Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)"

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Friday, August 16, 2013
60s
The Mamas & The Papas
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Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)"

And you wonder why we wanted to move to California...

"I used to live in New York City
Everything there was dark and dirty"

It's different today. People don't take L.A. seriously. The whole state of California, it's lost its position in the country's consciousness, except for maybe Silicon Valley. But once upon a time California was the repository of our nation's hopes and dreams, it's where you went to let go and be your true self. And despite all the bad press, about taxes and social problems...it still is.

You drive up PCH, you stand on the beach at Malibu...and you believe you've been delivered, you've finally made it to the promised land.

Once upon a time, young girls did not want to be Mariah Carey, boys did not want to be Justin Timberlake, they congregated together and sang the songs of the Mamas & the Papas.

Huh?

You see John Phillips was an amazing songwriter. Not that Lou Adler was not an amazing producer. They'd both already paid their dues, Adler with Jan & Dean and so many other SoCal acts, and Phillips in the folk scene.

And then came "California Dreamin'." Positively east coast introspective, it was a winter song about the free and easy life in the perpetual summertime of Southern California. This was the initial hit, the injection.

But unlike so many acts, the Mamas & the Papas were not one hit wonders.

The follow-up, "Monday, Monday," was almost bigger. Because we were primed, we were ready. It was at this point that girls and boys formed groups to sing the songs. At school assemblies...

You only wished you had the long hair of Michelle, who was suddenly bigger than any movie star. She did more for blondes than Marilyn Monroe.

And suddenly it was okay to be fat, if you had talent. Everybody knew Michelle was eye candy, that Cass was the real talent.

And at this late date, my favorite is the third in a row, "I Saw Her Again." A summer hit, it was cool and breezy and full of optimism and opportunity, just like June. Furthermore, it exploded out of the speakers. You have no idea how great we felt to be alive and hear this emanating from the speaker.

But at this late date, the one that I play most, that sets my mind adrift in its own private cocoon, is "Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)."

I knew!

Not everybody did.

Not everybody on the east coast knew we were experiencing a revolution and we all had to get the hell out of there, that the world was blowing apart and was suddenly full of possibilities, and to experience them fully you had to be in California, where it wasn't only about what you thought, but what you felt.

"Young girls are coming to the canyon
And in the mornings I can see them walking"

We didn't even know it was called "Laurel," we didn't even know the topography of the L.A. Basin. We didn't know every rock star we adored lived in this crazy quilt of streets in the hills, smoking dope and making music.

"At first so strange to feel so friendly
To say good morning and really mean it
To feel these changes happening in me
But not to notice till I feel it"

Eureka! On the east coast you had to be self-deprecating, artifice ruled, sincerity was for pussies. But in L.A. you could just be yourself. It was something you felt when you landed at the airport, when you drove across the border, you shed your old skin and became someone new.

It was different. This was pre-Manson, pre-AIDS. If you wanted to get around, you stuck out your thumb. If you were under thirty and had long hair, we trusted you.

And we ruled. Our parents weren't wannabe hipsters wearing our clothing, rather they were completely clueless as to what was going on. It started with the Beatles, after the British Invasion the scene shifted to Los Angeles.

And at this point in time, you can barely go anywhere, the traffic's just that bad. The smog is better, but it's not good. Still, nobody's breathing down your neck, nobody's in your business. East coasters put it down, saying there's no substance, and they're right, it's primarily about lifestyle, but people think out here, for themselves, after all we're three hours behind New York, eight behind London, we're not taking our cues from anybody else, we're making it up for ourselves.

And the funny thing is if the Mamas & the Papas were on "Idol" or "X Factor" or "The Voice" today, they'd win. They were good-looking enough, charismatic enough, and not only could they sing, their material was better than anything on the hit parade. Today. Back then, giants walked the earth, they forced everybody to be better, there was no higher calling than being a musician.

And we knew it.