California Dreamin'

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"California Dreamin'"
Disco de vinilo - California dreamin'.jpg
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
Length 2:38
Label Dunhill Records
Songwriter(s) John Phillips, Michelle Phillips
Producer(s) Lou Adler
The Mamas & the Papas singles chronology
"Go Where You Wanna Go"
"California Dreamin'"
"Monday, Monday"
"Go Where You Wanna Go"
"California Dreamin'"
"Monday, Monday"
Music video
"California Dreamin'" on YouTube

"California Dreamin'" is a song written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and was first recorded by Barry McGuire.[3] 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.[4] The lyrics of the song express the narrator's longing for the warmth of Los Angeles during a cold winter in New York City.

The song became a signpost of the California Myth[5] and the arrival of the nascent counterculture era.[6][7]

"California Dreamin' " was certified as a Gold Record (single) by the RIAA in June 1966[8] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.[9]


The song was written in 1963 while John Phillips and Michelle Phillips were living in New York.[10] He dreamed about the song and woke her up to help him write it.[11][12] At the time, John and Michelle Phillips were members of the folk group The New Journeymen, which evolved into The Mamas & the Papas. Also Nancy Sinatra recorded a cover version.

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[13] on McGuire's album This Precious Time. The Mamas & the Papas then recorded their own version using the same instrumental and backing vocal tracks to which they added new vocals[14] and an alto flute solo by Bud Shank. P. F. Sloan performed the guitar introduction.[15] McGuire's original vocal can be briefly heard on the left channel at the beginning of the record, having not been completely wiped.[16]

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.[17] After making its chart debut in January 1966,[18] the song peaked at number 4 in March on both the Billboard Hot 100, lasting 17 weeks, and Cashbox, lasting 20 weeks.[19] "California Dreamin'" was the number 1 single of 1966 in Billboard[20] and tied for number 1 with "Ballad of the Green Berets" in Cashbox. "California Dreamin'" also reached number 23 on the UK charts upon its original release and re-charted after its use in a Carling Black Label commercial in 1997, eventually peaking at number 9 there.

Other versions[edit]

Some high-profile artists who have recorded this song include The Faction, R.E.M., The Beach Boys, America, Wes Montgomery, Gary Hoey, Dead Artist Syndrome, José Feliciano (B-side on his 1968 hit single "Light My Fire"), The Carpenters, Baby Huey & the Babysitters, the Four Tops, Melanie, Bobby Womack, Queen Latifah (on the 2004 The Dana Owens Album), The Seekers, George Benson, Hugh Masekela, Eddie Hazel, Raquel Welch, Benn Jordan, Wilson Phillips, Diana Krall, Lee Moses, 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,[21][22] 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 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[23][24] on her album titled Soulsister Ambassador.

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

Hong Kong singer Leon Lai released a Cantonese version of the song in 2001, which entered top 10 of most of the music charts there.

Benn Jordan recorded a version under his pseudonym 'The Flashbulb' for his album Kirlian Selections (2005).

The punk 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).

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.

Hong Kong singer Susan Wong covered the song on her 2010 smooth jazz / bossa nova album Step into My Dream.

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 top 20 in Lebanon, peaking at #14 and becoming a big airplay gainer there, position no. 92 on the UK Singles Chart, #44 on the Scottish Singles Chart,[25] #87 on the chart SNEP Singles Chart.[26]

Meat Loaf recorded a version of the song, released on his 2011 (2012 in the UK and USA) album, Hell in a Handbasket.

Rick Price and Jack Jones covered the song on their album California Dreaming (2017).

Beach Boys version[edit]

"California Dreamin'"
California Dreamin' Beach Boys.jpg
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
Songwriter(s) John Phillips, Michelle Phillips
Producer(s) Terry Melcher
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Rock 'n' Roll to the Rescue"
"California Dreamin'"
"Happy Endings"
"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. 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".

Although the song only charted at a moderate number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, it reached #8 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary.[27] and it was supported by a music video that saw heavy rotation on MTV. The video featured the Beach Boys along with John Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Roger McGuinn.

Freischwimmer version[edit]

A tropical house version by German DJ/remixer Freischwimmer was released in 2015. This version reached number one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart in its February 13, 2016 issue.[28][29] It should be noted that "Dreamin" had never before hit No. 1 on any ranking, thus making this version the first in its nearly 50-year history to reach the top spot on a Billboard chart.[30]

Use in media[edit]

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. A group of explorers sing the opening verse in the 1995 film Congo. 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. It also is played in the 2017 Freeform series, Famous in Love.

The song is also featured in films such as San Andreas, Beautiful Thing, American Pop, Cinema Verite, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hollywood Knights, The Belko Experiment (in a Spanish-language cover by Gabriela Terán), and the television shows Californication and Goodnight Sweetheart, among others.

The song was one of many California related songs played throughout "Sunshine Plaza" in the original Disney California Adventure.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Universalis (October 27, 2015). Dictionnaire des Musiciens: (Les Dictionnaires d'Universalis). Encyclopaedia Universalis. p. 3635. ISBN 978-2-85229-140-9. 
  2. ^ Fontenot, Robert (October 29, 2015). "What is Folk-Rock Music?". ThoughtCo. Retrieved March 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ Southern California Public Radio. "Take Two". Southern California Public Radio. 
  4. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  5. ^ Bisbort, Alan; Puterbaugh, Parke (2009). California Beaches: The Best Places to Swim, Play, Eat, and Stay. Avalon Travel. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-56691-614-1. 
  6. ^ "Eagles, Fleetwood Mac Selected for Hall of Fame | Music News". Rolling Stone. 1997-10-28. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  7. ^ Susan Stamberg (2002-07-08). "'California Dreamin,' Present at the Creation (Archived Radio Program)". NPR. Retrieved 2014-04-29. 
  8. ^ "California Dreamin'". The Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2014-07-11. The RIAA Database may require user input 
  9. ^ "California Dreamin'". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 2014-07-11. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' The Mamas And The Papas Dunhill (1966) (Single) Inducted 2001 
  10. ^ 1995 Interview (5) - "California Dreaming" - Scott McKenzie
  11. ^ "TRIBUT Presents: Monday Night Blues". Monday Night Blues. 
  12. ^ "California Dreamin' by The Mamas & the Papas Songfacts". 
  13. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ Dan Daily (July 1, 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'"". Mix Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  16. ^ Rock Family Trees, BBC, interview with McGuire, 1999. McGuire's original harmonica solo can also just be made out under the flute solo.
  17. ^ "California Dreamin'". July 8, 2002. Archived from the original on February 18, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  18. ^ Steve Sullivan (4 October 2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. Scarecrow Press. pp. 483–. ISBN 978-0-8108-8296-6. 
  19. ^ Bronson, Fred (1988). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (Paperback ed.). New York: Billboard Publications, Inc. p. 195. ISBN 0-8230-7545-1. 
  20. ^ "Top Records of 1966" Billboard December 24, 1966: 34
  21. ^ "Colorado (2): California Dreaming/Space Lady Love". Discogs. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Colorado". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Lutricia McNeal - California Dreaming on YouTube". December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Lutricia McNeal - California Dreaming lyrics". December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Sia | The Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  26. ^ " – Sia – California Dreamin'". Les classement single (in French). Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  27. ^ "AllMusic 'Made in U.S.A' awards". AllMusic. 
  28. ^ "Billboard Dance Club Songs (February 13, 2016)"
  29. ^ Chart history for Freischwimmer from Billboard
  30. ^ "'California Dreamin' Hits No. 1 After 50 Years, Thanks to Dance Remix" from Billboard (February 4, 2016)
  31. ^ "Sunshine Plaza". Theme Park Music. Retrieved 2016-09-28. 

External links[edit]