The Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runnin’

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In the mid-Seventies it was hard to get away from The Doobie Brothers. Believe me I tried. But there was no escape from their bland harmony-drenched soft-rock oozing out of radio speakers when all I wanted to hear in 1973 was T.Rex, Slade and The Sweet.

 Curiously, the Doobies, whose pointless USP was that they had two drummers – like The Glitter Band and Adam & The Ants – never had a Top 40 UK hit in their heyday.
 
Too noodly for a nation enchanted with disco and glam; not noodly enough for the trenchcoat-wearing progsters with their Genesis, Yes and ELP triple albums; not heavy enough for the Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple crew with patches on their jeans.
 
Today they sound to my ears like the quintessential Californian soft-rock band, peddling a brand of bland, inoffensive, harmony-drenched boogie with a hint of country and a smidgeon of soul.
 
I can only name two of their songs – Long Train Runnin’ and Listen To The Music – and if you play them one after another it seems to these untrained ears as if you’ve put the same record on again.
 
This is the first, from 1973, and their only UK hit when a remix made the Top Ten 20 years later.
 
It’s also the better of the two (once you realise there are two), thanks to Tom Johnston’s harmonica solo, and to the absence of the ghastly phasing effect on the other one’s guitars.
 
Johnston, who was also the lead singer, fell ill and left the group in 1975, being replaced by the soul-influenced Michael McDonald, whose arrival took the band’s sound in an even mellower jazz-funk direction, and another Steely Dan associate in Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter.
 
They broke up in 1982 and have reunited and split countless times over the intervening years, most recently in 2019, with second guitarist Patrick Simmons the only ever-present member.
 
 

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