Friday, January 1, 2016

Today in Music (1966): The Mamas & the Papas charted with “California Dreamin’”

California Dreamin’

The Mamas & the Papas

Writer(s): John Phillips/ Michelle Phillips (see lyrics here)

Released: December 8, 1965

First Charted: January 1, 1966

Peak: 4 US, 4 CB, 2 GR, 2 HR, 1 CL, 9 UK, 7 CN, 87 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 236.3 video, 807.84 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Ironically, the group at the heart of the mid-1960s folk-rock movement on the West Coast emerged from the folk scene in Greewich Village. TB Before John Phillips and his wife Michelle comprised half of the group known as the Mamas & the Papas, they were living in New York in 1963. They’d been married a few months and he was working with the folk group the Journeymen. She was homesick for California and he wrote about it after “the couple walked through Greenwich Village, desperate for some sunshine in the midst of a snowstorm.” SS

After the Journeymen broke up, John and Michelle tried to move forward with the New Journeymen, but that was short-lived. By 1965, all their Village pals – including Cass Elliot and Dennis Doherty of the Mugwumps – had moved to California so the Phillips headed there as well. SS Cass reached out to her friend Barry McGuire, who’d found success with “Eve of Destruction,” and he recorded “California Dreamin’” with her and the Phillips on backing vocals. SS

John then realized how magical the song was and asked if he could keep it to release as the debut single for the Mamas & the Papas. Barry said, “Hey, it’s your tune. Do whatever you want.” SS They replaced McGuire’s lead vocal with Doherty and made some other changes SS but kept the same backing track. TB

The song is also marked by a rare flute solo. SF According to Doug Thompson, the group wanted a more unusual solo than the standard guitar. John went out in the hall, saw jazz saxophonist Bud Shank, and pulled him into the studio. Shank, in turn, listened to the part of the song requiring the solo and then nailed it with the first take. SF

“The song’s easy grace and subtle message is positively irresistible,” AMG making for “one of the all-time sunniest songs.” RS500 It “neatly encapsulated the feeling of longing as well as a desire to lead a freer, more spiritually fulfilling life.” AMG Michelle said, “It’s really about getting out from under circumstances of your life, and going to a better place. That’s a theme that doesn’t lose its appeal.” SS


First posted 1/1/2013; last updated 4/25/2024.

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