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California Dreamin'

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Title: California Dreamin'  
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Subject: The Mamas & the Papas, Michelle Phillips, Bud Shank, Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs, Gopo Awards
Collection: 1965 Singles, 1965 Songs, 1979 Singles, 2004 Singles, America (Band) Songs, Bobby Womack Songs, Counterculture of the 1960S, Grammy Hall of Fame Award Recipients, Hippie Movement, Sia (Musician) Songs, Singles Certified Gold by the Syndicat National De L'Édition Phonographique, Song Recordings Produced by Lou Adler, Songs About California, Songs About Los Angeles, California, Songs Written by John Phillips (Musician), The Beach Boys Songs, The Carpenters Songs, The Lettermen Songs, The Mamas & the Papas Songs
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California Dreamin'

"California Dreamin'"
Single by The Mamas & the Papas
from the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
B-side "Somebody Groovy"
Released December 8, 1965
Format Vinyl record (7") 45 RPM
Recorded November 4, 1965, Western Recorders, Hollywood, California
Genre Psychedelic pop, folk rock
Length 2:38
Label Dunhill Records
Writer(s) John Phillips, Michelle Phillips
Producer(s) Lou Adler
The Mamas & the Papas singles chronology
"Go Where You Wanna Go"
"California Dreamin'"
"Monday, Monday"
The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" from their debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.

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"California Dreamin'" is a song written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and was first recorded by Barry McGuire.[1] However, the best known version is by The Mamas & the Papas, who sang backup on the original version and released as a single in 1965. The song is #89 in Rolling Stone‍‍ '​‍s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] The lyrics of the song express the narrator's longing for the warmth of Los Angeles during a cold winter.

The song became a signpost of the arrival of the nascent counterculture era.[3][4]

"California Dreamin' " was certified as a Gold Record (single) by the RIAA in June 1966[5] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.[6]


  • History 1
  • Other versions 2
    • The Beach Boys version 2.1
  • Use in media 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The song was written in 1963 while John Phillips and Michelle Phillips were living in New York. He dreamed about the song and woke her up to help him write it. Michelle Phillips enjoyed visiting churches, and she and John Phillips visited St. Patrick's Cathedral, which inspired the second verse of California Dreamin’ ("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.[7][8] At the time, John and Michelle Phillips were members of the folk group "The New Journeymen", which evolved into The Mamas & the Papas.

They earned their first record contract after being introduced to Lou Adler, the head of Dunhill Records, by Barry McGuire. In thanks to Adler, they sang the backing vocals to "California Dreamin'" with members of the session band The Wrecking Crew[9] on McGuire's album This Precious Time. The Mamas and the Papas then recorded their own version using the same instrumental and backing vocal tracks to which they added new vocals[10] and an alto flute solo by Jim Horn. P. F. Sloan did the guitar introduction.[11] McGuire's original vocal can be briefly heard on the left channel at the beginning of the record, having not been completely wiped.[12]

The single was released in late 1965 but was not an immediate breakthrough. After gaining little attention in Los Angeles upon its release, Michelle Phillips remembers that it took a radio station in Boston to break the song nationwide.[13] After making its chart debut in January 1966,[14] the song peaked at #4 in March on both the Hot 100, lasting 17 weeks, and Cashbox, lasting 20 weeks.[15] Sharply dividing the popular music market that month, rivals "California Dreamin'" and "Ballad of the Green Berets" eventually tied for the #1 record of 1966, according to Cashbox. "California Dreamin'" also reached #23 on the UK charts.

Other versions

Some high profile artists who have recorded this song include Hugh Masekela, Eddie Hazel, Raquel Welch, Benn Jordan, Wilson Phillips, Dik Dik and John Phillips without The Mamas & the Papas.

In 1967, Icelandic band Hljómar recorded a version in Icelandic with the title Sveitapiltsins draumur, which appeared on their first LP.

In 1978, a disco version proved popular in European clubs for Italian project Colorado, reaching 45 on the British charts,[16][17] and house cover versions have been released by DJ Sammy and Royal Gigolos. The John Mayer Trio covered "California Dreamin'" on the June 4, 2009 episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

In 1979 a movie based on the song, California Dreaming (1979 film) was released. The band America performed the song on the movie soundtrack, which was also released as a single and was a minor hit in the US peaking at 56 on the Billboard singles chart.

A more uptempo version was recorded by the Japanese punk band Hi-Standard as was the recording by the band Seven Faces. Their "California Dreamin'" EP was released on Fat Wreck Chords in 1996. In 1987, Orange County-based punk band M.I.A. released a version of the song on their "After the Fact" LP. In 2004 Lutricia McNeal released her recording of the song[18][19] on her album titled Soulsister Ambassador. Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song as a bonus track for their 2007 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The Liverpool folk quartet River City People recorded a version of "California Dreaming" as a double A sided single with Carry the Blame in 1990, reaching number 13 on the official UK top 40 singles chart.

