Steven Van Zandt, the Rascals got back together in a multimedia showcase in the past few years.

The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Here’s their induction speech by Van Zandt.

My personal favorite 20 Rascals songs in the Atlantic era, though only the top six are inflexible:

20. Away Away, from the See album (S). B-side of See, 1969. It’s the drum pattern in the verse, versus the harmony vocals on the chorus. It’s also the best song Gene Cornish wrote for the group; he’d get one song per album, rather like George Harrison with the Beatles.
19. Mustang Sally, from Young Rascals album (YR). B-side of Good Lovin’,1966. The Young Rascals performed a lot of covers, and this was my favorite. Well, except for the song I didn’t know was a cover.
18. A Beautiful Morning, from the Time/Peace album. #3, 36 rb in 1968. This is was the only new song on their greatest hits album, at the point they dropped the “Young” from the group name.
17. I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, from the Collections (C) album. #16, #33 rb in 1967. I loved the Collections, er collection, starting with the cover.
16. Come On Up, (C). #43 in 1966. The Rascals sound was heavily defined by that B-3 Hammond organ that Felix played, though this also has a nice guitar solo.

15. Find Somebody, from the Groovin’ album (G). The guitar line by Felix that bounces back and forth is hypnotic and vaguely psychedelic.
14. I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore, (YR). #52 in 1966. It was all there in the first single. Especially the great vocals, led by Eddie, and that organ.
13. What Is the Reason, (C). B-side of Come On Up, 1966. Especially like the little drum solo in the outro.
12. See, (S). #27 in 1969. The Rascals were deep in their love and peace mode.
11. Love Is A Beautiful Thing, (C). B-side of You Better Run, 1966. The shared vocal in some ways feels like the purest Rascals song.

10. It’s Wonderful, from the Once Upon a Dream album. #20 in 1968. For some reason, this became a song that my sister Leslie and I used to jog around the living room to.
9. People Got To Be Free, from the Freedom Suite album (FS). #1 for five weeks, #14 rb in 1968. One of its pluses: it starts right away, giving DJs of the day no opportunity to talk over an instrumental intro. It’s almost sappily optimistic. But is that so bad? Plus, I’m a sucker for train symbolism, e.g., the Impressions’ People Get Ready.
8. Sueno, (G). B-side of Groovin’, 1967. This is your basic psychedelic-pop-flamenco tune.
7. Ray of Hope, (FS). #24, #36 rb in 1969. Odd thing: for years, I thought this song was just OK. But, for some reason, around MLK Day 2015, it came to mind and stayed there. I hadn’t even heard it for quite a while. But I could hear in my head the wonderful detail of the vocal modulations, and I developed a newfound respect for the song.
6. A Girl Like You, (G). #10 in 1967. From the start, it brought me joy. The call and response vocals. The orchestration, with the horns; is that a harp?

5. You Better Run, (G). #20 in 1966. This is a song that was old enough to have appeared on the earlier Collections album in 1966 but did not. It occurred to me that the rhyme is extremely simple in the verse. Line, same line, a rhyming couplet, the first line. Yet powerful for that.
4. Groovin’, (G). #1 for four weeks, #3 rb in 1967. For DECADES, I thought the line, “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly” ended as “you and me and LESLIE.” Since Leslie was my father’s name and is my sister’s name, I thought it was them picking a clever gender-non-specific name. But it’s a lovely song.
3. Good Lovin’, (YR). #1 in 1966. From Songfacts: “It was originally recorded in 1965 by The Olympics, a Novelty/Doo-Wop group…[The Young Rascals] recorded the song…, and although the group did not like the outcome, famed producer Tom Dowd loved the rawness of it, and that version was released, becoming a huge hit.” Yes, I love the garage-band vigor of the song.
2. How Can I Be Sure, (G). #4 in 1967. I mentioned earlier in the year that this was a waltz, which surprised some folks who obviously had never danced around the living room to this. Feel like I’m in Paris, with the accordion plus the trumpet and strings.
1. It’s Love, (G). B-side of A Girl Like You, 1967. Lives on the bass line and that Hubert Laws flute. Plus lyrics: “Oh, what a wild sensation, Multiple revelations.”

