You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice
The Lovin’ Spoonful, selected links:
- Discography (lovinspoonful.com)
- Discography (Wikipedia)
On the song, selected links:
On the lyric
The second section of the lyric goes
Today said the time was right for me to follow you
I knew I’d find you in a day or two
And it’s true
“Today,” the day itself, figuratively said or imparted something to the protagonist of the lyric. It’s an example of personification. However, most lyric sites give the first line of this section incorrectly, inserting the word “I” between “Today” and “said.” It’s possible that the songwriters meant to imply that it is “I” rather than “Today” doing the saying, but that would be an unnecessary inference. In the original hit recording, and in an early live performance, John Sebastian sings “Today said the time was right for me to follow you.” The first bar of the melody line of the section begins with an eighth rest, followed by “To-,” which takes an eighth note, and then each of the next three syllables (-day, said, the) take a quarter note.
In fact, John Sebastian does not sing the word “I” between “Today” and “said” in this line in any recording or live performance that I’ve heard. As of 24 February 2016, I find 15,600 results on a Google search of the line with the “I” mysteriously included, and a mere eight results for a Google search of the correct line, three of them being links to this site.
- 1 October 2016: 8,970 Google search results with the “I” incorrectly included, and just four results for a Google search of the correct line, none of the latter being this page, or a page on this site.
- 17 March 2017: 50,700 Google search results with the “I” incorrectly included, and just five results for a Google search of the correct line, one being this page.
Despite the fact that, as of 17 March 2017, something like 99.99% of sites which include the lyric, or at least the portion of it containing this line, have the “I” added to the line, every sheet music copy that I’ve seen online has the line given correctly, with no “I.”
Other variants of the same line
- “Today” replaced by “They”
- In the February 1966 recording by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the 1968 versions by The Mega’s and The Glass Menagerie, and the 1973 version by Septimus, the word “Today” in this line is replaced by “They.”
- The 1967 recording by the Irish band, The Strangers, also has the word “they” instead of “today” in this line, but with a twist. In their version, the line begins “‘Cause they said…”
- In addition to replacing the first word, The Glass Menagerie (1968) further revise the line, resulting in: “They said the time would come
to follow you.”
- In their 1968 recording, The Mega’s seem to sing “Th-they said the time is right…,” both times the line is sung. Th-they also substantially alter some of the other words from the original. For example, the original line “And gone upon your quiet way,” becomes in their version “You’ve got it on your quiet day.”
- In their 1973 version, the Norwegian band Septimus appears to sing, “They said the time is right for me to fall of you.” However, what seems to be “fall of” might be “fol-luv,” a mispronunciation of “follow,” since as Wikipedia says, “In Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, ⟨w⟩ is named double-v and not double-u. In these languages, the letter only exists in old names, loanwords and foreign words…It is usually pronounced /v/…“
- The Cameos sing the same words heard in the original, in their 1968 version, but break up the melody line of the first bar of the second section differently. It begins with a quarter rest; then “To-” and “-day” each take a quarter note; and the bar ends with two eighth notes on “said” and “the,” respectively.
- In the 2001 version by The Happy Balloons, the first line of the second section varies from the original twice, differently, during the two separate choruses, as follows:
- chorus 1: “Today samba time was right for me to follow you”
- chorus 2: “Today a certain time was right for me to follow you”
The Lovin’ Spoonful — issued in November 1965 on the single Kama Sutra KA 205 (45cat.com, Discogs.com), b/w “My Gal” — In January 1966, the single peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It appeared again (though a couple of seconds shorter, according to the label) in March 1966 on the album Daydream, Kama Sutra KLPS-8051 (Stereo), Kama Sutra KLP 8051 (Mono).
From the 1966 album Daydream:
The Lovin’ Spoonful — Hullabaloo, Season 2, Episode 7 (Show #25) — airdate: 1 Nov 1965
I believe the only live audio portion of this performance might be John Sebastian’s vocal. I deduct this from the following facts:
- Sebastian seems to be either singing live, or doing a very good job of lip-syncing.
- The electric guitars are not connected to amplifiers, or to anything else.
- Sebastian sings the word “the” in the line “Today said the time was right for me to follow you” with a long vowel sound on the “e” in the original releases (single and album), but with a short vowel sound in both this performance and the 29 November 1965 live concert performance, the latter being part of The Big T.N.T. Show (see below).
- More than once, Zal Yanovsky (who is supposedly singing live back vocals, along with the drummer, Joe Butler) turns his head away from the mike, or clearly stops lip-syncing, while the back vocals continue to be heard, and at consistent volume.
Another explanation might be that the band used an alternate, or new, recording for this appearance, and everybody is lip-syncing.
The Lovin’ Spoonful — 29 November 1965 live concert performance, part of the The Big T.N.T. Show
Early covers which I’ve omitted for various reasons include the following:
- The Boston Crabs — musical director: Arthur Greenslade — issued on 4 February 1966 on (UK) Columbia DB 7830, b/w “Gin House”
- Gary Lewis & The Playboys — on the album She’s Just My Style, Liberty LST 7435 (Stereo), Liberty LRP 3435 (Mono), released in February 1966
- The Grass Roots — on the 1966 LP Where Were You When I Needed You, Dunhill D-50011 (Mono), Dunhill DS-50011 (Stereo)
- Rasputin and The Monks — originally released on the 1966 LP Sun of My Soul, Trans Radio TR-968 (Mono)
- Kenny and The Stringers — issued in 1966 on (Denmark) Sonet T 7222, b/w “You Make Me Feel Like a Man”
- The Strangers — issued in July 1967 on (UK) Pye 7N 17351, b/w “Daytime (Turns to Night)”
- The Noblemen — issued in 1967 on Paris Tower PT-110, as the B-side of “Two Faced Woman”
- Mark Wirtz — recorded between 1965 and 1969; issued on the 1996 compilation CD album The Go-Go Music of Mark Wirtz: his Orchestra and Chorus, (UK) RPM Records RPM 172
Bud Shank — The track was recorded in Los Angeles in October 1966, according to the Chet Baker Discography at the Jazz Discography Project (jazzdisco.org), which indicates that Bob Florence arranged and directed an unidentified orchestra. It was issued on the 1966 album Michelle, World Pacific WPS-21840 (Stereo), World Pacific WP 1840 (Mono). JazzDisco.org credits Baker with playing only flugelhorn during the sessions, though it’s not clear on which recordings he might have played. Discogs.com, on the other hand, credits Baker with playing only trumpet on the album, while again no tracks are specified.
The Craftsmen — from the 1966 album What Can We Say?, Zap Records ZLP-C-3009
Video presently unavailable
Astrud Gilberto with son Marcelo Gilberto; arrangement by Don Sebesky — from the 1967 album Beach Samba, Verve Records V6-8708 (Stereo), Verve Records V-8708 (Mono) — The recording was also released in October 1967 on the single Verve VK10554, c/w “A Banda.” Discogs.com and 45cat.com disagree about which was the A-side.
The Glass Menagerie — issued in June 1968 on (UK) Pye 7N.17568, b/w “Let’s All Run to the Sun”
For unknown reasons, the provider displays in the video an image made from a 1969 photo of the band YES. That’s why I’ve minimized the height of the player.
The Mega’s — from their 1968 album Meganique, (Netherlands) Dankers DL 1002
Libby Titus — from her debut album, Libby Titus, Hot Biscuit Disc Company ST-9101, released in 1968
Septimus — from the 1973 album I Lag Med Septimus (Talent label)
Vorhagen.com says, “Septimus was a Norwegian band from Oslo who sprang from Rune alsted Orchestra, which had started in the late 60s.”
Triste Janero — from the 1969 album Meet Triste Janero, White Whale WWS-7122
The Happy Balloon — from the 2001 album The Fine Art of Ballooning, (Spain) Siesta SIESTA 126
From the description attached to a YouTube video featuring a recording, by The Happy Balloon, of the song “Happy” (The Sunshine Company):
Some years ago Z. was obsessed by a meticulous striving for perfection and found his universe too rigurously structured. He moved to a Greek island and started cultural activities with natives. The Happy Balloon was the axis of his new world. The master music plan was to start an adventurous quest of tuneful pop “as refreshing as a spring breeze.”
John Sebastian — “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” guitar instruction video — uploaded by homespuntapes, on 16 June 2008
The provider says:
A sample from “John Sebastian Teaches Eight Lovin’ Spoonful Hits” available as an instant download here: https://leapingbrain.com/modshop/chec…
John Sebastian — live, 8 April 2011, at Bull Run Restaurant, Shirley, Massachusetts
In the introduction to the performance, Sebastian gives a humorous account of the genesis of the song, in which he indicates that the original idea for the song was put forth by Lovin’ Spoonful member Steve Boone, who is credited as co-writer, following a request from the band’s record company (Kama Sutra) for a follow up to their very successful first single, “Do You Believe in Magic.”
Larry Garrett — vocal with guitar accompaniment; published on 26 September 2011
Larry Garrett, “The Missouri Picker,” links:
Jerry Yester — January 2013 performance at The Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, CA
Ed Collins — piano solo; published on 19 January 2014
Ron Sexsmith — vocal with guitar accompaniment; published on 8 November 2014
Dan Chan — piano solo; published on 3 December 2015