The Lovin’ Spoonful – Do You Believe In Magic

I have loved The Lovin’ Spoonful for years, but for only one reason: Woody Allen’s first film What’s Up, Tiger Lily? The film is basically a Japanese spy movie that Allen bought, re-edited, and completely re-dubbed with comedy instead of the semi-serious spy film it started as. It’s kind of like a better version of what Steve Oedekerk did with Kung Pow: Enter The Fist. But we’re not here to talk about films…

The thing with What’s Up, Tiger Lily? is that The Lovin’ Spoonful provided not only the soundtrack to the film with a few original songs and a cover or two, but they even provided the film’s score, so it’s like film noir on guitar. One of the songs they play on the film, and I WISH I could find this on Youtube (oh wait, here it is, about 5:28 in), is the song “Fishin’ Blues”, which is an old upbeat jug-band Blues standard. This song, despite its mellow, 60’s feel, is played in the movie against footage of people dancing really crazy-like, and it just really stuck with me forever. Whenever I got my Zune Pass, I had to seek out the album this song originated on.

Turns out it’s from the band’s first album, which also contains another unfortunately recognizable title track, Do You Believe In Magic:

Do you also believe in horizontal striped shirts? Hope so!

As soon as you pop this record on the machine or maybe hit play on your Zune it becomes apparent, with the song “Do You Believe In Magic”, that this band has been systematically, scientifically, and very intelligently designed to give you a distinctly warm, fuzzy, rainbowy feeling. In fact, the lyrics of the song go something like:

Do you believe in magic, in a young girl’s heart?
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it’s magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy, like an old-time movie
I’d tell you about magic and how it frees your soul
But it’s like trying to tell a stranger about Rock n’ Roll

Man, this song is so iconic. I say that this is an unfortunate thing because, at some point in the 90’s, the megalomanical advertising team behind America’s favorite vomitorium, McDonald’s, made a version of the song only the “magic” is a “clown with big red shoes”. I’d dig up a video of it but eh.

The next song is less of a feel-good song lyrics-wise, but man do I love it anyway. It’s called “Blues In The Bottle”, and I might just be a sucker for hooks, but the fast-strummed guitar chord at certain intervals in the song are enough to make me listen to this song a-plenty. Even without the hook, I’d consider myself for a sucker for any song that ends with the line “I don’t want no woman who goes around sniffin’ glue”. Ne’er truer words were spoken.

We then get “Sportin’ Life”, which is a mid-tempo blues song that utilizes all the standard blues lines, which makes a lot of sense since it’s just a traditional Blues song. It has a nice harmonica solo in it as well, which threatens to slow this whole good-feelin’ thing down, unless the Blues makes you feel good, which it should.

In case it doesn’t, there’s a wonderful rock song right around the corner. It’s called “My Gal”, and it goes:

Well a rich gal will drink good pineapple juice
And a poor gal will do quite the same
Well my gal, she’s drinking old shoe polish
You know she’ll get drunk just the same

So sniffing glue is out, but drinking shoe polish is all right I guess! Then again, the song doesn’t seem to be really positive on “My Gal”, it’s sometimes hard to tell with those old Blues songs. One thing that you can definitely tell is that this is a bumpin’ tune!

In fact, the tune is so bumpin’ that they try to sneak in another slow break-up number called “You Baby”, but it’s not a bad song at all. It actually gets progressively “busier” through the chorus so it doesn’t slow down the album too much, and the best is yet to come…

At last! “Fishin’ Blues” comes on and it’s party-time indeed. I don’t know what it is about this song that drives me so crazy. It’s probably the melody, the guitar hook, the bouncy beat, and the fact that it’s one of the highlights of a film I love dearly. Yeah… that must be it! It currently has the most plays on my Zune, somewhere close to 40 plays, which isn’t bad for having it for about a month.

The next song is called “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind”, which is a pretty good song, but maybe a little too sweet for me. It’s also about having to choose between two hot ladies, which I can’t say I really relate to. Oh well!

The next song is a little more like it, “Wild About My Lovin'” ooh yeah. Actually, I guess I’m not that wild, so it’s not that these are bad songs, I’m just a very boring guy. Actually I love this song anyway, because it’s got some great guitar work and that bouncy beat that’s already been visited a few times in this album and never gets old.

In fact, the next song is bouncy, but far more bass-driven. There’s really some great bass work going on throughout this album, but this is the first song where it’s more of a feature.

The song after that, “Younger Girl”, visits the age-old subject of forbidden lust after someone half your age (only in possibly the nicest way I’ve heard since Roy Orbison). It starts with the exact same chords as “Do You Believe In Magic”, so you may think the album has magically started over, and then you just MAY believe in magic, but no it’s not magic, it’s just repetition of a popular chord progression. I can understand re-using it, after all, since both songs are played on an autoharp, and those things aren’t exactly the easiest things to get around on.

“On The Road Again” is a nice fast-paced song, though perhaps crossing the line from “feel-good” to “excitable”, and that’s a dangerous line to cross. Thankfully, we’ve got “Night Owl Blues” to bring it on back down with a harmonica-based blues tune. I personally always find it nice when a band can switch between standard blues and whatever unique rock sound they’ve got going with ease.

With that, the album proper ends, but I definitely recommend grabbing up the re-issue CD/Zune Download version, just for the caveman jam called “Alley Oop”. If not, that’s also cool I guess, I am going to listen to “Fishin’ Blues” about 100 more times now!

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One Response

  1. I have the CD, and agreed: The Spoonful’s take on “Alley-Oop” is a kicker. I also recommend the CD reissue of DAYDREAM for the full, non-faded out version of “Night Owl Blues.” And of course, DYBIM? and DAYDREAM are two of rock and roll’s best albums, regardless of what Madison Avenue has done with the songs.

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