Get This!, Gone but not forgotten

Zal And Sebastian

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.

lovin spoonful

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?

lovin spoonful ad

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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demo, Gone but not forgotten

Michelle, Ma(ma) Belle

I love you, I love you, I lo-oooo-ve you! Had I been a teenage boy in the 60s I’d have had posters of Mama Michelle Phillips all over my wall. She was Laurel (Canyon) to Mama Cass’s Oliver Hardy, the skinniest, blondest hippy chick in the whole of sun-kissed California and quite possibly the sexiest girl singer ever, although that last point is clearly open to healthy debate.

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Michelle. On the pool again.

The story of The Mamas and The Papas is best told by listening to their #5 1967 US single ‘Creeque Alley‘, taken from the group’s 3rd LP, ‘Mamas and Papas Deliver’. I remember going to a jumble sale with my Dad sometime in the 70s (long before ‘jumble sales’ became ‘car boot sales’) and my Dad buying ‘Deliver‘ for 10p. Fast forward to the end of the 80s and, armed with an encylopediac knowledge of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Love and West Coast music in general I pinched the album from my Dad’s collection. He still doesn’t know.

Anyway. ‘Creeque Alley’ outlines the whole story of The Mamas and The Papas from the pre-fame hungry years to the cusp of the giddy heights of Ed Sullivan and Monterey, taking in all the sights, sounds and sex that the 60s revolution could throw at them. It’s a good read and it’s a good listen.

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Un-used picture from the ‘Deliver’ photo sessions

John and Mitchie were gettin’ kinda itchie
just to leave the folk music behind
Zal and Denny workin’ for a penny
tryin’ to get a fish on the line
In a coffee house Sebastian sat
and after every number they passed the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just are gettin’ higher
in L.A. you know where that’s at
And no one’s getting fat except Mama Cass.

Zallie said ‘Denny, you know there aren’t many
who can sing a song the way that you do’ (Let’s go South)
Denny said ‘Zallie, golly, don’t you think that I wish
I could play guitar like you’
Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl)
And after every number they passed the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just are gettin’ higher
in L.A. you know where that’s at
And no one’s getting fat except Mama Cass.


To paraphrase – John and Michelle (already an item) are fed up playing folk music to the finger-in-the-ear brigade who can’t embrace the new sounds of the day. Zal Yanovsky (later of the Lovin’ Spoonful) and future Papa Denny Doherty were playing together in Nova Scotia in The Future III . The band were just about to break up and Zal and Denny would soon find themselves down and out in New York City. Meanwhile, another future Lovin’ Spoonful member John Sebastian was playing Greenwich Village coffee houses such as the Night Owl for pennies (in the same way Dylan had done a few years earlier). Roger McGuinn and Barry ‘Eve Of Destruction’ McGuire were also part of this scene. They were possibly the Furry Freak Brothers of their generation. Long haired, broke and fond of the odd jazz cigarette. No-one had any money for food. Indeed, the only one who was fat was Mama Cass. But she always had been.

When Cass was a Sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore,
But she changed her mind one day
Standing on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
Take her to New York right away
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps
Call John and Zal, and that was the Mugwumps
McGuinn and McGuire couldn’t get no higher
but that’s what they were aiming at
And no one’s getting fat except Mama Cass.

Mugwumps, hi-jumps, low slumps, big bumps,
don’t you work as hard as you play
Drink-up, break-up, everything is shake-up
Guess it had to be that way
Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful
Michelle, John and Denny gettin’ very tuneful
McGuinn and McGuire just are catchin’ fire
in L.A. you know where that’s at
And everybody’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.


Cass had bumped into Denny and Zal on the club circuit and suggested they work together. Things were going well, but Cass had won a place at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. However, she let her heart rule her head, falling for Denny and forming The Mugwumps at the same time. You can listen to ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ here. Proto-Papas for sure. The Mugwumps were a good-time band (“Don’t you work as hard as you play“) and like a gazillion might-have-beens before them, they broke up. Zal and John went off to find fame and fortune in The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band who’s sound owes quite a lot to The Mugwumps. Here‘s ‘Coconut Grove’, a piece of groovy 60s soft rock. D’you know where the band took their name from? Same as 10CC. Google it…

Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can’t be trusted,
and Mitchie wants to go to the sea
Cass can’t make it, she says we’ll have to fake it
We knew she’d come eventually
Greasin’ on American Express card
Tents, low rents, and keepin’ out the heat’s hard
Duffy’s good vibrations, and our imaginations,
can’t go on indefinitely
And California Dreaming is becoming a reality.

 

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Round about now, Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve Of Destruction’ was a Dylan-aping monster hit and The Byrds were in full flight. Things on the scene were looking good. Everyone downed an upper and upped a gear. But poor old Cass was still skint. Not that you’d know by looking at her. Also skint, fed up and freezing cold in New York, John and Michelle headed south to the Caribbean. Cass and Denny followed. They rented a house on the Virgin Isles called Duffy’s (it was near a road called Creeque Alley), started writing and playing as a four-piece vocal harmony group and the rest is wife-swapping intra-band sexual jealousies of a Fleetwood Mac nature history.

michelle-tambourine

Round round get around, she got around.

Incidentally, ‘Creeque‘ is pronounced ‘creaky‘, as in door, or my knees after a game of football.

Video from Ed Sullivan Show….

And another thing. My computer is playing silly games tonight and won’t lay out the page as I’d like to. I wanted the lyrics in the middle and in a much smaller font than the other words. And I’d like to have made the above video a bit smaller. All these things I should be able to do. I consider myself kinda computer literate (without being too geeky).  Dunno what happened. Bet it was them internet police again.