Lovin’ Spoonful – You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice

The Lovin’ Spoonful’s songs seem so effortlessly written and performed. They were popular for a short while in the mid-sixties. They influenced many bands including The Beatles who released Good Day Sunshine as a nod to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s song Daydream.

In the 1980s I really got into this band. I purchased one of their many greatest hits. I first heard of John Sebastian in the 70s when he wrote and sang the theme song of  TV show Welcome Back Cotter called “Welcome Back” which went to #1.

They were considered by TV producers to be in a television show but they were dropped over a conflict of song publishing rights. 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 party, and the producers instead turned to open auditions for the show. The Monkees were found soon after that. 

Brian Wilson said this song influenced one of the Beach Boys’ best songs…God Only Knows. The group was only active from 1965 to 1968, which John Sebastian described as “two glorious years and a tedious one.” John Sebastian wrote the majority of their songs. He had a #1 hit as a solo artist in 1976 with “Welcome Back,” the theme song to the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter.

This song was written by John Sebastian and bassist Steve Boone.

Lovin’ Spoonful played what they called “jug band” music and like the Rascals, they were more of a singles band than an album band. In 1967 Zal Yanovsky left the band citing musical differences. In 1968 Sebastian left for a solo career and the band carried on until 1969 without a significant hit.

The song peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100 and #4 in Canada in 1965.

John Sebastian:  “We started off in a world of 45 singles, so our only game still was three minutes of heaven every time out. That was all. We thought of it as four-man Phil Spector music. We wanted it to have that big quality, but we didn’t want to hire the Wrecking Crew.”

“Our producer Eric Jacobsen understood something about this funny hybrid that we were working on,” “Things like the chimes on ‘You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice’ were our attempts at creating that kind of vibe: harmonica, slide whistles and penny whistles. I hate calling it folk-rock. They called The Byrds folk-rock and then they were too lazy to come up with something else for our band, but we weren’t really drawing from the Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan catalog. It was a time of a lot of seriousness, and a lot of fake seriousness and people talking about Important Things. And Loving Spoonful didn’t really go for that. We were just trying to entertain.”

You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice

You didn’t have to be so nice
I would have liked you anyway
If you had just looked once or twice
And gone upon your quiet way

Today I said the time was right for me to follow you
I knew I’d find you in a day or two
And it’s true

You came upon a quiet day (ooh)
You simply seemed to take your place (ooh)
I knew that it would be that way (ooh)
The minute that I saw your face (ooh)

And when we’ve had a few more days (when we’ve had a few more days)
I wonder if I’ll get to say (wonder if I’ll get to say)
You didn’t have to be so nice (be so nice)
I would have liked you anyway (would have liked)

Today I said the time was right for me to follow you
I knew I’d find you in a day or two
And it’s true

You didn’t have to be so nice (didn’t have to be so nice)
I would have liked you anyway (would have liked you anyway)
If you had just looked once or twice (once or twice)
And gone upon your quiet way (quiet way)

Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer In The City

This is one of those transport songs. It takes me to a time when I wasn’t around…the mid sixties…at least my interpretation of it.

They were a great singles band but had a short window. From 1965 to 1967 they had 7 top 10 hits. This single peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #11 in the UK, and #3 in New Zealand in 1966.

The song was a collaboration between John Sebastian, Steve Boone (bass player), and John Sebastian’s brother Mark. Mark was 15 years old when he wrote a poem that John used as the basis for the song – John especially liked the line that went, But at night there’s a different world.

Steve Boone came up with the middle eight, which John thought sounded like the Gershwin composition “An American in Paris,” where the orchestra implies the sound of traffic and city noises. This gave him the idea of incorporating car horns and other city ambiance into the track

Things started to fall apart due to repercussions from guitarist Zal Yanovsky and bassist Steve Boone’s 1966 pot bust in San Francisco. They were pressured into a deal where they agreed to introduce an undercover cop to partygoers in the city, one of whom got busted. A backlash ensued that damaged their reputation in the counterculture.

In 1967 Zal Yanovsky left the band citing musical differences with John Sebastian. Yanovsky would later become a  Chef in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in his restaruarnt Chez Piggy. His daughter Zoe Yanovsky took over the restaurant after Zal’s death in 2002 and still runs it.

In 1968 Sebastian left for a solo career and the band carried on until 1969 without a significant hit.

The original group (John Sebastian,  Zal Yanovsky, Joe Butler and Steve Boone) reunited briefly in the fall of 1979 for a show at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills for an appearance in the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony.

John Sebastian: “That song that came from an idea my brother Mark had, he had this great chorus, and the release was so big. I had to create some kind of tension at the front end to make it even bigger. That’s where that jagged piano part comes from.”

From Songfacts

This song contrasts what it’s like to live in a large city during the day and during the night. According to the song, it’s difficult to walk around a crowded and hot city during the day, but it’s great at night because you have plenty of opportunities to chase women. This particular city is New York, where the band formed. 

.The band was rather particular about the traffic sounds. Instead of just using what was available on the sound effects records in the studio, they found an old-school radio engineer – a guy who used to create the soundscapes for shows, so if a guy was riding a horse, you’d hear the hooves hitting the ground and the wind whistling by. This guy, whom John Sebastian referred to as a “hilarious old Jewish sound man,” came in with a huge library of street sounds, which the band went through for hours. They wanted the scene to build, so it starts softly (the horn at the beginning comes from a Volkswagen Beetle), and grows to a gridlock nightmare. To close the scene, they used a pneumatic hammer pounding away at the pavement.

This was recorded over two days: At the first session, they put down the instruments: guitar, bass, autoharp, drums, organ, electric piano and percussion. The second session was for vocals and sound effects.

The sound of car horns and traffic was the first time these sounds appeared on a hit song. A year later, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff used the idea when they produced the Soul Survivors track “Expressway (To Your Heart).”

Appropriately, this song was released in the summer of 1966 – July 4, to be exact. It quickly climbed the chart, reaching #1 on the chart dated August 13, where it stayed for three weeks.

This is used during the looting sequence on The Simpsons episode “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge.”

The song served as the theme song for German art-director Wim Wenders’ first film, 1970’s Summer in the City. It plays during an incongruous scene in which the protagonist Hans is seen walking on a brutally cold day, surrounded by snow.

This was used at the beginning of the movie Die Hard: With A Vengeance. The song plays throughout the opening credits, showing different scenes of New York City until a building blows up. 

From 2006-2007, the piano portion was used in various Gatorade ads depicting the history of the sports drink, which was created in 1965.

Summer In The City

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
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

But at night it’s a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come on, come on and dance all night
Despite the heat it’ll be alright

And babe, don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city

Cool town, evening in the city
Dressing so fine and looking so pretty
Cool cat, looking for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city
Till I’m wheezing like a bus stop
Running up the stairs, gonna meet you on the rooftop

But at night, it’s a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come on, come on and dance all night
Despite the heat, it’ll be alright

And babe, don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city

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
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

But at night, it’s a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come on, come on and dance all night
Despite the heat, it’ll be alright

And babe, don’t you know it’s a pity
That the days can’t be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city