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Zal And Sebastian

January 25, 2014

All the local town hipsters dug Orange Juice. There they were, in their collapsed quiffs and looking quite the thing in their dirty brown suede jackets, a shade on the small side but bought from Flip for a fiver. As long as you didn’t raise your arm to adjust the Rayban copies, no-one would notice the wee rip under the armpit. Irvine boys, you know who you are.

When Orange Juice did the unmentionable and had an actual bona fide Top 40 smash hit, a new band was needed. Looking backwards for inspiration, The Beatles were quickly disregarded (Paul McCartney in the 80s….). As were The Byrds (too obvious). And The Doors (Jim Morrison…). Love. Now, there was a band. Decent tunes, small back catalogue and obscure enough to deter the rest of us. As were the Lovin’ Spoonful.

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Formed from the same alumni of assorted jug and folk bands that would give birth to the Mamas and Papas, the Lovin Spoonful’s star shone briefly but brightly before the cliche of drugs split the band.  Put together by Zal Yanovsky and John Sebastian, between 1965 and 1967 the Lovin’ Spoonful released a series of stripey jumpered, tight panted, pointy booted, denim jacketed pop nuggets, in equal parts sparkling 12 string blasts from heaven and soft focus introspection.

Do You Believe In Magic?

First single Do You Believe In Magic is a beauty. But you knew that already. John Sebastian was infatuated with the hollerin’, handclappin’, speaker-blastin’ energy emitted from Martha & the Vandellas Heatwave, so set about reconstructing it. Essentially, he just played the intro twice as fast as the Motown original and no-one noticed. Then he wrote a set of lyrics about how brilliant music is. Perfect.

We’ll go a dancin’ baby then you’ll see, how the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me.

It’s over and done with in 2 minutes. What more d’you need?

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Summer In The City

Dig through the back catalogue and you’ll find all manner of film themes, quirky 2 minute pocket symphonies and enough looney tunes and merry melodies to soften even the hardest of hearts. Summer In The City‘s my favourite.  “Cool cat lookin’ for a kitty” they sing, on top of a descending electric piano riff. A claustrophobic anthem to wilting heat and sticky summer pavements, the breakdown features honking horns, road drills and a great wee drum break/guitar riff that runs until the end. Long lost indie band Eat did a version at the turn of the 90s. Which is almost 25 years ago. A quarter of a century. Ouch. Having just listened to it, the Eat version hasn’t aged all that well. Double ouch.

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

This record surely gave birth to Duglas T Stewart and the BMX Bandits.

You might argue that without having heard the Lovin’ Spoonful, the whole ‘C86’ movement would’ve shambled along to a different beat, Sarah Records wouldn’t have existed, Lawrence might never have formed Felt and ‘indie’ music as it was when that sort of thing mattered would have been very different. Or perhaps not.

We’ll finish with the close-miked and breathy Coconut Grove.

D’you know how the Lovin’ Spoonful got their name? It’s from an old blues lyric actually, but the blues lyric refers to a phrase associated with the male reproductive system. It’s also how 10CC came (ahem) about their name. Google it. And then go and buy a Lovin’ Spoonful LP.

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2 comments

  1. I had a dirty brown £5 suede jacket from Flip (Liverpool branch). Loved it.


  2. I had heard some of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s songs on the radio as a really little kid in the mid to late 70s on car trips on my parents’ AM radio, and John Sebastian did the theme to Welcome Back Kotter, which my parents watched every week. In the early 90s I finally latched on to them when I heard/saw them in the Woody Allen farcical dubbed Japanese spy film What’s Up Tiger Lily, and tracked down a Rhino Records best of that had the big song from the movie (Pow!”). Gained an appreciation for them, but they’re certainly still a period piece. The jug band folk thing from that part of the 60s reminds me of the strange shortlived lounge/jump jazz scene in the 90s that gave us bands like Combustible Edison, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and some other bands not worthy of mention.



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