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Lovin' Spoonful Resurgence Sparked By Rock Hall Nod

Seminal folk-rock band's out-of-print catalog to be reissued next year.

The Lovin' Spoonful's catalog is out of print and their current

lineup doesn't include lead singer/songwriter John Sebastian, but

the seminal 1960s folk-rock band is experiencing a revival.

Nine years after they became eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of

Fame, the Spoonful were finally nominated last month, along with the

likes of Queen, Aerosmith and Lou Reed.

"I don't care if we don't get in," Sebastian said from his home in

Woodstock, N.Y., last month.

Sebastian, who left the band in 1968, said he was grateful for the

renewed interest, which includes plans to reissue the Spoonful's

classic '60s albums.

But he downplayed the Spoonful's influence on subsequent rock music

— a major criterion for inclusion in the Rock

Hall of Fame — and preferred to talk instead about the musicians who

influenced the Spoonful.

Referring to Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanovsky, Sebastian said, "Zallie

called the day we found out [about the nomination], and we talked for

just a minute. We're rooting for Harvey [Fuqua] and the Moonglows."

The Moonglows, also nominated this year, were a doo-wop group whose

'50s hits include "Sincerely" and "Ten Commandments of Love."

Not everyone is so indifferent about the Spoonful's possible Hall of

Fame induction. The nomination has fueled efforts at Buddha Records

to reissue the Lovin' Spoonful catalog and assemble an anthology of

album tracks, unreleased songs and live material.

Bassist Steve Boone, 56, who still performs as the Lovin' Spoonful

with drummer Joe Butler and guitarist Jerry Yester, said he wants the

band to be in the Hall.

"It's kind of a surprise there hasn't been more interest," said Boone,

who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "The music is surely universal in

its appeal. The type of music we performed seems to be popular again."

The Boone-Butler-Yester lineup plans to release Live at the Hotel

Seville, featuring acoustic versions of the band's greatest hits,

Nov. 2.

Artists become eligible for the Hall of Fame 25 years after the

release of their first album. The Spoonful's first was 1965's Do

You Believe in Magic?

Sebastian, Yanovsky, Boone and Butler rose from New York's Greenwich

Village coffeehouse scene, which also produced Bob Dylan. Between

September 1965 and January 1967, the Lovin' Spoonful frequently were

in the U.S. top 10. Their hits ranged from the breezy, Autoharp-driven "Do You Believe in Magic?" (RealAudio

excerpt) to the jovial acoustic strum of "Daydream" (RealAudio

excerpt) to the R&B-flavored "Did You Ever Have to Make

Up Your Mind?" (RealAudio

excerpt).

Their lone #1 song was the anthemic pop song "Summer in the City,"

which Boone co-wrote with Sebastian. None of those songs, which

remain staples of oldies and classic-rock radio, were longer than

two and a half minutes.

Sebastian said the bandmembers were "students" of such rock pioneers

as Fats Domino and Phil Spector — both now in the Hall of

Fame — and Huey "Piano" Smith, whom he called "the professors."

Sebastian said Yanovsky was greatly influenced by bluesman Elmore

James, another Hall of Famer. Boone named country singer Buck Owens

as a major influence.

From all those influences, Sebastian said, "We felt like we had

something that was an obvious hybrid that no one else had thought

of. We had skills that weren't rocking skills, that were not

finger-picking skills. We believed very strongly that this was going

to happen. It wasn't an experiment."

Alex Miller, Buddha Records' 41-year-old vice president, said he has

fond memories of growing up listening to the Spoonful's music. He's

assembling an anthology for release on Buddha and planning to reissue

the band's albums — Do You Believe in Magic?,

Daydream and Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful (1966),

The Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1967), Everything Playing

(1968) and Revelation: Revolution '69.

The latter album were recorded without Sebastian. Miller said he

hopes to release the reissues by the middle of next year.

The Lovin' Spoonful began to dissolve in May 1966 amid controversy

surrounding Boone and Yanovsky's arrest for possessing marijuana in

Berkeley, Calif. Reports surfaced that the two became informants for

police.

Yanovsky quit the group in 1967 and was replaced by Yester. Sebastian,

who left to pursue a solo career in 1968, said the group was victim

of bad timing. He said he thought the bust happened "just a little

too soon," before the counterculture blossomed on a national scale.

"It was unfortunate this whole bust thing came down around Zal and

Steve," Sebastian said. "It really did cause a cynicism that was

poison to what we were doing. That cynicism cost us our little corner

of the music we had going. It simply had to go somewhere else"

(RealAudio

excerpt of interview).

Boone, who said he had to overcome shame after his arrest, blamed

some rock journalists who distrusted police for causing some of the

group's headaches.

"In the end result, did anyone go to jail? No," he said. "Did

anything done by the Lovin' Spoonful cause any harm? No."

After leaving the group, Sebastian found success as a solo artist. He

performed a solo set at the original Woodstock festival in 1969, and

scored his biggest hit in 1976 with "Welcome Back," the theme song for

the television show "Welcome Back Kotter."

He formed the J-Band — a jug band — in 1991, and released

the album Chasing Gus' Ghost with them in June.

Erik Jacobsen, who produced nearly all of the Lovin' Spoonful albums

and now produces for rockabilly-pop singer Chris Isaak, called the

Spoonful "true inventors of folk-rock."

"Those guys were folk players," Jacobsen said from his San Francisco

home. "They were acoustic players. They were the first guys to put

those things down on record. They were [the] leading edge of a huge

cultural thing. They were the original psychedelic thing. They took

acid and smoked pot. They acted zanily and crazily."

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