California Dreamin'

Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (1966)
Charted: 9 4
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  • In a 2002 interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Michelle Phillips explained how this song came about. It was 1963, and she was newly married to John Phillips. They were living in New York City, which was having a particularly cold winter, at least by Michelle's standards as she was from sunny California. John would walk around the apartment at night working out tunes, and one morning brought the first verse of the song to Michelle. It was a song about longing to be in another place, and it was inspired by Michelle's homesickness.

    Michelle enjoyed visiting churches, and a few days before, she and John visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, which inspired the second verse ("Stopped into a church..."). John hated the verse, as he was turned off to churches by unpleasant memories of parochial school, but he couldn't think of anything better so he left it in.
  • This is a rare pop song that contains a flute solo. Even more surprising, it's an alto flute, which is larger than a regular flute and plays in a lower register. A jazz player named Bud Shank was brought to the session to play it. Shank, who also played saxophone, had a minor hit with his version of The Beatles "Michelle" in 1966. He died in 2009 at age 82.

    Doug Thompson tells this story: Denny Doherty once told me that when they were recording that song, they wanted a solo, but didn't want the usual guitar solo. John Phillips walked out into the hall of the Hollywood recording studio they were at and Bud Shank was in that hallway as well. John grabbed him and brought him into the studio. Shank listened to the hole he was supposed to fill and nailed it on the first take.
  • When the group was just starting out in 1965, their friend Barry McGuire helped them get a contract with his record label, Dunhill Records. McGuire recorded the first version of the song with The Mamas & the Papas as his backing band and a harmonica solo instead of a flute. It was going to be used as the follow-up single to his hit, "Eve Of Destruction." The Mamas & The Papas then decided to record it on their own, with Denny Doherty (the other Papa) singing lead and some chord changes he came up with after consulting the session guitarist, P.F. Sloan, who had him listen to "Walk - Don't Run" by The Ventures. The results were impressive, and Dunhill Records agreed to use it as their first single, holding off on McGuire's version so there wouldn't be competition from an established artist.

    The group's first single was "Go Where You Wanna Go," which didn't "go" anywhere and was pulled to focus on "California Dreamin'," allowing The 5th Dimension to score their first chart it with that song a few months later. When "California Dreamin'" caught on, listeners wanted to hear more from The Mamas & the Papas, so radio stations started playing "Monday, Monday" off the album. When that song was released as a single, it quickly shot to #1 in America.

    The group had a string of hits until 1968, when they split up. They reunited occasionally until 1974, when Mama Cass Elliot died of a massive heart attack due to her poor health and eating habits.
  • The Mamas & The Papas recorded this song in Los Angeles at United Western Recorders, in the same studio where The Beach Boys recorded their Pet Sounds album. Musicians on the session, which took place November 4, 1965, were some of the great session players of the era: Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Joe Osborn (bass) and P.F. Sloan (guitar). John Phillips also played guitar on the track - that's him on 12-string during the intro. The engineer on the track was Bones Howe.

    This session was the first that Blaine, Knechtel and Osborn all played on together.
  • In our interview with P.F. Sloan, he talked about recording this track: "The 'California Dreamin'' session was magical. John [Phillips] was very nervous. Nobody particularly liked the song, and to be honest with you, 'California Dreamin'' was maybe three or four chords. I added the 'Walk - Don't Run' Ventures guitar riffs for that 'da da da da da da.' That was all creative work inside the studio when I heard them singing on mic. I had recorded them with Barry McGuire on his second album, so I knew how good they were."
  • The Carpenters recorded a version of this that Richard Carpenter released on his 2001 album As Time Goes By. In the liner notes, he explains: "Another demo from Joe's [Joe Osborn] studio, circa 1967. This one however, is on the one 4-track that Joe gave to me. Even though the most important ingredient on tape, the lead, is on its own track, the bass, piano, drums and string machine were all bounced to another track, leaving two open... Karen, at 17, is a marvel. I especially like the way she jumps an octave, from chest voice, to head voice on the letter (and note) "A" in the opening." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Wahiawa, HI
  • The Beach Boys released a cover of this song in 1986, which made its way into the lyrics of the Dead Milkmen song "Punk Rock Girl": "someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox, it was California Dreamin.'"

