The Doctors Of Spin.

One of the saddest transformations in music during the 1990s occurred when the Spin Doctors tried to go Pop.

I'm sorry, what is this? You're doing an article on the Spin Doctors??? The world needs a defense of the Spin Doctors like it needs a plague of eco-harmful rabbits!

Anyway, what too many people don't realize - probably because they heard "Two Princes" played on every conceivable media outlet in 1992 about 90 million times - is that Spin Doctors started out as a jam band. In fact, an early incarnation of the band included John Popper of Blues Traveller fame (who also played with them on their debut studio album and often jammed with them on stage).

Likewise what people don't realize is that their first album WASN'T Pocket Full of Kryptonite (of "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" fame). No, it was actually a live album called Homebelly Groove ... Live. On which can be found lengthy - ten minutes or more - jam-quality songs.

When they first hit the scene, they were closer to their Blues Traveller peers than they were with those bands they're more associated with - like Counting Crows or R.E.M. Nevertheless, their label, in conjunction with MTV and everybody else, kept pushing on that "Two Princes" vibe and before too long the transformation had completely set in.

While Pocket Full of Kryptonite has major pop sensibilities, at its heart was straightahead, no frills Rock N' Roll that could easily be expounded upon in a live setting. That's what most jam bands do, they record 4-minute versions of their songs for albums (a la Phish, Blues Traveller, Grateful Dead, et al) and then they hit the stage and let the music take them where it will. However, on the Spin Doctors' second album - Turn It Upside Down - all of that kinda slid away like flesh from a burn victim. In three years' time, we're left with an entire album of "Two Princes", only they're all second-tier "Two Princes" and you know what that means. It means the album bombed, the guitarist quit over "creative differences", and they'd go on to record three more records that nobody's ever heard about - the latest and probably last in 2005.

This is what happens. This is how you can kill a career. See, when you're a jam band the likes of which they were in the early 90s, you're going to attain a certain level of fanatical fanbase who'll stick with you through thick and thin as long as you don't abuse their sensibilities by trying to sell out and go pop. When their first album went multi-platinum, they still could've went on and retained their hardcore fanbase as long as they didn't change the formula. But, they got that taste of the good life. They suckled at the teet of SNL and MTV and all this other exposure and - for the most part - they craved a second helping. What they didn't realize is that the Pop Music audience is a fickle bitch who'll turn on you as the seasons change. Trying to appease the Pop audience's appetite is an exercise in dumb fucking luck. And, since the Spin Doctors went in that direction, they ended up losing all credibility with their core base, leaving them twisting in the wind like a lone leaf on an oak tree in the middle of December.

Of course, this doesn't say much about Blues Traveller because they pretty much tried to do the same thing; it just so happens that John Popper is a better Pop Music writer than the Doctors. Still, where are they today? They're playing festivals from time to time to their same hardcore fanbase; why is that? Because they didn't completely sell out their ideals for the next Letterman appearance (and because people will ALWAYS go see someone as talented as John Popper on the harmonica thrash his way to immortality).

So, you may read this and say Good Riddance to the band who tortured you with that damned "Two Princes" song, but I'm here to say their career trajectory was a collosal tragedy. I've always likened them to The Black Crowes - a band I love who went on to put out quality music for more than a decade - in their rock stylings (even though Chris Robinson's voice is a hundred times more soulful). But, because they got greedy and tried to hold on to their Precious for too long, they ended up getting bitten squarely in the ass