Monday, February 13, 2017

The Mamas & the Papas – "Words of Love" (1966)

Wornout phrases and longing gazes
Won't get you where you want to go

(Especially not on Valentine's Day, fellas.)

“Words of Love” is essentially a Cass Elliott solo record, except for the Betty Boop-ish “No!” that’s interjected at the end of the sixth line of the first verse.

That “No!” might have been spoken by Michelle Phillips.  But Mama Michelle, who was married to Papa John Phillips, was kicked out of the group in June 1966, after she was caught kanoodling with Papa Denny Doherty.  So the “No!” might have been uttered by her replacement, Jill Gibson, a singer/songwriter who was the girlfriend of Lou Adler, the group’s producer.

Cass Elliott with Jill Gibson
“Words of Love” and several of the other songs on the group’s eponymous second album had been recorded before Michelle was given the boot, but some or all of those songs were re-recorded with Jill Gibson.

Michelle was admitted back into the Mamas and Papas in August, and no one seems to know for sure whether she or Jill Gibson is singing on some of the tracks on the album (which was released shortly after Michelle’s return).  Some people believe that recording engineer Bones Howe may have used both Michelle’s and Jill’s vocals on the record.  (You can click here to read more about the Michelle-Jill story.)

John Phillips, who wrote “Words of Love,” was certainly parsimonious with the lyrics to the song.  The words of its two verses are virtually identical, and the chorus consists of one phrase – “You oughta know by now” – repeated a whole bunch of times.

“Words of Love” made it to #5 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  If you’re as old as I am, you probably remember hearing it on AM radio fifty years ago this month.

Cass Elliott (who was born Ellen Naomi Cohen in Baltimore) died in a London apartment in 1974, just a few weeks before what would have been her 33rd birthday.  The cause of death was “heart failure due to fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity.”  

Four years later, Keith Moon of the Who died in the same apartment, which was owned by singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.  He was also 32 when he died.

Here’s the mono mix of “Words of Love” that was used for the single.  It's quite different from the stereo version that was used for the album:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:   

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