Today’s not Monday, but I don’t care. I’m posting a video of The Mamas and The Papas doing a song from 1966 that I love called >”Monday, Monday.”< Quick pop culture history lesson, since I know most of you weren’t born when this song hit #1 in May of that year. The so-called “Summer of Love,” the great hippie migration to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury district, occurred in 1967 (“… but Mom: Everyone‘s going!!!!”) So this song and this group predates the apex, if you will, of that short-lived, youth-quake movement.
I remember the first time I saw The Mamas and The Papas on T.V. It was on an after-school show called >The Lloyd Thaxton Show< that I was watching while I baby sat down the street from my house for the three Nabholtz kids one late afternoon. I think it was a local L.A. show that was syndicated nationally for a while. I saw it broadcast in black and white, and it had pretty low production values, but Lloyd’s great gift superseded all that; his gift was for presenting up-and-coming groups, like the Ms & Ps were then. (Lloyd was also one of the founders of Tiger Beat Magazine.) I was blown away by how colorful this group was and how beautiful their music. I wanted to be like them and go wherever it was they were going.
Up to that time, I really considered myself a beatnik. In fact, every year when my mom made our Hallowe’en costumes, she would ask what I wanted to be, and I always wanted to be a beatnik. Every year. I just kept adding to the outfit. I have a black-and-white photo somewhere of me at about 13 with my little sister, who is now 48 years old, ready to hit the streets for the Great October Candy-Grab. She is in a fabulous witch costume that my parents made. I know I was probably too old to be trick-or-treating, but it was My Day To Shine. In the picture I am in full beatnik regalia including black tights, flats, cowl-neck short dress, beret, exaggerated eye makeup, long cigarette holder, and a book I had covered with brown paper and re-titled in crayon as “Zen Buddhism.” At the time, poetry slams were a big thing, and my Mom (who was and still is great at writing clever verse) helped me with one for my Hallowe’en outing. I carried a jelly bean as part of my costume and recited at each house,
It was very existential, just like the poems read at the slams in Gaslight Square. I know it was all just for Hallow’en, just pretend, but it was one day a year that the Real Me could let it all out! In a poetry slam, the beatniks would snap their fingers if they liked your poem (vs. clapping.) The adults giving out candy just laughed at me and my poem, thought it was “cute.” They had no idea what they had living in their neighborhood: I was bonafide. I always thought it was a shame that Gaslight Square had pretty much fallen apart by the time I was old enough to get there at night, without my parents having to drive me. The last time I went down there was one Sunday afternoon in 1969 with friends from high school, and someone pulled a gun on us while we were at a stop sign on Olive. Yikes!
I grew up in what is now called “Dogtown,” and being close enough to walk to day camp in Forest Park was an eye-opener sometimes. Certainly never dull living in the city, even then. You know that fountain that was just refurbished at the bottom of the hill by the World’s Fair Pavilion? Well, on Sundays after church my parents used to drive through the park, and the fountain was a favorite place for the beatniks to bathe. I could not WAIT until I was old enough … .
I was a solid Beatles fan in 1966, when I discovered The Mamas and The Papas, but my life up to that time had been greatly shaped by my grammar-school beatnik sensibilities, including and especially my deep and abiding love for Peter, Paul and Mary, especially Mary Travers. They were on TV a lot back then, and I would study Mary’s moves (mostly shaking her long blonde hair and long, straight bangs into her face and then back again.) She was the UL-TI-MATE in cool to me. In my heart, I was Mary.
I would try to sing her part in their songs. She had a wider range than I did, so I ended up singing the tenor’s part when I performed in front of my bedroom mirror to their vinyl LPs.
I had a gray, table-top GE Wildcat portable stereo. You could fold up that bottom part with the turn-table, it latched, and you could take it with you to a slumber party, which I did. It had an auto-drop arm and an adapter that you could put on the center spindle to hold a stack of 45s. SWEET!
I was able to “split” St. Louis once, some years later, and take off with friends for a protest march in Washington, DC, where Peter, Paul and Mary performed outdoors. It was a highlight in my life, and a surprise that they were even there. Everything else from that day is in black and white in my memory, except PP&M on stage. It was magical. The year 1966 was a pretty great year for me as far as music goes. I saw The Beatles in August of that year at the “old” (real) Busch Stadium. Never saw The Mamas and The Papas, though, except on T.V.
All things must pass, and in summer of 1966, it was the stronger influence of The Mamas and The Papas over that of Peter, Paul and Mary that offically transformed me from beatnik to hippie. Played their records on the same little Wildcat stereo. Still love them. Still love The Beatles. Still love Peter, Paul and Mary.
PS—The Mamas and The Papas were inducted into the >Rock and Roll Hall of Fame< at the thirteenth annual induction dinner on January 12, 1998.
Image of (color) Mamas and Papas from boston.com via the Web
Image of jelly beans from moshimonster.com via the Web
Image of GE Wildcat from collectorsquest.com via the Web
Image of Peter Paul & Mary from voanews.com via the Web
Image of (black & white) Mamas and Papas from the Web