Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals are on tour July through November, with Carmine Appice on drums. Felix and Gene spoke with Goldmine about flip sides from The Rascals and Fotomaker, along with songs from Bulldog, and Felix’s solo career.
Courtesy of Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals (Gene left, Felix right)
By Warren Kurtz
THE RASCALS with Felix Cavaliere on vocals and organ, Gene Cornish on vocals and guitar, Eddie Brigati on vocals and bass, and Dino Danelli on drums, reached the Top 40 singles charts thirteen times in the ‘60s. 50 years ago, in 1968, the quartet achieved two back to back gold singles with “A Beautiful Morning” and “People Got to Be Free,” with the band listed as The Rascals for the first time on the picture sleeves and labels versus The Young Rascals. Now Felix and Gene are back on the road together, celebrating the 50th anniversary of this major Rascals milestone.
Interview with Gene Cornish
GOLDMINE: Welcome back to The Rascals tour. I had seen Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals a few times in recent years and now it will be great to see Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals with Carmine Appice on drums. Did you know Carmine from his Vanilla Fudge days?
GENE CORNISH: First of all, thank you. Yes, I’ve known Carmine since ‘67. I sold him my Jaguar. In recent years, Carmine and I played in a touring band called The Platinum Rock All Stars, showcasing the hits of the members. He brings a whole new energy to The Rascals and he is a great singer too. In addition to Carmine, Felix and me, we also have great musicians on bass, a second keyboardist, and three horn players.
GM: You’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of being The Rascals on records.
GC: We originally were known as just The Rascals in 1965. There was a harmonica group with “Rascals” in their name and their attorney issued a cease and desist order on us using the name The Rascals. In late 1965, our first single was released, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.” We were so excited. We opened the box of 45s and looked at the label and saw, for the first time, “The Young Rascals.” We asked, “What the hell is that?” Our attorneys felt that if you stick a word in front of “Rascals” that we were not “The Rascals.” They said, after you are successful, you can go back to “The Rascals,” which is what we did 50 years ago.
GM: “Good Lovin’” came next in 1966, which went to number one, followed by “You Better Run” and “Come on Up,” all in the same year.
GC: We played “Good Lovin’” for eight months before we recorded it. We were very excited about “You Better Run,” because that was the first single written by us and to hear our original song on the radio was incredible. Felix came up with the march-like pattern. I added a slide version on the lower guitar strings. It had the same attitude as “Good Lovin’.” My opening guitar part on “Come on Up” was inspired by The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” which has the most fabulous opening chord ever made. Our concert tour will not only feature hits like these but also deep cuts too like “Easy Rollin’,” “A Ray of Hope,” and “Hold On” from 1970.
GM: Speaking of the ‘70s, The Rascals moved from Atlantic to Columbia in 1971. The next year I heard you and Dino in a group called Bulldog, with a single that received some good airplay in Cleveland, “No,” sounding a bit like Three Dog Night.
GC: Felix was taking The Rascals in a funky jazz fusion direction. This was not my cup of tea. Dino and I left and formed Bulldog. Keyboardist John Turi was my first friend, from years ago, in New York. He introduced me to a bassist and singer, Billy Hocher, who I thought sounded like Otis Redding. We brought in Eric Thorngren from Utica and we began writing songs. The five of us signed with Decca and released “No” as our first single, with no introduction, just the first word “No” starting off the recording. Dino and I were tired of DJs talking over our Rascals introductions or inserting a station identification in the break in “Good Lovin’,” like “WABC.” The song did well in the Midwest and did better on Cash Box than on Billboard. Decca was struggling at the time and DJ Murray the K said that “No” was a hit in spite of Decca.
GM: Later in the decade, Cleveland FM radio really embraced the pop-rock song “Where Have You Been All My Life” by Fotomaker. Throughout the decade, record bins had Rascals and Raspberries albums back to back alphabetically. With Wally Bryson from The Raspberries in Fotomaker with you and Dino from The Rascals, we were very excited about this merging of talent.
GC: With Fotomaker, Dino and I were happy to be back with Atlantic. It felt like home and they were really behind the group. We started as a quartet with Dino and I along with Lex Marchesi on guitar and Frankie Vinci on keyboards. We wanted a third voice. A few years prior, I had seen The Raspberries at Carnegie Hall and was so taken by Wally Bryson. He was painting houses in California when I reached him and asked if he would be interested in the band.
GM: I am also a fan of the flip side of “Where Have You Been All My Life,” the edgier “Say the Same for You.”
GC: Lex wrote that one with Dino. Lex was a Beatles fan, very inspired by Paul McCartney, giving Fotomaker a bit of a Badfinger sound on some of our songs.
Flip side: Say the Same for You
A side: Where Have You Been All My Life
Top 100 debut: April 22, 1978
Peak position: 81
GM: When the second album, Vis-à-vis, was released, I wrote the album review and included the catchy single “Miles Away” and one that reminded me more of an Elvis Costello selection, “Make It Look Like an Accident,” among the featured songs.
GC: Dino and I produced that album. With Wally and Lex on guitars, I played bass, as my R&B oriented guitar style would not have fit in that pop band. Our manager was Sam Hood and we played quite a bit in Ohio. Agora club owner Hank LoConti first had us in at the Columbus Agora and then the original Cleveland Agora with us staying at Swingo’s hotel. By the end of that second album, Wally left the group.