    The Beach Boys cover was popular at the time, which is why they got the credit, although many listeners thought the Milkmen had their vocal groups mixed up.
  • The cover by The Beach Boys made #57 US. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds played 12-string guitar on the track, and also appeared in the video along with every living member of The Beach Boys and the "California Dreamin'" songwriters, John and Michelle Phillips. This primed the group for a big comeback two years later with their #1 hit "Kokomo."
  • Michelle Phillips told Spinner in a 2012 interview that John didn't like the second verse - "Stopped into a church, I passed along the way." She explained: "Poor John had been sent of to Catholic military school when he was just 7 years old, so he didn't like the religiosity of it." He told her that he didn't want, "religion and churches," so she said they will rewrite it. However, when the others heard the second verse they wanted to keep it. "Glad we did!", she said.
  • One of the more misheard lyrics comes in the second verse of this song, as "You know the preacher likes the cold" is often mistaken as "the preacher lights the coals."
  • In their 1967 song "Creeque Alley," The Mamas & The Papas gave a history of the band and explained what happened when they did come to California.
  • Bobby Womack hit #43 US with his 1968 cover, which was featured in the 2009 movie Fish Tank.

    In 1979, a movie called California Dreaming was released, featuring a cover of this song by the group America. This version made #56 US.

    Other popular covers were recorded by George Benson and Guster.
  • Australian singer-songwriter Sia recorded a haunting, slow burning cover for the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson-starring 2015 disaster movie, San Andreas. We wonder if Mama Cass' 1968 minor solo hit, "California Earthquake" was considered for the soundtrack?
  • In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, this plays as Forrest, stationed in rainy Vietnam, writes a letter to his hippie girlfriend.

Comments: 96

  • Jasper from AnonBro preacher likes the cold is the actual lyric trust me I sung it my chorus class everyday for months and my teacher told us the lyrics. It means that the preacher likes the cold because it brings more people into the church because they wanna go somewhere warm.
  • Fred from Usa"The preacher lights the coals" is actually the correct lyric, as acknowledged by John Phillips himself. "The preacher liked the cold" makes no sense, particularly followed by "He knows I'm going to stay." He lights the coals because he knows I'm going to stay. Why would the preacher like the cold, and why would that be relevant?
  • Mate Papp from HungaryI have a certain memory/flashback that I watched an animation movie/series/anime in the 2000's, with this song in it. I don't remember much, but I would really like to find it. Anyone knows the title?
  • Auntiesocial from San Diego CaThe preacher LIGHTS THE COALS, not like the cold. Shows the preacher's compassion
  • Pickerdad from VancouverI've listened to a dozen YouTube videos of "California Dreamin'" and the audio on each is identical, so presumably all taken from the official recording. In every case, the intro is slightly but noticeably sharp. With the start of verse 1 (and the vocals), it reverts to concert pitch. What's that about?
  • Samuel P Medina from FresnoHe went into the church to get warm, it was a winters day in New York, that's why he pretend to it would like he went in to pray.
  • Steve from Arizona I'd always heard "the preacher locked the doors, " which I actually like better because it shows the clergyman's human side as he looks the other way, following a higher law than the organization's procedures. Just as the cold dude pretends to pray, the priest pretends not to notice that the guy's staying after closing time.
  • Ray Carrero from Pembroke Pines, Florida Funny that Jose Feliciano's version wasn't mentioned or commented on.
  • Don from Sylva Nc"California Dreamin'", which I love, I'm confused by "If I didn't tell her I could leave today." Should it be something like "If I had told her I could leave today"?
  • Susan from Atlanta, GeorgiaMrekismet from Iceland, thank you for the information about the album "A Gathering of Flowers". I have been a huge fan of the Mamas & Papas since I first heard them in 1966, and I can't believe I somehow missed this album. I found it on ebay last week and it arrived this weekend. It had both albums and the booklet, all in good shape. Yay! (And I do like that the lyrics within validated my assertion that it's "I PRETEND to pray" and "The preacher LIGHTS THE COALS". Phfft -- everybody knows hippies don't pray!)
  • Kawa from Tokyo, JapanHi Music Lovers,

