The Lovin’ Spoonful

“So, I started with the Huey ‘Piano’ Smith trying to imitate that piano on a guitar, and by the time I was uptown, I had the three verses written on the back of a Camel [cigarette] package.”

John Sebastian on the writing of “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind.”

July 2020



“Do You Believe in Magic”

Music and Lyrics: John Sebastian

Producer: Erik Jacobsen

This single released in 1965 peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1978, Shaun Cassidy reached the Top 40 with his cover version. The song has since been recorded by various artists including American pop rock duo, Aly & AJ.

So, how about “Do You Believe in Magic”?

That was the really the first visible song from the Spoonful and that had a very definite inspirational moment which was at The Night Owl Café where we were playing routinely. But it was at our very earliest, so we were still playing for Italian guys who would probably rather play cards and have an espresso, and folkies who thought we were just too loud and why did they do that?

Then one night, me and Zal remembered it very specifically, there was a young woman in the very back of the club. This club is shaped like a shoebox, so it’s hard to see anybody that isn’t right in front of the stage. And she was dancing but she was dancing a new way. It wasn’t the lindy-hop. And I immediately…I don’t know, I was elbowing Zali as were on stage playing. And it stuck with me so that I wanted that song to come out.

I guess the next step was that I was also trying to imitate “Heatwave,” the Martha and the Vandellas tune. There’s kind of a Motown fixation here you’ll notice, and I was fascinated by the climbing chords in that tune. And so, I was trying to imitate it and realized that I’d have to make a few tuning adjustments on the autoharp, which would render it, rather awful, in other keys. So that sounded great in the keys that I intended to play it in. So, that’s how I think that music for “Magic” was affected by those main things.

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