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The Great Mamas & Papas Mystery…

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Mamas and Papas

The Mamas and The Papas second album is one shrouded in mystery and controversy, yet it still managed to spend over a year and a year and a half on the Billboard best sellers list and included two of the band’s best loved singles, ‘I Saw Her again’ and ‘Words of Love’. Both of these singles made No.5 in the US singles chart which certainly did sales of the album no harm.

Released in September 1966 the reasons for the controversy concern just how much of the record did Michelle Phillips sing on. Mid way through the recording it was discovered that 22 year old, Michelle and Denny Doherty were having an affair, given that Michelle was married to fellow band member John Phillips it made tension mount and tempers flared. So much so that Michelle was fired from the group in June 1966. Lou Adler, the band’s producer to the rescue as he suggested his girlfriend, Jill Gibson a singer/songwriter was drafted into the band. Jill had already recorded with surf duo Jan & Dean and in three weeks flat she learned Michelle’s parts while the group was away in London.

Half of the album had already been recorded when Michelle was fired, including ‘I Saw Her Again’ and ‘Words of Love’. Almost immediately Gibson went to work recording with Doherty, John Phillips and Cass Elliot, which included redoing some of Michelle’s completed vocals. Come the end of August, Michelle was asked to rejoin the group and Gibson left. It’s said that Michelle then recorded vocals on two new songs and dubbed over some of Gibson’s vocals. Given the release schedule and the time it took to manufacture then this may be stretching a point.

In the book, “Go Where you Wanna Go”, by Matthew Greenwald, Gibson claims she sang on ten of the songs. Adler suggest it was more like six, and Michelle adds that only engineer Bones Howe knows for sure who was on the final release, because she and Gibson both recorded many of the same songs, dubbing over each other’s vocals; truth is there are probably five vocals on a number of the tracks.

But let nothing take away from the sheer joy of this record which has California harmony vocals to its core; given that the Beach Boys often used five-part harmony it seems somehow appropriate that the Mamas and The Papas may well have done the same.

Many of the non-single releases are strong songs in their own right. In particular the opening track, ‘No Salt On Her Tail’ that features Ray Manzerak of the Doors on organ’ this was prior to the release of the Doors debut that was recorded over a week at the end of August 1966. Aside from the singers the album features the cream of LA session men including drummer, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel on organ and piano (he played on the Doors’ debut as well as the piano on Simon and Garfunkels ‘Bridge Over troubled Waters) and bass player Joe Osborn. ‘Strange Young Girls’ is one track not to be missed, very different from the group’s normal material, but haunting and beautiful.

Given the on off nature of Michelle’s membership of the group even the cover was reshot several times.
Decide for yourself who is singing what…

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Carol

    October 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Looks like a great site!

  2. Earl Melvin

    October 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    My older sister had this album when I was little. It was one of the first CDs that I ever bought. It still rotates through my playlists all the time.Great album!

  3. david castaños

    December 11, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Vivo en Caracas, Venezuela, tengo 58 años, soy profesor Universitario, trabaje mas de un año en la Radio coproduciendo dos programas de música Pop, Rock y Metal, , y desde muy temprana edad (12 años( he sido coleccionista de discos de diversos géneros, y en especial la música del genero Pop, Rock y Metal.
    Me gusta este sitio Web, siempre estoy investigando lo nuevo y lo viejo que se ha reeditado en Vinilo y eN CD

  4. Vin Stoico

    March 29, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I am disappointed with the amateur writing style, and the shoddy condition of the image chosen to depict the album cover.

  5. Rubem

    March 31, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I really just love this site,take me back to my old days of my youth.

  6. Michael Hanson

    September 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    The Mamas and The Pappas were in concert in Omaha, Summer of ’66. Their original concert date was postponed a couple weeks. When they did play in Omaha, Michelle was not with them, but a stand-in, who looked and sounded like her was taking her place. Rumor was MIchelle was mad at John and that the concert was postponed due to John being on an STP trip for the two weeks prior to the concert. In all the interviews I’ve seen, nothing was ever mentioned of her being “fired”, but the affair with Denny was often admitted by all involved.

  7. Pete

    August 16, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    it appears that Jill Gibson was treated pretty badly in her short time with the band, shattering her dreams of becoming a famous artist

  8. David Andrews

    April 5, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Is it possible that Gibson is so much on the second album because she is on previous M&TP tracks, passed off as Michelle in some parts (harmonies?) where Michelle’s voice needed bolstering?

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