lou reed

Rabbit Hole: Celluloid Spoonful


Next to The B-52s and Lou Reed cameos in One Trick Pony, The Lovin’ Spoonful cameo seems pretty unremarkable. They were contemporaries of Simon & Garfunkel in late 60’s, so it’s not entirely surprising that they made an appearance in a Simon vehicle.

Their part in the movie is during the scene where Paul Simon’s Jonah was being celebrated at a 60’s tribute concert, The Lovin’ Spoonful was one of the other acts on the bill.

So we get to see Paul Simon and The Lovin’ Spoonful sharing a backstage drink in One Trick Pony. Which brings to mind Paul Simon sharing a drink with Woody Allen in Annie Hall. Which brings to mind The Lovin’ Spoonful and Woody Allen working on What’s Up Tiger Lily? 

Oh hey, we just stepped into a rabbit hole!

A rabbit hole that highlights the considerable run that the Spoonful had as the go to band of the late 60’s. Everything below is basically work that was featured in film or television, so keep in mind that while all this was going on, they were charting like crazy with hits like Do You Believe In Magic?, Day Dream, and Summer In The City.

What’s Up Tiger Lily? Soundtrack (1966)

Woody Allen’s first feature film was more of a blueprint of Mystery Science Theater 3000 then a true Woody film, as Allen took a Japanese spy movie and rewrote it as a jokey comedy overdubbed by American actors.

Unfortunately the movie was co-opted by the studio in Post Production, and in an effort to entice American audiences the studio recruited The Lovin’ Spoonful to score and appear in the film without consulting Allen.

The song used in the above clip is called “Pow,” which is acts as the unofficial theme to the movie.

Per Wikipedia The Spoonful’s inclusion was one of many factors that made Allen demand full creative control over all of his future projects.

You’re A Big Boy Now Soundtrack (1966)

That same year, John Sebastian contributed a few original songs for the soundtrack of Frances Ford Coppola’s “You’re A Big Boy Now,” alongside other Spoonful tunes. Two singles were release from the soundtrack, “You’re A Big Boy Now,” and fantastic “Darling Be Home Soon,” which charted in the U.S.

The title sequence above features the Spoonful at their most rocking with “Girl, Beautiful Girl (Barbara’s Theme)”.

“Lonely,” the track below, is an instrumental that would make Sebastian’s father, a classical harmonica player, proud.

The Lovin’ Spoonful – Lonely

Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow-up (1966)

posterblow-upAs if Woody Allen and Frances Ford Coppola wasn’t enough street cred for the band, their music was also featured in Antonioni’s Blow-up, by way of an instrumental version of the Spoonful’s  “Butchie’s Tune”, performed by Herbie Hancock.

Herbie Hancock Butchie’s Tune

Butchie’s Tune was also covered by Yo La Tengo on their 2015 release Stuff Like That There.

Yo La Tengo – Butchie’s Tune

Lovin’ Spoonful The original choice for The Monkees

The established band were also in the running to be Television’s The Monkees, here is a detailed account from Spoonful’s Bob Boone.

While one could only speculate what the Lovin’ Spoonful would have become under the Raybert/BBS umbrella, it sounds like Sebastian put an end to the idea fairly quickly, by showing little interest in looking like copycats of the Beatles, and little interest in changing the band name. I am sure Rafelson and Schneider had little interest in sharing royalties or mind control over the band.  Much easier to control a band when they are a bunch of unknowns.

However, after an audition process, the producers figured it was more trouble than they expected. For one thing, the Spoonful were writing their own music at this point, and the show was not interested in giving up the publishing rights to the songs written for the show, so it really did not make sense for either parties, and the producers instead turned to open auditions for the show. (via LegendsRevealed.com)

The Mystery Show: “Kotter”

2GdTVJMChief songwriter John Sebastian had one of his biggest post-Spoonful hits with his theme song to 70’s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter.

2015 saw the debut of a great new podcast called The Mystery Show.  The season finale of The Mystery Show featured an investigation into the artwork on the Welcome Back Kotter lunchbox, and they leave no stone unturned, plus there is a great Phil Spector story in this episode as well.

Paul Simon – One Trick Pony (1980)


One Trick Pony is a 1980 Paul Simon movie with a soundtrack that doubled as Simon’s Warner Brothers debut.  The vehicle is technically a fictional biopic about a successful 1960’s rocker named Jonah Levin (Simon), as he endures the 1980s, a dwindling fan base, tepid record executives, and a marriage on the rocks. It’s part road movie, part record industry commentary, part sweat study, and part Kramer vs Kramer-lite.

There is plenty of fodder here that lend itself to pointing out the similarities of Jonah’s journey to Simon’s own career arc, but rather than focus on that, let’s look at two scenes that exemplify how this is the most acutely self-aware movie about pop music, while simultaneously being an out-of-touch vanity project, that ultimately bombed at the box office.

The following two clips are a prime example of why these “rock movies,” are so fun to chase down.  Here we have the B-52s in their prime, nailing Rock Lobster in small club, followed by a young Lou Reed playing a smarmy record producer riding at the console with Rip Torn and bass legend Tony Levin. Only in the movies.


