31 songs / music

31 songs: California Dreamin’

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is gray
I’ve been for a walk
On a winter’s day

I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin’
On such a winter’s day

And here we are, another long step back in time, as this time I was… maybe 8 years old? 😉

Those were the years of the vinyl records, the glorious 45 or 7” (the numbers refer to the record play speed, called “rpm” , revolutions per minute, and to the record diameter, which was 7”, that is 18 cm), and of the 33 ½ rpm “Long Playing”. A 45 rpm single had a large centre hole and contained only one song.

Well, I simply happened to find one day a “single 45” – I was at my cousins’ – which was damaged, that is, a piece of it was missing. It lay there among other intact “45s”, and I got incredibly curious about it…

(surprised? 😉 )

I doubted at first the record could be played, as to play a vinyl record you had to carefully place the small stylus, also called “pick-up”, on the record.  A stylus was a very delicate accessory, and could easily be damaged if you happened to place it wrongly. However, I asked if I could play it and managed to  place the stylus with the utmost care just after the missing part. In this way I knew I would lose the beginning of the song, but at least I could listen to the rest of it!

And all of a sudden the vocal harmonies of California dreamin’, the Mamas & the Papas,  caught me, and became song #2 in my V.P.S. (Very Personal Soundtrack 😉 ).

It was not until years later that I could listen to the whole song from beginning to end… but for that summer I would visit my cousins very often and play my favourite, broken 45 rpm single…

Here’s a video of the Mamas & the Papas performing the song at Monterey Pop Music Festival in 1967:

The Mamas & the Papas , a vocal group of the 1960s, were  John Phillips, his wife Michelle, Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot.

“California Dreaming'” was first released in 1965 and ranks in position 89 in the periodical Rolling Stone’s list of  The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

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6 thoughts on “31 songs: California Dreamin’

  1. I “met” this song in 1966; ok, it was not the original one: it was the Italian version, sung and played by a band called “i Dik Dik”. Their rendition was good and the lyrics (written by Giulio Rapetti, a.k.a. Mogol) were reasonably faithful to the original ones, but with a special “Italian twist”, making them more adherent to our cultural background.
    It was all in the second verse, which went like this:
    “Stopped into a church
    I passed along the way
    Well, I got down on my knees
    And I pretend to pray…”.
    In Italian everything simply became:
    “Entro in chiesa e là
    io cerco di pregar…”.
    “Entro in chiesa” actually means “I enter the parish church I usually attend” (so the church is not simply along the way). I try to pray and do not pretend to. In the American version, I’m trying to escape from the cold; in the Italian one, I’m trying to escape from a temptation. Which temptation? The temptation to run away from responsibilities. Which responsibilities? It is all explained in the last verse:
    “Se lei non mi aspettasse
    so che partirei…”.
    Now everything is clear (is it?): the song’s protagonist is going to get married, but he is overcome with doubts and tempted by the idea of quitting everything.
    In those times, many young-adult Italians must have felt this way, and the lyricist was able to perfectly portray this particular state of mind.

  2. I heard this song while I was working last summer. A band played it during a wedding party and I immediatey asked them for the title because I didn’t know it. It is similar to “Hotel California”, beautiful song all the same. Maybe California has a particular hold on me, it is the country of cars, rock and sharks!! =)

    • A very nice version, with a quite different flavour… but that’s the good thing with covers… they always let you disCOVER and unCOVER something new about a song! 😉
      Thanks for sharing it!

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