Happy Anniversary: The Doobie Brothers, One Step Closer

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Happy Anniversary: The Doobie Brothers, One Step Closer

34 years ago today, The Doobie Brothers released One Step Closer, their ninth studio album and – as it turned out – the last studio album they’d release before disbanding for more than half a decade.

All things being equal, it’s possible that it was time for the Doobies to call it quits for a while, anyway: by the beginning of 1981, there wasn’t a single founding member of the band left in their lineup, and those who remained were well aware that it was only a matter of time before Michael McDonald kicked off a solo career. (Given that McDonald’s unmistakable voice could already be heard in so many other people’s songs, from Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind” to Nicolette Larson’s “Let Me Go, Love” to Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” it often seemed as if he’d already done so.)

It’s not that One Step Closer didn’t sell well (it hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum) nor that it didn’t feature any hit singles (“Real Love” went to #5, the title track made it into the top-40, and even “Keep This Train A-Rollin’” was a minor hit), but it’s clear that there’d been a major shift in the creative control of 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.

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." Indeed, as a gift to those fans, the band proceeded to embark on a farewell tour before finally calling it quits after their performance at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on September 11, 1982.

No, One Step Closer isn’t the best 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.