Happy 35th: The Doobie Brothers, One Step Closer
35 years ago today, The Doobie Brothers released their ninth studio album, an effort which – as the fates would have it – ended up being the final studio album they’d release before breaking up for more than half a decade.
In fairness, if the Doobies were destined to call it quits for a while, anyway, then there really couldn’t have been a better time for them to do it. There were no founding members remaining in the lineup of the band, and the writing was pretty much on the wall that Michael McDonald was destined to kick off a solo career sooner than later. (He might as well have already done so, anyway, given that you could already him contributing to Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind,” Nicolette Larson’s “Let Me Go, Love,” and Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” among others.)
Commercially speaking, there was no reason to sense that One Step Closer was going to be the end of an era: it hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum and had a top-5 single with “Real love” as well as a top-40 single with the title track. But there had been a major shift in the dynamic of the band, a wresting of creative control within the band, and…well, fine, we’ll just go ahead and say it: there’s something not quite right when the rock ‘n’ roll band responsible for “Listen to the Music,” “Long Train Runnin’,” and “Black Water” kicks off an album with a song co-written by Paul Anka.
So the band fulfilled its destiny and broke up, although not before hitting the road on a farewell tour to say good bye to their fans, but after the show on September 11, 1982, they officially and formally called it quits.
As drummer Keith Knudson told the L.A. Times in 1987, "There were differences of opinion on which way to go musically. We couldn't make up our minds on a direction. Also, we had nothing new to offer. We could have milked the Doobies for years if we had wanted to. But that would have been unfair to the fans."
No, One Step Closer isn’t the single greatest achievement of the Brothers’ work, and it’s unlikely that even the band members themselves would claim otherwise, but if you’ve ever been a fan of the music McDonald helped make during his tenure with the Doobies, it’s still worth revisiting.