REVISITING AN OLD FAVORITE
published February 1, 2008
The Mamas & The Papas:
released by Kultur International Films and Standing Room Only Entertainment
It has been said, “If you can remember anything about the sixties you weren’t really there.” The members of The Mamas & The
Papas must not have taken this Paul Kantner quote to heart because not only were they there (in body at least), but they want to tell us
their unique story.
From Kultur International Films and Standing Room Only Entertainment comes The Mamas &
the Papas: Straight Shooter, the gutsy and gritty biography released January 29 on DVD. Through cohesive, detailed narratives from in-depth interviews, along with archival footage with John
Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and others, this is the complete story of how four distinct individuals united in the name of
music. We learn how the group formed amid the political unrest of the sixties and we find out the ways of their atypical lifestyle and
touring conditions, what secrets threatened to tear them apart and how briefly they got back together.
The group’s triumphs are legendary, but so are their tragedies. The first major blow is a love triangle within the group, followed
by the group’s founder and main songwriter’s serious chemical abuse. How John Phillips, a person capable of writing pop melodies of such
staggering beauty, could spiral downward into a hell of addiction is not easy to accept, though Phillips is neither the first nor the last
artist to fall prey to such snares. By the early 1980s Phillips is convicted for drug trafficking. To avoid a severe jail sentence he gets
his life in order, embarking on an anti-drug campaign with daughter Mackenzie. He goes on to co-write the hit song “Kokomo” for the Beach
Notably absent is Cass Elliot, the adorable powerhouse singer featured in many of the group’s top ten hit songs. After the group’s
demise, she went on to experience even greater success, but her life though was cut short – she passed away due to heart failure in 1974.
The death of Cass was difficult for the rest of the group, who decided to carry on through various line-ups that never really captured the
greatness of the original.
Michelle Phillips is now the only surviving member of The Mamas & the Papas. She also leads quite an interesting existence. In
1970 she was married to Dennis Hopper for 8 days, plus she sang backup for Cheech & Chong and Leonard Cohen. Those born too late to
have seen her perform live have most likely heard her singing backup for Belinda Carlisle and seen her on Beverly Hills 90210.
All in all this is a highly
enjoyable biography. It is perplexing however, that the bulk of the interview footage is circa 1980s, yet the DVD is only now becoming
available. Why the 20 year wait? It is not the subject matter that is outdated but the style of the interviewees themselves. While watching I
counted no less than 1 acid-wash jacket, 1 Members Only jacket, and at least 2 mullets. Such things are slightly jarring. By all means go
ahead and buy the DVD…just don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
chadmenville @ stageandcinema.com