THE DOOBIE BROTHERS-THE WARNER BROS. YEARS 1971-1983.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS-THE WARNER BROS. YEARS 1971-1983.
Between 1972 and 1980, The Doobie Brothers could do no wrong. They released eight albums, which sold in excess of ten million copies. It has been a roller coaster ride for The Doobie Brothers, whose recording career got off to an inauspicious start in 1971.
By then The Doobie Brothers had been a familiar face on the North California live scene. That had been the case since 1970. However, The Doobie Brothers’ roots can be traced to 1969.
That’s when drummer John Hartman made his way from Falls Church, Virginia, to Los Angeles. He was a man with a mission. John Hartman was determined to meet Skip Spence, Moby Grape’s legendary frontman.
John Hartman met Skip Spence, and was invited to join a newly reunited Moby Grape. That however, didn’t happen, At least Skiip Spence introduced John Hartman to a singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Johnson. Little did anyone realise, that The Doobie Brothers had just been born,
John Hartman and Tom Johnson began experimenting musically, and were soon playing live around the San Jose area as Pud. That’s where the two members of Pud singer, songwriter and guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren.
Patrick Simmons had played in a number of groups, including Scratch, which coincidentally, featured future Doobie Brothers’ bassist, Tiran Porter. Meanwhile, Dave Shogren was The Doobie Brothers bassist, as they began to make a name for themselves around North California.
Whenever and wherever The Doobie Brothers played live, the venues sold out. The Doobie Brothers were particularly popular amongst the local Hell’s Angel’s chapters. That’s not surprising,
At this time, The Doobie Brothers’s were no different from the Hell’s Angels who came to see them play live. They wore leather jackets and rode motorbikes. This would change quite quickly, when The Doobie Brothers signed to Warner Bros. and released their eponymous debut album. It’s one of ten albums in The Doobie Brothers’ box set, The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983, which was recently released by Warner Bros. The ten disc box set documents what’s undoubtably, the best period of The Doobie Brothers’ career. It began in 1971 with the release of their debut album, The Doobie Brothers.
The Doobie Brothers.
Having established themselves on the North California live circuit, The Doobie Brothers quickly came to the attention of several record companies. Eventually, it was Warner Bros. who signed The Doobie Brothers in the second half of 1970. They didn’t waste time, and sent The Doobie Brothers into the studio on October 1970.
The four members of The Doobie Brothers were ready to begin work on what would be their debut album, The Doobie Brothers.
Unlike many groups, The Doobie Brothers had two songwriters, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons. However, for their debut album The Doobie Brothers, Tom Johnston penned seven of the ten tracks and Patrick Simmons just one. The other two songs were a cover Randy Newman’s Beehive State, and the traditional song Chicago. These ten tracks were recorded at Pacific Recording Studios, San Mateo, California.
Recording of The Doobie Brothers took place during October and Novmber of 1970. Warner Bros. had high hopes for their latest signing, so brought onboard Lenny Waronker and Ted Templeman to coproduce The Doobie Brothers. They would guide the four members of The Doobie Brothers through the recording of their eponymous debut album. This was unchartered territory for them.
Tom Johnston took charge of lead vocals, and played guitar, piano, harp and harmonica. Guitarist Patrick Simmons joined drummer John Hartman and bassist Dave Shogren in the rhythm section. However, Dave Shogren was more than a bassist. He played keyboards, organ and like the rest of The Doobie Brothers added backing vocals on The Doobie Brothers. It was released in April 1974.
Before that, critics had their say on The Doobie Brothers.With its country tinged sound and chugging guitars, The Doobie Brothers was described as country boogie, albeit with a hint of laid-back A.O.R. and rock. Reviews were mixed, ranging from disappointing to approving. Some critics felt that The Doobie Brothers were on the right lines with their fusion of country and rock, but that it would take two or three albums to hone and polish their sound. That proved to be the case.
