In the 1960s, The Rascals had number one hits like “Groovin,” “People Got to Be Free” and “A Beautiful Morning.” Now, the four original members of the Rascals will appear in a week long engagement at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix for a hybrid rock ‘n’ roll concert, Broadway show, theatrical experience and multimedia extravaganza called “Once Upon A Dream Starring the Rascals.” All four original band members, Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish, will join Ted Simons to talk about their music, their show and their lives.
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Ted Simons: In the 1960s The Rascals had major hits with "Good Lovin'," "Beautiful Day," and "People Got to be Free." Four original members of The Rascals are in town for an extended engagement at the Phoenix Orpheum Theatre, a hybrid show that we will talk about in just a second. First, let us introduce you to the original Rascals. Gentlemen, good to have you here. Let's go on down the line here. Felix Cavaliere, good to have you here. We got -- where is Eddie? Eddie Brigati right there. Dino Danelli is right here. Good to have you. With guitar, Gene Cornish.
Gene Cornish: How are you doing?
Ted Simons: I'm doing well. How are you doing?
Gene Cornish: Great, sir.
Ted Simons: You're in town. Have any band in one spot for a week is unusual. This show is unusual. Felix, talk to us about this.
Felix Cavaliere: We're unusual people. Basically what happened is Mr. Van Zandt, Steve Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen's band, had an idea. He not only wanted to put a group that hadn't been together for years together, he wanted to do a different type of event. So it's a new hybrid type of show, a multi-media show.
Ted Simons: Basically, what, you guys play and there's video and things?
Dino Danelli: We do our songs, but it's not a concert in the way a concert usually works. It stops and starts, then stops. Lots of multi-media things going on, screens all around us. We, ourselves, narrate the whole show. We have filmed actors playing us at pivotal times in our career. Young actors play us when we're like 21.
Felix Cavaliere: And lights. Phenomenal lights.
Ted Simons: Phenomenal lighting. Gene?
Gene Cornish: Marc Brickman did the lighting. We play 29 songs on stage. Other than the intermission, we're basically on for over two hours on stage.
Ted Simons: For over two hours, but you're not always on. You have the video, you got other things going on, correct?
Eddie Brigati: Interspersed with interviews that we did come up on this big screen. I look a thousand times bigger than I actually am.
Unidentifiable Speaker: And better.
Ted Simons: And better. Let's talk about what got you guys -- have you been back together - it doesn't seem like you've been back together for long, the original members.
Felix Cavaliere: About 15, 20 minutes. [laughter]
Gene Cornish: Nine months.
Ted Simons: Nine months. How did this come about?
Gene Cornish: I'll make it as quick as possible. We did a benefit honoring Steve Van Zandt and Maureen Van Zandt about two and a half years ago. It went so well we did an hour show. We just asked Stevie to come up with an original idea, and we'd be interested in doing it. He came up with a script based on our interviews, our words, our story.
Ted Simons: Was it tough to get back together after all these -- How long had you been apart?
Dino Danelli: Well, we have been apart 40 years.
Eddie Brigati: 43 years.
Ted Simons: Only 43 years.
Ted Simons: Was it difficult to get back together?
Eddie Brigati: Our grandchildren talked us back into it.
Ted Simons: There you go.
Eddie Brigati: Yeah, no, yeah, no.
Unidentifiable Speaker: The interesting thing is if there was no talking, just music, it was easy, easy as pie.
Ted Simons: Now the fact that you guys -- you broke up in the early 70's, didn't you?
Unidentifiable Speaker: 70's, yes.
Ted Simons: 1970?
Unidentifiable Speaker: Don't rub it in. [laughter]
Ted Simons: I'm going to rub it in a little bit because I want to find out. Is that what happened back in 1970 part of the show?
Dino Danelli: Yes. It's touched on at the end the show. We have our young actors explain the whole thing. I don't want to give too much away. If you come see the show, they explain what happened. It was no one thing that happened. An accumulation of a lot of things that just told us all it was time to move on in those days.
Eddie Brigati: But, the track record, we had a wonderful run. We did seven albums in five years, over half a million miles, maybe 1,000 show concerts. We never lost contact with the audience. We were a little exhausted maybe.
Ted Simons: Maybe.
Unidentifiable Speaker: Tumultuous times.
