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Monday, 30 March 2015

Alphabet Beats #088: M is for...The Mamas and The Papas

M is for....
Back when I was a kid my folks had a well worn copy of The Greatest Hits of The Mamas and The Papas that was released in 1969 and I can remember listening to it and totally loving the harmonious sound that came from these four people. I didn't really know too much about them then and probably didn't understand everything they were singing about but as I got older their music has always been something special to me. There is a timelessness about their sound that even 50 years on from their forming it still sounds great.
Click on the links to enjoy the sound of The Mamas and The Papas.

The Mamas and The Papas were an American folk rock vocal group that recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968, reuniting briefly in 1971. They released five studio albums and seventeen singles, six of which made the top ten, and sold close to 40 million records worldwide. The group was composed of John Phillips (1935–2001), Denny Doherty (1940–2007), Cass Elliot (1941–1974), and Michelle Phillips née Gilliam (b. 1944). Their sound was based on vocal harmonies arranged by John Phillips, the songwriter, musician, and leader of the group who adapted folk to the new beat style of the early sixties.
According to Denny Doherty it was Cass who had the inspiration to name the band The Mamas and The Papas:

"We're all just lying around vegging out watching TV and discussing names for the group. The New Journeymen was not a handle that was going to hang on this outfit. John was pushing for The Magic Cyrcle. Eech, but none of us could come up with anything better, then we switch the channel and, hey, it's the Hells Angels on the Carson show... And the first thing we hear is: "Now hold on there, Hoss. Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas." Cass jumped up: "Yeah! I want to be a Mama." And Michelle is going: "We're the Mamas! We're the Mamas!" OK. I look at John. He's looking at me going: "The Papas?" Problem solved. A toast! To The Mamas and the Papas. Well, after many, many toasts, Cass and John are passed out."

The first single release was 'Go Where You Wanna Go' in 1965 but it failed to chart. Their big breakthrough came via Barry McGuire. He recorded a version of 'California Dreamin' for his album 'This Precious Time' that had The Mamas and The Papas on backing vocals. They then recorded their own version of the song using the same instrumental and vocal backing track to which they added new vocals. Although the single was released in September 1965 it was not an immediate hit and it would take until March the following year before it finally broke and reached #4 in the charts.

The follow-up single 'Monday Monday' gave them their only #1 (they did have a further four U.S. Top Ten Hits: 'I Saw Her Again', 'Words of Love', 'Dedicated to the One I Love' and 'Creeque Alley').

Deliver (1967).
The Mamas and Papas broke up in 1968 (they would reform again in 1971, releasing a final album together 'People Like Us' - Michelle Phillips said that it sounded like what it was "four people trying to avoid a lawsuit" - which they had to do in order to avoid a breach of contract charge against them).
 People Like Us (1971)
Side A
    "People Like Us" - 3:25
    "Pacific Coast Highway" - 3:04
    "Snowqueen of Texas" - 2:37
    "Shooting Star" - 2:54
    "Step Out" - 3:03
    "Lady Genevieve" - 3:48

Side B
    "No Dough" - 3:05
    "European Blueboy" - 3:39
    "Pearl" - 2:24
    "I Wanna Be a Star" (J. Phillips, Michelle Phillips) - 2:17
    "Grasshopper" - 2:57
    "Blueberries for Breakfast" - 2:59  

The live video posted above is the set that appeared in the film by The Mamas and The Papas at The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

The full set from the night was this:

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