Nobody was chosen as the lead single from The Doobie Brothers, but failed to chart in 1971. Neither did Travelin’ Man nor Beehive State. However, when Nobody was reissued in 1974, it reached number fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100. After the disappointment of Nobody, The Doobie Brothers, was released in April 1971. It stalled at 208 in the US Billboard 200. This was doubly disappointing for The Doobie Brothers. However, things would get better.
After the release of The Doobie Brothers, bassist Dave Shogren left the band. His replacement was Tiran Porter, who had been a member of Scratch with Patrick Simmons. This wasn’t the only new addition to The Doobie Brothers’ lineup.
For some time, The Doobie Brothers had been considering adding a second drummer to the lineup. Eventually, former Vietnam veteran Michael Hossack was chosen to augment John Hartman. And now, there were five, as work began on Toulouse Street.
Just like their eponymous debut album, Toulouse Street Tom Johnson wrote and Patrick Simmons penned the majority of the ten tracks. Tom Johnson wrote five songs, and Patrick Simmons two. The other three tracks were cover versions, including Seals and Croft’s Cotton Mouth, Arthur Reid Reynold’s Jesus Is Just Alright and Sonny Boy Willaimson’s Don’t Start Me Talkin’. These tracks were recorded in two top studios during 1972.
Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood and Wally Heider Studios, in San Francisco were where The Doobie Brothers new lineup recorded Toulhouse Street. Augmenting the five Doobie Brothers were a horn section, while producer Rod Templeman added percussion. Gradually, a very different album to The Doobie Brothers took shape. It was scheduled for release on July 1st 1972.
Prior to the release of Toulouse Street, critics received their advance copies of the album. When they dropped the needle on Toulouse Street, they heard a slice of classic rock. Tracks like Listen To The Music, Rockin’ Down The Highway and Jesus Is Just Alright convinced the doubters.
Those who were critical of The Doobie Brothers were won over. Even the Rolling Stone, which didn’t dish out praise lightly, gave Toulouse Street a favourable review. Unsurprisingly, the self-appointed dean of American critics, Robert Christgau, wasn’t particularly impressed. However, he very rarely was. He should’ve been.
When Toulouse Street was released on 1st July 1972, it eventually reached twenty-one on the US Billboard 200, and was certified platinum. Helping sales of Toulouse Street was the lead single Listen To The Music. It was released on 17th July 1972, and reached number eleven on the US Billboard 100. Jesus Is Just Alright was released in November 1972, but reached thirty-five in the US Billboard 100. The only disappointment was when Rockin’ Down The Highway failed to chart. By then, The Doobie Brothers were enjoying their first million selling album. This was the first of many.
The Captain And Me.
Following the success of Toulouse Street, The Doobie Brothers headed out on tour. They were about to settle into the routine where they record an album, promote the album and then tour it. So, when they weren’t touring Toulouse Street, the Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood was a second home for The Doobie Brothers.
Time was of the essence. The pressure was on The Doobie Brothers to record their third album quickly. Having just released a million selling album, Warner Bros. wanted to strike while the iron was hot. So when The Doobie Brothers arrived a the Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood they began looking to the past for inspiration.
The Doobie Brothers were just the latest band to look to the blues for inspiration. That’s how one of the six tracks that Tom Johnston wrote came about. He started improvising, and then producer Ted Templeman suggested that Tom Johnston make the lyrics about a train. Gradually, Long Train Runnin’ took shape. That was the first future Doobie Brothers’ classic Tom Johnson penned for The Captain And Me. The other was China Grove. Not to be outdone, Patrick Simmons contributed three songs or The Captain And Me.
They were Clear as the Driven Snow, South City Midnight Lady, and Evil Woman. Without You was credited to The Doobie Brothers. The other track on The Captain And Me was Busted Down Around O’Connelly Corner, a James Earl Luft composition. These eleven tracks were recorded at Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood with a few session players augmenting The Doobie Brothers.
