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Older, Wiser Doobies Back on the Road

July 10, 1989 GMT

TROY, Mich. (AP) _ With their first album of new material in nine years zooming up the charts, the original members of the Doobie Brothers band are taking it to the streets. But they’re taking it easier between shows.

″I think everybody’s just wanting to take care of themselves a little better than they used to,″ lead singer Tom Johnston said in a recent interview during a two-day stop in the Detroit area.

″Consequently, everybody’s a little quieter when they go back to their room than they used to be. They don’t stay out all night boogying.″

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Added drummer John Hartman, 70 pounds lighter than the last time he did any intense touring, ″The road treats us the same, we just don’t treat it the same.″

These Doobies made up the earliest version of the band, the guitar-based act with a hard rock style that recorded such hits as ″China Grove,″ ″Listen to the Music,″ ″Jesus Is Just Alright″ and ″Black Water.″

The new album, ″Cycles,″ already has gone gold - more than 500,000 copies sold within two weeks of release. It means there will be at least one more Doobies album. Johnston says he has six or seven songs waiting at home, including one yanked from ″Cycles″ at the last minute.

The first single from the album, ″The Doctor,″ was at No. 11 on the Billboard charts as of June 30. Its sound, most often compared with ″China Grove,″ should be no surprise, Hartman said.

″You come out with a new album. You’re supposed to sound like, what, Montovanni?″ Hartman asked sarcastically. ″You’ve got the same guys who wrote the same hits back in the early days. What’s (Johnston) supposed to sound like? Elvis?″

Johnston, Hartman, guitarist Patrick Simmons, bassist Tiran Porter, drummer Michael Hossack and percussionist Bobby LaKind make up this version of the band, whose evolution requires a scorecard.

There were 14 Doobies - none of them related - from 1972 to 1982. The Johnston-led band gave way to the slicker, rhythm and blues version fronted by Michael McDonald in the late ’70s that scored the hits ″Takin’ It to the Streets,″ ″What a Fool Believes,″ which was named record of the year at the Grammy Awards in 1979, and the Grammy winning-album ″Minute by Minute.″

A 1987 reunion concert for Vietnam veterans brought a dozen Doobies together. It led to a mini-tour and a Fourth of July concert in Moscow. After that, the musicians went their separate ways.

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Producer Ted Templeman, who was with the band through all its changes, talked to Johnston and the original Doobies about getting back together for a new album.

″We were all playing in bands around the bay area and recording and doing stuff; it just wasn’t on a very big scale,″ Johnston said. ″Basically, it was like starting all over again. We all knew each other. The music, it’s all new tunes. That’s why the album was called ‘Cycles,’ because we’ve been through a lot of cycles, mostly the spin cycle.″

The success of ″Cycles″ never was guaranteed, but air play of ″The Doctor,″ coupled with classic rock radio play of oldies, has created a new generation of Doobie fans.

″Kids from 17 on up have been showing up at the concerts as well as people who knew us from before,″ Johnston said. ″I think they find it interesting to go back and listen to the ’70s-type stuff as well as what we’ve doing on the new album.″

Success still is welcome to a band - even after it has sold 80 million albums.

″I knew a lot of people wanted to hear rock ‘n’ roll Doobie Brothers and stuff,″ said Johnston. ″We didn’t try to make this album sound like 1974. We tried to make it sound like the songs we had written.″

This time out, the Doobies are playing 12 to 14 concerts, then laying off for 10 days before beginning another round. There are 65 concerts planned on the ″Cycles″ tour.

″We used to do 200-plus gigs a year, and when we weren’t gigging, we were in the studio, so you never saw home and you never really got rested up,″ Johnston said. ″I don’t want to go out for that many dates a year anymore anyway. It’s crazy. And I don’t think you need to. I don’t think we needed to back then either.″

These days, family members travel occasionally with the band members. Hartman, whose family prefers to stay behind, gets out to museums, parks and shopping malls. Johnston and others read novels.

″We’re not trashing hotel roomsanymore and we’re not having door wars with rent-a-cars, burning up stages and things of that nature.″ Johnston said. ″Everybody’s become a little bit more selective, especially being married, they don’t mess around.″