    I think that the original idea of the lyrics of this song did not come from the music itself, It came from somewhere else. Because some part of the lyrics, described as a scene about inside the church, makes me think so! I think it is not the way songwriters write lyrics as they usually write songs when they try to write them. I think that this scene of the lyrics of the song must be the key.
  • Njtotx from UsTo settle the "prayer" controversy, Michelle Phillips: "We were on the road after the song was a hit and I was a doing a sound check with Cass, and I sang the lyric, 'and I began to pray.' She looked at me and said, 'Wait, what did you say? I thought the lyric was 'I pretend to pray.' That's how she had been singing it all along!"
  • Birdman_euston from London, UkI've just listened to Barry McGuire's original lead vocal - and a more wretched effort I've rarely heard! No wonder the group were inspired to replace it with their own version; necessity breeds invention - and the rest, as they say, is music history… (Bookended as it was by this masterpiece and Good Vibrations, 1966 was the best year ever for hit singles, imho.)
  • Eugene from Bronx, NyWhat I know about the Mamas and Papas is that they came in from NYC and were doing session work (background vocals). Nick Venet from Capitol Records gave them $50 to get them started with Capitol. Somehow they met up with Lou Adler and he liked what he heard and he gave them $100 and they ended up signing with Lou. Venet never spoke to Lou again. Lou Adler in an interview years later said he wished they would have recorded 200 songs with them (The Mamas & Papas) because once the drugs took over, they weren't the same group they were when he met them. John Phillips said they did so much drugs they found they were exhausted. Soon they ran out of money and they breathed a sigh of relief as the binge was over. Then he said, they'd get a royalty check for $65,000 and then the whole process began all over again. Hard to believe he lived as long as he did. California Dreamin' was Barry McGuire's song and it was P.F. Sloan who responsible for the track and it's his guitar you hear at the beginning of the song, not John Phillips. At the break in the song they used a harmonica, similar to the "Eve of Destruction" but John didn't like it and went down the hall and found Bud Shank. Excellent choice as it makes the song. As far as the lyrics goes...does it really matter what they're singing? What did the singers have to say about it?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 11th 1965, the Mamas and the Papas performed "California Dreamin'" on the ABC-TV program 'Shindig!'...
    Exactly one year later on Dec. 11th, 1966 they also performed the song on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' {See next post below}...
    On the same 'Shindig!' show they also performed at covered version of the Beatles' "I Call Your Name"...
    R.I.P. Jimmy O'Neill {Shindig's host, 1940 - 2013}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 11th 1966, the Mamas & the Papas performed "Words of Love" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    At the time the song was at #36 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and five weeks later on January 15th, 1967 it peaked at #5* {for 1 week} and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    On the same 'Sullivan' show the quartet also performed two other songs that made the Top 10 earlier in 1966; "California Dreamin'" {#4} and "Monday, Monday" {#1 for 3 weeks}...
    * They had two other records that peaked at #5 on the Top 100; "I Saw Her Again" in 1966 and "Creeque Alley" in 1967.
