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Mamas and the Papas' Michelle Phillips Is Disappointed in Modern Music, Almost Rewrote 'California Dreamin'' Church Verse
- Posted on Feb 3rd 2012 2:12PM by Chris Epting
The story behind it is special, as is the woman who was on hand to sit and play the guitar, the lone surviving member of the group, Michelle Phillips. The project began when Martin's CEO saw a PBS documentary on the Mamas and the Papas and noticed how many of the company's guitars they used. They focused on a specific guitar that was featured on an old 45 sleeve, and recreated it with inlays featuring the signatures of Phillips and her late bandmates. Spinner sat down with Michelle to discuss the limited-edition guitar and her band's legacy.
Tell us about the guitar.
This is the guitar that John Phillips always played onstage all the time. It's a big, full-bodied guitar. I was really touched that Martin decided to do this. John always played Martins in the Journeymen, his other folk group, then on to the Mamas and the Papas. Always Martins. I was so touched when Martin called me to say they wanted to do a special series to commemorate the Mamas and the Papas. And can you believe they put out little figures in mother of pearl?
I gave one to my daughter Chynna and one to my son Austin with the promise that they can never be lent out or sold! And I still have a 1926 Martin at home
Do you hear influences today from the seeds you group planted back in the 1960s?
You know, every now and then, but the fact is I just listen to classical music. I don't listen to modern music. Modern music in many ways in is a disappointment to me. I don't find a lot of innovation in it. I don't find a lot of wonderful writing. I think we were just extremely fortunate in our musical careers in that it was a time when people were starting to write their own music. That was not happening a lot before the '60s. Bob Dylan came around and we all said, 'This guy is so damn talented, writing all these songs." Yeah, he sounds a little funky, but we loved that all this stuff was coming from inside his heart and soul. And then you had the Beatles, of course.
You wrote a bit yourself.
I was fortunate enough to have been asked to write 'California Dreamin'.' I didn't want to write it. John woke me up in the middle of the night, in a hotel room in New York City, and said, "Come on, help me write this song." I said, "John, I'll help you tomorrow." He said, "No. Wake up, help me write this song now! You'll thank me some day," is exactly what he said. He'd already written the first verse, and I wrote the second verse, you know, "Stopped into a church, I passed along the way ... " He didn't like it, the second verse, because poor John had been sent of to Catholic military school when he was just 7 years old, so he didn't like the religiosity of it. He said, "No, I don't want religion and churches," so I said, "Fine, we'll rewrite the second verse." But others heard it and said, "No, leave it just the way it is." Glad we did!