This time around, there was no horn section. Instead, Jeff Baxter played pedal steel and steel guitar, while Bill Payne played keyboards,organ and piano. A first was the use of synths strings, which were arranged by Nick DeCaro. Producer Ted Templeman added percussion, on what would be The Doobie Brothers’ third album in three years, The Captain And Me. It was due for release on March 2nd 1973.
Just before the release of The Captain And Me, the reviews of the album were published. Most of the reviews were favourable, and were impressed by what was essentially classic rock with a bluesy twist. However, not everyone was won over by The Captain And Me. One of the exceptions was Rolling Stone magazine. However, most critics realised that The Doobie Brothers were maturing into one of the biggest names in music.
When The Doobie Brothers was released two years earlier, some critics had forecast that it would take The Doobie Brothers two to three albums to hone and polish their sound. This proved to be the case. Tom Johnson and Patrick Simmons were maturing into talented songwriters. Meanwhile, The Doobie Brothers were a tight, talented band who wrote music that appealed to a wide range of record buyers.
Over two million copies of The Captain And Me were eventually sold. The album reached number seven in the US Billboard 200, and was certified double-platinum. Long Train Runnin’ was the lead single from The Captain And Me. It reached number nine in the US Billboard 100, and became The Doobie Brothers’ biggest single. China Grove then reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100. For The Doobie Brothers, The Captain And Me had been the most successful album of their career. Now it was a case of doing it all over again.
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.
There was no rest for The Doobie Brothers. Having released The Captain And Me, they embarked upon another tour. Then when they weren’t on tour, they were writing and recording their fourth album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.
Given their gruelling schedule, The Doobie Brothers hadn’t the time they would have liked to hone songs. Instead, some of the songs were written or completed in the studio. Principal songwriter Tom Johnston penned six tracks, and cowrote Road Angel with John Hartman, Michael Hossack and Tiran Porter. He also contributed Flying Cloud. Patrick Simmons wrote Black Water, You Just Can’t Stop It, Tell Me What You Want (And I’ll Give You What You Need) and Daughters Of The Sea. These twelve tracks were recorded at three studios.
Recording took place not just at Warner Bros. Studios, North Hollywood, but at Wally Helder Studios, San Francisco and Burbank Studios, in Burbank. Augmenting The Doobie Brothers were The Mempis Horns and backing vocals. Familiar faces included Jeff Baxter on pedal steel and steel guitar, while Bill Payne played keyboards, organ and piano. As usual, Ted Templeman added percussion and more importantly produced What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. It was scheduled for release on 1st February 1974.
This meant that The Doobie Brothers were about to release two albums in eleven months. When critics heard What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, reviews were mixed. Classic rock, bluegrass, country, soft rock and A.O.R. shawn through on What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. There was a but though.
Gone was the overwhelming critical acclaim that accompanied their last two albums. Although some reviews were positive, some critics felt What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits lacked the quality of Toulhouse Street and The Captain And Me. Rolling Stone magazine and Robert Christgau were among the fiercest critics. This time, though, they were alone. A few critics wondered aloud of The Doobie Brothers were releasing too many albums in too short a space of time? Only time, and album sales would tell.
When What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, was released, the AOR boom was about to begin. Especially amongst the generation who had just graduated university and had entered the workplace for the first time. With their disposable income, they bought albums by groups like The Doobie Brothers. As a result, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits reached number four in the US Billboard 200, and was certified double-platinum. Across the Atlantic, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits reached nineteen in Britain. This resulted in a silver disc for The Doobie Brothers. However, this wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Another Park, Another Sunday reached number thirty-two in the US Billboard 100 in 1974. Eyes of Silver stalled at number fifty-two in the US Billboard 100. If The Doobie Brothers or executives at Warner Bros. were worried, they needn’t have been. Black Water, with its bluegrass influence gave The Doobie their first number one on the US Billboard 100. Despite the disappointing reviews, 1974 had been the most successful year of their four album career. All they had to do, was do it again.
