31 Days of Faves: Mamas and Papas – Monday Monday

#9 Mamas and Papas – Monday Monday

Monday Monday” is proof that sometimes the third time is the charm. When the Mamas and the Papas, released their debut LP, “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” in February of 1966, two of the featured tracks, “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “California Dreamin” had already been released as singles. The second of the two initially received a lukewarm reception before becoming the band’s signature song. Each have backstories that deserve telling, but today our focus is on “Monday Monday“, the third single plucked from the LP, that became the group’s only Number One hit.

Like the first two tracks, John Phillips had a hand in the writing, claiming it took him less than 20 minutes to pen the composition. And nobody in the band thought it would be a hit. Denny Doherty, who sang the lead, didn’t get the tune. Neither Cass Elliot nor Michelle Phillips who co-wrote the song thought much of it either. Wrecking Crew members Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn, Hal Blaine and P.F. Sloan were believers, all contributed their artistry to what Sloan later called “a magical session” where “Monday Monday” was transformed from a throw-away to a hit. Lou Adler produced the record with an up and coming engineer named Bones Howe coaxing a rich final product out of the limited recording gear of the day. Early stereo mixes featured the voices in one channel and the instrumentation in the other.

Stereo was an afterthought in the mid 1960s, since we were judging hits based on what we could hear out of a 6 inch speaker through an AM signal on our car radios. Richard Carpenter, Karen‘s brother and the production wizard behind the duo’s many hits, went as far as creating two separate mixes for Carpenters singles as late as the early 1970s, realizing that the monaural-ization of compatible stereo signals on the fledgling FM band didn’t always do justice to his vision.

In a way “Monday Monday” was an afterthought, too. Composed when John Phillips was pressed to come up with something quickly over a weekend and written off by everyone in the band, until the fan base embraced it as a classic.