The Mamas & The Papas

Got A Feelin'If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears
No Salt On Her TailThe Mamas & The Papas
Dancing BearThe Mamas & The Papas
Strange Young GirlsThe Mamas & The Papas
Even If I CouldThe Mamas & The Papas
Once Was A Time I ThoughtThe Mamas & The Papas
Look Through My WindowDeliver
Safe In My GardenThe Papas & The Mamas
MansionsThe Papas & The Mamas
Twelve ThirtyThe Papas & The Mamas


Mamas & Papas playlist



Contributor: Merric Davidson

The sounds of summer. Only four studio albums in a short but glorious time; a fifth, People Like Us, was released as a contract fulfilment after the group folded. It doesn’t make the cut here.

Betting without the string of cover versions and the first three A-side hit singles seemed the best way to go about this task: ignoring California Dreamin’ with its timeless capacity for “remember where you were when”; Monday Monday with one of the great pauses on record; and I Saw Her Again with its famous false start half way through.

That left the field wide open for these ten incredible harmonies and beauteous melodies from the master of pop song composition; the talented but troubled, John Phillips.


Would be good to have input on the best of the solo work from John Phillips (1935-2001), Cass Elliot (1941-74), Denny Doherty (1940-2007). Only one solo album from Michie, Victim Of Romance. Over to you.


The Mamas & The Papas (Wikipedia)

Creeque Alley: An Analysis

The Mamas & The Papas biography (Apple Music)

Merric Davidson is a retired publisher. He tweets toppermost @AgeingRaver

TopperPost #54


  1. Merric Davidson
    Aug 20, 2013

    I’m happy with the ten on display here, all fine songs, all originals that have stayed with me over the decades, and all (I think) from the pen of the Wolfking.
    Creeque Alley is OK, good fun, but kinda forced; Dedicated To The One I Love, it has to be the Shirelles version – every time – it’s one of my favourite recordings by them; and Dream A Little Dream Of Me does appear on Deliver so it has to be a bona fide Mamas & Papas version, although could probably fit in a Cass Elliot toppermost too. It’s a Cass song, let’s face it. I’d like to see a Cass topperlist – I’m no expert, or big fan really, of her solo stuff, but I’ve just dug out a Dave Mason/Cass Elliot LP from 1971 from the shelves – forgot I had it so will give that an outing on the turntable later. May report back! Anyway, Dream wouldn’t make it into my listing because I didn’t count covers, and by covers I was including standards. There’s a lovely, really lovely, version of Rodgers & Hart’s My Heart Stood Still on the second album but I played by my rules and let it go. I don’t rate too many cover versions generally, and very few would reach a topper listing of mine.
    Here’s a much better version of Dream from the one and the only Kate Smith

  2. Peter Viney
    Aug 20, 2013

    I’d have to have the three hits mentioned California Dreamin’, Monday Monday and I Saw Her again, if only because they have brought an immediate sense of joy every time I’ve ever heard them in a public place, as you so often do. I can see they’re so screamingly obvious as to be taken as read, but … what about the other prominent singles Dedicated To The One I Love, Creeque Alley and Dream A Little Dream of Me? Thanks for the Creeque Alley link which covers that base.

    In the UK Dream A Little Dream Of Me says “Mama Cass” on the label, but in the USA it said “Mama Cass with the Mamas & The Papas” and in any case, virtually all the compilations include Mama Cass solo tracks. It is a standard rather than a cover version. Dedicated To The One I Love is a cover, but a prominent choice of cover for a single (and their highest UK chart placing), rather than an album filler like My Girl, Dancing In The Street or Twist & Shout. I guess there’s an argument for the earlier Shirelles version. The Mamas and Papas had a radical way with covers … such as Do You Wanna Dance, totally unlike any other version.

    The list sends me back to the Anthology … I couldn’t recall some of these right away, but have played No Salt On Her Tail repeatedly since I saw the list. What the intro reminds me of will bug me all day.

  3. Peter Viney
    Aug 20, 2013

    I hadn’t even heard of Kate Smith. A lovely version, though I have a creeping feeling that Hinge & Brackett used to do it as well!
    “The Complete Anthology” Mamas & Papas box set has a fourth CD with solo stuff and rarities, including Something To Make You Happy from the Dave Mason / Cass Elliot album, and the solo Cass Elliot It’s Getting Better and John Phillips’ Mississippi.
    Otherwise, at first impression it’s one of those makeweight rarity CDs that you play out of curiosity and then ignore (after putting a few on your iPod). But the last seven tracks are from the sessions with Barry McGuire for his LP “This Precious Time” and include the first version of California Dreamin’. While it was written by John & Michelle Phillips, McGuire did the first version with The Mamas & Papas doing the chorus. He then let them remix the track, replacing his lead voice, and replacing his harmonica with flute. Otherwise it’s the same backing. It’s fascinating hearing his voice, fighting to sound as gruff and harsh as “Eve of Destruction” against their celestial backing singing. And you can also see how brilliant their lead vocals are.
    What a shame the Mamas & Papas name has been hijacked as a competitor to MotherCare.

  4. Merric Davidson
    Aug 20, 2013

    Let me wrap this up with what the site is all about – the songs – and may I urge all visitors to this page to watch the magnificent composite video (above) that captures the soul of this group of singers so completely.
    Peace and love, man.

    All the leaves are brown
    And the sky is gray.
    I’ve been for a walk
    On a winter’s day.

    I’d be safe and warm
    if I was in L.A.
    California dreamin’
    on such a winter’s day.

    Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
    Well I got down on my knees
    And I pretend to pray.
    You know the preacher likes the cold.
    He knows I’m gonna stay.
    California dreamin’
    on such a winter’s day.

  5. Roger Woods
    Sep 3, 2013

    The Mamas and Papas are wonderful and the choices take the listener straight back to the second half of the sixties. I would have loved to have seen them live. Did they ever tour?

    Looking at the choices, ‘Safe In My Garden’ makes reference to the event which inspired Buffalo Springfield’s signature tune – ‘For What It’s Worth’. In 1966 the police enforced a 10.00 pm curfew on the strip to please local traders who sought to reduce the traffic congestion caused by patrons of the clubs along the strip. Steve Stills sang:

    ‘Paranoia strikes deep;
    Into your life it will creep.
    It starts when you’re always afraid,
    You step out of line, the man come and take you away,

    The Mamas and Papas sang:

    When you go out in the street
    So many hassles with the heat
    No one there can fill your desire
    Cops out with the megaphones
    Telling people stay inside their home
    Man, can’t they see the world’s on fire

    This event inspired other songs. And Joni Mitchell missed California so much she stated she’d ‘Even kiss a Sunset Pig’.

  6. Merric Davidson
    Sep 4, 2013

    Don’t think there was ever a group UK tour. Cass Elliot put in a knock-out stint at the Palladium just prior to her untimely death in London. It’s easy for me to recall the detail as it was on my birthday!

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