First, Michelle Phillips, recalling the period of the Mamas and the Papas’ demise:
“You know, I came back from Peru, when I went there to do Dennis Hopper’s movie (The Last Movie) in 1970. I had met a young songwriter….whom nobody had ever heard of. I came back and I asked to have a little meeting with John (Phillips) and Lou (Adler). I went to the meeting with my guitar, and I played them two songs. I told them, ‘I just want to do a single. I’ve got two sides to a single.’ They said, ‘Let’s hear ’em.’ and I sat down and played them….They both sat there and this is exactly what they said: Lou said, ‘Don’t you think it’s a little country Mitch?’ I said, ‘Well whatever it is, I think they’re hits.’ And John said, ‘Well, frankly, Mitch, I think you’ve lost the thread of things.’ So I got up and said, ‘Never mind!’”
(Michelle Phillips from Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of the Mamas & the Papas, Matthew Greenwald, 2002)
Then….facts in evidence:
The unknown songwriter was Kris Kristofferson. The two songs in question were “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Then…a few random thoughts on the subject:
To be fair, Michelle was a decent singer but she wasn’t Sammi Smith. And she sure wasn’t Janis Joplin. Maybe she had no prayer of making either song a hit.
Then again, the only song she had recommended to the group which actually got recorded (with her on lead vocal) was “Dedicated To the One I Love.” It was the last of a long line of early rock ‘n’ roll standards she pitched, none of which John Phillips had previously ever heard of (he was evidently a true, hermetically sealed folkie in the “Creeque Alley” years). It also became their second biggest hit.
So who knows?
I mention it only because it occurred to me that John Phillips’ and Lou Adler’s responses might have amounted to making the Michelle Phillips pictured above pay for her sins.
Not being married to Dennis Hopper for eight days, but, you know, that other stuff.
Sleeping around on John and not sleeping with Lou at all.
Oh, and not inspiring any more great songs for John to write and Lou to produce. Trying to think for herself.
Be interesting to know which one wanted to kill her career worse on the day she almost discovered Kris Kristofferson.