  • Jenny from BostonGeez dudes the song is not about the cold weather and the words ARE "pretend to pray" and "preacher likes the cold" -- the song is about being trapped in a situation bound by convention that you don't know how to escape from. The preacher likes the cold because he is a part of the system that keeps people following rules and he knows the guy is too trapped and afraid to change; "if I didn't tell her I could leave today" means if I weren't stuck in that rule-bound relationship/culture I could do what I truly wanted and live a more authentic life. LA/California represents individual autonomy and freedom and creativity. Incidentally poetry/lyrics don't have to follow any grammatical rules -- "pretended to pray" would sound artificial.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 19th 1966, the Mamas and Papas performed "California Dreamin'" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    And fifteen days later on March 6th it peaked at #4 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    (See the post below).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 2nd 1966, "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and Papas entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on March 6th, 1966 it peaked at #4 (for 1 week) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was their first charted record* and the first of four straight Top 10 records; the other three were "Monday, Monday" (#1 for 3 weeks), "I Saw Her Again" (#5), and "Words of Love" (#5)...
    Sadly three of the four original members are no longer with us; Cass Elliot (1941 - 1974), John Phillips (1935 - 2001), Denny Doherty (1940 – 2007) and Michelle Phillips, born Holly Michelle Gilliam, will celebrated her 70th birthday come next June 4th...
    * They released "Go Where You Wanna Go" in 1965 but it did not make any national charts.
  • Duncan from Huddersfield, United KingdomJust one of the best ever.
  • Mamie from Cleveland, Ohacording to the lyrics he does say PRENTEND TO PRAY. and that is what i hear in the song.
  • Bob from Loveland, CoBy far, BY REALLY FAR, the best version of California Dreamin' is by Jose Feliciano..... and it's "I began to pray".
  • Howard from Newport, OrSTOP! If it is in fact "I Pretend To Pray" then it's just bad grammar. The singer is telling us a story in PASS tense. I "went" for a walk" "STOPPED into a church I PASSED along the way" With me so far? So the next line would have to be, "I got down on my knees and I PRETENDED to pray" I don't care how Wilson Phillips recorded this, I am with Matt Lauer of the Today Show. It's "I BEGAN to Pray" Why would you pretend if you actually went into the church?
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxI had a friend who left southern California due to the crime, smog, traffic, etc. Whenever this song would play and the "I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A," she'd sing, "You'd be warm but not safe..."
  • Mrekismet from Hella, IcelandI have a 1970 Mamas and Papas compilation album named "A Gathering of Flowers", on the Dunhill label, that features the lyrics (copyright 1965). The words for the misheard line in California Dreaming, in black and white, are "The preacher lights the coals". That line seems more coherent than "the preacher likes the cold", which I found on the lyric sites. Still, it's hard to make it out by ear!
  • Stella from London, United KingdomWhat is this 'pretend to pray'? I clearly hear 'began to pray'.
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, FlMust be some southern talk. The printed lyrics are different from what is sung. Instead of went for a walk it was been (south) for a walk, and pretending well what else are you going to do when the priest (preacher;south) is looking at you, (its hard to talk to GOD when your body is frozen and people are watching). But great honest harmony.
  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaI'd always heard a slightly different version of how and why this song was created. The Mamas and the Papas (still basically unknown at this point) had been making the rounds on the East Coast folk circuit with a number of soon-to-be-famous musicians when they got a gig as the house band at some bar in the Carribbean (I want to say it was the Bahamas, but I am not certain on that). That gig ended in the late Fall and the band returned to New York City to find that, not only was it miserably cold and gray (the 60s featured a string of cold and snowy winters on the East Coast) all of their fellow folkies had, almost to a man, decamped to the West Coast, where the nascent "folk-rock" sound was exploding. Alone and depressed in New York City, John Phillips penned this song.

