Tag Archives: John Sebastian

Questions. One Answer.

As I seem to be on the macabre musical beat, I received an email from a friend of mine who recently saw John Sebastian. (She lives in a small college town in Iowa, so they have some non-arena-filling musicians coming to their burg.)

Some of you may be unfamiliar—so you think—with John Sebastian. He’s the guy who performed “Welcome Back,” the theme song for “Welcome Back, Kotter” (which I guarantee is now an ear worm for many of you.)

Now you know who he is.

Some of you will be familiar with “Summer in the City,” the song that’s pulled out for its driving beat, especially when it is hot outside (“back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty”). That was Sebastian in The Lovin’ Spoonful, which also had regrettable compositions including “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.” Seriously, it as saccharine as its title. But back in the ‘60s, not all was Janis stomping.

Sebastian played harmonica on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu. (Apparently pre-Young, he was asked to be part of the band. What line would musical history have taken had he gone that route?)

And some of you will know that Sebastian played harmonica on The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” In addition to Morrison Hotel, Sebastian’s harmonica work appears on several songs on the In Concert recording.

Morrison, of course, is dead. Sebastian isn’t. He’s 73.

My friend wrote that he “is a very good guitar player and a GREAT harmonica player. However his voice is gone.”

Continue reading Questions. One Answer.

Lost Classic: The Lovin’ Spoonful – Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful

The Lovin’ SpoonfulHums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful Kama Sutra)

The Lovin’ Spoonful’s third record was one of those albums that suddenly found its way into my childhood collection, presumably a hand-me-down offering from my father when he figured out that the more time I spent dwelling in front of a record player was less time spent bugging him.

It’s true: at a very young age, I was enraptured by the hypnotizing 33 1/3 revolutions per minutes and would absorb every detail of each platter that mattered in my donated collection.

Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful was one of those records that mattered, only to be neglected and forgotten for many years afterwards, in many ways, the same way that public perception of the Spoonful themselves has followed.

Because, unless you’re the 13th Floor Elevators and have a bullshit patent on an “electric jug,” there’s not a lot of creative empathy if you call yourselves a jug band and play something referred to as “good time music.”

Hums is the record that actually attempts to demonstrate a wide diversity of styles, and most of the time it finds the band doing exactly that. From traditional folk, straight up rock, and even a legitimate attempt at country music, the Lovin’ Spoonful cram it all into this record, the last offering from the original line-up and their most compelling.

Spoonful vocalist John Sebastian pens all of the material, but the unsung hero is guitarist Zal Yanovsky who bounces between styles and genres so effortlessly that you’ll understand why R.E.M.’s Peter Buck is such an outspoken fan.

“Summer In The City” is the big hit that everyone’s familiar with, but Hums provided a pair of additional Top 10 hits with the gentle “Rain On The Roof” and that aforementioned attempt at country, “Nashville Cats,”  pre-dating The Byrds own foray into country music by a year or two.

“Nashville Cats” is such a convincing workout that even Flatt & Scruggs borrowed it for their own while Johnny Cash took a swipe at Hums’ “Darlin’ Companion” for his At San Quentin release.

With tack pianos, slide whistles, and a Jews harp in the mix, Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful is indeed good time music, but in the most inspirational way. It’s the sound of young men fully realizing the plethora of great music available to them, while trying to replicate the same sounds with respect and maturity.

The fact that their youth is reflected in their execution--the band is clearly having fun here--should not be a deterrent in discovering this forgotten gem. Hums Of The Lovin’ Spoonful plays like the unintentional classic record that it is, a collection of empathetic renditions of the music that inspired the band members, while inspiring a young boy in front of a record player who’s discovering music for the first time himself.

Video: The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Nashville Cats”

The Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats

Video: The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Rain On The Roof”