The punk/metal band Mower did a version for their CD Not for you (2006).

South Korean professional acoustic finger-style guitarist Sungha Jung plays this song on his 2010 debut album, Perfect Blue, since the song was a considerable hit on South Korean radio in 1996.

Russian rock band Mumiy Troll recorded the rough translation of a song named "Калифорния Снится" (Kaliforniya Snitsya).

Christopher Wheat released a 2015 version on his album Limehouse Songs.

A version by Belgian women's choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers is often used on Powerball commercials for the California Lottery.

Diana Krall recorded a jazz version of the song on her 2015 album Wallflower.

Sia recorded the song for the disaster film San Andreas. The song came out in May 2015 and was featured in the movie's trailers. The song reached the position no. 92 on the UK Singles Chart, #44 on the Scottish Singles Chart,[20] #87 on the chart SNEP Singles Chart.[21]

The Beach Boys version

"California Dreamin'"
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Made in U.S.A.
B-side "Lady Liberty"
Released 1986
Format Vinyl
Recorded May 1986
Genre Rock
Length 3:10
Label Capitol Records
Producer(s) Terry Melcher
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Rock 'n' Roll to the Rescue"
"California Dreamin"
"Happy Endings"
(With Little Richard)

The Beach Boys recorded a second version of "California Dreamin'" in 1986 for their greatest hits compilation Made in U.S.A.. It was produced by Terry Melcher and featured Roger McGuinn from The Byrds on 12-string guitar. John Phillips, Michelle Phillips and McGuinn appear in the video. Denny Doherty was on the East coast and declined; Cass Elliot had died in 1974. This version of the song was referenced in the lyrics to The Dead Milkmen's 1988 novelty hit "Punk Rock Girl".

The song performed moderately well hitting no. 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #8 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary.[22]

Use in media

Due to its popularity, the song has appeared on numerous film soundtracks and as plot elements in other movies and television shows. Notably, the song is used repeatedly in the 1994 Wong Kar-wai film Chungking Express, in which a character played by singer Faye Wong obsessively listens to it. The original song by The Mamas & the Papas was also used in the soundtrack on the Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning film Forrest Gump. "California Dreamin'", as covered by Bobby Womack (1968), features prominently in 2009 British film Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold, where the main character Mia dances to it and uses it as her audition piece.

The song is also featured in films such as San Andreas, Beautiful Thing, American Pop, Cinema Verite, Congo, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hollywood Knights, and the television shows Californication and Goodnight Sweetheart, among others.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".  
  3. ^ "Eagles, Fleetwood Mac Selected for Hall of Fame | Music News". Rolling Stone. 1997-10-28. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  4. ^ Susan Stamberg (2002-07-08). California Dreamin,' Present at the Creation (Archived Radio Program)"'". NPR. Retrieved 2014-04-29. 
  5. ^ "'"California Dreamin. The Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2014-07-11. The RIAA Database may require user input 
  6. ^ "'"California Dreamin. The Recoding Academy. Retrieved 2014-07-11. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' The Mamas And The Papas Dunhill (1966) (Single) Inducted 2001 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew.  
  10. ^ "Show 33 - Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders. [Part 1]". The University of North Texas Digital Library. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  11. ^ Dan Daily (July 1, 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'"". Mix Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  12. ^ Rock Family Trees, BBC, interview with McGuire, 1999. McGuire's original harmonica solo can also just be made out under the flute solo.
  13. ^ "'"California Dreamin. July 8, 2002. Archived from the original on February 18, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  14. ^ Steve Sullivan (4 October 2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. Scarecrow Press. pp. 483–.  
  15. ^ Bronson, Fred (1988). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (Paperback ed.). New York: Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 195.   This source shows the song peaking at #5.
  16. ^ "Colorado (2): California Dreaming/Space Lady Love". Discogs. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Colorado". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Lutricia McNeal - California Dreaming on YouTube". December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Lutricia McNeal - California Dreaming lyrics". December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Sia | The Official Charts Company".  
  21. ^ "'" – Sia – California Dreamin.  
  22. ^ "AllMusic 'Made in U.S.A' awards". AllMusic. 

External links

  • California Dreamin' at Myspace (streamed copy where licensed)
  • NPR's "Present at the Creation" segment on the origins of the song
  • Technical article describing how California Dreamin' was originally mixed
  • Facts and discussion about the song
  • Review Of California Dreaming
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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