Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Doobie Brothers: Ain't Got No Worries, Cuz I Ain't In No Hurry

Come on, admit it: You thought the Doobie Brothers were already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How could Chicago and the Steve Miller Band be in there and not the Doobies? Their own brand of 70s pop/classic rock has survived as strongly as those other bands, not to mention that of nonentities like Deep Purple and Kiss.

But the Doobies haven’t even been nominated before this year, which seems more like an oversight than anything else, not because they were so innovative or memorable but because they belong to a genre and generation that has been overly rewarded by the R&R HoF. So here, at last, they are.

What Makes Them Different: Maybe one reason the Doobies haven’t been recognized till now is that they were really two different bands, turning their personnel (and sound) almost entirely over between 1971’s Doobie Brothers, with its NorCal choogling boogie, and the yacht rock of 1980’s Minute by Minute (their last real album before the inevitable sporadic reunion records).  Ponytailed guitarist Patrick Simmons was the only connective tissue between the two. There aren’t a lot of bands that can survive turning over their frontman and lead songwriter, but the Doobies actually got stronger, at least in terms of the pop charts, when Michael McDonald took the helm.

McDonald, by the way, initially joined the band as a temporary touring member when original lead singer Tom Johnston took sick with an ulcer. McDonald was recommended by guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who had worked with him in Steely Dan. Baxter, of course, is the former chair of the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense.

The most singular record in the Doobies’ career is Simmons’ “Black Water,” which went to Number One in 1974. With its use of wind chimes and viola as lead instruments, and an a cappellla bridge that producer Ted Templeman later claimed he stole from his old vocal group Harper’s Bizarre, “Black Water” didn’t sound like anything else on the radio in 1974. It still doesn't sound like anything else on the radio. The Doobies really didn’t know what to do with it: “Black Water” initially surfaced as the B-side to the lead single from What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits; after the album seemed to have stiffed, “Black Water” was the third single released, and the Doobies had their first Number One hit.

By the Numbers: Six platinum studio albums, including one Number One (Minute by Minute); 16 Top Forty hits, five top Tens, including two number Ones (“Black Water,”  “What a Fool Believes”)

Will They Get In? This is maybe the biggest no-brainer on the ballot. The Hall of Fame has been exceptionally kind to bands like the Doobie Brothers.

Should They Get In? Not a lot of bands encapsulate two little eras of rock music, but the Doobies were one of the best of the post-hippie bands of the early 1970s and one of the best of the yacht rock acts of the late 1970s. And “Black Water” still sounds like magic. What the heck, I’m in a good mood: I’ll vote YES for the Doobie Brothers.

1 comment:

  1. Nope, I hate Michael McDonald. He sings like hehas Marbles in his mouth. I liked the original band, hate the later one.