I am California dreaming.
I really enjoyed watching the documentaries and reading about the Mamas and the Papas. The song that sticks in my mind is Go Where You Wanna Go; you know, “Go where you wanna wanna go, be who you wanna wanna be.”
I wouldn’t call John Phillips a genius. It is more like dangerous and destructive. I think that is why his is not a household name. It took me a while to get to know him and those around him. I judge it by do you hurt those around you, and he did plenty of that.
Four marriages, five kids, jail, and a heroin addiction so severe even Keith Richards couldn’t take it anymore is not the way to leave a positive lasting impression. Watching the interviews with Phillips is sad. The smirks, laughter, delusion and avoidance… He never got it.
They started as the Mama’s and the Papa’s but most people only know them as Mamas and Papas. Michelle Phillips didn’t add much and Denny could sing, but in retrospect Cass Elliott put them over the top.
You can see the pride in Phillip’s face with Doherty singing California Dreamin’ but he couldn’t recognize it in Elliott.
I had to go back and complete the circle to gain perspective. I used to walk to work from Foggy Bottom down Pennsylvania avenue to FBI headquarters and I would stop and watch the early showings at the many movie theaters on the way home. Once I came across The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time, and I went back at least one more time. Even with German subtitles it is a treat.
The Mamas and the Papas came to L.A. with a concept and a some good-to-great songs. It wasn’t really magic. The marketing, and Lou Adler, did not add a thing; in fact, they were almost overproduced. The key was the four-part harmonies. Others were doing it too.
I saw Mary-Chapin Carpenter (Hometown Girl) at the Birchmere and I used to listen to Dick Cerri and Music Americana. WLTT, Bethesda-Washington, the videos are less than popular on YouTube but thankfully they are there.
I am in awe of these people who can do it with just a guitar. That’s what I found myself looking for. There are
many some great ones. Paul Simon can do it. So can Shawn Colvin, just to name a few. I’ll keep looking and learning.