Since we've been discussing groups that performed at Monterey Pop, I figure we might as well discuss the group that organized Monterey Pop. Four singers, two men, two women, two married to each other, two not, who did as much as they could to recast American popular music for the 1960s the same way Motown was trying to do the same thing. The difference is that while Motown was trying to make R&B into pop music, these people were trying to do the same with folk music (and you'll remember that last month we examined the performance of a psychedelic rock group at the Newport Folk festival).
You'll probably recognize them.
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We'll start with a song they wrote to explain their origins that they released in 1967. NOBODY during this era did that, so you might think that this is tremendously egotistical, but it's catchy and self-referential and meta in ways that feel almost 21st century. Beside, they performed it on the Ed Sullivan show as a PLUG for Monterey Pop in June 1968 (more meta).
And, since they namecheck their most famous song in this one (even MORE meta) here it is, as they performed it at Monterey Pop. From the documentary.
Creeque Alley (the song) and Monterey Pop actually joins the group almost at the end of its run. So we start at the beginning, because the song does too. As Creeque Alley observes, John Phillips and Denny Doherty were in two folk groups that failed with people who later on went on to form the Lovin' Spoonful (with John Sebastian). McGwinn founded a group too, which quickly was renamed The Byrds, and the "higher" references aren't JUST to drugs, they're to the Byrds' greatest hit, which is, well, about drugs (meta, meta, meta). Studio version because the sound is just better. This is indeed psychedelic rock.
But I digress. While all that was going on, Michelle wanted to join John and Denny in the group, and then they found Cass, and they released their first album in January 1966. California Dreaming was the first big hit from it, and the second, which won the Grammy for best contemporary group performance in 1967, was this (I think it's a better song too). Live at the Hollywood Palace.
Their second album was issued later in 1966. Here's my favorite cut from it.
Yes, Pop music at its best. I won't go into how it figured into my consumption of mind altering substances, but it did. This was also on the second album, and IT figures into what I think of as the soundtrack to the late 1960s. I'm trying to stick to the material they wrote themselves.
The third album was released in 1967. Mostly covers (Rodgers and Hart!) but Creeque Alley was on it, and this was too. A little overproduced, a teeny bit cheesy, but you get to hear Michelle Phillips really well and a VERY unfettered Cass at the end.
And about Cass. One of what will be a couple of digressions. This is Donovan, another supremely interesting artist. One more ABSOLUTELY meta song. Listen to what he's whispering at about 3:00.
Yes, that's a sitar, but George Harrison had discovered them first. Yes, that's EXPLICITLY about drugs.
Anyhow, the Mamas and the Papas made their fourth (and final) studio album in 1968, and rather than play the attempt to update Monday, Monday, the song that launched Cass Elliott's solo career is on this album, and that's what's embedded below, just not from the album. No, I don't think you'd expect this from me, but here is a voice. It's a cover version too (composed in 1931 for Ozzie Nelson and his orchestra -- kudos if you knew that already [and I'm indulging in some meta myself]!). From the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and you can expect a diary on THAT one of these days too. That's Tommy Smothers. Jim looked like Tommy, if you can imagine Tommy without the mustache.
All this meta came to an end pretty much as soon as the Monterey Pop festival ended. Cass, who turned out to be a wonderfully funny woman too (as you saw above), embarked on a solo career, and died of a heart attack in 1974. The other three members did whatever you do after your rock group disbands, especially John who had to deal with some fallout from his first marriage (no, I do NOT believe Mackenzie, as I have issues with recovered memory therapy). I saw Michelle in a Mexican restaurant on Melrose Avenue in the fall of 1981; she looked great. John died in 2001, Denny, in 2007. They did as much to define the late 1960s for me as anyone else did, and I'm glad I remember this so well.
And now for the stuff that makes this Top Comments:
And One More Thing
A question about my US Since 1865 series. Some diaries that I thought should have received more attention didn't. (NO, I'm not blaming anyone here!) The usual problem we all have, I think. I thought publishing at a specific time every week (Friday, 4-4:30 PM) would fix the problem, but apparently not. So a poll, based on something I finally learned recently.