After watching one of those wretched hotel lounge singers who sounded as if they belong on The Love Boat absolutely murder “California Dreaming” by turning it into some faux jazz scoobee doobee doobeing corn on the knob, I had to go back and listen to the original version by the Mamas And Papas.

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Forgetting what a strange and twisted drug-fuelled man he was after his daughter Mackenzie Phillips came out with her depressing tell-all book, Papa John Phillips was a damn fine songwriter- who knew he wrote “Kokomo” for the Beach Boys and a number of movie soundtracks- who gave the Mamas And Papas- and who didn’t fall in lust with Mama Michelle Phillips?- such well-crafted pop songs as “Monday Monday”, “I Saw Her Again” “Creek Alley” and, in hindsight, what was something truly cringeworthy- “San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)” for Scott McKenzie- an anthem for every weekend hippie which had an uncredited Paul McCartney playing bass on the recording.

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It was a time of outward looking peace and love and sex, drugs and rock and roll, but also much darkness that was to surface in the form of the drug-addled madness of Charles Manson and his bizarre friendship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, which led to his followers killing spree of Sharon Tate and her friends- a case of mistaken identity, and detailed in a chilling book titled “Helter Skelter” by Victor Bugliosi.

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Listening to the songs of the Mamas And Papas made me wonder where and when The British Beat Boom ended and the American pop scene began- not the blues, rock, and psychedelic sounds of bands like Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Vanilla Fudge and before any of these, The Mothers Of Invention, but, instead, those artists and bands that wrote and recorded commercial, radio-friendly pop songs.

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One supposes, the predecessor to all these songs were what Phil Spector was banging out in his Wall Of Sound and, like Dr Frankenstein, giving life to what was running through his veins via creations like The Ronettes, The Shirelles, Darlene Love, Ike and Tina Turner and The Crystals.

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Of course, this was before Beatlemania happened, and despite the popularity of the Beach Boys, American pop hipness in bands didn’t happen until the Byrds took the songs of Dylan, and with Jim McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker said, “LET THERE BE FOLK-ROCK” with “Mr Tambourine Man”, “Turn Turn Turn”, “The Bells Of Rhymney” and their entire first record.

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Personally, the Byrds are one helluva underrated band who might have started out believing their “American Beatles” tag the media gave them and dressing like goofballs with McGuinn wearing granny glasses and Dave Crosby in a cloak, but, eventually, morphed into various incarnations- the country of “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”and the beauty of tracks like their version of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Going Back” and Jim who was to later be known as Roger McGuinn and Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of Easy Rider”.

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It was, however, during the Chapter One phase of the Byrds and Mamas Papas- and with less that Six Degrees of McGuinn between them- that there came the Lovin’ Spoonful with some brilliant good time songs by John Sebastian, The Young Rascals, the Turtles, and a rejuvenated Beach Boys who left their surfboards in the garage when the genius in Brian Wilson surfaced as he went into a musical competition with the Beatles, especially, McCartney, which resulted in the epic “Pet Sounds” release, but, also, took its toll on his psyche.

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Along with what were formulaic television shows that tried desperately to capture the zaniness of A Hard Days Night through manufactured bands like The Monkees, the Cowsills and The Partridge Family, these were days filled with “good vibes” and the Youngbloods singing about “Everybody getting together.”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfuBREMXxts

It was a fleeting ray of sunshine before the Vietnam War escalated, Kent State and Watergate happened, Mama Cass choked on a sandwich and died while the evil of Charles Manson cast a very long and dark shadow and where the music became even darker.

The Dream was over. The Nightmare had begun and music was to chronicle the impending Armageddon and a loss of innocence on both sides of the ocean.

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Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance and Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk