Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mama Bears, Papa Bears and no happy endings

I was watching PBS and, yet again, the Mamas and the Papas special was on, and I was, also again, completely entranced and unable to change the channel.  I know the story, have known it ever since VH1 aired the "Behind the Music," ever since I first saw this special a couple of years ago.  Every time I see it, it makes me go through another phase of listening to "I Saw Her Again Last Night" and "My Heart Stood Still" (I know it was Rodgers & Hart first, but I still love the arrangement), and "Make Your Own Kind of Music".  I inevitably end up identifying with Cass Elliott and her acknowledged pining after a guy who passed her up in favor of the conventional choice, the already married and significantly more boring (yes, my words, but I'm almost sure I'm right on this) Michelle Phillips, resulting in an affair which produced the good (well for the rest of us) "I Saw Her Again Last Night" and the bad, the break up of the band.  The Mamas and the Papas were probably one of the more highly emotional bands, along with Fleetwood Mac, in the last half century, producing great music and even greater outbursts.  I like bands like this because I think that's how musicians should be.  I think it's how they've always been.  I think that's why music should hit us in the gut.
I also feel sorry for bands like this because beyond the music they're people who actually put themselves through this.  They're people who felt, or numbed, every moment and who, only upon removal from the situation realize that their lives are still separate from the music and that the decisions made must be lived with.  I like the drama of it all, I can't lie, because well who needs soap operas when you have legitimate backstory.
Getting back to my original thought, I always feel bad for Cass, not only because I identify with her, but because she died so young that she didn't get to see what could have happened, what might have happened, once Denny had grown up enough to think rationally.  As an aside, I do feel that rationality is a privilege of age.  I'm not certain I want to be completely rational before the age of 35, despite the fact that my parents desperately wish I would.  I like to believe in the idea that there could have been a happy ending, or at least a resolution.  I like to hope that all of those years of pining , that probably most of us can identify with at some point or other, but which were magnified by the fact that they were artists, co-workers, and above all friends, would have been rewarded with something or some statement that didn't end in "but no in that way".
I suppose I should just come to grips with the fact that I'm a hopeless romantic in a cynical sheep's clothing, and so I'll at least admit that, but I finally found something to legitimize all of my seemingly hypothetical, overly romantic notions.
Years after The Mamas and the Papas stopped being family, stopped being a group, and well after Cass had passed on, Denny wrote a "nearly" true story of The Mamas and the Papas.  Just how much of it is true, no one will know, because no one ever really knows, but it seems like Denny might have been just as much of a romantic as I am, or maybe it was just his rationality speaking.  Or maybe everything seems more romantic when it can't ever happen.

Click on the link below to read his stories, or just peruse the website, if you don't know as much as you'd like to know about The Mamas & the Papas

CLICK

Also while you're at it, you might as well enjoy some of the songs:







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