October 23, 2002

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Lovin' Spoonful
Do You Believe in Magic (Buddha Records/BMG Heritage)

Am I wrong in thinking that the Lovin' Spoonful has been all but forgotten as the '60s disappear in the rearview? The band was simply huge for three of four years, releasing several great albums and putting a long string of hit singles on the pop chart. Do You Believe in Magic, from 1966, was the first LP, riding the title single – one of the best songs about rock and roll ever – into the record collections of Greenwich Village hipsters and teens in Middle America.

The Spoonful's cutesy persona – belied by, among other things, the band's name, taken from Willie Dixon's heroin song, "Spoonful" – didn't hint at the great songwriting, the serious pedigree that went back into the folk scene, and the band's ability to move effortlessly through a range of influences including blues, folk, jug band music, and rock and roll. In the era of the 10-minute solo (on guitar, bass, and drums, of course) the Spoonful wrote three-minute pop gems that you'd hear on the radio and then sing to yourself all summer. On Believe the Spoonful had hits with the John Sebastian-penned "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind," the kind of catchy, upbeat tunes that personified the band ever after. The band members seemingly packed more hooks into each song than most bands came up with in a lifetime. And on top of that, their taste in nonoriginals was impeccable; on this album they adapted often obscure traditional songs such as "Blues in the Bottle," "Sportin' Life," and "Fishin' Blues" and covered reclusive hipster folkie Fred Neil's "Other Side of the Life."

The Spoonful's lighthearted material and unpretentious image clash with the niche to which the '60s have been relegated, the era of protest featuring a sex- and drug-crazed youth culture. The band was in the thick of that – there was no avoiding it – but its popularity underscores the fact that there was more going on. (J.H. Tompkins)