Advertisement

Rascals Past and Present Tangle Over Reunion Tour Playing Here

Share via
Times Staff Writer

“Good Lovin’ ” is one of the most vibrant and enduring hits that the Rascals released in the 1960s. Surely, it is among those most likely to please nostalgic fans when a re-formed version of the band comes to Anaheim Sunday night.

But there is no good lovin’--and not even much good will--left between the two principal Rascals, Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati.

In 1965-70, Cavaliere and Brigati were singing and songwriting partners who keyed the Rascals’ success. Cavaliere wrote the music and Brigati supplied the lyrics for such hits as “Groovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure?” and the transcendent “People Got to Be Free” (“Good Lovin’,” the band’s first No. 1 hit, was a remake of a song by the Olympics, a Los Angeles R&B; group).

Advertisement

Cavaliere usually took the vocal leads in a husky, impassioned voice patterned after Ray Charles. Brigati sang lead on some of the hits, but his airier voice usually was part of the Rascals’ rich harmony blend.

Cavaliere, 45, is back on the road again in this Rascals reunion tour that also includes Dino Danelli and Gene Cornish, the band’s original drummer aand guitarist. Backed by an eight-piece ensemble of singers and musicians, they’ll play the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim Sunday (and Tuesday at the Universal Amphitheatre).

Brigati, 42, remains on the sidelines in New Jersey.

In separate phone interviews, the two laid out their grievances.

Cavaliere depicted Brigati as a man who, for reasons Cavaliere found unfathomable, resigned from the Rascals in 1970 and has since proven impossibly obstinate whenever promoters have tried to reunite the band.

Brigati, meanwhile, cast Cavaliere as a selfish opportunist who took a band that had been organized as an equal collective and turned it into his own vehicle.

“I went personally to his home and asked him to come (on the current tour),” Cavaliere said. “I fulfilled my obligation as a friend. You can only ask someone for so long, but if they’re not interested, should you not go out and make a living?

“From a business viewpoint, we don’t need him. From 1970 to 1988, his name has virtually disappeared. He’s a guy who resigned from the music industry 18 years ago. As long as the songs are there, the people don’t point to that individual and say, ‘Where is he?’ ”

Advertisement

Brigati said he never received a formal touring proposal from Cavaliere and the promoters behind the Rascals reunion. But, he said, he would be interested in rejoining his old band mates only if the group were to re-form as a recording act, not just as an oldies touring outfit.

He would also want assurance that the members would be on equal footing.

“You have (to have) a product under your arm,” Brigati said. “A new record, a video and an equitable balance of musical opportunity.” Without all that, he said, he is content to continue a low-key musical career that includes songwriting and occasional live shows with his older brother, David, who sang harmonies on most of the Rascals’ hits.

They are also working along with Rascals’ mentor Joey Dee on the Foundation for the Love of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which hopes to put out an oldies album to raise money for an old-age home for down-and-out musicians.

“I am at least an equal-share member in the Rascals legacy,” Brigati said. “We had a policy to share lead vocals. As soon as we got famous, (Cavaliere) jumped and did 90% of the vocals. He coveted the situation to where it was unbalanced.

“Felix has an attitude that we’re his sidemen. We nurtured him, and when it came time to reciprocate, he was just ruthless. Twenty years later, I can’t be his sideman.”

Cavaliere said he took a leadership role in the Rascals out of necessity.

“I was hoping (Brigati) would grow into a person who took on more of the work,” he said. “That didn’t happen, and I felt I was doing more than I was getting credit for as an equal partner. He wasn’t living up to his part of the deal--to grow. He got lazy.

Advertisement

“I’d have to have a psychologist tell me what happened to him, to be part of a successful group and then retreat from the world.”

Brigati said frustration over the band’s business arrangements led him to quit the Rascals in 1970, when the group’s recording contract with Atlantic ran out. His only output since then has been one obscure album released with his brother in the mid-1970s. The other Rascals signed a new deal with Columbia, but the band folded in 1972 after failing to approach its earlier success.

Cavaliere maintained a solo career until 1980. Then, like Brigati a decade before, he dropped out of sight, upset over the failure of his last single, “Only a Lonely Heart Sees.”

“I really didn’t get over that for a long time,” Cavaliere said.

After working as a producer, Cavaliere resurfaced last year with a band, touring with a mix of Rascals hits and new material. Realizing that it was the old songs the fans wanted most, Cavaliere became more open to the idea of a Rascals reunion tour--something that various promoters had long been trying to put together.

He insisted, though, on no obligations beyond the current tour.

When it ends, Cavaliere said, he will settle into a new home in Nashville and will try to blend into the city’s musical community as a songwriter and producer.

“I still want to do new music,” he said. “To earn a living being a Rascal is not what I want to do.”

Advertisement

For now, though, old music is a way to pay the bills.

“When you’ve got a family, I don’t think you have the right to tell them to starve because of your artistic integrity,” Cavaliere said. “That’s why I’m out here working. I want to provide. I want to do it well.”

Is there a possibility of future Rascals reunions? “It can be brought back for another special occasion,” he said. “For argument’s sake, let’s say Eddie wanted to join us next year. That’s a reason to go out.”

The question is whether such a rapprochement is possible.

“The person I want to see come back would also be a person that’s changed in many other ways,” Cavaliere said. “I know he still sings and still sounds great. We get reports. (The Brigati brothers) will always sound good. They had natural ability. But you also have to have desire and ambition.”

Despite what Brigati sees as Cavaliere’s “concerted effort to discredit us” during past negotiations for a Rascals reunion, he said he hasn’t closed the door.

“Things can go past an impasse,” he said. “We must go beyond it. I’m alive, you don’t give up.”

For now, though, there is still a gulf of resentment between former friends who, at their creative peak, shared an apartment while turning out hit songs.

Advertisement

“It’s not a good thing to feel after all we’ve accomplished,” Brigati said.

The Rascals and Tommy James & the Shondells play Sunday at 7:30 at the Celebrity Theatre, 201 E. Broadway in Anaheim. Tickets: $17.50. Information: (714) 999-9536.

Sunday’s Calendar section, which was pre-printed, incorrectly lists the time of the show.

Advertisement