A Six-Pack of the Doobie Brothers

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.”

Spotify link

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.)

Spotify link

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

Spotify link

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.”

Spotify link

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.

Spotify link

Well, let’s take it out with a straight-up rocker. “Without You,” from The Captain and Me.

Spotify link

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.

36 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of the Doobie Brothers

  1. No Michael McDonald? I find most of his stuff a bit snoozy but I’m partial to What a Fool Believes. I like how you threw in some deep cuts – I Cheat the Hangman is a good one.

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    1. It’s funny but I never really thought much before about the parallels between Doobies and Eagles – Seventies band, great songs, harmonies, guitar work, etc. Yet for all that, they’re on a different level than the Eagles to this day. We saw them opening for Santana just two years ago. The Eagles would NEVER open for anybody at this stage and their concerts are still a major event.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the Doobies have always been a solid second-tier kind of band. I like them but they just made a bunch of solid songs without doing much innovating. The Eagles Greatest Hits is 38x platinum, Minute by Minute is 3x platinum.

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        1. Early Doobie Brothers are a bit like a continuation of CCR to my ears – guitar band with a bit of R&B in their sound. Late Doobie Brothers are more like Steely Dan, but not in the same league IMO.

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        2. I can see the CCR/Doobies parallel in terms of genre somewhat, less in overall sound. I think CCR was bluesier, more connected to early rock and roll. Agreed on later Doobies. They were like a different band with McDonald up front.

          Fun kinda related fact I just learned: When The Hollies did “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” they modeled it after “Green River.” I guess they thought Fogerty would be honored. He was so honored he sued them and gets half the proceeds.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Total non sequitur: I stumbled on this and thought you would get as much, or more, a kick out of it as I did. I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

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        4. I like it when he tries to analyse Anderson’s lyrics. We’re clearly in the wrong game – it takes me weeks to get as many hits as he’s had on that single video.

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        5. The lyrics almost make sense when he interprets them. I got a kick of how blown away he was. He appears to be a pretty accomplished composer. I guess his post title has a lot more appeal than any of ours. Plus, video.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. I think videos are very popular. I have toyed with the idea of making videos – preferably ones where I don’t talk but just put some text up and play some music – but I don’t usually enjoy watching videos about music. Would much rather read while listening.

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  2. I’m reading Ted Templeman’s book and I just finished the part where he produced their first album and it bombed. I haven’t made it yet to where he works with them again and again. Can’t wait to see how that turns out (even though I already know).

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        1. I don’t think I have either. I wish more would do them as they have so much insight on the recordings. This one has been great so far and worth checking out.

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        2. Totally unrelated to Doobies but ME’s comment triggered this suggestion. Not BY a producer but about one of the icons — “A Wizard a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the studio” by Paul Meyers is an excellent read, chronicling the dozens and dozens of albums/artists Todd produced. Great read, widely available.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. The early Doobies for me. My opinion, and I know many disagree & that’s ok, but the Michael McDonald Doobies don’t exist.

    ps Ditto on Bananarama….

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    1. Heh! Oh I heartily agree that I prefer the earlier stuff. But I wouldn’t go so for as disavowing the McDonald era. I like ‘Minute by Minute” and “Takin’ it to the Streets.” Frankly, I would take either of those over “Listen to the Music” which I cannot freaking stand. I just added it to the Spotify list in case anybody wants to listen to it.

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  4. I have that Best of The Doobies, but I’ve never actually listened to it! Go figure. I don’t even know where I got it. But I’m glad I have it after reading this… sounds like I might dig some of it!

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  5. One of those bands that was always on the radio. Good music, I just never got hooked. The one song that I really like is ‘Takin It To The Streets’. Does it for me. I did not know Bill Payne was in the band. CB is smarter now because of you.

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    1. Yeah, radio band for me too. But like a lot of bands that I do a post on, I find they have a lot more good stuff than I thought. Payne was not a member all the way. He was on some early albums, then Little Feat, then back to Doobies. You know how musicians are. Aimless drifters. May even be worse than actors if that’s even possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The Doobies are awesome, in my book. I think they are best when they combine their three-part harmony singing with nice guitar-driven rockers like “China Grove”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway” and “Without You.” I also love “Back Water”, “Jesus Is Just Alright With Me” and “Taking it to the Streets.” They have so many catchy songs!

    I saw the Doobies together with Steely Dan in July 2018. I would see that show again in a heartbeat, if given the opportunity!

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    1. It’s a nice package when you put them all together. I like their mellower side too. “I Cheat the Hangman” and “Toulose Street” are especially nice.

      Liked by 1 person

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