Category Archives: The Doobie Brothers

Rocks In The Attic #502: The Doobie Brothers – ‘The Captain And Me’ (1973)

RITA#502This isn’t my favourite Doobs album – that would be Toulouse Street – but this is probably the most successful one, if you consider the strength of the individual songs on it. Both Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove were lifted off this record, and they’re amongst the best singles the band ever released.

In 1976, when the band’s first compilation, Best Of The Doobies, was being put together, as well as taking the two hit singles on The Captain And Me, they also took a couple of album tracks – Without You and South City Midnight Lady. As a result, these two songs now sound like hit singles. The end result for The Captain And Me is a record that feels like it’s full of hits.

Of course the thing that makes this a great Doobie Brothers album is the absence of Michael McDonald. He wasn’t tainting the band with his smooth AOR vocals just yet. I’ve criticised him enough in the past though, so I won’t elaborate further on this lest anyone think I have a personal vendetta against the man. <Aside> I do!

The record does mark the first occasion when fellow Steely Dan alumnus Jeff “Skunk” Baxter would appear on a Doobie Brothers album. He would also appear on the following year’s What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, before becoming a fully fledged ‘brother’ on 1975’s Stampede.

Hit: Long Train Runnin’

Hidden Gem: Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corners

Rocks In The Attic #446: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Best Of The Doobies Volume 2’ (1981)

RITA#446Much like the first Best Of The Doobies album, this reminds me of a road trip across America when I was ten years old. The double-cassette of both albums that my Dad bought at a gas station was on repeat on the car stereo throughout that journey, and so this music is hardwired into my soul – it’s as American as fast food, diners, open highways and the hot backseat of a hired Pontiac.

I don’t think we listened to Volume 2 as much as the first one though. There’s definitely a drop-off in quality. Out goes Tom Johnston and rock n’ roll, and in comes Michael McDonald and a weird hybrid of rock n’ soul. In fact, to call it a drop off in quality is disingenuous to Tom Johnston. It’s a crevasse of a drop-off – we’re talking the heights of Everest to the depths of the deepest ocean trench. In fact, if you didn’t know the Doobies and you were played excerpts of both line-ups, you’d have trouble believing they were the same band. Chalk and cheese. Apples and oranges. Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the transatlantic Fleetwood Mac from 1975 onwards.

I’m still waiting for Volume 3

Hit: What A Fool Believes

Hidden Gem: Dependin’ On You

Rocks In The Attic #325: Tom Johnston – ‘Everything You’ve Heard Is True’ (1979)

RITA#325This is the first solo album by moustachioed head Doobie Brother Tom Johnston. I picked it up in the sales racks at Real Groovy in Auckland, and I’m glad I did. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut when buying records, and it paid off this time.

I guess it wasn’t too much of a risk – Johnston was the driving force behind the first classic run of Doobie Brothers albums, alongside Patrick Simmons – and so you’d expect a solo album to be more of the same, at the very least. Any risk comes from the question of whether Johnston could still cut it, five years after he made his last meaningful contribution to the Doobs. After Stampede in 1975, he effectively stood on the sidelines, only appearing on a few songs on Takin’ It To The Streets (1976) and Livin’ On The Fault Line (1977) before being replaced by beardy MOR pusher Michael McDonald. The reason – chronic stomach ulcers and “exhaustion”.

Thankfully, Everything You’ve Heard Is True is just like an early Doobs record. It’s even produced by Ted Templeman. The only noticeable change is that the songs are a little less rocky – so you don’t get anything approaching China Grove. There’s plenty of soul though – and a lot of the tracks are little funkier than your typical Doobie Brothers fare.

The cover shows Johnston sat on a stool in a bar, lighting a cigarette. Behind the bar, amongst the nuts and bottles, and usual debris and clutter you find behind a bar, there’s a great little pun. A printed sign reads ‘OUR CREDIT MANAGER IS HELEN WAITE. IF YOU WANT CREDIT GO TO HELEN WAITE.’

Hit: Savannah Nights

Hidden Gem: Down Along The River

Rocks In The Attic #297: The Doobie Brothers – ‘What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits’ (1974)

RITA#297I can remember a moment from when I was 10 or 11, and was spending a Saturday watching my Dad play cricket. I don’t like sport now and I didn’t like sport then, so getting dragged along to see my Dad play cricket in the middle of nowhere was always a chore.

I used to pass the time by reading comics until the boredom ended and we could catch the bus home. This time though, I was listening to music on my Walkman. We’d just been to America (recounted here) and so I was listening to my new favourite band, the Doobie Brothers.

I remember being sat outside the clubhouse, half-watching the game, and two guys sat near me asked who I was listening to. I told them it was the Doobie Brothers, and they cracked a joke. They said – and I can’t remember the names they used – something along the lines of “The Doobie Brothers? Who’s that? <Insert name> and <insert name>?”

I didn’t know either of the names they said, and so I can’t remember them now; but in hindsight, and to speculate on the joke a couple of decades later, they probably said the name of two high-profile sportsmen who were in trouble over drugs in some way or another.

