Welcome back – John Sebastian

On Friday, my wife and I had a real treat as we watched John Sebastian perform in a wonderful venue. If his name is not top of mind, he was the lead singer and songwriter for Lovin’ Spoonful. And, one of his hits following the band’s break-up was called “Welcome back.” More on that later.

What made Sebastian’s performance so wonderful extended beyond his many great songs. He told us the backstory behind each song, at times revealing the musical influences, referring to his use of other styles as his “kleptomania.”

And, while his 75 year-old voice was not as velvety as before, his guitar playing was surprisingly superb. He exhibited various styles ranging from Mississippi John Hurt to several folk musicians to a Martha and the Vandellas song and a specific guitar riff called the St. Louis shuffle.

Sebastian performed many of his hits, as well as some of those artists who influenced him. Of his hits, he played (a little vignette he shared is in parentheses) the following:

– Do you believe in magic? (he sped up the notes in Dancin’ in the Street”)

– Daydream (this is one of my favorites and he invited the audience to accentuate it)

– You didn’t have to be so nice (Steve Boone wrote the bass line and Sebastian took it from there saying it took 15 minutes to complete it as Boone did far more than a bass line)

– Summer in the City (he said they played the drum part in the stairwell for a unique sound)

– Darling be home soon (this is a classic love song which was terrific in the small venue)

– Did you ever have to make up your mind? (he wrote the lyrics on a Lucky Strike wrapper in a taxi on the way to record it)

– You’re a big boy now (theme song for a Frances Ford Coppola movie)

– Amy’s Theme (an instrumental he thought up in a Grand Central Station restroom, then forgot it and went back to recall the tune)

– She’s a lady (not the Tom Jones’ one)

– Welcome back (he wrote it overnight to the surprise of the “Welcome back Kotter” TV producers, saying he was one of those students portrayed on the show)

Here is a taste of two song lyrics with the title of each in the first line:

“My darling be home soon
I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
My darling be home soon
It’s not just these few hours but I’ve been waiting since I toddled
For the great relief of having you to talk to”

“Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about”

Please do visit or revisit his many songs. Whether they are along with his Spoonful mates – Boone, Zal Yanovsky, Joe Butler and Jerry Yester – or on his own, they are a treat.

14 thoughts on “Welcome back – John Sebastian

  1. Note to Readers: A Spoonful song Sebastian did not sing is “Nashville Cats.” My guess is the song hinged on multiple harmonies and overlays, so it would not sound as well solo. Before he sang “Summer in the City,” he teased that it would be daring to play such a complex song with a lone guitar. Then, he noted you have given me confidence to try, what he intended all along.

    • David, so true. The storytelling made the show even more. He was very funny in a self-deprecating way. His story about the band being booked at a Strippers Club in San Francisco by mistake was hilarious, but was made even funnier when the lead stripper chastised them for their poor accentuation of her dancing.

      Yet, his musicality was fascinating. His showing on rhe guitar where the music was spawned from was amazing. When he closed with “Summer in the City,” after saying he could not do justice to it, he sounded pretty good. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: Since the post was longer than I wanted, I deleted two more snippets of song lyrics. Here they are from “Summer in the City” and “Daydream”:

    “Hot town, summer in the city
    Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
    Been down, isn’t it a pity
    Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city”

    “I’ve been having a sweet dream
    I been dreaming since I woke up today
    It’s starring me and my sweet thing
    ‘Cause she’s the one makes me feel this way”

  3. I remember John Sebastian as one of the five members of the very short lived 1964 Mugwumps group. Sebastian and Zal Yannosky formed The Lovin’ Spoonful, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty formed The Mamas & the Papas, and Jim Hendricks went off on his own. Cass Elliot claimed of the Mugwumps : “This was the first folk-rock group ever…Just too much before its time.” I think they only released a few singles, then one album after they had split. John Sebastian has gone on to a long and productive career. By your account, he is still going strong at an age when many are not! Thank-you for sharing!

  4. I was glad to read, he’s still out there being the troubadour.
    ‘Darling Be Home Soon’ was one of my favourites (I don’t think the film ‘You’re A Big Boy Now’ has lasted though).
    A very good review Keith.

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