John Sebastian at the MIM: An Evening of Story Telling and Music

John Sebastian @ the MIM

Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venue: Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Date: Thursday Nov 9th, 2017

For those of you that might not know, in North Phoenix at Tatum and Mayo Boulevard is the Musical Instrument Museum, commonly called the MIM.  It is a museum dedicated to the collection of musical instruments from all around the world.  They also have a beautiful concert hall that they use to host performances by a wide diversity of musical talent.  Just the month of November will have concerts showcasing folk, jazz, blues, rock music and an “Irish Christmas in America”.  This was my second time to attend a concert at the MIM and both times I really enjoyed the shows.  I don’t know if this is true of all shows that are held there, but the 2 shows I have seen seem to be more of an “Evening with the Entertainer” similar to MTV’s Unplugged show.  The entertainers would have a mixture of songs and stories that either told something about their life of how they came up with the song.  I have been at both styles of shows, ones where the band just plays and ones where they explain something about the music.  I find both very enjoyable, but when an entertainer is on the stage by themselves, it seems more intimate when they tell stories and seem to interact with the crowd.

John Sebastian @ the MIM

The show started with John Sebastian coming out on stage to for a solo performance.  John started the show with one of his newer songs, “I’m Satisfied”.  He then told us about his youth and the start of his musical career in Greenwich Village, a part of New York City.  Being a child of the 60s, I remember John as part of the 60s band, The Lovin’ Spoonful.  John has had a wide musical career starting with the jug band, Even Dozen Jug Band, to The Lovin’ Spoonful and later a very successful solo career.  He has collaborated with a number of artists over the years including the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Gordon Lightfoot and the J-Band to just name a few.  John is a musician, Broadway composer, children’s book author, actor and TV toon creator.  Part of tonight’s concert was John letting us in on his career and the stories about his life.  He told us about his humble beginnings as a musician with The Lovin’ Spoonful where they were told that they “were not that good” and fired from the Night Owl Café.  So, they practiced and finally released their first big hit, “Do You Believe in Magic”, which he then played for us.  John then told us about when the band got their first real break and were asked to do some shows in San Francisco in 1965.  They had heard about the music scene and assumed that they would end up in the Haight-Asbury district, but instead wound up in the Broadway area of San Francisco.  For those that don’t know about this area in the 60s, it was a lot like Time Square in New York in the 60s and 70s.  So as the band is being driven to the Mothers Theater, they final see the marquee.  It read in big letter, “Topless Marie” and below that in small letter “The Lovin’ Spoonful”.  So, their first gig outside of New York area was at a topless bar in San Francisco, where they were required to perform a set first and then to play for the dancers later.  Soon after this, John collaborated with the bass player and they came up with another of the bands hits, “You Didn’t Have to be So Kind” that he played for us.

John Sebastian with Crowd @ the MIM

John then talked about how in 65/66, the musical business model changed and instead of bands and record companies relying on 45s that contained 2 songs, the shift was to albums where the band was required to come up with about 4 to 6 songs per side.  He also talked about his solo career and how he wrote songs for a couple of animators in Canada that did holiday TV cartoons.  He said that he hit it big when we wrote songs for some of the “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Care Bears” shows.  He even won a Canadian Emmy for the Care Bears’ Theme Song.  However, everyone at the MIM remembered his biggest TV hit was the theme song from the US TV show, “Welcome Back, Kotter”.  When he played it, then entire crowd sang along and provided part of the chorus.  He told us that he wrote the song in just 2 days and when asked how he did it so fast, he replied, “Because I was a sweat hog”.

John ended the main set with The Lovin’ Spoonful’s hit “Daydream”.  After a couple minutes off stage he came back for an encore and played “Darling Be Home Soon”.  After the show, John when out front and signed CDs that people bought and even some older Lovin’ Spoonful albums.  This was a nice touch and really helped connect John with his fans.

For me, it was an amazing night.  I personally love hearing the stories about the songs and bands from my generation.  A lot is written in books and on Wikipedia about these bands, but to hear it directly from a member of the band is amazing.  And then to hear the songs that go along with the stories is outstanding.  Being that this was held at a venue that specializes in musical history makes it a perfect blend.  The only real disappointment for me was not hearing my personal favorite Lovin’ Spoonful song, “Summer in the City”.  Being that it is more suited for a full band, I can see why it is not part of the show, but still a disappointment for a longtime fan.

Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017

This is my best attempt at John’s set list for the show.  I believe that I got almost all of the songs.  If you can think of any that I missed, please contact me and I will update the review.

John Sebastian Setlist:
I’m Satisfied                                            (Satisfied, 2007)
Just Don’t Stop ‘Til You’re All Worn Out     (I want My Roots, 1996))
Do You Believe in Magic?                          (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice                  (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
Jug Band Music
Prison Wall Blues                                      (Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers cover)
Younger Girl                                             (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
Strings of Your Heart                                (Satisfied, 2007))
Stories We Could Tell                                (Everly Brothers)
My Passing Fantasy                                  (Satisfied, 2007))
Nobody Cares Like a Bear                         (“Care Bear” Theme Song)
Welcome Back                                          (“Welcome Back, Kotter” Theme Song)
Daydream                                                (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
Darling Be Home Soon                              (The Lovin’ Spoonful)


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