Just seven months after the release of What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, The Doobie Brothers returned to the studio on 9th September 1974. When they arrived, they had a new recruit, Jeff Baxter. He had played played pedal steel and steel guitar on the last couple of Doobie Brothers’ albums. Now he was a permanent fixture. Five Doobie Brothers become six.
Right through to October the 6th 1974, it seemed that The Doobie Brothers were on a tour of some of America’s top recording studios. Warner Bros. Studios, North Hollywood, Wally Helder Studios, San Francisco and Burbank Studios, in Burbank were all used. So was The Record Plant in Sausalito, California and Creative Workshop in Nashville. These five studios were where The Doobie Brothers released the most eclectic album of their career so far, Stampede.
This became apparent when The Doobie Brothers covered Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While). Their other cover was the instrumental Précis. The rest of Stampede came courtesy of The Doobie Brothers’ two main songwriters. Tom Johnson only penned four tracks for Stampede, and cowrote Sweet Maxime with Patrick Simmons. He wrote four tracks, and was beginning to rival Tom Johnson as The Doobie Brothers’ principal songwriters. This was just as well.
Things were about to change for The Doobie Brothers. Onlookers who watched the recording of Stampede weren’t surprised. The Doobie Brothers took excursions via country rock, folk and sadly, funk. Guest artists included guitar virtuosos Ry Cooder, singer Maria Muldaur, pianist and marimba player Victor Feldman, percussionist Bobbye Hall and backing vocalists Sherlie Matthews and Venetta Fields. Horns and strings were over-dubbed onto what was an ambitious album from The Doobie Brothers.
Once The Doobie Brothers had finished recording Stampede with producer Ted Templeman, the release date was confirmed as April 25th 1975. However, there was a problem though.
As 1974 drew to a close, Tom Johnson’s health was suffering. Years spent on the road, carousing and enjoying the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle had taken its toll. He was absent when The Doobie Brothers played on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. The other members of The Doobie Brothers, and executives at Warner Bros. were worried. Tom Johnson played a huge role in the rise and rise of The Doobie Brothers.
By the spring of 1975, things had taken a turn for the worst. Tom Johnston had been hospitalised with a bleeding ulcer. This left a huge void. Jeff Baxter however, had a solution.
Jeff Baxter had first met Michael McDonald when the pair were playing with Steely Dan. Michael McDonald was a keyboardist and vocalist. His whose style is best described as ‘blue-eyed soul’. This was who Jeff Baxter suggested should replace Tom Johnston on the Stampede promotional tour.
Eventually, it was agreed that Michael McDonald join The Doobie Brothers, and Tom Johnston’s vocal and guitar duties be shared out. Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald, Tiran Porter andKeith Knudsen would share vocals. Jeff Baxter and Patrick Simmons would play Tom Johnston’s guitar parts. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the only alternative to postponing the tour. That wasn’t going to happen. Warner Bros. had Stampede scheduled for release on April 25th 1975.
When critics heard Stampede, they were won over by what was the most eclectic album of The Doobie Brothers’ five album career. Critically acclaimed reviews preceded the release of Stampede.
On Stampede’s release, it reached number four on the US Billboard 200. This was The Doobie Brothers’ highest chart placing. Despite this, Stampede was only certified gold. In Britain, Stampede reached fourteen and was certified silver. Stampede hadn’t proved as commercially successful in America as The Doobie Brothers’ last two albums. Maybe the singles could save the day?
Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), which featured Tom Johnson reinventing Holland, Dozier, Holland’s reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100. Sweet Maxine reached just number forty in the US Billboard 100. That was disappointing. So was I Cheat the Hangman stalling at number sixty in the US Billboard 100. Although Stampede had been certified gold, 1975 was proving a disappointing and worrying year for The Doobie Brothers.