    By all accounts, the story of John waking Michelle so she could jot down the lyrics is true. She ended up getting a co-writing credit on one the most famous and oft-played songs of the 60s (and made millions in the process)
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NySoul singer Bobby Womack also released a version of this song, it reached No. 43 in 1969. America's 1979 version peaked at No. 56...
  • Ivy from Springfield, NeWow, that was short. This is an ok song, I guess. I think I've heard it before. 7/10
  • Brian from Boston, MaYeah I'm just speculating here but to me I think the sound of folk rock kind of changed after this song.The real mellow "california'"type of folk rock like America and even the Eagles to some extent seem to have been influenced by this sound. To Chris from san francisco thanks for the explanation. I always wondered why the Preacher would "like" the cold but your explanation makes sense. This is a really good song and it really stands the test of time.
  • Jeff from Boston, MaAn absolute classic that epitomizes 1960s folk-rock. Interestingly, many Mamas & Papas songs share a theme of wishing for someone or someplace other than what they have, echoing the restless longing of the 60s generation, not always sure what it wanted but convinced there had to be something better out there.
  • Chris from San Francisco, CaIt is "I pretend to pray, you know the preacher likes the cold, he knows I'm gonna stay" and it makes sense, the singer came into the church because it was cold outside (that's why he only "pretends to pray"), and it explains why the preacher likes the cold: because it brings newcomers to the church and stay for a while.
    Great song, beautiful song, magical, heavenly song. Thank you.
  • Chris from San Francisco, CaIt is "I pretend to pray, you know the preacher likes the cold, he knows I'm gonna stay" and it makes sense, the singer came into the church because it was cold outside (that's why he only "pretends to pray"), and it explains why the preacher likes the cold: because it brings newcomers to the church and stay for a while.
    Great song, beautiful song, magical, heavenly song. Thank you.
  • Jarod from Las Vegas, NvWhatever the original meaning is to this song, it has become a symbol of the mindset of the soldier at war. California is just a metaphor for "home".
    Maybe it's because of the song appearing in Vietnam-themed movies, but I'm more than willing to bet that some of my brothers felt this song, when it was brand new, and they were in the fight, out there.
    I know I, for one, understood it, when I was in Iraq.
  • Mike from Palo Alto, CaThe song definitely is about the Naval Academy. The song has a call a response cadence form, and is often sung to plebes while marching to instill thoughts of quitting. "The Church" is the Academy Chapel halfway along Stribling Walk. Plebes take this walk while walking to and from classes. The encounter with the chaplain demonstrates navy chaplain's job of boosting moral and providing guidance. "he knows I'm gonna stay" refers to the chaplain telling him not to quit. "if I didn't tell her, I could leave today" refers to telling the Navy he is going to leave. If he did tell her, he has to undergo outproccessing which can take weeks to get discharged. The winter setting refers to the Annapolis winter, which is crummy windy weather, tough Academics, and no end in site. Writing a song about leaving USNA and going to California is extremely plausible.... Considering that is exactly what he did.
  • Reed from New Ulm, MnLove the guitars in the intro. --that alone makes the song instantly recognizable.
    what a great track!
  • Eric from Sheridan, InThe Beach Boys version of this is amazing. sounds nothing like the beach boys, but in a good way.
  • Siansonea from Denver, CoThe Carpenters version of this is superb, and it's amazing that it was done before they'd even signed to A&M. I would like to have heard a version that was slowed down throughout, like the intro to that version.
  • Adam from Minneapolis, MnI think the power verse in the song is
    "If I didn't tell her, I could leave today"
    it is a bout a weirdo man crazy in love with a girl and is perplexed what to be his next step towards her, seeing all the world around him grey as if the world stopped at him and her only for him!
    that is why it is a love song?!
  • Tim Johnson from Doncaster, EnglandA quote from Barry McGuire: Well, it was my track. It was going to be my next single release. And when they were doing my backup vocals, they started doing a counterpoint with (sings) "all the leaves are brown, and the sky was grey," well that all came together on my recording session. And they heard it and thought, "that's the sound. That's what we want, that counterpoint thing." Then John asked me if they could release "California Dreamin'" as their first single, and I said, "Hey, you wrote the tune. Do whatever you want." So they did. They took my voice off, and put Denny's voice on, and they had that flute player guy come in and [he] did a toodle-toodle in the middle of the song. And it was a monster hit for them.

