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Music / The Lovin' Spoonful

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The Spoonful in 1966. From left to right: Joe Butler, John Sebastian (seated), Steve Boone, and Zal Yanovsky.

"Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart?
How the music can free her whenever it starts?
And it's magic if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old time movie
I'll tell you 'bout the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like tryin' to tell a stranger 'bout-a rock and roll"
— "Do You Believe in Magic?"

The Lovin' Spoonful were an American pop/rock band originally active from 1965 to 1969.

With a foot each in the folk-rock and pop music worlds, they were probably the era's biggest link (save for The Mamas & the Papas) between the early-'60s Greenwich Village folk revival scene and the late-decade Laurel Canyon scene. During their brief heyday, the band found success with five studio albums, numerous hit singles, and even a couple of film soundtracks, recording song scores for Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? and Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now.

Lineup (founding members in bold):

  • Steve Boone - bass, keyboards, vocals (1965–69)
  • Joe Butler - drums, percussion, vocals (1965–69)
  • John Sebastian - vocals, guitar, autoharp, harmonica, keyboards (1965–68)
  • Zal Yanovsky - guitar, banjo, vocals (1965–67; died 2002)
  • Jerry Yester - guitar, banjo, keyboards, vocals (1967–69)

Studio albums:

  • Do You Believe in Magic (1965)
  • Daydream (1966)
  • What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)
  • Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
  • You're a Big Boy Now (1967)
  • Everything Playing (1967)
  • Revelation: Revolution '69 (1969)

Hot tropes, summer in the city:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: In the chorus to "Summer in the City" the line "Despite the heat it'll be all right" is sung with the first syllable of "despite" stressed, to keep the rhythm going.
  • Age-Progression Song: From "Darling, Be Home Soon":
    And now, a quarter of my life is almost past
  • The Band Minus the Face: They continued on without John Sebastian, but didn't last long. Joe Butler, Steve Boone, and Jerry Yester later restarted the band in 1991, again without Sebastian.
  • Bungled Suicide: Played for Laughs in "Pow!":
    Well, I finally got so fed up
    I resolved to blow my head off
    With the gun inside the cashbox at the store
    Then I thought I'd grab a fistful
    Just in case I weren't successful
    But instead I got my tie caught in the drawer
  • Cover Version: Their first album includes covers of several traditional blues and folk tunes, as well as The Ronettes' "You Baby" and Fred Neil's "Other Side of This Life".
  • Genre Roulette: Their music incorporates elements of folk, country, blues rock, baroque pop, psychedelic rock, and even old-fashioned Tin Pan Alley pop.
  • Heavy Meta: A number of their songs revolve around music. "Do You Believe in Magic" is about the power of music in general. "Nashville Cats" is about Country Music. And "Jug Band Music" is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • In the Style of: "Pow!", from the What's Up, Tiger Lily? soundtrack, is a comedic story-song that's very reminiscent of country singer Roger Miller.
  • Large Ham: Zal Yanovksy was well known for his stage antics.
  • Money Song: The laid back "Money":
    And I gave money to Bill
    He pays up my bills and helps me make up my mind
    And I give money to Bill
    And he will be on my side
  • Piano Drop: Referenced in "Pow!"
    When they're droppin' a piano from the 47th floor
    I'm the guy underneath 'em lookin' up
  • Pie in the Face: Referenced in "Daydream":
    Tomorrow I'll pay the dues for droppin' my load
    A pie in the face for bein' a sleepy bull toad
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Yanovsky was this in the band's live shows and TV appearances with his goofy mannerisms.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: The original lineup of Sebastian, Yanovsky, Boone, and Butler reunited for a one-off 1979 concert at a Catskills resort, which was subsequently incorporated into Paul Simon's film One-Trick Pony. They got together once more in 2000, for the group's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
    • Boone, Butler, and Yester, assisted by various other musicians, toured under the Lovin' Spoonful name in the '90s.
  • Questioning Title?: "Do You Believe in Magic?" and "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?"
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "Do You Believe in Magic?" was often been used as a commercial jingle, most notably for McDonald's in the '90s.
  • Something Blues: "Fishin' Blues", "Nite Owl Blues", "Day Blues"
  • Titled After the Song: While urban legend sometimes has it that the band's name is a sly reference to either heroin or semen, it actually derives from a lyric in the song "Coffee Blues" by Mississippi John Hurt. (That Hurt himself intended the phrase as a double entendre is, of course, not outside the realm of possibility.)
  • Unwanted Glasses Plot: "4 Eyes" is about a kid getting picked on because of his nerd glasses.
  • Vocal Tag Team: While John Sebastian was the primary vocalist and songwriter (and consequently sang on the lion's share of the group's hit singles), all of the other members performed lead vocal duties at various times. Especially since Sebastian wasn't even on their last album.
  • The X of Y: Album title Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful.