The mind-blowing night John Lennon bumped into The Mamas and The Papas: “I love you”

When The Mamas and The Papas reached the height of their popularity, it was during a time when harmonic band ensembles were quite unique. There were, of course, outfits like The Beatles and The Beach Boys, which each utilised their own artistic vocal unities, but John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty, and Cass Elliot proved that such industry-defining efforts could also be future-gazing and evergreen.

The Mamas and The Papas were only together for two and a half years, and yet the material they made feels infinite. As Phillips once put it, it was “endless”, but for her, it didn’t feel that way for reasons you might think. For starters, everybody wanted out. “It was horrible because all we wanted was to get away from each other,” she explained, giving insight into something that was and is completely undetectable from an outsider’s perspective whose only gateway is the music.

Many of the band’s struggles are understandable, of course, especially considering the fact that they “wanted out” during a time when ABC bought Dunhill, which meant they owed albums and pushed themselves to get them done so that they could enjoy their freedom. However, they were also very “insulated”, in Phillips’ words, which meant they existed separate from the vibrant 1960s pop-rock scene at the time.

Simultaneously, each member enjoyed certain parts of the scene, particularly Cass Elliot, whose appreciation for late Beatle John Lennon is well-documented. After covering the Fab Four’s tune ‘I Call Your Name’, Elliot was in England with Doherty and John Phillips when they unsuspectingly bumped into The Beatles one night. Of course, as the fan in the group, Elliot was asleep back at the hotel, but Phillips and Doherty brought the Fab Four back with them to surprise her.

In ‘I Call Your Name’, there’s a moment when Elliot whispers, “I love you, John”. The night she met Lennon, Michelle recalls, “he woke her up in the middle of the night” so that he could return the sentiment. “They were up in the suite, and they went to Cass’ room, and John leaned over her and said, ‘Cass, I love you’. She was sleeping, and John woke her up,” she said, adding that “it had to have been a mind-blowing experience for her.”

Had they been given more time together, Elliot and Lennon would likely have gotten on like a house on fire. According to Phillips, she “had this wonderful sense of humour” that she could find in any situation, which immediately made her the light of the room. While she could also be “cutting”, her warmth set her apart, making her one of the loveliest people to be around.

In an industry where a sense of humour is often the saving grace, Elliot and Lennon would have probably formed the perfect alliance. Even George Harrison said that the humour the band members shared often got them through some incredibly difficult times, which was likely the case for Elliot too. Even though she didn’t know him personally, perhaps it was Lennon’s charisma and charm that drew her in.

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