Still living the life of a troubadour (and jug band man), the former Lovin’ Spoonful frontman takes five from us … (Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!)
1.) What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?
Uh, that takes some doin’. Let’s see. I’d go to Revolver. (Pause) That is really hard. No, I’ll go with “I’m a Loser.” It just comes together beautifully.
2.) Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Fred Neil, Timmy Harden, and Al Anderson. See, they’re not the famous guys. [Laughter]
3.) What’s the one song you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter?
I guess “Do You Believe in Magic?” plays out well that way.
Ah, yes, where an autoharp appears on a hit single.
Yeah, I guess the story is autoharps were sort of around Greenwich Village as I was growing up. I was in a dinner party once where I was the only kid and I ended up on the sofa with one of those things on my lap. I kind of said, “Oh my God! Everything is here! The chords! They’re all there!” I started to be able to imagine various songs that I knew from one thing or another and strum these various chords, and go, “Oh, wow, that’s ‘On Top of Old Smokey,'” or something. I’d say, “Jeez, there’s those chords.” So on the way home, I asked my Dad, “Oh Dad, I’d love to play the autoharp. I’d be good at that! Would you buy me an autoharp?” And Dad said, “I certainly would not!” [Laughter] I was shocked. You know, Dad was always a really encouraging guy. He was rough on me about school and stuff, but as far as the rest of it, it was friendly. But this was different. I said, “Wow. Why?” He said, “Son, you’ll never learn anything from that instrument. The chords are all there. You have a good ear, so you’ll find where you want to go with them, but you won’t know what those chords are. You won’t know what they’re made up of. You won’t know what separates one mood from another, and … no!” Luckily when I wanted a $12 Royalist guitar, Dad said, “Sure, let’s go down to the pawn shops on 2nd Avenue.” He found me a nice one for 12 bucks.
4.) What’s one song that you wish you would’ve written?
Oh boy, that’s really hard. OK, I’ll go with “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
5.) Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re particularly digging?
I’m digging Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin’s recent album, Penny’s Farm. It’s at the top of the folk charts, which is a wonderful thing for those guys. [Laughter] These guys—I was always imitating them and getting to the top of the charts while they were like playing folk clubs. But the worm has turned. Because now it’s going to be about a month before they finish up their stuff and I finish up mine, and we’re going to put together a little unit called Jug Band Giants and tour as the smallest jug band you can find.
Fabulous. Love John Sebastian, loved the Spoonful. Met John three times over 5 decades. It’s a Small World. ☺