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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturday Music Hall: California Dreaming Edition

Denny Doherty of the 60s group, the Mamas and Papas, died yesterday at 66 of kidney problems following abdominal surgery, so I thought I'd feature some of their harmonic convergences today. Sweet harmonies. Besides filling a pop music niche before folk rock and psychedelia completely took over the music scene, the Mamas and Papas were also among the organizers of one of the very first rock music festivals -- Monterey Pop in 1967 -- that was the national launching pad for many including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. David Crosby of the Byrds sang with Buffalo Springfield. Other performers included the Mamas and Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Laura Nyro, The Grateful Dead, The Who, Country Joe and The Fish, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Canned Heat, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Steve Miller Band, and The Blues Project. During the Summer of Love.

The video above captures their lip synching of California Dreaming on the weekly rock music TV show Hullabaloo -- shot in perhaps the only era that could accommodate a music event with go go dancers springing out of old fashioned claw-foot bath tubs.

Here they are closing out Monterey Pop with a live rendition of Martha and the Vandella's hit, Dancing in the Streets. By the way, it was Mama Cass Elliot who first got the members of CSNY singing together. She passed away way too soon of a fatal heart attack, at age 30 in 1974. John Phillips died in 2001 at 65, so Michelle Phillips is now the only surviving member.

Here's a triplet shot of some of their hits -- California Dreaming, Monday, Monday and I Call Your Name, again with the bath tubs. I have no idea why the tubs were such a theme, but you have to admit the impact of the clothes ensembles bests that of even the tubs in this vid.

As we move deeper into a time of neocon danger and confusion, settle in and enjoy the light-hearted silliness of the Mamas and Papas as we did back in the day, before the more serious and cutting edge aspects of the era settled over us.

My memory bank on this band includes my freshman year at the University of Illinois, living in one of the women's dorms, sharing a small room with 2 other plaid skirt wearing, knee sock donning coeds. Champaign-Urbana had lots of infamous beer only bars on or near campus that served the students, regardless of whether they were 21 or not. Some of them had been in existence since the 1920s, when the U of I created the rituals of college Homecoming and The Galloping Ghost, Red Grange, played halfback for the Fighting Illini football team.

You weren't allowed to have a car on campus or live in off-campus apartments until you were 21, so there were few student DWI problems. Female students, however, had to be back in the dorms by 10:30 PM on weekdays and 1:00 AM on weekends. Male students had no hours. We also were required to wear skirts or dresses to class. And don't even ask about sleeping with rollers embedded in our hair. Ah, the changes to come.

Once in awhile, usually during election time, these student ghetto bars were "raided" by the cops, but only after we were forewarned they were coming. Underaged drinkers were instructed to put their beers to the center of the tables and to order cokes for sipping while the police strode about. They usually arrested one or two rowdies, then left, and the underage drinking continued, with the university's unofficial blessing. Seems scandalous indeed in this era of police state control and safety at any cost lawmaking.

Anyway, one of the traditions of my freshman year was returning to the dorm with a definite beer buzz, hooking up with like-minded returnees from the bars, and singing harmonies to the Mamas and Papas playing on mostly mono record players, candles burning. It was a time. And it changed quickly into something much more complex and layered. But for those couple of years when the Mamas and Papas were all over the radio, everyone I knew in the flat cornfields of downstate Illinois sang along and smiled, dreaming of California.

January 20, 2007 at 02:45 PM in Saturday Music Hall | Permalink


Thanks, Barb... great music, great memories

Posted by: nancy | Jan 21, 2007 1:04:14 AM