Takin’ It to the Streets.
After the release of Stampede, The Doobie Brothers’ thoughts turned to their sixth album. Tom Johnston was still unwell, suffering from stomach ulcers. Things had got so bad, that shows were cancelled, and Tom Johnston’s involvement was reduced. At one point, the rest of The Doobie Brothers considered calling time on the band. They were only contracted to Warner Bros. until 1976. Michael McDonald, Tom Johnston’s temporary replacement, was merely a stopgap.
Michael McDonald was between bands when The Doobie Brothers came calling. He was living in a garage apartment. The vocalist wasn’t really the accomplished keyboardist The Doobie Brothers wanted. They wanted someone that could seamlessly switch between Hammond organ and various other keyboards. That didn’t describe Michael McDonald. However, Michael McDonald had one thing going for him, he was a singer.
The Doobie Brothers met Michael McDonald at Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans. They spoke with him, and then took him to a warehouse to rehearse for two days. To all intents and purposes, he was auditioning for The Doobie Brothers’ sixth album Takin’ It to the Streets.
Eventually, The Doobie Brothers decided to bring Michael McDonald onboard for the recording of Takin’ It to the Streets. This worried Warner Bros. After all, Michael McDonald was an unknown singer, who was about to become the lead singer of one of the biggest selling American bands. Now there were seven.
With The Doobie Brothers’ number swelling to seven, and their principal songwriter sidelined, it was all hands on deck. Tom Johnston only wrote Turn It Loose, which he played the guitar on. Patrick Simmons wrote 8th Avenue Shuffle and cowrote two tracks, including Wheels of Fortune, which Tom Johnston added the lead vocal to. However, Michael McDonald contributed Takin’ It To The Streets, Losin’ End, It Keeps You Runnin’ and cowrote Carry Me Away. Quickly, the unknown singer was making his presence felt, as recording began at Warner Brothers Studios, in North Hollywood.
As the recording began, producer Ted Templeman was faced with recording an album without the most talented member of The Doobie Brothers. While Tom Johnston featured on two tracks, he was a huge loss. Michael McDonald had a hard act to follow. He tried his best, adding vocals on seven songs. Tiran Porter featured on For Someone Special. Vocalist Maria Muldaur featured on Rio. Just like previous albums, The Memphis Horns add their inimitable sound. However, Takin’ It To The Streets was a very different The Doobie Brothers album.
Critics realised this straight away. Reviews of Takin’ It To The Streets varied. Some were mixed, a few favourable and some positive. However, one thing became clear, Michael McDonald was a very different type of vocalist. He interpreted the songs in a different way. His blue-eyed soul was very different to Tom Johnston, who was key to the success of The Doobie Brothers. His loss was felt on Takin’ It To The Streets, an album of classic rock, blue-eyed soul and A.O.R.
Despite the loss of Tom Johnston, when Takin’ It To The Streets was released in March 1976, it reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a platinum disc for The Doobie Brothers. Takin’ It To The Streets reached just forty-two in Britain, but was certified silver. However, only line of singles reached the upper reaches of the US Billboard 100.
Takin’ It To The Streets reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. Then Wheels of Fortune stalled at number eighty-seven. It Keeps You Runnin’ reached just number thirty-seven. However, despite this, 1976, which was the last year of The Doobie Brothers; Warner Bros.’ contract had been a successful one. However, what did the future hold for them?
Livin’ On The Fault Line.
Having resigned to Warner Bros., The Doobie Brothers began working on their seventh album, Livin’ On The Fault Line. Tom Johnston was newly restored to The Doobie Brothers’ lineup…for the time being.
Tom Johnston had written five songs for Livin’ On The Fault Line. He was restored to his rightful role as The Doobie Brothers’ principal songwriter. The Doobie Brothers had recorded these five tracks, which should’ve become half of their seventh album, Livin’ On The Fault Line. However, all wasn’t well.