Two songs for Valentine’s Day

It’s Love by the Rascals, back when they were still Young, features the flute by Hubert Laws. It’s the B-side of the single A Girl Like You, and is the last song on the Groovin’ album from 1967.

I know you romantics might have a difficult time believing this, but not everyone LOVES Valentine’s Day. The idea of romantic love is anathema to them. And I know, ’cause I’ve been there.

For you who hate the day, LISTEN to a song by Beck. This is the 1990s singer, not the 1960s guitarist. Oh, what’s the title? It starts with A, ends with HOLE, and has seven letters. I first came across it when it was covered by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers for the soundtrack to the movie She’s The One. Petty’s version borrows heavily from the original. I love the juxtaposition of the pleasant harmonized melody with the depressing text:
She dangles carrots, makes you feel embarrassed
To be the fool you know you are
She’ll do anything
She’ll do anything
She’ll do anything to make you feel like an…

On the other side of the mood fence, LISTEN to It’s Love by the Rascals, back when they were still Young, featuring flute by Hubert Laws. It’s the B-side of the single A Girl Like You and is the last song on the Groovin’ album from 1967.

I actually bought the CD version of this album specifically for this song. I had it on vinyl – still do, actually – but the fancy new stereo record player that I bought in the late 1980s would automatically eject the side before the song was over. There was very little room between those outro grooves and the record label in the center on Side 2 of the album, and I could get only 3/4s of the way through It’s Love. Maddening. BTW, my OLD record player, which I had to junk, never gave me such problems.

Here’s another video of It’s Love, this one with the trippy lyrics:
“Oh, what a wild sensation
Multiple revelations”
I was always partial to the Whitney Houston song How Will I Know. You’ll find it at this link, along with two dozen more of her songs. Dead at 48. Yikes.

Eric Carmen and the Young Rascals?

There IS a Raspberries/Rascals link.

I was listening to one of my two favorite podcasters this week – yes, Arthur, you’re the other one – and he was giving the rock birthdays for August 11. He said, “1949, Eric Carmen, singer for The Young Rascals, The Raspberries, and a solo career.”

I’m not a big Eric Carmen fan, and I own none of his music. It’s not that I object to his songs such as the Raspberries’ Go All The Way or his All By Myself, where he nicks Rachmaninoff; it just didn’t reach the level of purchasing them.

Conversely, I own a LOT of the Young Rascals, who later became the Rascals. They had Top 10 hits such as Good Lovin’, Groovin’, A Girl Like You, How Can I Be Sure, A Beautiful Morning, and People Got To Be Free. At the moment the Beatles broke up, the Rascals were arguably my favorite active band. I have (present tense) at least eight of their albums on vinyl. And as an inveterate reader of liner notes, I had NO recollection of Eric Carmen with the Rascals.

So I checked with the podcaster, who pointed to the This Day In Music website that he always checks. The same info shows up in other sites, citing TDIM. But there is no evidence that this is actually true on any site dedicated to either artist or in any of my music reference books. So how did this mistake get made?

My theories abound:

1) The groups are alphabetically close. Perhaps the information about Carmen and the Raspberries got duplicated in the Rascals info in some database.

2) The stories about the namings of the groups are remarkably similar. According to this site, and confirmed elsewhere, the character Froggy in the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies of the early 1920s, which later appeared on television, would often say, “Oh, raspberries!” Eric Carmen said it as a joke in a discussion about picking the band’s name, but the others thought it was the right selection. The Young Rascals also were named for the Little Rascals.

3) There IS a Raspberries/Rascals link. “The band Fotomaker was formed in 1978 by bassist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli, former members of the seminal 1960s power-pop group The Rascals (a/k/a “The Young Rascals”). Rounding out the group was guitarist Wally Bryson, formerly of power-pop hitmakers The Raspberries (which featured singer Eric Carmen)…”

Goodness knows one cannot “correct the Internet”, but in this narrow case, I’m compelled to try. Or if I’ve gotten it wrong, I’d like some proof.

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