Fotomaker Vis-à-vis album, Gene Cornish top middle
GM: Between Bulldog and Fotomaker you assisted a band from your native country of Canada, April Wine, with a pair of my favorite soft singles from them, “I’m On Fire for You Baby” and “I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love.”
GC: Dino and I were approached by April Wine’s manager Terry Flood and saw the band in Toronto. We produced their Live album, which was recorded at QEH Auditorium in Halifax, Nova Scotia and included “I’m On Fire for You Baby.” Then we were asked to produce their next single, which we did in New York, “I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love.” Both of these singles, on the Aquarius label in Canada, made Canada’s Top 20. In the U.S., with the Big Tree label, they never got a chance. Aquarius was such an honest label. Twenty years later, I received a royalty check from Aquarius. Canada is great. In 2013 we did ten shows in Montreal. We will be back in Canada in August on this exciting Rascals tour. Also, in the U.S., Ronnie Spector is opening for us on some of our east coast shows.
Felix, Dino, Eddie, Gene
The Young Rascals
Flip side: Love is a Beautiful Thing
A side: You Better Run
Top 100 debut: June 18, 1966
Peak position: 20
Interview with Felix Cavaliere
GOLDMINE: In 2014, after your show at Hot August Nights in Sparks, Nevada, outside of Reno, we talked about the flip side of “You Better Run,” the crowd favorite “Love is a Beautiful Thing.” You said, “We had plenty of time in the studio in the spring of ’66, working on our second album Collections. We wrote ‘Love is a Beautiful Thing’ there. It all just came together.” Anything else about that experience?
FELIX CAVALIERE: We had free studio time. When Atlantic had first approached us to join the label, we said that we wanted to produce ourselves and they allowed us that freedom. We were in charge. We played all the time in the studio. With “Love is a Beautiful Thing,” I had started the song and the other guys played their parts to build it up. We were truly a band. I’ll tell you another flip side story. We always tried to put a really good song on our flip sides, hoping that the DJs would play that one too, like they would with The Beatles. For “Good Lovin’, which was a number one, big selling single, we had our version of “Mustang Sally” on its flip side. Many years later, after a concert, a guy came up to me with a hug and kiss, saying that I helped to change his life. It was Mack Rice, who wrote “Mustang Sally.” I guess between Wilson Pickett and us we did change his life with our 1966 version.
GM: The following year, in 1967, you and Eddie wrote “Groovin’” and took that single all the way to number one. When it left the charts that summer, a new instrumental version by Booker T. & The MG’s entered the Top 40. With Steve Cropper’s opening guitar part, you don’t recognize the song at first until Booker T. comes in on organ.
FC: Atlantic was a small place before the Warner – Atlantic merge. Word got around the building that we had a new song called “Groovin’” and Atlantic thought it was going to be a big hit and Steve got that word from Atlantic. Like me these days, he is now also a Nashville resident. He stays busy with The Blues Brothers, especially with European shows. We did have time to do two albums together in recent years and had a good run and a Grammy nominated song, but both of us stay busy with our groups to do another record at this point.
GM: I bought a pair of Rascals singles with picture sleeves in 1968, as soon as they were released. The year began peacefully with “A Beautiful Morning” and by summer the country was very ready for your anthem “People Got to Be Free.”
FC: “A Beautiful Morning” does start off peacefully with wind chimes. I was inspired by the opening of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” I thought it was a cool idea where they established a sound picture with an aquatic vision. I told that to Paul McCartney years later, too. With the sound effects and studio time, we were like kids in a candy store, called Atlantic records. That label, though, wasn’t too thrilled initially with “People Got to Be Free.” They didn’t want to get involved in any controversy. I had volunteered, supporting Bobby Kennedy’s candidacy. Martin Luther King was assassinated earlier in the year and I was away in Jamaica. I got the news on short wave radio of Bobby’s assassination and knew that I had to do something. When the label was reluctant on releasing the single, we demanded that it come out. I am so proud that it went to number one in oppressed cities, not only in the U.S., but in places that were oppressed at the time, worldwide, including Hong Kong, South Africa and Berlin. I am active in social issues.
GM: In 1980, we moved from our hometown of Cleveland to Dallas and only knew people from work. When your solo single “Only a Lonely Heart Sees” entered Top 40 radio, it felt like reunion with an old friend.
FC: When a group breaks up, like The Rascals did in the ‘70s, it is really hard. Very few survive. Sting and Paul McCartney are among the exceptions. I was pleased when “Only a Lonely Heart Sees” became a hit. It reached number two on the adult contemporary charts.
GM: In Cleveland and Dallas, we saw Carmine Appice drumming powerfully with Rod Stewart. I can only imagine how fun and exciting it will be to have him with you and Gene on stage. People will love this this tour with that lineup and all of the songs from The Rascals that we grew up on and love.
FC: I was playing in Hawaii for a New Year’s Eve show in 2017 and the reception was outstanding. People suggested bringing the group back together one more time. Gene was excited. Eddie had other commitments. Dino didn’t want to tour so that is when we reached out to Carmine. The show will include good time music and a lot of it. Thank you, my man for our time together. I appreciate your good words.
Felix Cavaliere & Gene Cornish’s Rascals are on tour this summer and fall with dates and locations listed at www.felixcavaliereandgenecornishsrascals.com.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with giveaways, interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.