Saturday, March 29, 2014

John Sebastian - Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian

If you know of any work of John Sebastian at all it is because you likely remember the song "Welcome Back" that he penned for the late 1970's TV Series "Wecome Back Kotter."  If you distinctly remember John Sebastian you are probably a love child of the 1960's who immediately recognizes him as songwriter and founding member of the good time pop band The Lovin' Spoonful that is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and as a soloist who sang at Woodstock.   If you were born in the 1980's, or had young children in the 80's, you heard Sebastian's most bizarre work - songs for the Care Bear movie trilogy. (If you are a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fan you may know that Sebastian played harmonica on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Deja Vu album.)

The Lovin' Spoonful reeled off hit after hit in response to the British Invasion - "Do You Believe In Magic?", "Summer In The City", "Daydream", "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?", "Younger Girl", just to name a few of them. Then, in 1967 band member Zal Yanovsky was busted for pot and faced deportation if he didn't finger his dealer. To save his rear Yanovsky snitched, left the band and was replaced, but not before the hit machine started to implode.

In 1968 Sebastian embarked upon a solo career.  Although he continued to perform his Lovin' Spoonful hits, his music took on a much more early rock and blues flavor.  His early 70's musical performances are the least commercial of his career.  He decided to play music that spoke to him.  I first heard Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian through a cheap automotive stereo 8 track player in a friend's 1973 Ford Pinto Country Squire Station Wagon that had a Heineken beer tap for a stick shift knob. The 1971 solo live album spoke to me and to the three buddies who I accompanied as we cruised Pacific Coast Highway.

This was a different, gritty John Sebastian, even when he sang Lovin' Spoonful songs.  He dug deep into the roots song book.  Along with his hits he pulled out tunes by Jimmie Rodgers, Leadbelly, Carl Perkins, even The Five Satins.  The album spotlights a more country folk blues Sebastian with a love of early roots rock.

When Sebastian sang "Younger Generation", as he did at Woodstock, Sebastian encapsulated the entire relationship between fathers and mothers and their teenage sons and daughters for my generation:

Why must every generation think their folks are square?
And no matter where they're heads are, they know mom's aint there.
Cause' I swore when I was small, that I'd remember when,
I knew what's wrong with them, that I was smaller than.

Determined to remember all the cardinal rules.
Like, sunshowers are legal grounds, for cutting school.
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two.
And I hope that I recall them all before the baby's due.
And I'll know he'll have a question or two.

Like, hey pop. Can I go ride my zoom?
It goes two hundred miles an hour, suspended on balloons.
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue?
And imagine puffing dragons, while you sit and wreck your lungs.
And I must be permissive, understanding of the younger generation.

And then I know that all I've learned, my kid assumes.
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons.
And still I'll try to tell him all the things I've done,
relating to what he can do when he becomes a man.
And still he'll stick his fingers in the fan.

And hey pop, my girlfriend's only three.
She's got her own videophone,
and she's taking LSD.
And now that were best friends, she want's to give a bit to me.
But what's the matter daddy? How come you're turning green?
Can it be that you can't live up to your dreams?

The energy of a passionate performer is captured on Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. The album ends with "Good Night Irene".  To this day that is the version I hear in my mind when the song is mentioned. I have come to believe there is a reason for that.  Listen to John Sebastian on this live album, truly listen.  There is affection in his voice for every song he performs.  The album exudes his love for the music and it is infectious.  It makes you feel good.  That is one reason I continue to listen to this 40 year old live country folk roots rock album .  Another, it is just that damn good.

- Old School


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