I’m sure this was nothing more than Warner Brothers trying to give a little mainstream love to Simon’s new labelmates, but to write them into a newspaper review as critical darlings while the decrying the Jonah Levin band as uninspired and over the hill is just so incredibly accurate!  The idea that Simon (who wrote the film) would add such a scenario into a somewhat bloated vanity film is true irony.



Reed and Torn are so good.  The irony here is that while Jonah is ultimately crestfallen with the results of this session, this is exactly the type of song that the real Paul Simon would record, in fact there is a soundtrack full of these types of songs.  It’s called One Trick Pony.

The gem of said soundtrack is below.

Paul Simon – Late In The Evening

Wednesday Links – 12.02.15


The Girl Can’t Help It

John Waters waxes poetic on the the gaudy greatness of Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help it, one of Hollywood’s first Rock N’ Roll musicals.”He understood how beautiful bad taste could be.” (Via http://www.theseventhart.org)

More praise for Tashlin’s craft. (via Projectorhead)

Rabbithole: Cat People

Stevie Ray Vaughn shreds on Cat People title track during a rehearsal for Bowie’s ’83 Serious Moonlight tour.

The “inexhaustable” Tina Turner covering “Cat People” on 1982 TV telecast from the Park West Theater in Chicago.

Lou Reed’s 100 Favorite Singles

Picked by Lou Reed for the Curated Juke Box at the Helsinki Music Club in Zurich, Switzerland. May 2005 (via Helsinki Klub)

Lou Reed – Something Happened (1988)

When Lou Reed met Keanu Reeves – The Quiz: Only one of the following statements about the above clip is true:

It’s a scene from an unseen documentary about the band Dogstar, called Dogstar Rising: A sign from Lou.

It’s a clip from Keanu’s first paying gig as an actor, from an infomercial for Reed’s ill-fated line of fingerless guitar gloves called “Satellite Of Glove.”

In 1988, while in between record deals with RCA and SIRE records, Lou Reed wrote and recorded “Something Happened,” for a teen suicide drama called Permanent Record. He even made a cameo in the movie.

I’m not sure if “Something Happened,” has been released on any compilations, or just lives on this out-of-print soundtrack, but this is a classic Lou jam. A driving four-chord stomp with approximately one couplet. Wash, rinse, and repeat for about four minutes.  Let it rip!

Something Happened – Lou Reed

Ex-Holy Grail: The Velvet Underground “Squeeze”

VU_SqueezeNew Category Alert: Though it sounds like a Slanted-era Pavement song title, Ex-Holy Grail spotlights a once out-of-print artifact, now rendered pedestrian due to the digital age we live in.

Apparently every written documentation of this record is legally obligated to write the following line verbatim: Squeeze is a Velvet Underground album in name only.

The 1973 follow-up to Loaded featured not a single founding member of the Velvets.  Lou Reed left, and Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker soon followed suit.  Multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule had the name all to himself.

In a pre-internet age, word of Squeeze was like a Record Store Clerk Tall Tale: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and an Out-Of-Print, Lou Reed-less Velvet Underground record that was never even released in America! Can you imagine?

Fast forward to the mid-nineties and the revelation that was Yahoo Search, and intrigue grew as we got to actually lay our eyes on the artwork for Squeeze.  It was even reminiscent of illustration for Loaded, same graphic illustration style also featuring a New York City based landmark enveloped by billowing energy.

Today you can listen to Squeeze on Spotify in all it’s mediocre glory, and while calling this your favorite Velvets record would be like calling Bob Weir’s “Good Lovin’” your favorite part of a Grateful Dead set, the album is interesting if only that it retroactively illustrates what Yule brought to it’s predecessor.

Before hearing Squeeze, one just assumed Lou Reed single handedly shape-shifted his usually complicated, personal, and din-soaked tunes into the simple, loose yet confident jams that made up Loaded.  The story goes that Mo Tucker was on maternity leave, Sterling Morrison went back to school at City College of New York, and Yule was Reed’s studio partner in crime, but ultimately that story was just liner note fodder.  Squeeze highlights what Loaded would have been without Reed’s genius, which is a collection of mid-tempo rockers with no soul, swagger, or lyrical depth.

Conversely, Yule’s work on Squeeze also highlights what Loaded would have been lacking without Yule.

Yule was the anti-John Cale.  Where Cale channeled the avant stylings of La Monte Young, and stoked Reed’s dissonant side, Yule brought basic chord progressions and poppy background harmonies to the table. This shouldn’t be underestimated.

Reed’s self-titled solo LP is full of studio musicians that often overplayed their parts and added of texture to tracks that didn’t need any. Yule was the centered middle ground that tempered Reed’s eccentricities, and netted a masterpiece.

You have to hand it to Yule for giving it the old college try on Squeeze, but unfortunately he was on the wrong side of rock history by carrying on with the Velvet Underground moniker.

Caroline – The Velvet Underground

Little Jack – The Velvet Underground