“What a Fool Believes” was a massive hit for the Doobie Brothers, reaching No. 1 in April of 1979. Yet, during the recording process, producer Ted Templeman thought the track was “no good.”

In a conversation with UCR, Templeman revealed how frustrated he became with the song. “We recorded ‘What A Fool Believes’ and we had two inch tapes stacked high to the fuckin’ ceiling in the booth, we’d done so many takes of it,” he explained, adding that even the normally congenial Michael McDonald said “I hate this fuckin’ song.”

Part of what made the track so difficult was its drum part. The group recorded it numerous times, yet still seemed unable to get the sound they were looking for. Searching for answers, engineer Donn Landee suggested Templeman -- who had started his career as a drummer -- jump behind the kit for some takes. “So I did. I played the drums on it. It gave it a certain groove,” the producer matter-of-factly declared.

Even after contributing, Templeman didn’t think the track was very good. The producer reluctantly took one of the recordings to a meeting with the executives at Warner Bros. Records. “I said, ‘Listen to this. It’s a piece of shit,’" Templeman recalled saying, moments before playing “What a Fool Believes.” The response couldn’t have been more contrary.

“They played it back and they said, ‘Are you crazy? That is fuckin’ great!,’” Templeman remembered. In hindsight, the producer realized why he was so negative towards the song. “I thought it was no good. I was too close to it. You know, it kind of stumbled around and it wasn’t locked in enough. It didn’t matter. The lyrics were so great. Mike’s singing is so great. So sometimes, you don’t know what’s best. I mean, I certainly had that one wrong."

“What a Fool Believes” would go on to win Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Templeman gave the acceptance speech for the latter award, after the Doobie Brothers “pushed (him) up to the fuckin’ microphone.” As he exited the stage, the producer ran into another of the artists he’d worked alongside. “Van Halen was there in tuxedos. Dave (Lee Roth) walked over to me -- or one of them -- and he said, ‘Here. Here’s your own personal Grammy' and he dropped a gram of coke in my hand in a little vial.”

The music veteran has assembled various anecdotes from throughout his career for the new autobiography Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music. The book, co-written by author Gregg Renoff, is available now.

 

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