John Sebastian is 70 (tomorrow)

Zal Yanofsky, John Sebastian, Steve Boone, Joe Butler
Zal Yanofsky, John Sebastian, Steve Boone, Joe Butler

Also used for ABC Wednesday, Round 15 – L is for Lovin’ Spoonful:

When I joined the Capitol Record Club back in 1965 or 1966, I got 12 albums for “free”, plus shipping and handling, and had to order 10 or 12 more at full retail price, plus S&H. There was this thing called negative option (they didn’t call it that) whereby if you didn’t return a postcard by a certain date, you’d get the next selection. I believe that is how I came to get the album Daydream by the Lovin’ Spoonful, the American group’s second album.

Though annoyed by my own disorganization, in fact I LOVED this album so much that I subsequently bought the 2002 extended CD of this, which was fine, because the vinyl version was full of pops and scratches from being overplayed. And as a liner note reader, I noticed that all but one of the songs was written by one John Sebastian, who was lead singer on many of them as well.

I bought other albums by the group, a single, and even a couple Sebastian solo albums, but nothing did I love as much as that first combination of rock, folk and blues. The story of the Lovin’ Spoonful is told, in part, in a a song by the Mamas and the Papas called Creeque Alley; Zal refers to the late Zal Yanovsky (d. 2002), lead guitarist/vocalist for the Spoonful. LISTEN.

It was a teen music magazine in which John Sebastian alerted me to the fact that the UK and US versions of Beatles albums were not the same. He claimed that Drive My Car was his favorite song on Rubber Soul. At first I thought he was confused – it’s on the US Yesterday and Today – but eventually I figured out that he must have heard a UK pressing.

John Sebastian sorta sang and rambled a lot at Woodstock. “You’re truly amazing, you’re a whole city.” And he ended up having a #1 hit song based on a TV theme song. I met him once, briefly, on Central Avenue in Albany, at a club, but I don’t recall the conversation.

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning earlier this year, and there was John Sebastian talking about the mystique of the Martin guitar.

FAVORITE JOHN SEBASTIAN SONGS, all Lovin’ Spoonful unless otherwise indicated. LISTEN to all except #20. Chart listings are for US Billboard singles.
20. Four of Us (from The Four of Us – solo album) – it took up a whole side of the LP. It goes through so many musical styles, I think I admired its ambition more than anything.

19. Warm Baby (from Daydream -D). Most of the songs from this album will get no explanation.

18. I Had A Dream (from John B. Sebastian – solo album.) I admire its hippie optimism.

17. There She Is (D)

16. Didn’t Want To Have To Do It (D). there’s some lovely harmonies on the bridge.

15. Day Blues (D).

14. Rainbows All Over Your Blues (JBS).

13. Rain on the Roof (from Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful). Such a gentle song.

12. Butchie’s Tune (D). such a badly named song, about leaving.

11. Welcome Back (from Welcome Back – solo album). I just didn’t want to like a song that was the theme to a TV show, in this case, welcome Back, Kotter. But I do. AND it went to #1 in 1976.

10. You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice (D). It’s so…nice. Went to #10 in 1966.

9. Six O’Clock (from Everything’s Playing). One of the rare singles I ever purchased (and i never bought the album), it’s the opening wake-up noise that I liked. #18 in 1967.

8. Bald-Headed Lena (D). A truly goofy song and the only non-original on the album. Gargling?

7. It’s Not Time Now (D). I used the lyrics of this song to describe the 1980 Democratic primary season with Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy:
Carter: I’d like to tell you that’s it’s fine, but it’s not time now.
Brown: I can’t seem to get a word in edgewise anyhow.

6. Do You Believe In Magic (from Do You Believe In Magic). Yes, I do believe it’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll. #9 in 1965, the group’s first hit.

5. Darling Be Home Soon (from You’re A Big Boy Now). This is a sad, plaintive song. #15 in 1967.

4. Daydream (D). Sounds as though Sebastian just woke up. #2 in 1966.

3. Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind (DYBIM). “You better go home, son, and make up your mind.” #2 in 1966.

2. Summer in the City (HotLS). I made feeble attempts to play this on the piano. It FEELS like it sounds: “Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.” #1 for three weeks in 1966.

1. Jug Band Music (D) – a funny story-song that is about the restorative power of music.

13 thoughts on “John Sebastian is 70 (tomorrow)”

  1. Okay, I was all ready to tell you that the Mamas and the Papas also talked about the Lovin’ Spoonful in that song “No One’s Getting Fat Except Mama Cass.” But now I have, uh, discovered that, um, the song is called “Creeque Alley.” So eh… it took me 47 years to learn that.


  2. “Summer in the City” and “Darling Be Home Soon” vie for my favorite Spoonful track, with “Full Measure” (B-side of “Nashville Cats”) a solid third.

    Just for fun: DJ Wick-It’s “Hot Summer,” which melds “Summer in the City” with “Summertime” from the DJ Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince catalog.


  3. I remember getting some sheet music in the 60s with them on the front and now I’m looking down your top twenty and trying to think which of their songs it would be, possibly ‘do your believe in magic’ or maybe not. I don’t think I’ll be making a trip up into the loft to find out:-)


  4. I had no idea Creeque Alley is the title of that song. But, then there are a lot of songs from my my youth that I like but have no idea what there names are. No doubt, I’m going to be finally learning the titles of these Loving Spoonfull songs. LOL


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