Songs I Listened to Then…The Mamas and the Papas

We were living in California — we lived in three or four different cities over the course of 4-5 years.  I don’t have exact dates, but it doesn’t matter much; this was a time when we were all young enough, or too young, to be jaded or sad.  I remember flashes of memories, but my concurrent memories didn’t start until 1965 or 1966.

One thing I remember from then is the music — so many great pop songs.  Mom was particularly fond of The Mamas and the Papas.  I remember their music playing pretty steadily through this period of time.  In fact all of us learned the songs, and we learned the harmonies and sang those too.  I imagine we were quite a sight bursting into song whenever their music played.  I still do today, only now I don’t care how I look.  

In fact, even after the band split up in 1968, those familiar songs still wafted through the house.  I don’t think any of us realized how powerful the songs would be throughout our lives — Mom and I heard one of their songs in a restaurant today, and our eyes lit up; we both sang along.  It was so nice.  Mom, thank you for exposing us to great music from the time we were all so young.  What a great gift.

I am including several songs, not necessarily in the order they were released.  My first choice is actually one of their earliest songs, and still a favorite all over the world.  Their first single, and included on the February, 1966 album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, here is California Dreamin’:


Next on my list of favorites is from the August, 1966 album The Mamas and the Papas, I Call Your Name:


From the May, 1968 album The Papas and the Mamas, one of the group’s less noticed songs, and yet one that really strikes a chord with me, Twelve-thirty:


Another great song highlighted Cass’ ability to camp it up a little.  I deliberately chose the original mono recording; HQ is harsh in comparison.  This number also came from the album The Mamas and the Papas, Words of Love:


And finally, from the February, 1967 album Deliver, this song tells the story of how the band met and got together.  I chose this version, even though it has a big cut before the last verse, because they were recorded live on The Ed Sullivan Show.  I am including lyrics, as these go quickly and are easy to miss.  The band’s biography song, Creeque Alley:

Lyrics to Creeque Alley

John and Mitchy were gettin’ kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
Zal and Denny workin’ for a penny
Tryin’ to get a fish on the line
In a coffee house Sebastian sat
And after every number they’d pass the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just a-gettin’ higher
In L.A., you know where that’s at
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass

Zally said “Denny, you know there aren’t many
Who can sing a song the way that you do, let’s go south”
Denny said “Zally, golly, don’t you think that I wish
I could play guitar like you”
Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat (At the Night Owl)
And after every number they’d pass the hat
McGuinn and McGuire still a-gettin higher
In L.A., you know where that’s at
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass

When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore
But she changed her mind one day
Standin’ on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike
“Take me to New York right away”
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps
Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps
McGuinn and McGuire couldn’t get no higher
But that’s what they were aimin’ at
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass

Mugwumps, high jumps, low slumps, big bumps
Don’t you work as hard as you play
Make up, break up, everything is shake up
Guess it had to be that way
Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful
Michelle, John, and Denny gettin’ very tuneful
McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin’ fire
In L.A., you know where that’s at
And everybody’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass
Di-di-di-dit dit dit di-di-di-dit, whoa

Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can’t be trusted
And Mitchy wants to go to the sea
Cass can’t make it, she says we’ll have to fake it
We knew she’d come eventually
Greasin’ on American Express cards
It’s low rent, but keeping out the heat’s hard
Duffy’s good vibrations and our imaginations
Can’t go on indefinitely
And California dreamin’ is becomin’ a reality



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