The Rascals' Once Upon a Dream "Puts You in the '60s for Two Hours"
Lots of music fans have a cult-favorite band, and lots of those cult members certainly believe they'd spend 30 years of their life, on and off, trying to get them back together. E Street Band guitarist and Rascals fan Steven Van Zandt was part of an even smaller subset--a fan with the resources and connections to actually test that devotion.
After a string of R&B hits like "Good Lovin'" and "A Beautiful Morning" and a struggle to evolve in more experimental directions, The Rascals broke up for good in the early '70s. "I was trying to reunite them starting in--1982," Van Zandt says, seeming to count backward from his final, successful attempt. "They weren't ready. So I stayed in touch with them. Every five years, 10 years, you know, 'Are you guys ready yet?' 'No.'"
In print Van Zandt makes those first 25 years of feelers and rejections seem casual, almost leisurely--a few disinterested phone calls in each direction, a couple of times a decade, no big deal. In person it's different; in person, everything he says is suffused with an unmistakable enthusiasm for the band's work.
That enthusiasm went public in 1997, when he began a speech marking their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by declaring The Rascals "The first rock band in the world" and ended it by bringing all the original members onto the same stage--the closest he'd come yet.
But again, things didn't quite work. "They're very idealistic," Van Zandt says. "They take their legacy and their work seriously." It wasn't until 2010 that he was able to present something that would appeal to that idealism and that seriousness at the same time; that year's benefit for the Kristen Ann Carr fund seemed to speak to that idealism.
At the time, though, it could have been another one-off. It would take another idea to appeal to The Rascals' carefulness with their own legacy.