Gene Cornish: Part III: Fans, Concerts, 1960’s Music, and The Future For The Rascals

When I was given the opportunity to interview Gene Cornish, guitar player for The Rascals, never did I dream that I’d be able to spend nearly an hour chatting with him about current popular singers, why the 1960’s music has endured the test of time and why it will continue to be present in our lives, plus get a story about when he met George Martin, producer for The Beatles. Cornish is a wealth of information and also someone with a very clear and interesting view of what The Rascals have meant to people, and what fans have meant to The Rascals. I’ve seen him perform three times now, and after chatting with him I understand that the person he is on the stage, smiling, enjoying every chord he plays, is the person he is in real life. Rock on, Gene. Rock on.

 

Part I of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/gene-cornish-the-rascals-guitar-player-will-tommy-james-at-nycfab50-event-saturday-february-8th/

Part II of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/gene-cornish-of-the-rascals-part-ii-what-makes-the-rascals-unique-and-why-civil-rights-were-important-to-the-band/

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(Photo by Jennifer Dodge)

Me: When you’re on the stage either as a solo act or with The Rascals, what are you feeling from the audience? What is the feeling of being on stage and playing these songs?

Cornish: It feels like you’re making a whole bunch of people really happy, and in turn they’re making you happy for making them happy. It’s a love tennis match. We throw out the love to the audience and they throw it right back to us. I’ll re-quote myself for the thousandth time: When the curtain drops down, the audience looks and sees us and thinks, “Oh my God, they’re really here after 40 years!”  But The Rascals, collectively and individually, think, “Oh my God! That fans are really here!” It’s sort of like the commercial with the M&M’s, “They do exist!” And that gets your adrenaline going, you know?  There’s nothing better than acceptance when your start the show, let alone…it’s one thing at the end of the show to know you made them happy, but they’re so thrilled to see us, and they hung in for a long time, hoping against hope [for a reunion]. That was astonishing to us. Totally astonishing. Of course we’d run into Rascal fans every day on the street or maybe in doing a benefit show, and for years it got to be a pain in the ass when people would say, “When are The Rascals going to get back together?” But I used to sarcastically say, “We’ll get together for the Pope’s wedding,” go get them off my back. There was nothing I could do. It was heartbreaking. So now, I’m getting the questions again. “When are The Rascals going back out on tour?” I don’t know. We’re working on it right now. We’re working on new management and a new show.  It’s continuing the new legacy, the new chapter of The Rascals. Steve Van Zandt made it possible for us to write a brand new, positive chapter because after the ‘60s, it wasn’t that positive. We weren’t getting together. We had differences of opinions. We had difficulties legally. There was a lot of lawyers who made a lot of money keeping us apart, because lawyers don’t make money if you don’t have conflict.

Me: (laughing) Right. Exactly.

Cornish: It wasn’t their motive to get us back together, it was their motive to keep us apart to make big bucks. That’s how it is with certain showbiz lawyers, not all of them. Like politicians. There’s a lot of dirtbags out there, but every once in a while you get a real one who means something, who really cares. Not the majority, though,

Me: I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last summer and I was struck again, just walking through and seeing some items from The Rascals in there and seeing that you guys were members, which is fantastic. The legacy of your music is just ongoing. Why do you think that these songs still hold up all these years later?

Cornish: It’s not any different than what we feel about The Beatles.  They affected our lives. We affected people’s lives in our certain era. The Beatles fans are Rascals fans. Stones fans are Rascals fans. Dylan fans are Rascals fans. Rascals fans are Beach Boys fans. It was all about a certain era. The most amazing era in popular music.  The greatest music that was ever made as far as popular music was concerned is what came out of the ‘60s. I don’t believe that the bands making music now are making oldies for the future. They’re just not that kind of songs. I’m not going to put it down and say they don’t qualify because before there was rock and roll there was music in the ‘30s and ‘40s. “Aba daba daba said the monkey to the chimp,” [singing a bit of “Aba Daba Honeymoon”] and all that stuff back in those days. And then rock and roll came. “Be-bop-a-lula” [singing a bit of “Be-Bop-A-Lula”], I mean holy crap. (laughing) It’s just a generational thing. But the ‘60s, The Beatles started it, really. The Four Seasons weren’t groundsetting.  They were wonderful and they were big names, they had wonderful hits, they are lasting forever, but they weren’t changing any style. They were going with the flow. The Beatles…the English outlook on the English language as we know it, the English speak a certain English and Americans speak their English. So The Beatles had a different way of looking at it. Jimi Hendrix played left-handed guitar, upside down. It was a different way of looking at guitar chords. The oddity is the ones who made it out the best. The Beatles were the Muhammad Alis of music. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk.

