“What a Fool Believes”

I’m tired, the ducks are squabbling, and I now hear that the local pair of Canada geese are breeding on top of the Chemistry building and, when the goslings hatch, they’ll all be moved to the pond by the Fish & Wildlife people. We don’t need no stinkin’ geese. Life is stressful.

Here’s some music to lighten the load, a fabulous song written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, and a hit for the Doobie Brothers (a #1 hit, actually) in 1979, when it won a Grammy for “Song of the Year”. The lyrics are a bit opaque, but bespeak a failed attempt to revive lost love.

I’m especially fond of posting live performances that come up to the standards (or exceed them) of the recorded song, and this is one of them. In fact, it’s hard to tell the difference (except for the words in the ending and the solo here) between this live performance in 1981 and the earlier record.

I don’t care what you think: they don’t write rock songs like this anymore. There’s no autotuning, just high quality, memorable music. Compare it to the vocal flatulence of Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift.

62 Comments

  1. Posted April 26, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Saw Michael McDonald in concert here in his hometown of St. Louis a couple of years ago. He sat and played for a solid 2 hours or so and was soaked in sweat at the end. Best damn concert ever.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

  3. Claudia Baker
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t care what you think: they don’t write rock songs like this anymore. There’s no autotuning, just high quality, memorable music. Compare it to the vocal flatulence of Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift.”

    Agree one million per cent. Love this song. Love Michael McDonald. Love everything about this video.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      What you said! (And Jerry too, of course.)

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 4:04 am | Permalink

      I disagree. The trouble is that you have to go out and look for it. It doesn’t make it on to mainstream TV and radio anymore.

      Furthermore, there is survivorship bias at play. Not only do the crap acts from the days of yore not have their recordings preserved but neither do the bad days of the good acts. There probably were recordings of the Doobie Brothers not quite getting it up to the mark, but these were never published.

      • Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        This has long been my view. You have to look for it. And it won’t sound like music of yore. So you have to look for it, and then decide if you like it. And it is possible that a person won’t like it because it does sound different.

        But I can also agree that the hugely commercialized pop music that is being pushed out constantly by the major stations today… is mostly crap. Those same stations in the ’70s would play the Doobies or The Who.

  4. Brujo Feo
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    A few months ago, Michael played the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. It was a fundraiser for the Music Dept. at SBCC. He shared the stage with several student ensembles, as well as his own band. Dynamite evening, closing with–of course–perhaps the only song he ever penned better than “What a Fool Believes.” That being “Taking It to the Streets.” If that song doesn’t give you goosebumps AND tears, it’s time to check for a pulse.

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    For the plaint of a fool, I’ll take this by Tina Turner “A Fool in Love,” though it’s hardly a plaint, recorded at the Whisky A-Go Go in the mid-1960s. As the infuriating and mysterious notice plastered in the middle of the screen that screws up watching the video but one can ignore it, this is “For research purposes only.”

    Check out the arm action of the female go-go dancer behind Tina to the right of the screen. It’s a scream. The others are barely moving, but Tina rocks.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      How ’bout Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers hit “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        I’d forgotten about Frankie Lymon and Mr. Mule Train, Frankie Laine. That was smooth. What a voice! What a shame that Frankie Lymon crashed and burned so young, but when you hit the stratosphere at age 13, especially if you’re African American from a disadvantaged background, it’d be hard whatever the era. Many whites who shot to stardom in show business that early didn’t fare well, either.

        • Filippo
          Posted April 28, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

          One of my favorites by Frankie Laine (Levecchio) is “Jezebel.” He had a visceral, almost scary intensity in his singing. “Mule Train” brings to mind “Donkey Serenade” from Rudolph Friml’s operetta, “The Firefly.” Mario Lanza has an outstanding version of this, and mimics Laine’s version of “Jezebel” in one of his movies.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      No way is that the famed Whisky a Go Go. I can’t play the video, but from the thumbnail that’s a TV studio type setup.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        You’re right. The note below the video says the “Hollywood a Go Go,” which I’d not heard of, but was familiar with the Whisky. I mis-read it because of my “unconscious bias”.

        I Googled and learn that the “Hollywood a Go Go” was a TV variety show https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_A_Go-Go. That certainly makes more sense, given the people dancing in the background, who obviously weren’t professional go go dancers; and the decor was shabby. Despite that, the show booked a heck of a lot of topnotch performers of the day.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

          Ripped from good old Wiki:

          “The origin of the term go-go dancing goes back to a 1949 British film Whisky Galore! which tells the true story of the sinking of a ship loaded with whiskey. The French title of this film was Whisky à gogo!, “à gogo” being Parisian slang for “galore”. During the period that this film was showing in France, discotheques were just introduced as a new form of entertainment. Due to the success of the film and the snob appeal of drinking whiskey in France, a number of discotheques were given the name “Whiskey à Go-Go”.

