Wherein I take six songs by a band and present them for your delectation. As always, these are not necessarily THE six but just ones that I dig and come to mind. As always with bands that have a bunch of good songs, the Spotify list is longer, a good hour of stuff.
Wikipedia: “The Doobie Brothers are an American rock band from San Jose, California. Active for five decades, with their greatest success in the 1970s, the group’s current lineup consists of founding members Tom Johnston (guitars, vocals) and Patrick Simmons (guitars, vocals), veteran member Michael McDonald (keyboards, vocals), longtime member John McFee (guitars, pedal steel, violin, backing vocals), and touring musicians including John Cowan (bass, vocals), Bill Payne (keyboards)*, Marc Russo (saxophones), Ed Toth (drums), and Marc Quiñones (percussion).**
The band’s history can be roughly divided into three eras. From 1970 to 1975 it featured lead vocalist Johnston and mainstream rock and roll sound with elements of folk, country, and R&B.
Johnston left the group in 1977 due to health reasons and was replaced by Michael McDonald, whose interest in soul music changed the band’s sound until it broke up in 1982 with Simmons being the only constant member having appeared on all of their albums. Jeff Baxter was part of this iteration of the band.
In 1987, the Doobie Brothers reformed with Johnston back in the fold; McDonald, who had previously made several guest appearances since their reformation, returned to the band full-time in 2019 for their upcoming 50th-anniversary tour.” (We saw them on tour with Santana a couple of years ago. Quite the show but I was in a foul mood as my tickets sucked. Like I was in high school.)
Enough bullshit about the reefer brothers. Let’s get it on.
I have no idea at all why in five whole years of blogging I’ve barely mentioned these guys much less posted on them. What triggered this was hearing “Another Park, Another Sunday” on the radio. According to Songfacts, author Johnston said “this song was inspired by real events. That was based on breaking up with a girlfriend. And that’s basically what that was all about. Including the park and all the rest of it.”
It wouldn’t be a Doobies list without “Long Train Running.” Billboard, in their inimitable in-touch way described it as a “good-timey, good-harmony AM cooker.” Bananarama – who did “Cruel Summer” and who I wanted to marry – even covered it. (Trust me you can safely skip it.)
When I do these posts I usually stumble on a song I didn’t know or hadn’t heard in a long time. The nice thing about the Doobies is that they can flat-out fucking rock and then turn around and do a nice, gentle song with great vocal harmonies. Such a song is the haunting “Toulouse Street.”
The night she is hot, Creole girls they sing
My heart, it is pounding, my ears they ring
The spell has been cast down in New Orleans again
Back for some rockin’ out with the great “China Grove.” According to Rolling Stone, “What takes “China Grove” to another level are Johnston’s lyrics, likely inspired by the time the band was passing through Texas on tour and saw a sign for the actual town of China Grove. In Johnston’s mind, the fictional China Grove became a wacky place populated with an insane preacher and a sheriff who was, for some reason, brandishing a samurai sword.”
I always thought “I Cheat the Hangman” was a cool title and a cooler song. It was “inspired by the story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. “It’s about a ghost returning to his home after the Civil War and not realizing he’s dead,” The Doobies always have great guitar whether slammin’ electric or intricate acoustic.
Well, let’s take it out with a straight-up rocker. “Without You,” from The Captain and Me.
The Doobie Brothers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on November 7, 2020. The group has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.
*Bill Payne was a founding member of Little Feat.
**Quinones was the Allmans’ percussionist for twenty-three years from 1991 to their last show in 2014. His tenure with the band is the longest outside of the original members that survived into the 2000s.