The popular myth at the time was that a '67 San Francisco drug bust spelled the end for the Lovin' Spoonful. Bassist Steve Boone and guitarist Zal Yanovsky were caught with that evil marijuana. To dodge any jail time they ratted out their supplier and that was definitely not cool. The dealer did prison time. Soon underground media indignation spread to the general Rock audience, making it extremely difficult for the Lovin' Spoonful. The situation wore heavily on the group's leader, guitarist, singer and main songwriter John Sebastian. Yanovsky left the band but that didn't help. By '67 the good-time Folk Rock of the Lovin' Spoonful was on its last legs.
Influenced by the Beatles, Folk singers Sebastian and Yanovsky started the group taking their name from Mississippi John Hurt's "Coffee Blues." Like most mid-60's groups the Lovin' Spoonful was a singles band. The band could do ballads ("Darlin' Be Home Soon") and Country influenced novelty songs like "Nashville Cats." But when they kicked into gear, the guitars rang like chimes with Sebastian's cool, airy voice rising above it all. "Do You Believe In Magic" and "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice" were perfect examples. But being from New York, Sebastian's songs about his hometown stood above everything else. "Six O' Clock" was a "late night kickin' around town waiting for dawn and another chance" song. The Spoonful's crowning achievement was "Summer In The City." A brilliant song. There is an intense drive. Sebastian's desperate vocals. You can feel the sweat pouring off. The city in confusion, melting under the heat of a New York summer. And it Rocked.
Forget the drug bust. By the time the "Summer of Love" hit, (which sounds like it'd be perfect for the Spoonful) Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead and the Doors had changed Rock. The Spoonful were from another time.
After the Spoonful imploded Sebastian went solo and back to his Folk roots, appearing in all his tie-dyed glory at Woodstock. But it wasn't long before he was stuck in the MOR morass. His last shot was the cloying ballad "Welcome Back," the theme to the TV show that launched John Travolta's career.
Emerging from the East Coast Folk scene the Lovin' Spoonful merged Folk and Country to create their brand of Rock 'n' Roll. Their albums tend to be eclectic though erratic. "Anthology" provides the group's best Rockers, "Summer In The City," "Do You Believe In Magic" and the under-rated "Six O' Clock." The CD also has numerous ballads like the comical "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind" or the longing "Darlin' Be Home Soon." Their forays into jug band music and Country ("Nashville Cats") are also documented. Many of these songs are well written and performed but they're a long way from Rock.