Do You Believe in Retro?

The episode became a blotch on the band's sunny image. Antiestablishment sentiment ran high in 1966, and the Lovin' Spoonful was branded as a group of finks in the music press. Only Ralph Gleason, the legendary pop critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, defended their actions. To this day Boone wonders if the fallout from the drug bust has prevented the Lovin' Spoonful from being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"It was a situation none of us was proud of," Boone says frankly. "By the time it got into general circulation the story had ballooned to proportions that were just unimaginable. So the only thing you could say was nothing. You just made it worse by commenting. I think Zally felt really bad, and I know I felt bad. When I look back at it, it was just a minor blip on the radar screen, but people chose to make it otherwise."

Boone began to feel increasingly estranged from the hippie movement. The underground press at the time -- mostly upstart publications like the Berkeley Barb and the L.A. Free Press -- was stridently left-wing and vehemently antiwar. "I was very turned off by what appeared to me to be a very rigid culture of idealism," Boone recalls. "I thought, 'This is music, guys, this ain't politics.' I got into this because I like to dance, I like to write songs about going out with girls and having fun, and stuff like that. I didn't get into this because I'm a political commentator."

So he got out. After spending three years in the Caribbean, he moved to Baltimore and, along with his friend John Armour (heir to the Armour meat fortune), set up a recording studio on a renovated houseboat in that city's harbor. Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Earth, Wind and Fire recorded there. On Christmas Day 1977, while Boone and Armour were out of town, the bilge pumps gave out and the boat sank halfway underwater, saturating the equipment and the tape library. That was the end of the studio business for Boone.

In 1980 Paul Simon asked the Lovin' Spoonful to make a cameo performance in his low-budget film One Trick Pony. The band members had already turned down million-dollar offers from promoters to do reunion tours, but a brief get-together sounded appealing. Simon rented a hotel in the Catskills, paid the band $400 per day during filming, and invited a few hundred music-business insiders to serve as the "audience." For the occasion the Lovin' Spoonful performed its very first Top 10 hit, "Do You Believe in Magic."

The concert helped thaw out the chill between some of the band members. Boone elaborates: "But we could never quite find the time, or the resolve, to get the band together and say, 'Look, this is silly. Other bands do it. They make an album every two or three years. Some are successful, some aren't. But let's take a crack at it.' I always felt that we were really missing an opportunity here, you know? None of us, in our solo careers, has done spectacularly.... We did okay. So I always felt there was some unfinished business with the group."

That was certainly true financially. For more than twenty years the Spoonful received no royalties on record sales. The money lost is impossible to estimate accurately. For two decades the band's master tapes were passed from company to company; as each company was sold (or went bankrupt), the band found that it could not collect royalties. It wasn't until 1991, after the band hired a high-powered lawyer, that the domino effect was halted and the current distributor of the Lovin' Spoonful's product, Essex Entertainment, promised to pay future royalties.

Encouraged, Boone tried to get the band back together, but Yanovsky and Sebastian declined. Throughout the Nineties, Boone has toured with Jerry Yester on guitar, Joe Butler on vocals, new drummer Mike Arturi, and Yester's daughter Lena on keyboards. Boone has been collaborating with Lena on some new songs (and dusting off old ones he wrote during his sailing years) for Spoonlight. This month the Lovin' Spoonful will be on the road playing its old hits, and Boone has already scheduled a meeting with Bob Cavallo, the newly appointed chairman of the Walt Disney Music Group, to discuss Spoonlight.

Whether Boone and company can find a place among neofolkies such as Dan Bern, Ani DiFranco, and Jewel remains to be seen. "I think the timing is really right for us to be doing this," Boone maintains. "We were very fortunate to have seven Top 10 singles in a row. Our names are still familiar to younger people thanks to oldies radio. There's a lot of good will for the band.

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