NB: Most of their albums have been reissued and many of them are now available in CD format. In addition readers may be interested in a 26 track Euro CD, Collection and a 26 track U.S. CD, Anthology. See For Miles have also compiled EP tracks on their CD The EP Collection (See For Miles SEECD 229). Recent vinyl releases have included, Jug Band Music: Great Years (a French release) and Good Time Music, a 24 track compilation including some very rare tracks.
The core of this band were John Sebastian, who was born on 17th March 1944 in New York, and Zalman Yanovsky, who was born on 19th December 1944 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They'd first met as a number of guests invited to Cass Elliot's house to watch the Beatles' U.S. TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. They played guitar together through the night and discussed the possibility of forming a rock group. At the time Sebastian was a Greenwich Village folkie and sometime member of the Even Dozen Jug Band and Yanovsky was guitarist with the Nova Scotia folk group, The Halifax Three. When this disbanded in June 1964 Yanovsky was briefly involved in the Mugwumps (with Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot and James Hendricks). This was a short-lived and unsuccessful venture, which soon disbanded, and, of course Doherty and Elliot went on to form one half of The Mamas and The Papas. With Yanovsky at a loose end again the seeds for a rock group with John Sebastian (along the lines they'd discussed earlier) were sewn in January 1965. The name Lovin' Spoonful was taken from a phrase in Mississippi John Hurt's Coffee Blues and Joe Butler (from Glen Cove, Long Island) and Steve Boone, who was born on 23rd September 1943 in North Carolina, were drafted in to be the other members.
They won a residency at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village and their producer Erik Jacobsen got them a deal with the newly formed Kama Sutra label. Playing their own brand ot folk-rock/good-time music they enjoyed immediate commercial success. Their first 45 made No. 9 in the U.S. and their debut album of the same name peaked at No. 32. Follow-up You Didn't Have To Be So Nice peaked at No. 10 and Daydream, their lazy, laid back celebration of love on a summer's day, was even bigger, reaching No. 2 in the U.S. and UK, becoming a million seller. Their second album of the same name made No. 10 in the U.S. and No. 8 in the UK. They also had four cuts included on the Elektra compilation What's Shakin, including one called Good Time Music, for them this is what music was all about.
Their next 45, Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind? peaked at No. 2, but this was soon surpassed by what was arguably their finest moment, Summer ln The City. Notable tor its atmospheric streetnoise sound effects this topped the U.S. charts for three weeks and made No. 8 in the UK. It became their second and biggest million seller.
They went on to appear on the soundtrack of the cult movie What's Up Tiger Lily (No. 126 in the US) and their third album of the year Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful peaked at No. 14. Nashville Cats would be their last U.S. Top Ten hit (peaking at No. 8) - the flip side also made it to No. 87. In the U.K. it climbed to No. 26. They followed this with the heavily orchestrated Darlin' Be Home Soon, which peaked at No. 15 in the U.S. and No. 44 in the UK. (It would be their last U.K. Hit.) In March 1967 The Best Of The Lovin' Spoonful climbed to No. 3 in the U.S. Album Charts in which it spent a year in all. Their follow-up, You're A Big Boy Now, their second soundtrack album, was a minor U.S. Album hit peaking at No. 160.
After just one further U.S. hit, Six O'Clock, Zal Yanovsky left the band, following media coverage of a marijuana bust in San Francisco when he was accused of incriminating others to avoid prosecution under threat of deportation (as he was slill technically a Canadian citizen) and the group were ostracised by their rock peers. He was replaced by Jerry Yester, who'd played in the Modern Folk Quartet. Although they enjoyed further minor 45 hits in the States with She's Still A Mystery, Money and Never Going Back, they rather lost their way and their next two albums Everything Playing and The Best Of The Lovin' Spoonful, Vol. 2 could only manage No. 118 and 156 respectively. When John Sebastian left the group in October 1968 it soon crumbled. He went on to enjoy a reasonably successful solo career and made a memorable appearance at The Woodstock Festival, the following year, performing Younger Generation, which became a highlight of the movie, and I Had A Dream, which opened the Woodstock album. The following year he appeared with Zal Yanovsky at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival in the U.K. (Yanovsky was there as part of Kris Kristofferson's band). He, too, made solo albums but none rose above cult success. In the 1980s he reformed the Modern Folk Quartet but became best known as a producer and string arranger. The Lovin' Spoonful's original line-up did reform in October 1980 to appear in Paul Simon's movie One Trick Pony.
The band had two good years and are lovingly remembered by many for their zany image, wild sense of humour and their unique brand of goodtime music, which combined traditional folk and blues influences with the rock and roll of their era.
Zal Yanowsky's solo album, Alive And Well In Argentina (Buddah BDS-5019) 1968 and (Kama Sutra KSBS-2030) 1971 is worth checking out as a good example of weird, deranged and wonderful sixties extravaganza.
Compilation coverage has included: She's Still A Mystery is on Nuggets Vol. 5.