Felix Cavaliere: It was the beginning. It wasn't anything like it is now. I remember I had a talk with John Mellencamp one time. He said you guys blazed the trail. We used to follow elephants and horses. Seriously.
Eddie Brigati: Gene still does.
Felix Cavaliere: He follows them for a different reason. [laughter]
Ted Simons: Weren't there shows in which there were six, seven, eight acts on the bill and you played two, three, four songs?
Felix Cavaliere: That was kind of just as it was turning from that. Those were the days when Murray the K, they used to do shows -- but they were kind of changing because rock 'n' roll was becoming very powerful. People were generating more income so the shows were one and two acts.
Ted Simons: When this was all happening, did you know it was happening? Could you stop and smell a couple of roses or were things moving so fast?
Dino Danelli: We were young and it was moving like lightning. We were in a blur. Like I said, we were so prolific, doing a lot. We were working all the time. Touring, recording, writing.
Ted Simons: When it was over in 1970, at least that aspect, you continued with your careers in different forms and things, but when it was over, was there a let-down? Was it relief? What happened there back in 1970?
Unidentifiable Speaker: I decided to make some babies. [laughter]
Ted Simons: Family happened.
Felix Cavaliere: It was a good time to have a family, raise kids. It was different. The music changed at that point in time, that disco stuff came in.
Ted Simons: I wanted to ask you about that. You guys have been referred to and are still referred to as blue-eyed soul. Okay. Gene's pointing to his eye. I know you like blue-eyed soul. Do you think -- did you like that label or was that a little-- ?
Dino Danelli: I never thought one way or another about it. Just another label.
Ted Simons: Yeah. And as far as writing these songs, which had kind of a soulful influence to them along with rock 'n' roll, my favorite song, "Beautiful Morning." That song to me is -- my favorite, your best. How did you guys write this? Give us the process of writing this.
Felix Cavaliere: You said before, did you have time to smell the roses? That's one the best times that we have ever had was when that song was written because we had a number one record at the time. New woman in my life. We were in Hawaii. It couldn't get much better than that. The joy of that experience is what that song started off as.
Ted Simons: Was it just basically waking up -- you co-wrote the song. Did you basically wake up, look out and go-- because I think of that song a lot when it's a beautiful morning.
Eddie Brigati: Gene started dating. [laughter] I had this thing like what would it be like if it could be Gene dating.
Gene Cornish: Dating me.
Gene Cornish: I have heard many times from our wonderful honored Vietnam Vets that they would play "Beautiful Morning" instead of "Reveille" in some of the camps. That's very touching, and very, very gratifying that we can contribute a little smile to their faces.
Ted Simons: Can you show us that song? Is it easy to go there?
Â¶ it's a beautiful morning Â¶Â¶ Â¶ I think I'll go outside for a while Â¶Â¶ Â¶ just smile Â¶Â¶
Gene Cornish: There you go.
Ted Simons: That is fantastic. You still got it. My goodness. You all still got it.
Unidentifiable Speaker: Amen.
Unidentifiable Speaker: We better still got it.
Ted Simons: Do you look at some of the songs and go, I wonder why we did this? I wonder why we put a bridge there. I wonder why we had--do you ever do that at all?
Dino Danelli: I never do. I never look back at all.
Ted Simons: What about you, Felix?
Felix Cavaliere: I mean, the hardest thing is to know when the song is done. To leave it. Don't do any more to it.
Gene Cornish: You can overdo it.
Felix Cavaliere: So we had a great team. We made great music with great fun with great people. It was done, you go home and try another one. Start another one.
Ted Simons: You mentioned the Vietnam Vets. The fact of me saying "Beautiful Morning" literally sticks in my mind half the time I see a beautiful morning. The fact you've connected with people, what does that mean? Do you ever sit down, just stare at a beautiful morning and go, I changed some lives here?
Eddie Brigati: In general Steven gave us I think the greatest compliment. He said our work never went dark. The whole thing expresses that. It was a tumultuous time, Vietnam, our leaders were being assassinated. We were young enough to reach past that. It shows, this performance shows that we were consistent and we never even - "People Got to be Free" wasn't a protest song. It was more of a suggestion about something.