During the Livin’ On The Fault Line sessions, Tom Johnston left The Doobie Brothers. His songs were removed from the album. However, his guitar lines and some vocals can be heard. Without Tom Johnston’s songs, The Doobie Brothers were almost starting again.
Eventually, when Livin’ On The Fault Line was ready for release, one name loomed large, Michael McDonald. He wrote two songs and cowrote another two. Patrick Simmons only cowrote three songs, and cowrote Echoes of Love which Willie Mitchell and Earl Randle cowrote for Al Green. The song was never quite finished though, until Patrick Simmons intervened. Along with Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Little Darling (I Need You) and Tiran Porter’s Need A Lady, these ten tracks became Livin’ On The Fault Line.
Again, it was recorded in various studios, including Sunset Sound Recorders and Western Recorders in Hollywood. Other sessions took place in Warner Bros. Recording Studios, North Hollywood. Overseeing the sessions, was producer Ted Templeman. He ensured that Livin’ On The Fault Line was ready for release on August 19th 1977.
Livin’ On The Fault Line wasn’t as well received as many Doobie Brothers’ albums. Reviews were mixed, varying between mixed to favourable and positive. Some critics however, weren’t won over by Livin’ On The Fault Line’s jazzy hue. What would record buyers think?
When Livin’ On The Fault Line was released, it reached number ten on the US Billboard 200. This was enough for the album to be certified gold. That was as good as it got.
The lead single, Little Darlin’ I Need You reached just forty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Then Echoes of Love stalled at a lowly sixty-six in the US Billboard 100. Some critics felt Tom Johnson, who cofounded The Doobie Brothers, was a big loss.
Minute By Minute.
This forecast by some critics would prove ironic. On December 1st 1978, The Doobie Brothers would release the most successful album of their career, Minute By Minute.
For the first album of the post Tom Johnson era, Michael McDonald played a big part in writing Minute By Minute. He penned Here To Love You, and penned What A Fool Believes with Kenny Loggins. He wasn’t finished. Michael McDonald and Lester Abrams cowrote Minute By Minute. The pair also cowrote Open Your Eyes with Patrick Henderson. How Do the Fools Survive? was a Michael McDonald composition with Carole Bayer Sager. Then Michael McDonlad cowrote Dependin’ On You with Patrick Simmons. However, he wasn’t being sidelined.
Patrick Simmons wrote Steamer Lane and You Never Change. He also cowrote Sweet Feelin’ with producer Ted Templeman. These songs became part of Minute By Minute, which was recorded at Warner Bros. Recording Studios, North Hollywood.
For the recording of Minute By Minute, The Doobie Brothers were joined by season players and backing vocalists. This includes backing vocalist Nicolette Larson. Michael Jackson also claimed to have added backing vocals on What a Fool Believes, Here to Love You and Minute by Minute. However, he wasn’t credited on the album when it was released on December 1st 1978.
Before the release of Minute By Minute, the reviews were mixed. Critics were divided by the mixture of A.O.R., blue-eyed soul and soft rock. However, record buyers loved Minute By Minute.
When Minute By Minute was released, it reached number one on the US Billboard 200 charts. Three million copies of Minute By Minute were sold, and the album was certified platinum three times over. Across the border, Minute By Minute was certified platinum in Canada. This was just the start of the success.
The lead single from Minute By Minute, What A Fool Believes reached number one on the US Billboard 100 charts in 1980. Minute By Minute reached number fourteen on the US Billboard 100 charts. Then Depending On You reached number twenty-five on the US Billboard 100 charts. That hardly mattered. One of the most prestigious awards in music was tantalisingly close…The Grammy Awards.