          The first Whisky à Gogo nightclub opened in Paris in 1947, drawing the “Whisky” part of its name from the whisky labels that lined its walls. In 1953 it became the first discotheque. The club was franchised, first in Chicago in 1958 and then in Los Angeles in 1964. In May 1964 the Los Angeles club was featured in Life magazine and by 1965 clubs called Whisky à Go-Go (or Whiskey à Go-Go) had appeared in Milwaukee, Washington, San Francisco and Atlanta.

          In the Los Angeles club a new style of dance was taking place, as go-go dancers in short, fringed skirts and high boots danced in a glass booth above the patrons. The first recorded occurrence of topless go-go dancing was in the Condor nightclub in San Francisco in 1964, and topless go-go dancing quickly became a part of the adult entertainment industry.

          It was also the time when dances became popular, where partners were dancing apart from each other. Not long after the success of the discotheques in France, they were opened in French style in New York City, with the same name as their French example: “Whiskey A Go-Go”. American discos introduced soon a form of entertainment of young girls dancing in the new, loose style, without a partner. The go-go dancer was born”

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 27, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          The dance the go-go girls in the background are doing was known as “the jerk.”

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      Yeah it’s HOLLYWOOD A GO GO TV show.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Gotta love the production values. No expense spared.

        😉

        cr

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, it’s cable before there was cable.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

          Mea Culpa to the Gazzarri Dancers http://www.gazzarridancers.com/. They were indeed professional dancers (though you coulda fooled me).

          As you say, “Gotta love the production values…”

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            Yet another Mea Culpa to the Gazzarri Dancers. A closer reading of the website reveals that there were audience members who danced on stage during performances, some were regulars. These must be the people I was referring to. However, I find go go dancing amusing in and of itself, professional or otherwise, so I surely have difficulty distinguishing professionals from amateurs.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

              I wasn’t really impugning the dancers. More the studio set. The place is a big shed – bare cinder block walls and drainpipes down them… I’ve seen more set dressing in a car dealer’s saleroom. 🙂

              cr

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Just goes to show you, if you go back far enough, you can find good music.

    Just in case anyone was paying attention and you were a little suspicious of Rosenstein in all this Trump stuff, you would be right.

  7. Posted April 26, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I do not understand (or listen to) today’s music. At 77 years of age, I’ve listed to and have seen the best. The 60’s, the 70’s, the eighties, and the ninety’s. Oh, almost forgot, the music of the thirties, forties, and fifties bring back memories of my family growing up in Toronto.

  8. darrelle
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Definitely a great song. I do like the MMcD era of the Doobies but my all time favorite Doobies tune is Black Water.

  9. Roger
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I recently heard “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison for the first time in years. Even the sillier songs from back in the day are superior to the popular stuff these days.

    • Roger
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Hair bands: We didn’t know what we had. Till they were gone.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Hey that’s not bad. Never heard of Cinderella but the video is very – Guns ‘n Roses.

        That lake is quite spectacular – Mono Lake?

        cr

        • Roger
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Yep Mono Lake.

  10. Serendipitydawg
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    vocal flatulence

    I’m taking that one. Thanks Prof 😀

    • Filippo
      Posted April 28, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of vocal flatulence, many are the photos of singers looking like they’re about to stick the microphone in their mouths, with an apparent major grimace of pain on their faces, as if they were constipated, trying to force out a . . . note.

  11. stuartcoyle
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    There is also Foolkiller, by Mose Allison.

    A lot of the problem with rock nowdays is that the producers squeeze all the life out of it. Autotuning is only one of the sins. They compress everything until there are no dynamics and quantize the rythym until there is no groove.

  12. Posted April 26, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Gonna be busy at Botany pond this Spring.

  13. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Oh THAT tune!

    Yeah that’s a good tune! It’s one of those lyrics which I couldn’t ever understand and I was left just making vocalizations for it.

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    That song doesn’t really do it for me. Too jerky.

    As a side issue, the sound is very ‘thin’. Probably because they’re outdoors, the sound just gets lost without walls / ceiling to reverberate off. The difference is huge and you need massive speakers to overcome that.

    The audience do add a bit of atmosphere, admittedly. But often too much, which is why most bootlegs are terrible. If the sound is recorded directly off the sound board and carefully mixed in post-production along with a judicious bit of audience noise, that probably gives the best result.

