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158) The Young Rascals – “Good Lovin'”

Even long after rock and roll had established itself as its own genre, rock bands continued to borrow from R&B as a reliable source for danceable material. Covering an R&B single rather than a song by another rock group also allowed bands more flexibility to remake a song in their own image. Oftentimes, as The Dave Clark Five demonstrated, this resulted in rock groups ironing out the R&B track’s idiosyncrasies to conform to a narrow definition of what rock is supposed to sound like. Occasionally, though, a good band could apply rock’s rawness and urgency in a way that complemented the original without blanding it out.

On the surface, The Young Rascals’ version of “Good Lovin’” doesn’t change too much from the 1965 original by The Olympics, apart from a slightly faster tempo, more prominent guitar and an organ solo. But whereas The Olympics relax into a steady groove, the Rascals’ version accelerates relentlessly. Every element of the arrangement propels the song forward, from the frantic “one-two-three!” that kick-starts the song, to the push-pull call and response between Felix Cavaliere and his bandmates in the verses, to the rising tide of “yeah”s in the bridge, culminating in the cries of “GOOD LOVE!” punctuating the chorus. Gene Cornish’s guitar cycles restlessly under the verses and fills transitions with a riff like the revving of an engine, ready to go for another round. The momentum builds: a guitar riff bleeds into a scream into an organ break, the notes fluctuating then building, until the tension snaps – silence. Then, just as suddenly, another “GOOD LOVE!” (now rather breathless, sounding more like “hooh love”) and the boys are making up for lost time. The band thrashes through one more chorus (devolved into “love love / love love love love love”), one more guitar rev, one more organ build, then silence again.

The lack of release (musical or otherwise) could potentially be exhausting, but the band leavens the urgency with easygoingness and good humor. (It’s a fever, yes, but not a matter of life and death.) Much of this ease stems from the band’s experience and self-assurance. Three-quarters of the Rascals had met touring as part of Joey Dee and the Starliters; the fourth, drummer Dino Danelli, had played with Lionel Hampton. So while it lacks the dumb-luck lightning in a bottle of the best garage records, “Good Lovin’” bears the imprint of professionals who know exactly how to move a song forward without feeling rushed or overcrowded. They’re confident enough that they don’t need to show off (even the organ solo isn’t exactly complex) or stretch the song out past its welcome. The result is a record that isn’t risky but still thrills – an exemplar for how rock music could be polished without sacrificing its spark. 7

Hit #1 on April 30, 1966; total of 1 week at #1
158 of 1016 #1’s reviewed; 15.55% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 07, 1966