The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll: Guided By Steven Van Zandt, The Rascals Reunite on Broadway
17 Mar 2013
Steven Van Zandt
Dreams are about to come true for fans of The Rascals, one of the most influential and adored bands in rock history, as they reunite after 40 years in an unexpeced place — Broadway. Playbill taps into the passion and talks to the new show's shepherd, rocker Steven Van Zandt.
You're sitting alone in your car, bumper to bumper on the LIE or maybe it's the New Jersey Turnpike or the Santa Monica Freeway or any other jammed up roadway in between. To fight the increasing frustration, you dial the car radio to your favorite oldies station. And there it is: The smooth, Latin-flavored rhythm of a conga drum. You turn up the volume the better to hear deeply soulful voices extolling the pleasures of "Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon . . ." Then the DJ plays another. "I was feelin' so bad / I asked my family doctor just what I had . . ." Instantly, your paradigm shifts. You're still an immovable object, but the traffic is no longer the annoyance it was only moments ago. Now you can't stop yourself from singing out loud, under the spell of the irresistible force known as The Rascals.
Back when they first recorded those rock 'n' roll classics "Groovin'" (1967) and "Good Lovin'" (1966), respectively, the band went by the name of The Young Rascals. From 1965 to 1971, Felix Cavaliere (vocals and keyboard), Eddie Brigati (vocals, tambourine and maracas), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums) mined a rich vein of R&B, Rock and Pop and stood toe to toe with those music-and-mind-altering Brit bands (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks, to name just a few) that had invaded our shores and music charts in 1964-65.
The four principal Young Rascals were products of the discos and clubs of New York City, New Jersey and Long Island where they honed their craft as a bar band. Premier exponents of authentic "blue-eyed soul," Rascals' music married a sexy, street-wise edge with an almost lyrical romanticism and optimism that rendered them instantly compelling. They also possessed, to borrow from Terrence McNally's Maria Callas in Master Class, "a look." Early on, dressed in their signature performance costumes of knickers and knee socks topped by round-collared shirts and school-boy ties, they had a style and bad-boy swagger that served them well with male and female fans. In their time together, that look gave way to facial hair, bell bottoms, flowered shirts, vests, and love beads.
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