Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cass Elliot

Today is the 40th anniversary of the death of Cass 'Mama Cass' Elliot - who did not choke on a ham sandwich in that Curzon Place apartment, though the myth has proved sadly persistent. She died in fact of heart failure, probably brought on by her various drastic attempts at losing weight. Her solo career was on an up at the time, after some sad downs, and she probably had much fine music still in her.
 It was Cass's voice alone that won her a place in the band that became The Mamas &The Papas. John Phillips, typically, was reluctant to take her on, on the grounds that she was too fat. Cass was in love with Denny Doherty, and on one occasion - according to him - proposed marriage, though Denny claims he was too stoned at the time to even respond. Denny's eyes were on Michelle Phillips anyway, with whom he had the affair that led to Michelle being temporarily sacked from the band. Cass herself quit after one too many vicious insults from John (though she fulfilled her recording obligations). And so it went on, until the inevitable final disintegration of the once great band.
 Now, happily, what lives on is the glorious music that somehow emerged from that seething emotional snakepit: the Mamas & Papas' catalogue of joyous songs brilliantly performed and produced, the dark masterpiece that is John Phillips' solo album Wolf King of LA (the jauntiest cry of despair ever committed to vinyl) - and the wonderful voice of Cass Elliot. RIP.


  1. Thanks Nige. One is tempted to use quasi-religious epithets of the Mamas and the Papas. Their music is glorious and uplifting somehow. Which is their best album?

  2. Well Guy, my own favourite is the self-titled 2nd album, but it doesn't have either Monday Monday or California Dreamin'. The many and various Greatest Hits albums mostly deliver, I think - and yes there is something quasi-religious about their music, perhaps partly because of the extraordinary interplay of the voices...