The Mamas and Papas on the Biography Channel

In the free-wheeling, transitory and musically fertile landscape of the 1960’s, The Mamas & The Papas– led by the songwriting, stylings and whims of John Phillips rocketed to the top of the pop charts as the first wave of American music to combat the British Invasion, with hit songs including: “California Dreamin'”, “Monday Monday”, “Twelve Thirty” and “Creeque Alley.”

Biography Channel:

Saturday 17th October at 9pm (1x1hr)

This Biography episode looks at the life of the 60s vocal group The Mamas and the Papas. The group was led by John Phillips and recorded from 1965 to 1968.  They had a brief reunion in 1971.  During the group’s lifespan, they released five albums and eleven Top 40 singles.  They have sold nearly 40 million records worldwide.  The Mamas and Papas were renowned for a signature sound featuring four vocal harmonies, two male and two female.

This is an interesting synopsis of the relationships within the group, their struggles with drugs and the inter-relationships which eventually led to their break up.  The group were wildly popular but riddled with internal frictions from the start, which led to the groups demise.

The show starts off with an embittered ex wife of John Phillips giving her opinions of the teenage Michelle Phillips who wandered in with her wild flower child ways and stole John’s heart.  John and Michelle then recruit Denny Doherty who was in the folk group, the Mugwumps. to the New Journeymen.  The Journeymen later break up and eventually they form the Mamas and the Papas.

Denny introduced them to Cass Elliot who was the last member to join the group. While John was against her joining mainly because he felt her *look* was wrong, he eventually gave in, and she became one of the best loved members of the group. This programme speaks about their free wheeling adventures in the US Virgin Islands, how they run out of money and the wild adventure which finally brought them back to the States to sign a five album contract with Dunhill Records.

In 1966, the band decides to fire Michelle, rehire her and then Cass decides she has had enough and leaves the group to form a solo career. Cass finally comes into her own, but living the rock life ultimately leads to an untimely and early demise for the gifted songstress.  The group members are plagued with substance issues and addictions, and they finally call it quits in 1968.  This is a story about love, lust and loves lost.  This is a story about excess, adventure, success and destruction. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in the pop and vocal music of the 60s.

Reviewed by Rosdaughr


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