    But as for ones that sounded better in the live version, I’m scratching my head a bit. I would have suggested Pink Floyd’s ‘Pulse’ DVD from the ‘Division Bell’ tour, for example ‘Take it Back’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Qj80oyZto
    BUT I just found – right now – their original album version of ‘Take it Back’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDH7JqF_EFg and now I’m completely unsure which is best.

    There is one example – Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits ‘Going Home’, the version from ‘On the Night’ (live).

    It is just so beautiful it quite literally brings tears to my eyes.
    But I’m not sure it really counts as there are dozens of different versions on Youtube – it looks like almost every time they played it they dramatically changed the arrangement – and this (live) is the only one I’ve found with that particular arrangement.

    cr

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      That is beautiful. I can understand why it literally brings tears to your eyes. Knopfler’s guitar playing is unique and unmistakable. I like it a lot, but I’m not familiar with much of his work, if only because I can’t get beyond “Sailing to Philadelphia.” I get lost in that album whenever I listen to it and several pieces literally bring tears to my eyes. I can listen to it over and over again.

      But it’s not only the musicianship and the emotional content that I’m taken with, which spans the spectrum; in addition I get history lessons via the music, even about things I thought I was familiar with, and I’m spurred to learn more.

      I hadn’t looked before but now I’m finding lots of his music on Youtube, which I’ll investigate. And I see that he’s coming to Berkeley this September. I gotta go. Check his website to see if he’ll be in your neck of the woods this year — it’s a world tour.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        Youtube is absolutely chock-full of Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. And also Pink Floyd, just about every concert they did, someone recorded it. (Pink Floyd got their ‘revenge’ for that on their Pulse DVD in a section called ‘Bootlegging the bootleggers’ where they have 5 songs that didn’t make it to the main concert footage, ‘stolen’ back from bootleg videos. But I notice that, though the video track is compiled from several different intercut sources, the audio is a single high-quality audio recording).

        But Youtube is a fantastic library of all sorts of music over the last ~80 years, good songs that one would have thought sank without trace. It’s brilliant.

        cr
        P.S. Mark’s album with Emmylou Harris, ‘All the Roadrunning’, is well worth a listen. A friend who was an Emmylou fan but not previously a Mark Knopfler fan, commented how perfectly they matched musically.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. Now my weekend will be filled with mostly new but some old rock music.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:07 am | Permalink

            Pleased to hear it.

            Your mention of ‘history lessons’ reminds me that it’s thanks to Youtube I now know a huge lot more about music than I used to, for example what resonator guitar is and why it was made, or a pedal steel / lap guitar, or an octobass (!), and what all those instruments sound like.

            (I have also discovered the depths of my remaining ignorance, which is huge).

            cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 26, 2019 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes I reflect how incredibly lucky we are to be living right now. Only in the last 50 years (my adult lifetime) has high-quality recorded sound been practical.

      Come to that, only in the past 50 years or so, with electric amplification, have musical instruments been available that could produce beautiful sounds at a reasonable volume; before that it needed an orchestra with a full string section. And even then nothing could have duplicated the sustain on an electric guitar or matched the sound of a pedal steel, for example.

      Before the last century, the average working man probably never had the chance to hear a well-played rich-sounding tune.

      cr

      • Filippo
        Posted April 28, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Recently went to a symphony concert, the orchestra playing the score of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” while the movie was being shown.

        This appears to be a commercially-successful audio-visual enterprise. I enjoy the combination. But I think that the movie music of the likes of Williams, Goldsmith, Bernstein, Horner, Barry, Waxman and a host of other stellar movie soundtrack composers stands on its own sonic merits without the visual component. Could these attendees stand to attend a symphony orchestra’s live performance of great film music without the visual crutch?

        At such an event, there are always at least a few who feel compelled to inform the universe of their existence by ululating some fatuous sentiment into the void of the venue, apparently so as to insert themselves into the Eternal Now of the film. (The “Whoop and Holler Crowd,” as Hitch once put it in another context.)

        E.g., for those nominally-versed in things Potter, just prior to Hermione’s memorable slugging of the malevolent Malfoy in this particular film, a noble human primate soul, apparently channeling Aretha Franklin, felt obliged to grace us with the ululation, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Any time anything like this happens, one cannot hear the actors. Additionally, anything certain digital device-wielding audience members find personally compelling and satisfying warrants a “Whooooo-Hooooo!!” from them, and/or the unsolicited providing of a running commentary of personal opinion out loud (as it was my privilege to hear from the cackling row behind me), and darn any consideration for any adjacent attendees’ ability to hear the dialogue.

