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Top 10 Mamas And The Papas Songs

The music that The Mamas and The Papas produced helped to define a generation. And taking a look at the Top 10 Mamas and the Papas songs is bound to bring back fits of nostalgia even though I was quite young.

For those of us born in the late 1940s or early 50s, the 60s arrived like a breath of fresh air. In the UK, life seemed very gray and uninspiring for most growing up in the post-war period. Our parents would turn on the radio, and we would get “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” or “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me.” 

My elder sister thought heaven had arrived with Johnny Rae and Pat Boone. And mum and dad liked Nat King Cole, Sinatra, and Perry Como. But, then…

The Beatles

Suddenly there was some color in all the gray, and at least ten thousand 12-year-olds rushed out to get guitars. But, the world was stirring elsewhere as well, and none more so than in Southern California.

We had very little access to the music at first, but as the 60s progressed, we started to get it. Some groups and duos represented a whole new culture. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Surfaris, and The Ventures. And, of course, The Mama and The Papas. The hippies were coming, the “counterculture” was just around the corner, and the focus moved north to San Francisco.

Fleetwood Mac Didn’t Have a Monopoly

Before the “reinvented Mac” decorated the press with their shenanigans, there were The Mamas and The Papas. They got together in the late 60s and gave us music that, as I said earlier, defined a generation.

It didn’t last long because the internal dramas ripped them apart. Drugs, the party lifestyle, abuse of other substances, and, of course, heartbreak. Michelle Phillips, John’s wife, made Stevie Nicks look like an amateur.

A Unique Sound

The Mamas and The Papas sound was “West Coast,” but it wasn’t completely. John Phillips wrote Folk music but began to be heavily influenced by The Beatles. The result was Folk songs with real style, harmonies, and creativity. 

The great voices of Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips blended so well with each other and with the boys; they were, at the time, untouchable. Their debut album was released in 1966. Suddenly all the gray was bright colors.

We were taken aback and admired them… 

The vocal arrangements and beautiful harmonies created by John Phillips, his wife Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty, and Cass Elliot. Three of them have left us now; there is now only Michelle. So, as we go through The Mamas and The Papas’ best songs, raise a glass to a group of people who helped brighten our days.

Our my list of the Top 10 Mamas and the Papas songs, I will take a look back at that brief period in the 1960s when they became one of the biggest musical acts in Rock and Roll.

Top 10 Mamas And The Papas Songs

Top 10 Mamas And The Papas Songs

10 Go Where You Wanna Go

This was the first single, well, kind of, by The Mamas and The Papas from 1965. The song was written by John Phillips and was one of a few songs he wrote about his wife’s indiscretions. It was included later on their album If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears in 1966.

Go Where You Wanna Go” was only given a limited release as a single and was then withdrawn. A few years later, it was recorded again by The 5th Dimension and was included on their first album, Up, Up and Away, from 1967. The 5th Dimension version reached #16 in America.

9 Words Of Love

This is a song written by John Phillips and is not to be confused with the Buddy Holly song of the same name, released in 1957. It was taken from the album The Mamas & the Papas. It featured Cass Elliot as the main singer and was released in 1966. The single reached #47 in the UK and #5 in America. However, it was her voice that made this such a popular song and raised her profile in the group.

This was a difficult time for bands and singers still trying to maintain their status. The so-called “British Invasion” of the mid-sixties even reduced Frank Sinatra’s and Elvis Presley’s status. It caused both of them to make changes in their styles to regain some ground.

That didn’t seem to be an issue with The Mamas and The Papas. Perhaps they weren’t at the very peak of international music, but they kept releasing these quality songs and maintained a presence throughout this time.

8 Look Through My Window

This was a song that John Phillips had written as early as 1964 but was not released until 1966. It was taken from their third album, The Mama’s & Papa’s Deliver. The song is inviting people to look inside what was a window into his personal life. The lyrics were quite brutal, and that may have affected its chart performance.

“She always said I’m not like you – When love is dead, for me it’s through – And I will find and love someone new.” It is an emotional song once again stirred by his relationship with Michelle. When he wrote the song, he thought she was back in California. She was, in fact, just down the road with someone else.

The song didn’t make the chart in the UK, but it did reach #24 in America. A disappointment because their previous singles had all been Top 5 performers. It is included because it is a good song, well-sung, with nice harmonies, and here to highlight John Phillip’s songwriting skills. 

7 Straight Shooter

Another John Phillips song from their debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears. Something slightly different now. This is an uptempo song from that first album. The opening guitar part does remind me a little of The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride.”

This has a very mid-60s sort of sound and is a song that, if you heard it without knowing, wouldn’t be hard to place. As usual, plenty of harmonies make the overall sound uniquely them. In later years, it was placed in the trailer of Tarantino’s film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

6 Creeque Alley

Possibly one of the cleverest songs the group released. The song is an autobiography of the formation of the band and its later fortunes. It was composed by John Phillips and his wife, Michelle Phillips, and included on their third album, The Mama’s & Papa’s Deliver.

Creeque Alley” talks about the early days and how they only survived by maxing out their credit cards and scratching a living, playing for what they could get.

