Gary James' Interview With Patrick Simmons Of
The Doobie Brothers
In 1983, The Doobie Brothers decided to call it a day. Unlike so many other group members of celebrated bands who are never heard from again, guitarist Patrick Simmons went on to pursue a solo career. Out on the road with Jefferson Starship, in support of his album "Arcade", we spoke to Patrick Simmons about his past association with The Doobie Brothers, and what the future holds for him.
Q - How are you adjusting to your solo career Pat? Is it harder for you than anticipated? Are you glad you made the move out of the Doobies?
A - It's just pretty much what I thought it would be. There's a lot of basic work involved just like in any musical endeavor I think. It's a relief to me to be free of the band. I enjoyed all my years with The Doobies. I'm glad that it dissolved amicably so that we could go on and do other things without having a major blowup. It was more of a very calm sit down, talk about it, let's work it out, try to do the best, try to do it the best way we can. I was pretty much relieved to see it go as smoothly as it did. It was tough on everybody I think. It went better I'm sure than most bands go as far as the way it went down.
Q - A great many people must have a difficult time understanding why a group like The Doobie Brothers, had to break up. Were group members no longer deriving personal satisfaction from the music they were playing? Did it ever reach the point where someone in the audience would shout for "Listen To The Music" and you'd think 'if I have to play that song one more lime I'm going to be sick'? Did that enter into the decision?
A - Not as much I don't think, really. For me, I have my own reasons. I think everybody had their own reasons for wanting it, to go other directions. I'm sure some of the guys would've stayed in there and tried to make it work. But, myself, Michael, Keith, Bobby, I think we felt that it was time for things to go in another direction. And for me, I kind of left the band before the final curtain, a few months before everybody finally decided to actually break it up. The Doobie Brothers were always a very hard working band. We practiced hard. We toured. We worked hard on the records, getting the music together. I felt that at the end a lot of the effort we persisted in was beginning to slow down. It was coming from everybody perhaps, I don't know. I kind of felt like I hung in there for a long time. I like to see constructive work going on within the band and I began to feel it was drifting apart. People were sometimes not showing for rehearsals. People had other things to do, when it was time to be doing the band's business. There were other things people were interested in doing. I just felt at that point, when those kinds of things go down, for me, having been there all those years, I began to be a little bit resentful I guess. And I really didn't want to push the band. I didn't want to complain. I didn't want to be a mother hen. It wasn't as full an effort as I would have liked to have seen. And that was when I began to feel I should find another outlet, because it was displeasing to me to see that go down.
Q - Is it true that groups stay together only as long as it takes for the individual members to get some kind of recognition, so they can pursue solo careers?
A - I don't see that as necessarily being true. I'm sure that would be the way certain people would feel about it. I feel you get into a group 'cause you want to get into a group. You don't get into a group thinking this is the way I'm going to launch my solo career. I'm sure some people might consider that, but I got into a group 'cause I wanted to be in a band with other people. I didn't want to have to be doing it on my own. I had been doing it on my own prior to the time I joined the band. I think what happens when you join a band, is you almost give up a chance to be in another band especially a successful band. When you join a band and it becomes successful, it almost ruins your opportunity to be in another band again. I suppose I could've formed another band, but I don't think I would have as much opportunity to do things as I do on my own. When I first did it, it was very strange to be on my own, and I wasn't really sure of it. Once I did it, I enjoyed it, because it's another approach to the musical arts. It's such a different direction that it sort of becomes stimulating to me in another way.
Q - When you and The Doobie Brothers were starting off, you played biker clubs for very little money. Did you ever in your wildest dreams believe that you would go on to super stardom?
A - I think we wanted it. I don't think that just because you want it, you can automatically get it. I felt good about those days when we were doing it. It was one of those things where we got up on stage and we played and people liked it. So I knew from the response we were getting, that we were just one step ahead of the other band that was playing that didn't get the response from the audience. So whether or not I thought I'd ever be playing anyplace else or recording, I knew right at the start that what we had was a little bit magical simply because people liked it. Just the opportunity to play the biker bars was something. Some of the bands in the area weren't playing anywhere because they just couldn't get the job. People heard them play and said no, we don't want to hire you, That's not what we want for our club. We want rock 'n' roll, a band that's polished and knows how to play and has a repertoire of twenty or thirty tunes and can entertain for the evening. Well, we had that. So we were able to get that and go beyond it to the point where we were actually appreciated. That really was the first step. I think every band that is together for some length of time considers whatever they're doing at the moment is probably temporary and they would hope that things would improve. And that's why you keep practicing and keep writing and keep searching for outlets for your music. Basically we went from playing clubs like that to making demo tapes to actually taking those tapes out and approaching labels. It wasn't really that we necessarily thought we had anything, as much as we hoped we had something. Hope is what musicians live by. That's all you really have. That's all I have right now. I'm not John Cougar. I'm not Christopher Cross. So I'm hoping that I can do better someday with what I'm doing. I practice hard. I got a good band. We practice. I'm out here on the road doing this tour. I did an album. I'm going to do another album. I'm trying to write the songs, I'm hoping that things will come around for me just like I hoped with The Doobies that things would come around for us. I think that's what musicians live for is the hope that things will improve for them.
Q - Alice Cooper has said, "Every single person who has been a superstar made it because he came out at the right time. When the Beatles came out, it wasn't lucky, it was good timing. Somebody was thinking." If we apply Alice Cooper's philosophy towards the career of Patrick Simmons and The Doobies, who was doing the thinking? Was it a record co-executive, a manager, an agent, or The Doobies themselves?
A - I think it's really the band. Certainly the label can give you a hand with that by signing you and allowing you to make a record and putting it out. Timing has a lot to do with it. When the songs are written and the band is there, or the individual is there with the songs, that's the time. That's when it is. You don't write a bunch of tunes and then go, I'm not going to present this for five years because the time isn't right. Basically, any artist writes the songs and as soon as he thinks he has something, he presents it. If it's marketed properly and the timing is right, but I don't think you can pick the time, it just is. It either is or it isn't. It's not like Brian Epstein sat around and went, 'well, in a few years these guys are really gonna be ready'. He went, 'these guys are ready. Let's go and get it. Now we got it. You're well rehearsed. You got the songs, you got the look. Let's go.' I'm sure they sat around and tried to figure out a direction and image for themselves, but it was like, they already had the direction. They already had the image way back when. It was just they had to write the songs I guess.
Q - Is it hard for you to sit down and write a song? Do you measure any song you might write with something you've already written?
A - No, not really. I think you measure your music against what other people are doing at the time, more than you would against yourself. Every time I write a song now, I think it'll never be as good as Michael Jackson. Some of the great musicians that are happening, Culture Club, Duran, Duran, you're just sitting around and really working towards being up there with these people, because they're the ones who are really writing the great hit records these days.
Q - Sylvester Stallone talked about success and remarked, "The challenge of success is that you keep trying to create higher goals." How can you achieve higher goals without repeating what you've done in the past?
A - It kind of depends what your goals are. My goal is to get through this tour before the bus breaks down. (Laughs). I tend to think that successful people, they over simplify things with philosophical generalities that realty are totally meaningless in a way. That statement is sort of not meaningful to me. Success is all in your mind. Just because you're successful twice is no reason to get tired of success or to become jaded about it. I would never sit around and philosophize about it to the point where you make it mundane. That just isn't the way the music business or record sales have become to me.