IF YOU GO
What: Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals.
When: 3 and 8 p.m. Nov. 12.
Where: Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 W. Temple Ave. at Main Street, Sellersville.
Tickets: $49.50, $75.
Info.: (215) 257-5808, www.st94.com.
The 50th anniversary victory lap continues for Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals.
Backed by drummer Vince Santoro, guitarists Mike Severs and Steve Hornbeck, bassist John Howard and keyboardist and vocalist Perry Barton, Cavaliere takes the stage for two shows Nov. 12 at Sellersville Theater.
Chatting from his home in Nashville, the singer and organist said the signature song “Good Lovin’” came about because “in the old days, we weren’t allowed to do new material.” Searching the radio deliberately for obscure songs, he found “Good Lovin’” by The Olympics. The Young Rascals, as they called themselves back then, put their own high-energy spin on it and took it to No. 1.
“It got your attention,” said Cavaliere, adding that songwriter Lauren Nyro was so moved by their performance of the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that she once remarked to him: ‘You guys are on fire.’
The Rascals’ hit “How Can I be Sure” was influenced by The Beatles, for whom The Young Rascals opened their landmark 1965 Shea Stadium concert. “The only reason we were brave enough to do that (release a ballad in ¾ time as a single) was The Beatles did ‘Michelle’ and ‘Yesterday’,” Cavaliere said.
But the Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer’s knowledge of the Fab Four goes back even farther — to the days when he was a member of Joey Dee & The Starliters (“Peppermint Twist”). “I basically took a year off (from college) to try the music biz. Joey Dee’s Band was in Europe and their organist quit on them,” said Cavaliere.
Ironically it was The Beatles opening for Joey Dee & The Starliters back then. “I don’t think I heard anybody scream that loud ... and that was pretty odd,” he said of the noticeably rising fervor for the British group.
At the time, Cavaliere found The Beatles’ original songs and personas exciting; but when it came to their covers of American R&B (an important part of The Beatles’ repertoire in those days), he said “they were so-so.”
“I thought: ‘Well, hell, I can do this.’ Little did I know they were geniuses,” said Cavaliere, who later was a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band in 1995.
The Rascals were part of an emerging “blue-eyed soul” sound that The Righteous Brothers were also having success with in the ‘60s. According to Cavaliere, The Rascals were the first white group signed by Atlantic Records. “The environment that Atlantic had for us to create in was so wonderful. I think that’s the reason why (The Rascals’ music) endured,” he said, noting that contemporary audiences in Japan “know every single word of every single song.”
On the other hand, Cavaliere finds it a shame that “People Got to be Free” is still a relevant song, noting that political candidates play it on the campaign trail. “I knew we hit a chord with it,” he said of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements going on at the time the song was released in 1968.
As the 1970s dawned, Cavaliere, Dino Danelli, Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish moved The Rascals’ music in a more adventurous, jazzy direction. “The radio at that time was (album-oriented, free form) FM, as opposed to (pop hit) AM,” he said.
One of those AM-radio golden nuggets was “A Beautiful Morning.” Cavaliere remembers being in Hawaii with The Rascals when he wrote it. “We were the biggest stars in Hawaii. They loved the link we had to R&B,” he said. “I was madly in love with this woman, and was gonna marry her. ‘Groovin’’ was No. 1. Everything was so wonderful. I felt I had to write a song so that everybody could feel that good forever.”
Cavaliere shared that he’s writing an autobiography. He may or may not mention the 1989 Be-In event in Philadelphia, at which he was a performer. “There’s always been an interest in the younger generation about the so-called hippie years. We were really enjoying life, which is something I don’t think these kids today are doing,” he said.