Let’s drop a few names…

The song refers to friends and acquaintances who were around at the time. “McGuinn and McGuire – Just a gettin higher,” referring to Roger McGuinn, later of The Byrds, and Barry McGuire. “Sebastian and Zal – Formed The Spoonful” refers, of course, to John Sebastian and guitarist Zal Yanovsky. And, referencing their own growing success, “Michelle, John, and Denny – Gettin’ very tuneful.”

The reference to Mama Cass Elliot, who had yet to join them, with the word ‘fat’ meant that they were actually getting some money. “And everybody’s getting fat – Except Mama Cass.” Then, the final line, “And California Dreamin’ is becoming a reality.”

An obvious clue to the success they knew was on the horizon. A brilliantly clever song and one of the most popular Mamas and The Papas songs. It reached #9 in the UK and #5 in America.

5 I Saw Her Again

Another song that was written by John Phillips about his wife’s indiscretions, This is a very 60s-sounding track released in 1966 from the album, The Mamas & the Papas. It reached #11 in the UK and #5 in America. At this time, Michelle was temporarily removed from the group. 

She had a relationship with band member Denny Doherty. And, whilst that was going on also formed a relationship with Gene Clark of The Byrds. All the time, of course, still married to John.

This is a song that many people will know when they hear it, even if they don’t recognize the title. In many ways, the archetypal 60s sound. Plenty of vocals and even some strings, and considering it is about a tragic situation, it has a happy and positive feel to it.

4 Dream A Little Dream Of Me

There won’t be many that don’t recognize this classic song by The Mamas and The Papas. It was written by Gus Kahn way back in 1931, and there have been over 60 cover versions. One of the most famous, though, is this one with Mama Cass on lead vocal. It was taken from their album, The Papas & The Mamas, released in 1968.

This was effectively their final album, although another came four years later. The group as a working entity had all but ended when this song came out. It reached #11 in the UK and #12 in America. As soon as they officially broke up in 1968, Cass Elliot was immediately signed up by Dunhill. This was the title song of her first album.

3 Dedicated To The One I Love

Another timeless Mamas and The Papas song everyone knows. It was taken from their album, The Mama’s & Papa’s Deliver, released in 1967. As we come to the last three songs on this list of the Top 10 Mamas and The Papas songs, it is fair to say that any one of them could have been a #1 hit. That is, if you’re judging them just on performance.

This is the first song where Michelle Phillips was given the lead vocal ahead of Mama Cass. Perhaps some internal wrangling going on there, I suspect. It is a song that showcases their brilliant vocal arrangements and performance.

It became a huge international success and reached #2 in the UK and America. But, it also became one of the songs that, when you hear it, you automatically think of The Mamas and The Papas.

2 Monday, Monday

This is another classic song of theirs that was written by John Phillips. It was taken from their album If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears and was the third single that was released from the album.

Unbelievably, it was their only #1 record… 

It reached #3 in the UK and #1 in America. That made it the most successful Mamas and The Papas song released. If there was a songwriter in that period who was grossly underrated, then it is John Phillips. He wrote some incredibly beautiful songs and arranged them for the group in spectacular fashion.

This song is a case in point. The vocals soar and reach out to the listener in a way very other groups could achieve. They performed it live at the Monterrey Festival in 1967, but it didn’t make the final cut.

1 California Dreamin’

Where else could we possibly finish? Lifted from that same album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears, it is a song that has become an anthem for not only them but others.

Written by John and Michelle Phillips, it came to represent that elusive dream that so many at the time were searching for. It was first recorded by long-time friend Barry McGuire; the group sang backup for him. But, it was their version that provided huge momentum that drove on the new counterculture of the time. 

It reached #23 in the UK and #4 in America. It was, undoubtedly, the most well-known and most loved Mamas and The Papas songs. Its haunting sound and message are about a young man on a winter’s day in New York longing for the sun in California. It was a theme that left a mark on people. It is surely one of the greatest Rock and Roll songs, not only of the era but ever.

Need More Great Rock and Roll Songs and Groups?

Well, check out our thoughts on the Best 90s Rock Bands, the Best 60s Rock Bands, the Best 70s Rock Bands, and the Best 80s Rock Bands for more great Rock bands.

And don’t miss our comprehensive look at the Best Classic Rock Songs, the Best 70s Rock Songs, the Best 80s Rock Songs, and the Best 90s Rock Songs to discover even more amazing song selections.

Of course, you’ll need to take a listen to them. So, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones with Volume Control, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, or the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.

Top 10 Mamas And The Papas Songs – Final Thoughts

Time moves on, as it always does, and it has taken three of the four members of Mamas and The Papas. Only Michelle Phillips is still with us, and until recently, she was still singing. She has continued to make an impressive vocal contribution as a backing singer on songs like Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

But I am not going to single any one of them out. You could argue that Michelle was responsible for the emotions that created some great songs. However, that view ignores that they all played their part in playing and singing John Phillips’ arrangements to such a high level.

Thankfully, we have been left with great songs by the Mamas and The Papas. And they will always remind us of the day that the gray was removed to reveal colors.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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