Me: But also, The Rascals are part of this, too, this beautiful legacy of the ‘60s music, and as you’re saying, I can’t picture, for example, Justin Bieber having a 50th anniversary tour. You’re not going to see that.

Cornish: They come and go, they come and go. The Jonas Brothers. Menudo. N*Sync. They have their moment and it’s all very valid. But longevity has nothing to do with bad publicity and street credibility. It has to do with music, and these people aren’t making the music, that way. But it’s very acceptable to the youth. I don’t want to sound like some old fogey like Rudy Vallee who didn’t like rock and roll. When it comes down to it, though, it is what it is. It’s disposable. But when The Rascals were making their music and The Beatles were making their music, we all thought is was disposable, too. It wasn’t going to last forever. Mickey Mantle once said, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”  And you’re surprised, and shocked, and amazed, and thrilled that the people out there in the audience and listening on the radio, the fans are what make the longevity because if you make something quality, it’s going to last. They’re not going to move on to the next Kim Kardashian. That happened to Paris Hilton.

Me: What’s interesting, and I have to reiterate this point to you, what does it feel like to know that you’ve created something that is going to stand the test of time and that’s gaining new fans every year?

Cornish: You don’t know you’re doing that when you’re doing it. You find out later. Luckily you don’t have to wait like Van Gogh and be famous after you’re dead. Luckily our fans, they may be AARP members, but they’re still fans of rock and roll.

Me: (laughing) I was sitting in the Boston audience and I saw a grandmother, her son and daughter, and their children.

Cornish: It’s generational. Because of television and movies licensing our songs, starting from The Big Chill to Legal Eagles, Three Men and a Baby, Joe and the Volcano, Goodfellas and on and on. These movie and these commercials have kept the songs alive. You know, kids who come and see the show, they’ll say, “Oh, I remember that song!  This was the band that had it?” But they remember hearing it from a Vioxx commercial or they’ll remember it from Estee Lauder or things like that, or they remember it from a movie, and so it’s engrained in them. The fact that people who control the movies, some of them are creative enough to bring out these songs, and we’re lucky enough to be in a pile of good songs with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and The Temptations and that era. We’re lucky to be part of the leaders of that, and very blessed. Very blessed. And very blessed as a matter of fact, to be the only band, and you can put this in writing, the only band in existence that broke up over 40 years ago and got back together with all four, all members intact, healthy and playing. No matter who it is, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, it doesn’t matter, they only have partial bands. We have all four. Even when you go see “Jersey Boys,” a big hit, a billion dollar hit, Frankie Valli isn’t in the show, neither is, two of the guys are dead. They’re just collecting the box office money. They’re not there performing it.

Me: That’s what’s beautiful about seeing your show, and that’s what I loved about it, is I’m sitting there going, “They’re all here, they’re all playing amazingly, they all sound fantastic, and they’re rocking right now.”

Cornish: We didn’t sell out. We’re giving people what they got in the ‘60s, the real deal. It’s only by the grace of God that we’re all alive. None of us had a stroke or died in a car accident or a heart attack or cancer. I’m a cancer survivor. I survived it. I survived two bypasses, and I’m good to go.

Me: Oh wow! I didn’t realize that. I wound up driving four hours to the show each way because I had to see it, because it’s The Rascals, for God’s sake.

Cornish: You know what? We played for 105,000 people over 70 shows. That’s pretty good for a band that’s been away for 42 years.

Me: No kidding!  Again, the show was just jaw-dropping. I really have to see you all again!

Cornish: We’re hoping to improve some promotion and get even better promotion this time, and more visibility. We thank Steve Van Zandt from the bottom of our hearts for putting this together. He’s very busy doing his Netflix show Lilyhammer which is a big hit, and he’s busy with Bruce Springsteen, and he’s busy with his radio show, so he’s a little too busy to put in the full time we need now. So we’re going to take it from there and carry on the legacy and carry on this gift that he gave us. He gave us a chance to look each other in the eye and get onstage and play face to face, and really fall in love with each other and what we do and what we’re able to give to the world, because The Rascals gave to the world.

Me: Absolutely. Speaking of that, after it’s all said and done, 40 years from now, what song or songs are you guys going to be most proud of that people are still enjoying and singing?

