The Mamas and the Papas “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” is an Album I Want To Be Buried With

Going back to the mid-1960’s for this one.  And it’s a bit of a twist on my post-life music collection.

Let me explain.

I had an aunt who loved this album and played it to death, over and over and over again.  And over time, I grew to appreciate the ethereal harmonies and cryptic lyrics of the Mamas and the Papas in this all-encompassing debut album, “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.” She listened to this LP on a busted phonograph with weird stereo separation, so it was an odd feeling for me to hear Denny Doherty coming out of one speaker and therest of the group crammed in the second speaker, for some odd reason.  Hey, I was seven years old at the time, what do you want from me in terms of audiophonics?

And of course, when your album starts out with the wistful ballad “Monday, Monday,” you’re on the right track.

Which led into their song “Straight Shooter,” which I thought – remember, I’m barely old enough to go to school – was about marksmanship.  I wasn’t aware of the sexual connotations of the song.  Again, what do you want from a kid?  It was a good song and I enjoyed it.  Especially the opening riff.

Then came the big mystery.

Remember, my aunt’s phonograph had a very weird stereo separation.  I think the family bought it at a Montgomery Ward or something back in the day.  Flip the LP over and Side 2 starts with the ultra-amazing “California Dreamin’.”

The mystery I had was – there were four Mamas and Papas, I could see them on the album cover.  Denny Doherty, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot.  But I could swear there were FIVE voices to start off “California Dreamin’.”  Was I mis-hearing things?

It wasn’t until many years later – I think it was 2002 or 2004 or one of those years – I received the answer.

And it came directly from a Mama and a Papa.

I shall explain.

At the time, I was freelancing for Goldmine magazine, the music collector’s biweekly, and one of the perks of writing for Goldmine was that I could cover the inductions of vocal and harmony groups into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  That was a fun time every year – I was able to hobnob with various doo-wop groups and vocal harmony artists and it was a blast.  A total blast.

One year, the two surviving Mamas and Papas – Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips – attended the inductions.  They were very friendly and cordial – I swear Michelle Phillips looks more attractive the older she gets – but Denny Doherty and I hit it off completely.  He was telling me jokes and stories about the music industry – there was a rather off-color joke about Zal Yavonsky and liar’s poker that I should not repeat in mixed company…

Anyways, I wanted to ask Denny about what I heard on the debut LP.

“My aunt used to have the ‘Eyes and Ears’ album, and she listened to it all the time.'”

“Oh,” Denny joked, “then she heard BOTH our hits.  Or at least the only two that get played on the radio any more.”

“Well, there’s something I wanted to ask you.  I could swear that on the copy of the LP she had, there were FIVE voices to start out ‘California Dreamin’.”  At least the first couple of words.  One of the voices was a deeper male voice.”

“Your aunt had the stereo LP?”


“Was the voice on the left channel or the right?”

“Left channel,” I said.  “Just for a second in the intro.”

“That’s Barry McGuire.”

“Barry McGuire?  As in ‘Eve of Destruction’ Barry McGuire?”

“Yep,” Doherty said.  “He had the original lead vocal and we were the backup singers.  Then his voice was wiped from the tape and we sang the entire song ourselves for our album.  But on some copies of the LP, his voice can still be heard, just for a second.  You got good ears, man.”

Eventually I did discover that there WAS a version of Barry McGuire’s “California Dreamin'” out there, and sure enough it contained the instrumental track AND the vocal harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas on it.  But here’s the Barry McGuire version for comparison.

Wow.  Mystery solved.

So yeah, I’ll take If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears and put it in the afterlife record collection.

And maybe if there’s room, I’ll sneak in that 45 of “California Dreamin'” from Barry McGuire, just to be a completist.  😀