When the Spin Doctors released grooving, pop-savvy hits “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes” in the early 1990s, the New York City band’s burst of popularity looked like overnight success. It wasn’t.
The Spin Doctors spent a year “really slogging away,” singer Chris Barron said from New York last week. The band will perform Saturday at the inaugural Baton Rouge Oyster Festival.
Epic Records released “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” as a single in October 1992, 14 months after the label issued the Spin Doctors’ album debut, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite.” Barron credits Jim McGuinn, then program director at WEQX-FM in Manchester, Vermont, for helping the major label recognize the Spin Doctors’ commercial potency.
McGuinn realized the Spin Doctors’ appeal after WEQX used the hook from one of the band’s songs, “Big Fat Funky Booty,” in a commercial that advertised a Spin Doctors performance.
“People would call up and request the commercial,” McGuinn told Spin magazine in 1992. “That never happens.”
“Jim championed the album,” Barron said. “He told Epic we were one of the best bands in the country. Epic finally turned on the big Sony media machine. But not before we served it up to them on a platter. We had to bend steel bars and leap buildings at a single bound. There had been a few people at Epic who were believers all along, but it took time for the brass to get behind them.”
“Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” reached No. 17 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. “Two Princes” peaked at No. 7 in 1993. Sales of the “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” album eventually reached five million in the U.S. and 10 million worldwide.
The band will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this year with a hometown show at the Brooklyn Bowl. Those three decades included massive highs and crippling lows.
After “Pocket Full of Kryptonite,” the band’s recordings never matched its earlier chart success. And by 1999, Barron and drummer Aaron Comess were the only original Spin Doctors. They continued with various musicians until a mysterious condition, vocal-cord paralysis, sidelined Barron.
“When I lost my voice, we threw in the towel for a few years,” the singer said.
After Barron regained his voice, the original Spin Doctors lineup reunited in 2001. They’ve been at it ever since. The group’s members also pursue non-Spin Doctors projects, including Barron’s solo singer-songwriter career and his membership in the Norwegian supergroup the Canoes.
In 2001, Barron wasn’t so keen on being a Spin Doctor again.
“Back then, there was still lingering acrimony about the breakup,” he said. “But I got back together because I didn’t want to be the guy who said ‘No.’ ”
Now, Barron is much more appreciative of the Spin Doctors.
“I’m glad that we got back together,” he said, “We did stuff in the ’90s that was really important for us. To date, it’s the most popular thing I’ve ever done. And now that I’m older and I’ve watched how people’s careers unfold, I realize how lucky I am. I found guys I can work with, who I have musical rapport with.
“There’s sort of a savagery and volatility in the way we play together. A lot of great players out there never fall into an ensemble that has this kind of chemistry. We all really value that. And at this late stage of the game, we’re like siblings. We’re lucky to have all four of the original guys still around. That’s not something you throw away lightly.”