September 22, 1980
By David Huff
The Doobie Brothers
The Doobie Brothers Attacks Fourth Estate
Pressure is something every musician or rock band has to learn to deal with from the time they first pick up their electric guitar to the moment they walk offstage to sign autographs. For groups that haven't learned to cope, the word "pressure" is pronounced "doom."
Take the Doobie Brothers, for instance. They've learned to cope with line-up changes, being in the business for 10 years, and being dismissed by more than a handful of critics as being over the hill. The Doobies are most definitely not over the hill. They're playing at Roklahoma aren't they? They still make records, don't they? People still go to their concerts, don't they?
Sure they do.
But that still doesn't keep Mike McDonald, ace singer/song writer/keyboardist of the Doobie Brothers from getting a mite crabby when the conversation turns to the music press.
Mike McDonald doesn't really care whether he hurts a magazine's feelings when discussing rock critics. "It inevitable that our new album will be judged along the standards of Minute By Minute. But I don't think the average person consciously compares old records against new ones like rock critics do."
"You know critics," said McDonald, getting all heated up about it. "They all have their heads up their ass anyway. And you can quote me on that." "It's like this," McDonald continued, "anybody that sits around and consciously does nothing with his life but criticize-1 just don't feel as though these rock journalists are fulfilling a true purpose. I don't quite understand why you need someone else to tell you what's good and what's bad." "And furthermore—" McDonald reiterated, "If you don't know yourself, you shouldn't be consulting a critic: you should be consulting a psychiatrist."
But aren't critics important? Aren't they an asset rather than a debit? Don't they add to the quality of the experience of life? "Ultimately." countered McDonald, "I don't think it matters now critics judge a group." "I think that a lot of people put a lot of weight into what they say and it turns out that records can sell in spite of bad reviews. Nobody is really hurt or harmed by them one way or the other."
McDonald continued, "There are all sorts of crazy music people. I think that all these crazy music people should go out and make a few records for themselves. Then maybe I'll pay attention to them. Then maybe they can tell somebody else how to make an album. Until then, THESE PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT." McDonald began to philosophize. It's like anything else in life, David. You just can't tell somebody what it's like to get high unless you smoke a joint or what it's like to have sex unless . . .Well, you know . . ." I nodded.
"You don't have any business telling somebody what it's like unless you've been doing it yourself. It doesn't bother us, really. We've had bad reviews before. As far as that goes, we are always pretty prepared for that stuff because we've been together f or ten years and we've been through it all. We've had people love us and we've had people hate us. We've gone from being a chonka-chonka boogie band to being one of the best rock bands in the country."
McDonald continued his criticism of the critics. "The thing is, the media is a lot more fickle than our audience. Even when critics like the Rolling Stone people say we're not hip enough, our audience always seems to show up.
We still sold out auditoriums and played to our audience that we've built up over ten years even when all the papers were against us. These are the people we make our records for, not the critics. We don't spend our time and money in a recording studio just so the media will have something to write about."
"Our audience buys the tickets. They shell out the bucks for our albums. Not the critics," McDonald said. "Any audience to us is a good audience. We only make the music for people to listen to, and whether or not it will be a big seller or keep our audience continuously satisfied, we can't say. But I'm a firm believer that if music is good, then just about everybody will like it—no matter what age they are—if they have any taste in music at all."
Teachers and critics all dance the blues. We agreed on that and hung up, each of us to pursue our chosen professions.