As the summer began to turn into fall during the year of 1965, a fresh sound was playing on just about every Top 40 radio station. In a decade already loaded with all sorts of musical experimentation, a new group was about to pose the musical question "do you believe in magic?"
The Lovin' Spoonful entered the national consciousness with an impressive musical genealogy. John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky has enjoyed a degree of success on the college touring circuit with a group called the Mugwumps (which included Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty, who earlier in the year had achieved fame as part of the Mamas and Papas). Steve Boone and Joe Butler also had paid some dues, playing dates at folk clubs around the country.
By the end of 1964, the Mugwumps were history; John and Zally were looking to hook up with a couple new musicians and explore the emerging folk rock sound that was beginning to rumble in some of the clubs. Eric Jacobsen, who later would produce some of the Spoonful's work, helped steer the duo in the direction of Boone and Butler. By the spring of 1965, the group was tight enough to begin playing gigs at clubs around New York. It didn't take long for them to capture a more or less permanent spot at the famous Nite Owl. It was there that executives from Kama Sutra Records heard them for the first time and began to put together a record deal for the Spoonful.
During the early part of the summer, the group laid down the tracks for their debut album. The title cut of the album "Do You Believe in Magic?" also became the first single. Response was immediately positive and as the group made their way across the country on a promotional tour, the single began to pus it's way up the charts. By September, it had made the Top 20, where it would log a total of five weeks, peaking at a chart position of 9.
The following year saw more touring a total of five Top Ten hits, including the song that has come to be their most memorable: "Summer In The City", which also became the group's only Number One hit. They also enjoyed their first Top Ten album during 1966: "Daydream" which climbed to number 10 on the album charts. "Daydream' the single didn't do too badly, either; it reached the Number 2 spot on the singles charts in March, 1966.
Striking while the iron is hot, the Spoonful quickly got into the game of scoring movies and produced soundtracks for two films with the course of a year: "What's up Tiger Lily?" and "You're A Big Boy Now". While the movies did not go anywhere, the soundtracks sold pretty well. There was even one hit single for the group in the bargain" "Darling Be Home Soon" which peaked at 15 in early 1967.
During the first months of 1967, the Lovin' Spoonful began a rather swift fall from grace. Their trouble stemmed from a drug bust, in which John and Zal were charged. In return for identifying their dealer, the twosome were allowed to go free with a slap on the wrist. While safe from a jail term, the pair soon found themselves and the group ostracized by the powers that be in the San Francisco music scene. The rest of the country quickly followed suit. The singles still came out and still hit the charts, but each place a little lower than the last. Their final hit was "Six O'Clock" which peaked at 18 in June 1967.
Shortly after the drug bust, Zal Yanovsky left the group and was replaced by Jerry Yester, brother of the Association's Jim Yester. The revamped Spoonful recorded one more album before John Sebastian left in early 1968. With the group pretty much in tatters, Joe Butler took one more stab at recapturing some of the old magic and released the final Spoonful album "Revelation: Revolution '69" in November of 1968. The album and its single release "Never Goin' Back" made nary a ripple on the charts.
Great fun while they lasted, the Lovin' Spoonful gave us all some memorable music to dance to and showed that the American music scene of the 1960's was just a capable of producing a lovable group of mop tops as England. Yes, we did believe in magic back then, and we still do today.
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