WASHINGTON — Two Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acts are coming to The Birchmere this week.
WTOP caught up with both Hall of Fame acts to break down their shows and careers.
Rascals founders Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish are reuniting for the first time in five years.
“We’re going to do not only the hits but also the album stuff we did with Rascals,” Cavaliere told WTOP. “I called up all the guys and really the only one who wanted to do it was Gene. The other guys were either committed to doing something else or just weren’t in the mood, so we went out and grabbed Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge as our drummer. … The people we have now are really enthusiastic about going out and playing the music they grew up with.”
The Rascals’ brand of “blue-eyed soul” launched with their breakthrough hit “Good Lovin’.”
“In those days, it was kind of unique to write your own songs,” Cavaliere said. “The club owners that we played for didn’t want anything original; they wanted covers. … I would go out and buy the 45 and show the club owner, ‘Look, this is a record. I didn’t make this up.’ From the first day we did our version of ‘Good Lovin,’ people got up and danced! So, when Atlantic Records came out to see us … they asked us to record that … and it was a smash hit.”
Suddenly a success, the band was allowed to write an original song with “Groovin'” (1967).
“The status changes between the artist and record company; they’re no longer telling you what to do,” Cavaliere said. “So we said, ‘We’re gonna go out and write our own songs!’ We got pretty lucky because that’s quite a challenge. We’re very fortunate that it worked. … ‘Groovin’ came along as the third or fourth song we wrote and put out and had tremendous success.”
Other hits followed, including “How Can I Be Sure?” (1967) and “People Got to Be Free” (1968). The sheer joy of such success inspired the grateful lyrics of “A Beautiful Morning” (1968).
“The Rascals were huge in Hawaii in the ’60s … as if we were The Beatles,” Cavaliere said. “I was out there, we had a No. 1 record with ‘Groovin,’ I was madly in love, here we are in this gorgeous place and I said, ‘How about we write a song [and] tell people just how good this feels and maybe forever they can get this feeling?’ It captured the moment and it still does.”
The band was deservedly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
“What’s special about it is that it’s the last time I saw a lot of people who I really admired,” Cavaliere said. “The Bee Gees, they were there, and two of them are now gone. Michael Jackson, of course he’s gone. So a lot of people we shared the stage with are now gone.”
The Moody Blues
Next week, Moody Blues alum Justin Hayward returns to The Birchmere for a solo show.
“I’m able to do a lot of songs that I was never able to do with the band,” Hayward told WTOP. “Deeper album cuts that Moody Blues fans will know, I’m able to do solo things, I get to do ‘Forever Autumn’ that was a big hit for me, and I do the hits that I had with the Moodys so that’s great. I’m really discovering these songs for the first time. Most of this set I’ve never played on stage before. … It’s a real joy for me. I hope there’s something there for everybody.”
Of course, you’ll most certainly hear the band’s most iconic hit “Nights in White Satin” (1967).
“It was from the heart,” Hayward said. “Mike Pinder’s Mellotron contribution and arrangement can never be underestimated. I just had the two verses, I came home from a gig one night and wrote the two verses, but it was Mike’s Mellotron that made the sound of it happen.”
Ironically, it wasn’t an immediate hit — it took years for the song to finally catch fire.
“It took a few years,” Hayward said. “It wasn’t the single that was released in America at the time; that was ‘Tuesday Afternoon.’ … ‘Nights’ was a very long, slow kind of thing [but] it slowly caught on and just stayed around for ages. In 1973, we had an album called ‘Seventh Sojourn,’ and the record company was desperately trying to sell that album and suppress ‘Nights,’ and the more they tried to suppress it, the more it got bigger and the DJ’s started playing it.”
The song was of course on the album “Days of Future Passed,” just one of many Moody Blues’ concept albums featuring a common theme throughout the songs and album artwork.
“Sometimes the theme of the album came later, after the music had been recorded,” Hayward said. “Sometimes, Graeme Edge’s spoken-word would come first and he would suggest an idea that would spark the rest of us. … Sometimes it was even Phil Travers on the sleeve, he would listen to my demos and start working on stuff. … It was never the same thing twice.”
Along the way, Hayward has maintained his triple threat of singer, songwriter and guitarist.
“It’s a mysterious thing, songwriting,” Hayward said. “Picasso said, ‘Inspiration has to find you working,’ so I find if I go into my room and actually devote time to it, something magical will happen. … Usually, it’ll come out of the guitar, a guitar rhythm that will suggest something, and it’ll spark [a] cinematic experience in your mind and suddenly it reveals itself in a kind of pictorial way. … You just need to make that first step into that landscape, then it reveals itself.”
What’s the key to the band sticking around for five decades?
“It’s because we were never celebrities,” Hayward said. “We didn’t even have a publicist in our early days and I don’t think we smiled in a photograph until 1978. We just went our own way and did our own thing. I’ve been lucky as a writer and performer to have always been with labels who said, ‘Just do what you want. It’s just fine by us.’ It’s stood or fallen by that rule.”
At long last, The Moody Blues were induced into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year.
“I’m so pleased for the Moody Blues fans — it’s validated the music they love — and to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, who’ve created a temple to everything that’s turned me on since I was a kid,” Hayward said. “In our presentation, we talked about, ‘Let’s be concise, clear and do it properly.’ … Some people, man, they went on for like 45 minutes! … They just take an opportunity to ramble on for hours. It was extremely long, but I certainly enjoyed our bit.”
Find more on The Birchmere website. Hear our full chats with The Rascals & Moody Blues below:
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