Friday, April 13, 2012

Someone's Sleeping

In the morning through my window
Sunlight chasing Colors on my wall
By my side,  She lay sleeping
Cradled in an antique shawl.

Tuck her 'neath my cover,
Watch her Face settle in my down.
I suppose we were lovers,
She was good -- good to have around.

Some things are for Keeping (No);
Some things are Too Good and they Go:


I remember
Market place in Tangiers --
Standing there --
Beggars all around her legs,
She looked like an angel

From a second story window
Caught a glimpse of Someone's life
And it was Mine
And My face was dark and dirty,
And I'd been crying.

John Phillips: Someone's Sleeping (Link)


This is not even the saddest song from one of the saddest, but most beautiful records ever, "John Phillips"  aka “John, The Wolf King of L.A.” 

The album, with the possible exception of its funny, wistful, rollicking  hit  single "Mississippi" (a masterpiece, but the whole record is) plays like what it was, i.e., a Goodbye Letter from John Phillips to the World as he entered his long living-dead  period of drug addiction.

Some cavil (making the obvious comparison to the Mamas & Papas' powerful and flexible male lead singer Denny Doherty) that Phillps’ soft and thoughtful voice detracts from the  songs, but these deeply poetic and personal compositions  succeed as performances because John Phillps' timbre and diction sketch the words and notes like a combination of drypoint and watercolor.  (Interestingly,  Doherty, who had rehearsed singing some of the tunes before the Mamas & Papas disbanded, agreed.)

If you've never heard "John Phillips," you really need to.  It isn't remotely like anything else, although it does mine more deeply the underlying melancholy of some of the great Mamas & Papas hits.  Like those records, this one was exquisitely produced by Lou Adler and played by the Wrecking Crew geniuses plus some gifted helpers, including Buddy Emmons, Red Rhodes and Darlene Love.


Top:  Henri Matisse:  Door in the Casbah, Tangiers, 1912, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Plus Tangiers postcards from the early 1900s through the 1950s and a portrait of the artist as a young man.


  1. Happy to say I am entirely ignorant of this record. Not for long!

  2. It's an amazing record, one of the best ever made and, as I said, has a real "message in a bottle" quality. One song, "Topanga," using as a premise a drug purchase at the beach followed by a trip to L.A.'s Farmer's Market and discourse about the meaning of labor, is one of the most enduring, durable and desperate confessions (about "going under") I've ever heard. The hit (I think it was top 30 but received a lot of FM play in New York) "Mississippi" is simply astonishing -- funny, charming, self-knowing, self-deprecating and never fails to lift the mood. And after "John Phillips," John Phillips simply disappeared from public view. Interesting note: Phillips was responsible for Gene Parsons being fired from The Byrds. After attending a Byrds show, Phillips told Roger McGuinn, an old friend, that Parsons could no longer play simple 4/4 rhythm. Phillips was right, of course. Parsons was and is very talented, but drugs and fatigue had affected the band's performances by then and inspiration was lagging. Parsons was really pissed off, however. Curtis