When the Grammy Awards’ nominations were released, The Doobie Brothers and Minute by Minute were were nominated four times. Michael McDonald and Kenning Loggins had penned What A Fool Believes. This won them a Grammy Award for the Record of the Year. Minute By Minute then won a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year. Both Minute By Minute and What A Fool Believes were nominated for the Song of the Year. Ultimately, What A Fool Believes won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. That took The Doobie Brothers toll of Grammy Awards to three. 1980 had been the most successful year of The Doobie Brothers’ ten year career. However, there was a twist in the tale.
One Step Closer,
After the success of Minute By Minute, The Doobie Brothers literally fell apart. The near dissolution of The Doobie Brothers was spun by P.R. men as the constant years of touring and recording catching up on the band. However, another explanation was the addition of Michael McDonald.
Since Michael McDonald had been rescued from the penury of his garage flat, the band had changed, and necessary for the better. One of founder members, Tim Johnston had left The Doobie Brothers. Next to leave was guitarist Jeff Baxter. He
clashed with Michael McDonald, who didn’t approve of his avant garde guitar parts. This Michael McDonald felt didn’t suit The Doobie Brothers. It seemed the one time session player was now dictating The Doobie Brothers’ musical direction. Soon, other members of The Doobie Brothers decided to leave.
Drummer John Hartman, another founding member of The Doobie Brothers left the band. So did longtime guitarist Jeff Baxter and percussionist Bobby LaKind. However, Michael McDonald remained.
Patrick Simmons watched as another of the second of the founding members of The Doobie Brothers left. It seemed ten years playing together counted for little. This meant Patrick Simmons and Tiran Porter were the last original member of The Doobie Brothers left. It was a sad day.
Despite this, The Doobie Brothers continued. They were scheduled to embark on a lucrative tour. So the remaining members of The Doobie Brothers headed out on tour.
This included Patrick Simmons, Tiran Porter and Michael McDonald. They were joined by Keith Knudsen. Augmenting them quwere drummer Chet McCracken, guitarist and violinist John Mc Fee and one-time Moby Grape saxophonist and flautist Cornelius Bumpus. They headed out on the lucrative tour, then in 1980, began recording One Step Closer.
When The Doobie Brothers regrouped, to record One Step Closer, producer Ted Templeman was greeted by a very different group to the one that recorded a triple-platinum album that won a trio of Grammy Awards. The Doobie Brothers were a pale shadow of its former self. It wasn’t going to be easy to record an album as successful as Minute By Minute.
For One Step Closer, Michael McDonald wrote Keep This Train A-Rollin’ and cowrote another four tracks. This included “No Stoppin’ Us Now, which Chris Thompson and Patrick Simmons cowrote. Patrick Simmons also wrote Just in Time. Other members of The Doobie Brothers contributed tracks. Cornelius Bumpus penned Thank You Love. Chester McCracken cowrote with John McFee. He cowrote One Step Closer with Keith Knudson and Carlene Carter. These ten tracks would become The Doobie Brothers ninth studio album, One Step Closer.
Again, various studios were used from L.A. to New York and Detroit. Sessions took place at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood. Nearby, Warner Brothers Studio in North Hollywood was a favourite place for The Doobie Brothers. Other sessions were recorded at United Sound Recorders in Detroit, and A & R Recorders in New York. At the four studios, ten tracks took shape. They were recorded by The Doobie Brothers, a horn section and backing vocalists, including Nicolette Larson. Once the ironically titled One Step Closer was finished, so was the first chapter in The Doobie Brothers’ career.
Before that, One Step Closer was reviewed by critics. They weren’t impressed with what was the worst album of The Doobie Brothers’ nine album career. Reviews were far from positive. One Step Closer didn’t sound a cohesive album. That wasn’t surprising as The Doobie Brothers were now augmented by session musicians. Good as they were, they weren’t as invested in the project. For them, it was another project. However, despite the disappointing reviews, One Step Closer proved a popular album.
