Do You Believe in Retro?

Fairly or unfairly, 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 the band's actions in print. 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 about," Boone says frankly, "and 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 music press at the time -- mostly upstart publications like the Berkeley Barb, the L.A. Free Press, and a 50-cent tabloid called Rolling Stone -- were 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 returned to Baltimore and, along with his friend John Armor (heir to the Armor meat fortune), set up a recording studio on a renovated houseboat in Chesapeake Bay. Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Earth, Wind and Fire recorded there. On Christmas Day 1977, while Boone and Armor were out of town, the boat's bilge pumps gave out and it sank halfway underwater, saturating the studio 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. "But we could never quite find the time, or find the resolve, to get the band together," explains Boone, "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, have done spectacularly.... We did OK. So, I always felt there was some unfinished business with the group."

That was certainly true financially. For more than twenty years, the Lovin' Spoonful's members received no royalties on their record sales. The money lost is impossible to estimate accurately, and where it went is equally difficult to trace. For two decades, the band's master tapes were passed from company to company, and as each company was sold (or went bankrupt), the band found that it could not collect on royalties owed. 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 all future royalties.

Encouraged, Boone tried to get the band back together, but Yanovsky and Sebastian declined. Throughout the '90s, Boone has toured with Jerry Yester on guitar, Joe Butler on vocals, a new drummer named Mike Arturi, and Yester's daughter Lena on keyboards as the Lovin' Spoonful. Boone has also been collaborating with Lena on some new songs (and dusting off old ones he wrote during his sailing years) to be performed under the Spoonlight name. During the month of May, 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. Certainly other '60s icons -- Burt Bacharach, Tom Jones, even Shirley Bassey -- have reintroduced themselves to young listeners. "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. As a result, 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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