July 18, 2007

"Creeque Alley"

"Creeque Alley" was released in 1967 and tells the story of the formation of The Mamas & the Papas. It was a track on their third album, The Mamas and the Papas Deliver. There must have a moment (or maybe longer) when it was the hippest thing on the radio, at least on the West Coast.

Quick - where are John Phillips' legs?

It's sort of a family tree of the folkrock music scene (minus Zimmerman and others) in the 1960s, with lots of name dropping. Some of the references are fairly obvious if you have any knowledge of '60s rock history, but some are more...esoteric. Kudos to the late John Phillips (and Michelle!) for constructing it. He may have ended up a drugstore cowboy, but he had some serious songwriting skills in his prime. With the help of this very thorough analysis:

"Creeque Alley"

John and Mitchie were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
Zal and Denny workin' for a penny
Tryin' to get a fish on the line
In a coffee house Sebastian sat
And after every number they'd pass the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just a-gettin' higher
In L.A., you know where that's at
And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass*

*This is a reference to the fact that no-one was making any money out of playing folk music but Cass Elliot who, being on the large side, was not only "getting fat" but was also having success as a solo jazz singer in Washington DC. (source)

Zallie said "Denny, you know there aren't many"
"Who can sing a song the way that you do, let's go south"
Denny said "Zallie, golly, don't you think that I wish"
"I could play guitar like you"
Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl)
And after every number they'd pass the hat
McGuinn and McGuire still a-gettin' higher
In L.A., you know where that's at
And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass

When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore
But she changed her mind one day
Standin' on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike
"Take me to New York right away"
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps
Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps
McGuinn and McGuire couldn't get no higher
But that's what they were aimin' at
And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass

Mugwumps, high jumps, low slumps, big bumps
Don't you work as hard as you play
Make up, break up, everything is shake up
Guess it had to be that way
Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful
Michelle, John, and Denny gettin' very tuneful
McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin' fire
In L.A., you know where that's at
And everybody's gettin' fat except Mama Cass
Di-di-di-dit dit dit di-di-di-dit, who-o-oa

Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can't be trusted
And Mitchie wants to go to the sea
Cass can't make it, she says we'll have to fake it
We knew she'd come eventually
Greasin' on American Express cards
It's low rent, but keeping out the heat's hard
Duffy's* good vibrations and our imaginations
Can't go on indefinitely
And California dreamin' is becomin' a reality

*Duffy's is the name of the boarding house (on the Virgin Islands) owned by Hugh Duffy on Creeque Alley (pronounced Creaky Alley but actually spelt Creque's Alley).(source)

This performance is either from Ed Sullivan's show or The Hollywood Palace, circa 1967. It may be lip-synced, but you can hear Michelle Phillips snicker at the beginning, and Denny Doherty audibly bumps his mic at the very end, so maybe not.


Lisa said...

I remember hearing this as a kid -- I couldn't believe they said fat! What a mean song! Heh.

Chris said...

Yeah, it does seem little insensitive. Mama Cass didn't appear to be too bothered by it, but you never know.

Anonymous said...

If I could make the money Cass was making, I'd be happy to be called "fat." She was key to the group's success, and her persona, "large" as it was, was integral to the short-lived but nonetheless memorable Mamas and Papas.

Anonymous said...

Back then people weren't looking for reasons to feel offended like they do today ...

Cass probably didn't like being called fat but, she was mature enough to let it go.

Anonymous said...

Wow , being born in 68 in northen England , I missed all the fun , my god women and men were sooooo beautiful back then , love Monterey and woodstock , these are the vibes that keep modern music alive , the music , the chicks , the scene xxxxxxxxx

Mike Brunet said...

This is a song of the sixties with clear roots in the 50s....... where words like "cat" and "fat" had meanings that are lost today

"fat" in this song refers to "being rich" as in "fat cat" not to being "fat" in the sense of being overweight.....

At the begnning the only one making money was Cass

"And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass"

then its, everyone but Cass is making money

"And everybody's gettin' fat except Mama Cass"