    If you listen to the left track on their album, if you get The Best of the Mamas and Papas, you listen to the left track, you can still hear a little bit of my voice. My son discovered that once.
  • Charles from Glenside, PaTo Mark from Vegas: I believe that you hit upon probably the most meaningful line in the song. It was widely reported that John and Michelle's marriage had been in a less than blissful state for some time - something that provided the inspiration for a fair number of their songs. View that union as a cold, gray existence in which one feels trapped, and would certainly wish to flee, then the line 'if I didn't tell her, I could leave today' makes a great deal of sense.
  • Ellie from Wheeling, Wvthe lyrics are "the preacher's eyes are cold, he knows I'm gonna stay.! y'all are goofs!
  • Richard from Rockvale, Tnit is...

    Stopped into a church
    I passed along the way
    Well, I got down on my knees
    Got down on my knees
    And I began to pray
    I began to pray
    You know the preacher locked the door
    Preacher locked the door

    He knows I'm gonna stay
    Knows I'm gonna stay
    California dreamin
    California dreamin
    On such a winter's day

  • Christopher from Seattle, WaThe flute solo is the single greatest moment in rock history, in my opinion.
  • Mark from Las Vegas, United StatesAll the above is cute, but what the hell does, " If I didn't tell her, I could leave today." mean?
  • James from Yucaipa, Camama cass elliot died from a heart attack due to obesity in july 1974.No ham sandwich was in her stomach contents & she had very little to eat the day before.John philips died in 2001 & denny died jan.2007.michelle philips is alive today.California dreaming is a great song & when winter hits,you will be wishing you were in ca on such a winters day. 11/9/07
  • Pougff from Manchester, MsYou are wrong Philip.
  • Herbie from Toronto, Canada"you know the preacher likes the cold" is the words. The preacher is from new york and is use to the cold.
  • Sunshine from Houston, TxQueen Latifah has a nice cover of this song on her jazz album The Dana Owens Collection.
  • Kent from Toronto, CanadaAlthough known as an American band, they could be called one quarter Canadian, as the recently deceased Denny Doherty was actually Canadian (born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Nov. 29, 1940; died at his home in Missisauga, Ontario, Jan. 19, 2007). In a similar case, "Scottish" Big Country also owed much of its Gaelic guitar sound to Canadian band member Bruce Watson (born Timmins, Ontario, 1961.)
  • Tim from Tempe, AzThis is silly. The singer quite obviously says "I pretend to pray" Why would he do this? Because the singer is homeless and plans on spending the night in the church. He probably feels like he has a better chance of not getting kicked out if he appears pious. "I'd be SAFE and WARM", otherwise, why not be safe and warm at home? The preacher absolutely "lights the coals", because it is obviously cold and this guy is obviously going to spend the night. It is a cool song. Hauntingly beautiful.
  • Garry from Anchorage, AkThere is an outstanding interview of Denny Doherty from 2003 where he talks about California Dreaming and other songs on
  • Ben from Montréal, CanadaI think Lance was joking... ;-) No need to be angry .
  • Nick from Arlington Heights, IlMichelle Phillips was really really really good looking..
  • Philip from Johannesburg, South AfricaYou guys are nuts! Listen to the words! It's "You know the preacher likes the cold, 'cos he knows I'll stay, I got down on my knees and I began to pray". Some of you want to try and sing what you are suggesting could be the words and you will find they don't scan or fit the music!
  • Michael from Pittsburgh, PaThe preacher lights the coals, and he does pretend to pray. If you think about it less cynically you'll see that the lighting the coals thing makes more sense: the preacher sees him enter the church and pretend to pray, and lights the coals because he's sure that our hero will be there for quite a while, and it's cold outside (and inside, I guess). Why would the preacher like the cold because it makes a solitary man who wandered in from the street stay? No, he lights the coals in a simple act of giving comfort. Note that in neither interpretation does the preacher approach the narrator - the preacher lights the coals and presumably just goes away. This fits in with the depressing feel of the song quite nicely. If the preacher were happy about the man staying you have to think he would approach him.
  • Bill from Elm Creek, NeRIP, Denny.
