In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
Can we talk about this doctor? Young Rascals frontman Felix Cavaliere is feeling “so bad,” so he goes to see his family doctor. And his family doctor prescribes good loving? Where did this guy get his medical license? Does he give the same advice to other members of the Cavaliere family? Is Cavaliere sure he’s going to see an actual doctor and not just some random person on the street?
The Young Rascals were four Italian dudes from New Jersey, three of whom had already hit #1 as members of Joey Dee’s Starliters. They started out as, more or less, a white soul band, playing covers of Wilson Pickett and Larry Williams songs. (On their debut album, they also had a version of “Like A Rolling Stone” that plays as a vicious-though-probably-unintentional Dylan parody.) Cavaliere heard “Good Lovin’,” a 1965 song from the Los Angeles doo-wop group the Olympics, on a New York soul station and immediately took it to his band to record.
With their version of “Good Lovin’,” the Rascals didn’t really switch up the Olympics’ arrangement too much. But they played it peppily, sped up the tempo a bit, and put emphasis on the jaunty guitar line. There’s a crisp efficiency to the Rascals’ cover that’s not there on the original. And apparently, that was all it took. The Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” still gets classic-rock radio burn, and I didn’t know until I started writing this column that it was a cover. The cover almost immediately eclipsed the original — partly, I’m assuming, because the Rascals were white, but also because they played a really fun version of the song.
“Good Lovin'” is one of those dumb, fun, hooky songs that hooks you, at least in part, because it’s so dumb and fun, not in spite of it. It’s an instantly perfect car-radio singalong, with backing vocals so memorable that, if you’re riding with someone else, you can decide who takes the backing parts and who sings lead: “I said doctor!” “Doctor!” “Mr. MD!” “Doctor!” “Can you tell me! What’s ailing me?” “Doctor!” When you arrange those stupidly perfect elements the right way, and when you play them with enough spirited abandon, they never get old.
BONUS BEATS: There’s a scene from one episode of the ’90s family sitcom Step By Step where Suzanne Somers and most of the cast perform “Good Lovin'” in a bowling alley, despite no previous indication that any of them were musicians. I remember absolutely nothing else about Step By Step — the opening credits might’ve been on a roller coaster? — but that scene, for no actual reason that I can discern, has been stuck in my head for decades. Here’s that scene: