That Time Michael McDonald Thought He’d Doomed the Doobie Brothers
Five-time Grammy winner Michael McDonald felt a severe attack of self-doubt when he first played Doobie Brothers album Minute by Minute to a friend in a parking lot in 1977.
Released the following January to great acclaim, it was the band’s first album without former lead singer Tom Johnston as a full member. It was also the first time McDonald had played a majority role in the songwriting, as he told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show.
“He will not admit to this day, but I remember distinctly sitting with him,” McDonald said of the friend he refused to name. “He and I are sitting in his car and he goes, ‘Well, let me hear the tape.’ I had the rough mixes and I played it for him, and I said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ And he goes, ‘I think it sucks! I think it’s terrible!’ ’You don’t hear anything on there that sounds good?’ He goes, ‘No!’
“This guy was a very good friend of mine but he never was a fan of my music, so he’d never hesitate. He said, ‘This should have had more Tommy songs on there. No offense, but your stuff just sucks. And I’ve told you that before – I’ve told you that many times!’”
The friend’s opinion hit home, McDonald admitted. “I’m half insulted but I’m half thinking, ‘Maybe he’s telling the truth – oh great. I’ve taken this band to its doom!’” He added: “Oddly enough, it was one of the biggest-selling records… but not without its harrowing moments along the way.”
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