Cornish: Oh, I can’t say that. That wouldn’t be fair. That’s like saying, “Which one of your children do you like the best?”

Me: (laughing) I know. That’s a perfect answer, by the way!

Cornish: I think we have to leave that up to the listeners, you know?  Hopefully they’ll like a couple of them.

Me: I imagine it will be more than a couple, don’t worry!

Cornish: I get such a great joy from playing “Good Lovin’” because if anything else it’s the true Rascals in the raw form. Before we ever wrote a song, we had “Good Lovin'”. We covered The Olympics, a group that had “Western Movies” and “Big Boy Pete,” a black R&B act. That’s part of the debt we owe R&B music.

Me: That’s part of the good thing about The Rascals is that you can really sense this primal, raw energy in the earlier stuff and it gets more polished towards the end, but the theme is always the same.

Cornish: I remember Steven Van Zandt saying, you know, The Beatles do “Slow Down,” and they did a rock and roll cover version of it. It was pretty good. But when The Rascals did it, it was authentic. It was different, you know? Now, I don’t think The Rascals could play “I Want To Hold Your Hand” like The Beatles did, without a doubt (laughing). We each had our thing, you know?  And we were fans of each other. Paul and Linda McCartney loved The Rascals and so did George Harrison. I don’t know if John knew much about it. He was in his own world, and Ringo…but they knew of us. They studied our records as much as they studied Motown records. I met George Martin and he told me, “The boys really love The Rascals,” well that meant a lot to me, you know?

Me: Oh yeah, it’s like having the Pope say, “Good job” (laughing).  As far as upcoming projects, I know you mentioned The Rascals’ show. Is there anything else?

Cornish: I’m personally doing a few benefits here and there that are worthy and of the causes I believe in. I like to do things for The Food Bank and things that help humans on a very simple basis. We’re not going to create world peace at a show, so I’d like to take care of one mouth at a time.  And that’s what I’m doing with myself. I’m doing some private recording, on my own, some demos and stuff, and waiting to get our marching papers from The Rascals. That’s it. That’s the future for me. I’m engaged for the first time in my life.

Me: Congratulations!

Cornish: Yeah, I’m thrilled with that, and then I’m looking forward to a very happy, peaceful, productive life as much as I can. (laughing)

Me: The very last thing, is there anything you want to say to your fans?

Cornish: Thank you so much for loving us for so long and being patient for so long, and coming out to support this wonderful, joyous Once Upon a Dream.  We have all of the intent in the world to keep it going for as long as we’re healthy and for as long as the people want to hear us.

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 21, 2014.

One Response to “Gene Cornish: Part III: Fans, Concerts, 1960’s Music, and The Future For The Rascals”

  1. ‘Being a former Chapter President of the RASCALS Fan Club in the late “60”s”, I’m one of the thousands and thousands of RASCALS fans who never gave up hope that some day, some how and beyond all reasonable expectations, “D,E,F&G” would get back together. I often thought, over those VERY LONG 40+ years, that even IF they JUST got back together as friends , or even better, as the “brothers” I knew they were; THAT would be enough for me. Hearing the first fragments of an announcement that they were ALL coming back to the stage with their spectacular “Once Upon a Dream” was, indeed, a “dream” come true for THIS megafan! The FOURTH (out of NINE….Honest!) time I saw the show was their first Boston show. It was the first night I’d “eeked” my way back stage so I could really talk to them. I remember hugging Gene and saying to him as we hugged, “Please tell me that even HALF of the love I see up on that stage between you guys is REAL.” to which he replied with that beautiful smile, “You couldn’t fake that”!….And as he’s so eloquently put into words, they’ve “fallen in love with each other” all over again! And, interestingly, if you listen to the lyrics of the opening song, “It’s Wonderful”, the lyrics so perfectly say what has come to be between the fans and the RASCALS: “‘Tell you a story….May seem hard to believe in…. You can feel it, believe me ,…. If we unite it’ll all turn out right….I’m gonna take you with me….Being enlightened is like choosing a road on which you wish to go; ….Planting a seedling and watching it grow ….It’s wonderful “!” And WE all get to watch it grow AGAIN! Thank you, Felix, Eddie, Gene and Dino. We can’t wait until “next time,” and you KNOW now WE are here to stay. Thank YOU too, Jennifer, for a wonderful , informative interview….Oh!..and welcome to the (fan)club !

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