Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas (Elaine)

This is a repost of Elaine's piece on The Mamas & The Papas' album The Papas and the Mamas.

The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):


1) Jackson and His Computerband's Glow.

2) The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas & The Mamas.

3) David Rovics' Into A Prism.

4) Jon Butcher Axis' Wishes 

5) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk

6) Cass Elliot's Cass Elliot/ The Road Is No Place For A Lady.

7) Radiohead's The King of Limbs.

8) Ben and Ellen Harper's Childhood Home.

9) Prince's Around The World In A Day.

10) Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines.

The fourth studio album by the Mamas and the Papas was The Papas and the Mamas.

The group broke up both before and after this 1968 studio album.

The album was recorded at the home Michelle and John Phillips bought -- a Hollywood mansion that used to belong to Jeneatte McDonald.  They build a studio in the house -- without permits because the neighborhood was not zoned for a recording studio.

The Mamas and the Papas were a musical group, the first hippie group to hit the charts.  Their first big hit was "California Dreamin'" written by Michelle and John.  Also in the group, the incredible Cass Elliot and the to-this-day underrated Denny Doherty.

On the fourth album, Michelle soloed with two thirty or so second bits of Shirley Temple's "The Right Somebody To Love."


Because everyone was so sick of John.

Once the studio was in the Phillips' home, he was a tyrant forcing the group to re-record vocals over and over.

Cass publicly complained that they spent an entire month recording the vocals on "For The Love of Ivy" for the album.

As the rest of the group rebelled at John's tyrannical moves, that left Michelle who couldn't leave -- it was her house too -- plus she was pregnant and gave birth (to Chynna Phillips, born in February of 1968) during the recording of the album.

So John wanted a pure sound to contrast with the complexity of the new sounds on songs like "Gemini Child," so he recorded Michelle singing the Shirley Temple song with no accompaniment.  He then broke it up and opened the first side with it and used it on side two as well.  (It's on the CD or the vinyl album in two parts -- only the first one is noted in the track listing. Do not e-mail me, "Elaine, it's only on the album once."  The second appearance is there but not listed.  Listen to the album.)

It's a new sound for the group.

If they hadn't broken up, it would be interesting to see where it would go next.  (They recorded People Like Us in the 70s under threat of lawsuit.)

For me, "Safe In My Garden" is not just the best track on the album, it's also one of the group's five best recordings ever.

I also love "Too Late" (especially the last half of the song, "get on your pony and ride") and, of course, "Dream A Little Dream of Me."

It's really a strong album and with a real label behind them -- Dunhill had now been absorbed by ABC Records -- they would have probably continued the string of hits.  As it was, they had four charting singles -- two of which went top 40 -- from the album.

It's interesting how no one bothers to include the inept ABC in the story of the group's final days.

They really didn't know how to break artists or get airplay.

They could handle distribution but nothing else.

The Papas and the Mamas is one of the best albums released in 1968 -- it would make my top five for that year -- and a classic.