When I was a kid, one of the highlights of the year was the family trip to a Catskill Mountains resort for a week of fun in the snow, eating, relaxation, eating, entertainment, eating … you get the idea. It seems like we never went to the same resort twice, but I liked them all. The big climax to the week was a Saturday evening nightclub show that featured some of the top names in showbiz. That usually meant comedienne Totie Fields, who seemed to follow us from resort to resort, and was inevitably the Saturday night headliner every year. I didn’t care. She was funny. I was even more interested in the dance teams that would open the show. The thing that they all had in common is that the female partner would go into the wings after each number, and emerge with one less piece of clothing on.
One of the major responsibilities of the hotel staff, in addition to feeding us of course, was to make sure that the kids were occupied so that the parents could relax. That often meant sitting around listening to the jukebox with other kids. I vividly recall that one year the jukebox seemed to play the Beach Boys “Don’t Worry Baby” non-stop. It’s still my favorite Beach Boys song. Once in awhile, they would come up with something really cool for us though, and that was the case in 1966 when the hotel presented a mid-week show for the young people headlined by the Tokens, and emceed buy Cousin Bruce Morrow. Now, I like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as much as the next person, but what I remember most about the show was the opening act, a band called The Young Rascals.
The Young Rascals had already had a minor hit with their first single “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” so they weren’t unknown to the young audience. The specifics of their set have faded over the years, but I do remember that they were still wearing their schoolboy outfits, complete with knickers. I also remember that they played what was announced as the debut live performance of their latest single, a song called “Good Lovin’.”
For some reason I’ve never been to the Princeton Record Exchange before, despite the fact that it’s less than an hour from where I live, and that it has an extensive selection of classic vinyl. I finally made the pilgrimage this week, and I picked up enough vinyl to inform this column for weeks to come. One of my prize finds was the Young Rascals self-titled debut album. I got a stereo version, and while I always prefer mono versions of ’60s albums, I took what I could get.
The Rascals were formed by singer Eddie Brigati, Cavaliere, Cornish, and drummer Dino Danelli in Garfield, NJ. They were managed by Sid Bernstein (yes, the same Sid Bernstein who brought the Beatles to America), and signed to Atlantic Records. When Johnny Puleo’s Harmonica Rascals objected to the use of the name, Bernstein renamed the band The Young Rascals. That sorted out, the first Young Rascals album was a smash, largely owing to the presence of “Good Lovin'” which was a #1 single for the band.
Atlantic Records released the album in mono and stereo on March 28, 1966. “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” and “Good Lovin'” are both here. Most of the songs are covers, “Good Lovin’ was originally recorded by the Olympics, but the Rascals made the Wilson Pickett songs “Mustang Sally,” and “In the Midnight Hour” very much their own. There are also covers of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” the Beau Brummels “Just a Little,” and Larry Williams’ “Slow Down.” The album’s one original song, written by keyboard player/vocalist Felix Cavaliere and guitarist Gene Cornish, is a first-side-closing rave-up called “Do You Feel It.” The album reached #15 on the Billboard Top LPs chart, and #10 on the Cashbox chart.
More #1 hits followed, including “Groovin'” (1967), and “People Got to Be Free” (1968), before the band split up in the early ’70s. They were one of the most influential bands of their day, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Steve Van Zandt in 1997. In April of this year, all four original band members reunited for a benefit show in New York City.