The Mamas and The Papas


Cape Breton was a hotbed of folk music that quickly absorbed songs by Ian & Sylvia ‘Four Strong Winds’, Peter Paul & Mary ‘Blowin’ In The Wind.’ As well the usual Black is The Color – all rather traditional with acoustic guitar & mildly political messages. Educational & opposed to entertaining. Then one summer that changed thanks to a pair of songs. Monday Monday, California Dreaming.  

I was a huge fan of the The Mamas & The Papas. In an mp3 collection I have: if you can believe your eyes & ears; cass john michelle dennie; Deliver; The Papas & The Mamas; People Like Us; Live At Monterey; Bonus Tracks of solo works from the boxset; Mama Cass: Solo; Barry McGuire with The Mamas & The Papas : This Precious Time. As a stand alone I have: The Greatest Hits.

That’s right! Hippies took over folk music. The The Mamas & The Papas were an acceptable, hip version of groups like The Association, The Beach Boys: also complex harmony California sunny groups. They were a group one’s parents approved of because of the lush harmonies. Even my mother liked them 🙂 I had their albums as lps as they were released. The tracks were a mix of originals, covers & even old big band hits. Something for everyone.

Much like the Byrds, their studio work became more complex & richer over time. The original work became more emotional & at times almost experimental. The broke up after The Papas & The Mamas, which has some of their most interesting work. The reunited a few years later for People Like Us.

I can’t say as I have a favourite lp to even song but some, besides the hits, always fill me with joy – String Man, Dancing In The Streets (that name checks Halifax, Nova Scotia), Rooms. The band was torn apart by sex, drugs & fame – setting the pattern for bands like Fleetwood Mac 🙂

Their after break-up solo work is uneven. Phillips: Wolf King is solid, Michelle’s is pleasant, Denny ordinary pleasant. Mama Cass worked hard but never found the right producer & he work was scattershot. Their work with Barry McGuire is pristine & more political than their own work.

One final memory – having and argument over their name 🙂 The Mamas and The Papas is what appears on lp but people would drop the ‘The’s, or reverse the order or reduce it Mamas Papas. I corrected one ‘friend’ & he went ballistic & was incensed when I pulled out the lp to point out the correct name. But you know, just a rose, the music is just as sweet regardless of the name.

The Good Pig

Almost unconsciously I start on the street that would take me to downtown. One that avoided all the school routes. I felt the same little dash of guilt I would feel when I was skipping school to sneak off to hang around the mall or the library. 

The sun was warm in a cloudless sky as I came to the slight rise at the intersection. It was a lot busier than when I was last home several years ago. 

Rather than continue on my accustomed way I crossed the street to the bridge that lead to the bad side of town. On the bridge I had a good view of the city and even the distant outskirts. More mountains than i’d ever realized. Though I supposed I would have known that if I’d been in this area more often as a teen.

The bad side of town was where the workers in the steel plant mainly lived. Closer to the plant. There was also a clear religious division with this area being mainly Polish Catholic while I lived a French Catholic mixed with English Protestant area. The high-schools were always bitter rivals.

I turned back to take the street downtown. There was a corner store where I decided to stop to get a bottle of water. It was dusty, dim with the only real light, other than the dusty windows, coming from an enormous, flat-screen TV on one wall. The chunky, balding clerk was very focused on it.

“Billy Waters?” The clerk asked.

“Right.”

“Frank Delaney.” He stuck his hand out. “I remember you from Davisville High-School. You were in the chess club.’

His face wasn’t immediately familiar but his last name was.

“Howard’s brother?”

“Yep. He was the brains.”

“Didn’t you play on the basketball team?” I went to the cooler and got a bottle of water.

“Yeah.” He gave a little laugh and pulled at his stomach. “I was a lot lighter on my feet then. In town for long?”

“A few weeks. Visiting the folks.”

“How they doing?”

“Pretty good. Any word from your brother?”

“Moved to BC. I got stuck here with this.” He made a gesture with hands the store. “I was taking Forestry at Memorial when Dad died and Ma needed some one to run the store. Howard had no interest. So here I am.”

“Nice to ren into you.” I moved to the door.

“Always a bag of chips within reach, so can’t complain. You might drop down to The Good Pig some night. There’s a bunch of us from Davisville who often meet up there for pool and drinks. We could shoot the shit. get caught up.”

Two teenage girls came into the store.

“Sure I’ll do that.”


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