On its release on September 17th 1980, One Step Closer surprisingly reached number three on the US Billboard 200, and number thirty-one on the US R&B charts. This resulted in another platinum album for The Doobie Brothers. However, maybe a lot of record buyers bought One Step Closer looking for another album like Minute By Minute. They would be disappointed. There were no singles like What A Fool Believes.
The closest thing was Real Love, which reached number five in the US Billboard 100. One Step Closer then reached twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. Keep This Train A-Rollin’ proved an ironic title, when it reached a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. The end was nigh for The Doobie Brothers.
After the release of One Step Closer, The Doobie Brothers continued to tour during the rest of 1980 and 1981. However, gradually, the band fell apart.
Towards the end of 1981, Patrick Simmons left the band. This meant that there were no original members of The Doobie Brothers left in the lineup. Calling the band The Doobie Brothers would’ve been farcical. By then, Michael McDonald had one eye on a solo career. So the remaining ‘members’ of The Doobie Brothers called tine on the once proud band. In the end it was a mercy killing. Maybe it should’ve happened much sooner?
Back in 1975, when Tom Johnston was having medical problems, maybe that was the time to call time on The Doobie Brothers? However, the band was at the peak of their powers, and were signed to Warner Bros. for one more year. They were caught between a rock and hard place. If they had called time on The Doobie Brothers in 1975, the band’s identity would’ve remained intact. Instead, The Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald became a very different type of band, and one that even today, divides the opinion of critics. That’s the case with The Doobie Brothers’ first live album Farewell Tour.
When the seventeen track Farewell Tour was released in June 1983, it was the case for the prosecution. Farewell Tour showed what The Doobie Brothers had become. They were a blue-eyed soul band, which was a long way from the guitar driven boogie of the Tom Johnston years. Fittingly, Tom Johnston has the final say on Farewell Tour.
He closes Farewell Tour with Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove. Tom Johnston also features on Slippery St. Paul, from The Doobie Brothers. It’s a tantalising taste of The Doobie Brothers before their rough edges were smoothed away. It was a reminder of what The Doobie Brothers had once been.
On the release of Farewell Tour, it reached a lowly seventy-nine on the US Billboard 200. The single You Belong To Me reached just seventy-nine on the US Billboard 100. It looked like The Doobie Brothers’ time was up.
They had had a good run. Between 1971s The Doobie Brothers and 1983s Farewell Tour, the group had sold eleven million albums in America alone. These ten albums, which feature in The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983, which was recently released by Warner Bros, feature the most successful period of The Doobie Brothers’ career.
The Doobie Brothers reformed and hit the comeback trail several times, releasing five albums between 1989 and 2014. However, commercial success only visited them once more. That was their tenth studio album Cycles, reached seventeen in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. 1991s Brotherhood failed to match the commercial success of Cycles, reaching a lowly eighty-two on US Billboard 200. Sibling Rivalry released in 2000, failed to chart. Ten years later, The Doobie Brothers released World Gone Crazy, which reached thirty-nine in the US Billboard 200. Then Southbound, which was released in 2014, saw The Doobie Brothers reach eighteen in the US Billboard 200. However, by then, no longer did a group need to sell 500,000 copies to reach the top twenty. In a way, it was a Pyrrhic victory.
By 2014, the best and most successful years of The Doobie Brothers were long behind them. The best and successful years of The Doobie Brothers will mean different things to different people. That will depend if you prefer the guitar driven boogie of the Tom Johnston years, or the blue-eyed soul of the Michael McDonald years. Both feature on The Doobie Brothers’ ten disc box set, The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983, which is the definitive collection of The Doobie Brothers.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS-THE WARNER BROS. YEARS 1971-1983.
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- Tagged: Livin' On The Fault Line, Michael McDonald, Minute By Minute, One Step Closer, Patrick Simmons, Stampede, Takin' It to the Streets, The Captain And Me, The Doobie Brothers, The Warner Bros. Years 1971-1983, Tom Johnson, Toulhouse Street, Warner Bros, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits