The Lovin’ Spoonful
Listen – The Artie Schroeck Implosion – Six O’Clock – MP3
Listen – The Lovin’ Spoonful – Six O’Clock- MP3
I hope the end of the week finds you well, and prepared for some pop.
This story starts an eon ago, the first time I heard a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful.
I can’t say with any certainty when that was, but in all likelihood it was sometime in the late 60’s, around the time I was first exposed to pop radio (having grown up in a house dominated by jazz and classical music).
I only mention this to make note of the fact that John Sebastian and his songs have been a part of the musical wallpaper of my life for a very long time.
Initially – and for many years afterward – all I ever knew were the big hits like ‘Daydream’, ‘Summer In the City’ and ‘Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind’.
Then, sometime during my teen years I saw ‘Celebration at Big Sur’*, the great documentary of the 1970 Big Sur Pop Festival, which featured a couple of performances by Sebastian (along with great stuff by CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and others). The best of these was a supremely blissed out version of ‘Rainbows All Over Your Blues’ which included what was perhaps the all time great stoned out (“Heeeeeyyyy maaaaaannnnn….”) rap, about a tire swing at the Grateful Dead ranch (I shit you not).
In the years to come, I actually got to see Sebastian play live a few times, and was always impressed with his good humor and performing style.
It wasn’t until the late 80’s, when a guy I worked with passed on a box of LPs from his older brother that I discovered that the Lovin’ Spoonful were a wee bit more sophisticated than I knew.
One of the songs that blew my mind – along with ‘Darling Be Home Soon’ and ‘Coconut Grove’ – was ‘Six O’Clock’.
I think one of the reasons the Spoonful weren’t a much bigger deal – or at least aren’t regarded as such 40 years on – has a lot to do with their relatively short existence. Troubled by drug busts, deportation and rumors of police collaboration that killed their rep in the underground, the Spoonful, like the Buffalo Springfield, only kept it together for a few years. During that short time they managed to record everything from jugband blues to sunshine pop to Beatle-esque marvels like ‘Six O’Clock’ (which was actually a Top 20 hit), yet today, due no doubt to the extremely narrow scope of “oldies” radio, all anyone ever hears are those few hits I mentioned before.
Anyway, sometime after I got hip to the deeper side of the Spoonful, I was out digging, and happened upon a couple of LPs that looked to have serious “Now Sound” potential. Only one of these paid off, that being ‘A Spoonful of Lovin’ by the oddly named Artie Schroeck Implosion. This LP was an easy/soft pop reworking of highlights from the Spoonful catalog, but unlike many such records (and I can assure you there were hundreds) ‘A Spoonful of Lovin’ was actually pretty good.
Artie Schroeck – who a cursory Google shows to have settled in Las Vegas – spent the better part of the 60’s working in New York as an arranger and keyboardist on a wide variety of session, which just happened to include stops with a lot of pop/Now Sound artists like Kenny Rankin, the Left Banke, Cowsills, Spanky & Our Gang, Jackie & Roy and oddly enough, the Lovin’ Spoonful themselves.
I have no idea how he ended up arranging an entire LP of Lovin’ Spoonful songs, but I suspect it had a lotto do with the Verve label attempting to cash in on the success of the band. Where ‘A Spoonful of Lovin’ differs from so many similar projects, is that Schroeck appears to have had an affinity for rock and pop sounds. The lush “easy” sound of many of the tracks is regularly spiced with fuzz guitars, electronic keyboards and the like.
My fave track on the LP is the ASI’s cover of ‘Six O’Clock’. Schroeck adds some nice baroque pop touches here and there, including what sounds like a flute played through a Leslie speaker.
The original version by the Lovin’ Spoonful is really a marvel. There’s a rawness to Sebastian’s normally buttery voice (especially in the chorus) that contrasts nicely with the psyche-pop vibe of the instrumental backing. The tune hails from the bands fourth album ‘Everything Playing’ in 1968, after which Sebastian left the band and headed for that tire swing in Marin County.
Hope you dig it.
*Anyone out there know of a source for a DVD copy of this film? Drop me a line if you do.