Other than my Dad (who bought the tape of the Doobie Brothers that became the soundtrack to our American holiday), that was the first time I ever heard anybody else mention the band. Because I didn’t understand the joke, I simply thought they were taking the piss out of the band, and so one of my first memories of rock music will be forever linked with somebody making fun of what I was listening to.

Maybe that’s why I never felt the need to listen to the same bands as everybody else. I really didn’t care if people liked the bands I was listening to – I was listening, not them! – and so that left me open to listen to a lot of bands that other people often saw – sometimes with good reason – as a joke.

When all my peers were listening to Oasis in 1994 and 1995, I proudly held my head high and carried on listening to Aerosmith and the like. In the sixth form common room, I’d listen to everybody argue over what album was better – Definitely Maybe or (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?  I’d put my headphones back on and carry on thinking about a far more important question – which album was better – Highway To Hell or Back In Black?

What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits has to be my favourite album title by the Doobs. I really can’t work out why this particular incarnation of the band was playing with two drummers – as shown on the album cover – but the album is as solid as The Captain And Me and Stampede on either side of it; and it’s always good to hear the Memphis Horns outside of a Stax album.

The Doobie Brothers’ first #1 hit single Black Water appears on this album, and while the rest of the album doesn’t match the strength of that song, it’s not a weak album by any respect. The one thing that really annoys me is the fact that some idiot at Warner Bros. Records decided to list the songs on the back cover in alphabetical order – not their running order. Maybe they were smoking something in the office that day…

Hit: Black Water

Hidden Gem: Flying Cloud

Rocks In The Attic #246: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Minute By Minute’ (1978)

RITA#246The last Doobies album to feature Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, and with Tom Johnston now a distant memory, this is really now Michael McDonald’s band. You can still hear the influence of Patrick Simmons (especially on the awesome Steamer Lane Breakdown), but his parts are usually absent from the MOR-tinged McDonald songs. It’s almost as though there are two bands at play – one band doing session work at the bidding of Michael McDonald, and another band trying their best to sound like the Doobie Brothers of days gone by.

Compared with their earlier albums, Minute By Minute is pretty average, but the cover is awesome. I’m a sucker for black and white album covers showing a warts ‘n all band photograph, and this is up there with the best of ‘em – almost as good as the inner gatefold photo of the mighty Floyd inside Meddle.

Of course, it’s nice to see Baxter on the cover for one last time. It should be a rule that all rock bands have to have somebody in their ranks with a handlebar moustache.

Hit: What A Fool Believes

Hidden Gem: Don’t Stop To Watch The Wheels

Rocks In The Attic #160: The Doobie Brothers – ‘Best Of The Doobies’ (1976)

In 1988, when I was 10, my parents and I went to the U.S. and Canada. We spent a week in Toronto, and then went on a road trip over the next fortnight. We drove down to Washington D.C., and then up to New York City, Plymouth, Boston, over the border into Montreal, and then back to Toronto.

During those two long, hot, stuffy weeks in a rental car, I was given a crash-course into good music. Not long after we set off, my Dad bought a double cassette of The Best Of The Doobies / The Best Of The Doobies Vol. 2 to play in the car, and this became the soundtrack for the holiday.

Up to that point, music hadn’t really found me. Michael Jackson had released Bad a year earlier in 1987, and although I liked that record – and all the hype surrounding it – I still felt like an outsider to music in general. The Doobie Brothers, strangely enough (for a 10-year old boy in 1988), were my way in.

I couldn’t really think of a better band to soundtrack an American road trip. Every night we stayed in a different motel, and I’d go and find the Pepsi machine and ice bin. Every meal was at a roadside diner, and we even ate at the sort of places that had tabletop jukebox machines, just like on the cover of this album.

I don’t know why, but although I continued to listen to The Doobs when I got home, I didn’t really bother looking for anything else to listen to. I think listening to this album rekindled my interest in Huey Lewis & The News, much to the amusement of Shaunee Lever, but essentially I was still too young to get into music big-time. That would happen a few years down the road.

To this day, I still haven’t been back to the USA, but you can bet that when I do I’ll be playing this album in our rental car.

Hit: Long Train Runnin’

Hidden Gem: Black Water

Rocks In The Attic #138: The Doobie Brothers – ‘The Doobie Brothers’ (1971)

Rocks In The Attic #138: The Doobie Brothers - ‘The Doobie Brothers’ (1971)I’ve always loved The Doobie Brothers because of Tom Johnston’s songwriting, but it wasn’t until I saw them live that I realised that Pat Simmons and his fingerpicking style is just as important to the band’s sound.

Simmons’ fingerpicking is most notable on their later hit single Black Water, but it’s all over this album. The interplay between what he brings to the table, together with Johnston’s voice and second guitar, really is the sound of The Doobie Brothers.

This debut is incredibly laid-back and it’s almost hard to believe that this band would go on to record some really big hits throughout the ‘70s. They almost sound too chilled-out to orchestrate anything as contrived as a pop single, and perhaps that’s more the influence of producer Ted Templeman than anything else.

Hit: Nobody

Hidden Gem: Chicago