Stream of consciousness or California Here I Come (part eight)

It’s a bit of a stretch to call it stream of consciousness when this topic was mentioned about three posts ago.  Let’s just say that I portaged through several posts and am once more in the stream.  And where does this stream lead?

California, Here I Come was written for the 1921 Broadway musical Bombo, starring Al Jolson. Jolson recorded the song in 1924 and it is often considered the unofficial state song of California.

So we’re off to California…how do we get there?

Although The Cryan’ Shames didn’t reach the charts with First Train to California (or, for that matter, the album from which it comes…Synthesis) it a good vehicle to take us there today.


Thanks for the ride, guys…

Now we’re here, let’s find a place to stay… maybe Hotel California?

The song, taken from The Eagles‘ album of the same name, did all right for itself, reaching #1 in Canada and the US (unlike our previous song) in 1977 and winning a Grammy (record of the year) in the subsequent year.

The Cryan’ Shames began their song by suggesting…

There must be something in California…

The Beach Boys thought they had the answer.  And that answer?

California Girls reached a respectable #3 in the US in 1965 and became one of the band’s signature tunes for decades. Brian Wilson’s orchestral introduction presaged the musical experimentation found in 1966’s Pet Sounds.

The sound of The Beach Boys certainly helped to take their many fans to the Golden State.  For some, though, it was only dreamin’…

Originally formed in New York, The Mamas and The Papas followed that dream and made their way to California where the song was recorded as part of their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.  The song reached #3 and the album #1 on the Billboard charts in 1966.

In the song (written by Papa John Phillips and his then-wife Mama Michelle Phillips) it is suggested

I’d be safe and warm if I was in LA…

James Taylor transformed that comforting thought into a plea in the latter 1970’s… (actually the song is written by Danny Kortchmar, Taylor’s sometime guitarist) Honey Don’t Leave LA!

Just as I Left My Heart in San Francisco was the song about the city in 1962 (and the signature tune for Tony Bennett), San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) spoke to another generation about the charms of the place.

If you are sensing a similar vibe here to The Mamas and The Papas, it may be because the song was written (as California Dreamin’) by  “Papa” John Phillips.  The song was released in May of 1967 to help promote the Monterey International Pop Music Festival being held in June that year.  It also fared well on the charts, reaching #4 in the US and #1 in the UK.

Speaking of Monterey, Eric Burdon and the Animals attempted to provide a musical précis of the event in their 1967 hit of the same name. (The band had, by the way, the advantage of participating in that festival as the foundation in formulating this tribute).  It reached #15 in the US and #16 in Canada.

A further aside (if you like San Francisco) the band mined the state again and came up with San Franciscan Nights in August of ’67.  It fared even better than Monterey, charting #1 in Canada, #9 in the US and #7 in the UK.

So, I think we’ve finally exhausted every song ever written about California… just ask Joni Mitchell

Good grief!!  I think I’ll just stop… (for now)…

Sunshine Pop IV

sunFab or Prefab?

Who outsold both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in 1967?

Track Seven

The Monkees.  Yup, that fabricated pop foursome created to star in a television series.  It didn’t hurt that the group benefitted from the exposure provided by the show (exploiting the music video format in a pre-MTV era), from some capable contributing songwriters and arrangers and from well-produced recordings.  The group scored several number one hits during the show’s run (1966-1968).  A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You became the band’s first big hit of 1967, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts and #1 in Cashbox rankings.  By the way, this song was written by a guy who had, in the previous year, given the group a hit with I’m a Believer… Neil Diamond.

The Monkees 1967

The Monkees 1967

Incidentally, here’s a supreme example of unlikely pairings.  During The Monkees 1967 summer tour, their opening act (for a short time) was a guy named Jimi Hendrix.  Don’t believe me?

Track Eight

What is the connection between The Monkees and The Lovin’ Spoonful?  Apparently when the creators of The Monkees first began their search for the show’s stars, they considered casting an existing (established) band in the roles.  And the group they had settled on was a New York-based folk/rock ensemble… The Lovin’ Spoonful.  Fortunately for the group (I suspect) and pop music, John Sebastian had already signed the group to a record company… an arrangement which would prohibit Screen Gems from marketing the show’s music on record.  And, if The Monkees (Dolenz, Tork, Jones and Nesmith) fared well commercially from this arrangement, The Spoonful did all right too (with seven top ten hits in this same period).  One of my favourites is You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice (1966), a sentiment shared by Brian Wilson.  I have read that he was inspired to write God Only Knows in part because of the Spoonful hit.  Here it is…

John Sebastian, Joe Butler, Steve Boone, Zal Yanovsky... collectively The Lovin' Spoonful

John Sebastian, Joe Butler, Steve Boone, Zal Yanovsky… collectively The Lovin’ Spoonful

Trivia #1

Zally (Zal Yanovsky) and Sebastian were previously in a group called The Mugwumps with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty (those two later forming half of The Mamas and Papas).  And… Zalman (his full name) was a Canadian… born in Toronto and would later return to Kingston to open a restaurant- Chez Piggy.

Trivia #2

Zal left the band in 1967 (from circumstances relating to a drug bust)… and was replaced by Jerry Yester.  Now… Jerry is brother to Jim Yester of The Association (whom we will address in the next two posts) and produced The Association‘s Renaissance (2nd) album.  Jim actually joined a reformed Spoonful (with only Boone and Butler from the original group) briefly in the early 1990’s.