        This may be part of the emergent and constantly-evolving contemporary general Human Condition on Earth, though I personally think it is particularly and uniquely a psycho-socio-cultural mass pop phenomenon of self-absorbed “Amuricun individualism.” (“The Indispensable Nation,” as Madeleine Albright was so fond of putting it.)

        I hear tell of movie attendees shouting at the characters on the screen. To what avail – Look-At-Me self-absorption, narcissism?

        My kingdom for the opportunity to be in proximity to people who can discipline themselves to rest their voices and leave their bloody digital devices well-enough alone. Otherwise, the cave looks more and more appealing.

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      …regarding Going Home, thanks for the reminder!…absolutely brings me to tears.

      From the soundtrack to .https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_Hero_(1983_film), also a magical film.

      That movie had a big impact on me. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, as .https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Meldrum would say “do yourselves a favour…”

    • Posted April 27, 2019 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      As a recording engineer and someone who heard that song about a billion times I feel qualified in saying that the sound of that live recording is more likely exactly what it was intended to be rather than the unfortunate result of not having walls.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        You may be right. As will be apparent from my other mentions above, I usually prefer a ‘richer’ sound myself.

        cr

  15. Vaal
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Oh, that video made me so happy! Thank you Jerry!

    Love the Doobies.

    I really appreciate the great live videos you manage to dig up, very often of performers I hadn’t delved in to before.

  16. rickflick
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    A memorable song from long ago. I remember being captivated by the melody, harmony, and lovely falsetto, but I never really listened for the lyrics. I checked them out this time though and was delighted by the poignancy in spite of their obscurity.

  17. Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    The lyrics to this song are almost Shakespearean in insight. They could be seen to encapsulate our fruitless attempt to debate with the religious…

    What a fool believes
    He sees
    No wise man has the power to reason away

    What seems to be
    Is always better than nothing

    … it’s just too bloody profound

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      Yeah, see – that was just lost on me because I interpreted it as simple vocalizations. I’ll have a renewed view now – I love that! Learning lyrics you thought were nonsense!

  18. Posted April 27, 2019 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    To get the full impact of the lyrics .. this video mix properly does the full job. It’s a shame that too often it’s only just the tune that we hear in a great song…

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 27, 2019 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    Autotune is only part of it.

    The producers use software e.g. Protools (I learned this all from Rick Beato’s channel, I don’t know first hand ) where the real drum parts are adjusted in minute detail to land right on the beat. Likewise for other instruments. Old songs – even as late as Smells Like Teen Spirit – the time is off by so many beats per second. They felt the beat. Now the music is edited ad nauseum. Other examples are Whole Lotta Love, Roxanne,…

  20. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Does anyone remember Eigenradio?

    Material can be found with Google, but I cannot find the radio station. It was a project a while back, which produced statistically optimal music. It would be interesting to revisit, but alas, I think the project is AWOL.

  21. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    For a barely useful Eigenradio link, I found this :

    http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~bwhitman/radioradio.html

    in the process, I noticed this amusing link:

    Ten Thousand Statistically Grammar-Average Fake Band Names

    http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~bwhitman/10000.html

  22. Posted April 27, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Try Amanda Anne Platt and the Honeycutters or the Band of Heathens or Fruition. Why waste your time and ears on Grande or Swift?

  23. Posted April 27, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Gotta say that I’m more of a “China Grove” guy when it comes to the Doobie Brothers.

  24. JohnE
    Posted April 27, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Michael McDonald is OK, I guess, but he always sounded like he was singing through a pillow. He was a poor replacement for Tom Johnson

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 27, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      McDonald tries to sing lower than his natural range at times – muddies his enunciation, you can see him pulling in his chin & breathing the lyrics rather than singing them. Tom Johnston is a force with a unique [at the time] rock/funk guitar & a goodish rock/funk voice. [I never ‘got’ the Doobies nor Steely Dan, but I can see the talent of those folks.]

  25. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 28, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I was just taking a look at who, exactly, are The Doobie Brothers – it really depends on the year :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_Doobie_Brothers_band_members

  26. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 28, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I was just taking a look at who, exactly, are The Doobie Brothers – it really depends on the year :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_Doobie_Brothers_band_members

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted April 28, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      what the… it’s happened to me now – the infamous Double Post…

      • rickflick
        Posted April 28, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        I thought at first, it was just your passion for music. 😉

  27. Dominic
    Posted April 29, 2019 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Yeah Canada – take back your geese!
    Probably illegal immigrants!
    🙂


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