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, PaTHIS SONG IS NOT ABOUT DRUGS...I think he says "you know the preacher lights the coals"...just my opinion...i love the clip in forrest gump where this song is played...i love how they over lap the voices...My favorite lyric is "Well i got down on my knees." love this song
  • Chuck from Baton Rouge, LaGeorge Benson did a great cover of this on his grammy winning album, White Rabbit.
  • Kira from Edmonton, CanadaI love this song, its so 'sixties'! Why are there no songs like this anymore (in the 'pop' genre)
  • Anonnymous from Nashville, TxDada's cover of this is awesome!
  • Asef from Silkeborg, DenmarkI interviewed John Phillips in '87 a really nice and humble fellow. He asured Me that Mamma Cass did not die eating a Hamburger. Shortley before meeting Mr.Phillips(not knowing I was going to meet Him) I read a book that He and Scott Mckenzie (who I also met the same ocation and Who played with Mammas and Pappas at that time in '87)Played in a duo together in the early 60'ies called "The Journeymen".
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoMama Cass introduced this song at the Monterrey Pop Festival by saying it was the reason for their great wealth, and then adding, "Honesty is the best policy!"
  • Shonda from Los Angeles, CaI rarely listen to this type of 60's hippie music, but I love the way they harmonized in the song.
  • Kitten from Mexico City, MexicoThe song "Punk rock girl" by the Dead Milkmen refers to "California Dreaming", albeit the Beach Boys' version: "Then someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox/It was Califronia Dreaming, so we started screaming/ "On such a winter's daaayyy".
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaMy stereo receiver was cutting out one time and all I got was the left channel (Michelle and Cass)and it sounded something like: "...leaves are is grey.........for a walk...............winters day.............". It was actually kinda cool.
  • Stacey from St.petersburg, FlI love this song pure sixtes. Not about drugs its about going home to the sunshine and being out of the cold and gloomyness
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaIts not about New York in winter, the leaves ARE brown...the sky IS grey. Not all songs
    have obscure meanings hidden in them. And he 'pretends' to pray.
  • Lennon from Chopsticks, Korea, United Statesi remembered hearing this particular song well after the beatles elenor rigby...another song about churchish related symbolism...but what makes this a master-piece is first. no one else could write it, and second the way everything is textured together, its a very errie song too. it isn't a drug song, but it is clearly one inspired by drugs, the overwhelming meloncholy and depression; lusting for freedom of despire, shackeled to unrelenting brutal reality. this is clearly a self psycological self analysis portrait that was very prevelant during the sixties. and for the miffed lyrics, not everyone has good hearing. thank God for music books, eh?
  • Patrick from Tallapoosa, GaI thought it was "the preacher locked the door...cause he knows I'm gonna stay".
  • Dan from Lee, NhSo Denny sings lead on this?
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnIt's one of the best songs to hear on a stereo. If you listen closely, John and Denny are in one speaker and Michelle and Cass are in the other.
  • Jen from Nvi havent seen the video but i think the song is great i sang it in karoke i did great lol
  • Jay from New York, NyTo anyone who thinks this song is about drugs: Have you ever been in New York in the winter? The leaves are brown and the sky is gray. Stop looking for drugs everywhere. They are not always there.
  • Barry from New York, NcIn the film MONTEREY POP, they do a renditin of this song. For some reason, Mama Cass can't seem to reach ANY of the high notes like she did on the record!!
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumI think this song is about people who would like to go to California, a nice place to be. On radio Classic 21 in Belgium, we have a program called "California Dreaming"; sometime they start it with this beautiful song of the "Mamas and the Papas". Every time I hear this song, it makes me happy.
  • Paige from San Diego, CaSome of you people are obsessed. Not EVERY song refers to drugs. Even if this one did, it is still awesome, and so are The Mamas and the Papas.
  • Hugh from Near Bristol, EnglandIt is "I pretend to pray" and "Likes the cold". João is right about the grammar, in the first verse he says "If I was", it is not intended to be an exercise in good grammar.It is very easy to read unnecessary metaphors into lyrics, could not the leaves being brown and sky being grey refer to it being a "winter's day"? Anyway it is one of the best songs ever recorded, The Mamas and the Papas were fantastic musicians aswell.