Gene Cornish: Inspirational the way -- I didn't write it so I can look at it from over here. It's an inspirational song that still holds up today. We inspire people with our show. When people leave our show they feel uplifted, they feel happy, they feel the joy maybe they remembered back in the day.
Ted Simons: I wanted to ask about that as well. In those times protest songs, folk songs, angry songs, loud, harder songs were coming. You're "Groovin'" on an afternoon, "Beautiful Morning," birds were singing. There you go. Did you ever notice that you were doing this and the other crowd was doing that?
Felix Cavaliere: Oh, yes. It has to do with your personality, your outlook on life. Basically, it's a happy world. If you're not happy, well, you can listen to some of the people that are unhappy. We were happy. I was a happy guy. We wrote happy songs.
Ted Simons: As far as "Groovin'" is concerned --
Felix Cavaliere: Love song.
Ted Simons: Were you sitting in a park? Where did you write that song?
Felix Cavaliere: Basically it was a song about - like the fact that we work on Fridays and Saturdays.
Eddie Brigati: Hotel 14.
Felix Cavaliere: The only time you can be around somebody you love is Sunday afternoon.
Gene Cornish: One day off a week.
Ted Simons: Can you pluck out a few of the "Groovin'" here?
Â¶ groovin' Â¶ on a Sunday afternoon Â¶Â¶ Â¶ and really you couldn't get away too soon Â¶Â¶
Gene Cornish: $5 for more.
Ted Simons: That is -- yeah. Absolutely fantastic. Now, you got the show going. What kind of response are you getting? Some folks, they go to a show they expect four people standing there doing their thing. A lot of things going on in this show. This is a multi-media extravaganza. What are you hearing?
Dino Danelli: It's been great so far. Every show from show one to now, tonight, every one has been fabulous. Every audience has been great. So intense, you know. They laugh, they cry, go through the whole gamut of reactions and feelings. We bring out all of that in their lives. It's amazing. We're on stage, in silhouette a lot. We can see their faces.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Dino Danelli: And watch them react to what they are seeing and hearing and it's wonderful.
Ted Simons: When you talk about inspiration, again we're talking about the Vietnam Vet story is amazing, and just the average Joe, when Bruce Springsteen got big, you know, when these bands -- John Mellencamps of the world, especially east coast bands, New York and New Jersey bands, when they got big, J. Geils Band, did you say I can see a little bit of us in them?
Felix Cavaliere: Sure, which is great because it's all a big continuation of music from the beginning, that's what it is. That's fine. There's nothing wrong with that.
Eddie Brigati: Extended history. My brother was a member of Joey Dee and The Starliters at the Peppermint Twist. I followed him, and he sings a lot of background, he designed a lot of our harmonies. It's like a continual east coast melting pot.
Ted Simons: Yeah. I can see -- I think of J. Geils, Springsteen especially. The stage presentation. Do we see, is there animation going on in this presentation?
Felix Cavaliere: The gentlemen that did the lightshow here used to be Bruce's guy. He used to work for U-2 and Pink Floyd. The light show is amazing. This is state of the art.
Ted Simons: Must be good for you to be in one spot for a little bit of time as opposed to traveling like back in the old days.
Gene Cornish: Whenever we play four, five shows, what happens is we allow people to Facebook us, to video, use the cameras, whatever. They in turn during the show will be Facebooking friends at home, so it's word of mouth as well as advertising.
Ted Simons: Well, it sounds like a fantastic show. Good to have you guys here. Everyone is very excited about this. You guys, it's important that you're excited about it. You have to really believe in what you're doing these days.
Gene Cornish: Believe in each other and the music.
Ted Simons: And the music. You should believe in the music. Congratulations on a great career and for impacting people's lives in a positive way. You got something to play us out with?
Here we go. Â¶ I was feeling so bad Â¶Â¶ Â¶ I asked my family doctor just what I had Â¶Â¶ Â¶ I said doctor, doctor, Mr. M.D., can you tell me what is ailing me Â¶Â¶ Â¶ he said, yeah, yeah, yeah Â¶Â¶ Â¶ yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah --
Ted Simons: There you go. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here. We really do appreciate it. That's it for now. You have a great evening.
Felix Cavaliere:Band Member, The Rascals;Eddie Brigati::Band Member, The Rascals;Dino Danelli:Band Member, The Rascals;Gene Cornish::Band Member, The Rascals;