  • Marina from Seattle, WaMan, they had some amazing harmonies in this song.
  • Alan from City, MiActually, I always thought the solo instrument was a recorder, not a flute.
    Other groups that used flutes were Traffic and Jethro Tull.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThe River City People scored a big UK hit in 1990 with a cover of this song
  • Rebecca from Wolverhampton, Englandi got in to this song as it was recorded for a beer advert in england its 1 of my faves
  • Taal from Brisbane, AustraliaIt is "pretend to pray". He stopped into the church because it was cold, he didn't go in to pray, just for the warmth. This is obvious from the next two lines, "You know the preacher likes it cold, He knows I'm gonna stay."
  • João from São Paulo, BrazilI totally agree with you about these interpretations people find being silly, Brian. But I, too, will correct you about something: Just because we can't hear an "s" after (third person) "like" it doesn't mean this is not what they meant. Singers have never been the best English teachers, just take a look at the previous line as a good example of what I mean: they sing "I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray" - that's right, not "I pretended" (which would be grammatically correct since the sentence started in the past tense); probably they just thought it would be easier to sing without the ending "ed" and that's how it goes. .......... And as to whether it is "preacher light(s) the coal(s)" or "preacher like(s) the cold", the second sentence fits the song better: The preacher likes the cold weather because when it's cold people look for shelter inside the church and stay there for a long time ("he knows I'm gonna stay").
  • Brian from La Mesa, CaI have also heard "You know, the preacher lights the coals" for the line after "pray". Less of a commentary, but equally appropriate. I listened carefully and neither fit the vocals perfectly. There is no S sound after light/like.

    The supposed drug references are silly. The lyric makes perfect sense without symbolism. Suspect symbolism when the literal interpretation doesn't read normally.

    Cass Elliot did not die from choking on a sandwich. That's a myth.
  • Ivy from Los Angeles, CaI saw a documentary on VH1 about the group, and Michelle Phillips said John woke her up in the middle of the night and asked her to write down a song for him (California Dreaming). She said no, as she was tired. But she finally gave in, and he promised her royalties as a co-songwriter. She now says it was the best wake up call she ever got.
  • Ken from Leicester, NcThe Great Hal Blaine on drums on this one!
    He was from Holyoke,Mass. then moved to California.
    He played drums on quite a few "Mamas and Papas" songs..Great drummer! Do a internet search on him! Lots of recordings from Elvis to Frank and the Beach boys etc...
  • Seth from Ridgewood, NjPapa John wrote this song when he was a Plebe at the United States Naval Academy during the summer of 1954... He never graduated, leaving shortly after arriving. This song is all in reference to how much he found the summer training of new midshipman at USNA stressful and his longing to leave. He left shortly after the intense first summer, never graduating with the class of '58. It has nothing to do with his wife, or marijuana. The 'church' is really the US Naval Academy chapel.
  • Andy from Btown, CanadaNew rock artist's Pennywise do a punk version of California Dreaming, well done and not too obnoxious.
  • Patrick from Conyers, GaThis song has been believed to have many drug references, such as the leaves being brown (pot), and the sky being gray (smoke from the weed). The second verse could very well relate to the whacko new-age religious cults that had formed in California during the 60s and 70s, where people joined and never returned to their normal lives.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcThe four members of the group worked out their unique harmonizing style on this and other songs while visiting the Bahamas.
  • Micheal from Columbia, MdRe: Mama Cass dying choking on a ham sandwich

    Interesting trivia: Mama Cass died in the same flat in London (on Curzon Place, in Mayfair--it belonged to rocker Harry Nilsson, later sold to Pete Townsend) in the SAME BED(!) that Keith Moon(drummer for the Who) died in 4 years later in 1978. This is documented in several books, notably "Hellhounds on Their Trail; Tales From the Rock and Roll Graveyard" by R. Gary Patterson on Dowling Press. Pretty cool, huh?
  • Clem from Gainesville, FlIn response to Robert, from Old Town....I believe the last 2 lines in the 2nd stanza go something like:
    "The preacher loves it when it's cold,
    'Cause he knows you're gonna stay."
  • Robert from Old Town, MeI could never figure out what the next line says, after.....'got down on my knees and I began to pray...." This has been a puzzle to me for YEARS!!!!
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