California Dreamin'  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"California Dreamin'" is a song by The Mamas & the Papas, first released in 1965. The song is #89 in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



According to John Phillips in a Bravo documentary, and Michelle in an NPR piece, the song was written in 1963 while they were living in New York. He dreamed about the song and woke her up to help him write. She had stopped in St. Patrick's a few days earlier, which led to the second verse. At the time, the Phillipses were members of the folk group The New Journeymen which evolved into The Mamas and the Papas.

They earned their first record contract after being introduced to Lou Adler, the head of Dunhill Records, by the singer Barry McGuire. In thanks to Adler, they sang the backing vocals to "California Dreamin'" on McGuire's album This Precious Time. The Mamas and the Papas then recorded their own version. The single was released in late 1965 but it 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. By early 1966, the song peaked at # 4 and it stayed on the charts for 17 weeks. McGuire later claimed that you can hear his vocals in the background on the record.

Naval Academy Myth

There has been a long standing myth that Calironia Dreamin'was written to express John Phillips' experience at the United States Naval Academy. Midshipmen call the Winter period at the Academy the "Dark Ages," owing to both the short hours of daylight but also the extra burden of final exams added to an already strenuous workload. It was believed that the song was, in essence, a day in the life if Phillips during these Dark Ages thinking and dreaming of a warmer climate even though he is bound to stay, at least for a little while. The environment painted by the song accurately depicts the layout of the USNA, which includes a cathedral (the church mentioned in the song) and a central park area (the path with brown leaves mentioned in the song).

This myth has been debunked by at least one Midshipman in an interview with John Phillips, but many Midshipmen still feel the song relates to them on a very personal level.

Royal Gigolos cover

Template:Infobox Single

Royal Gigolos created an underground rave anthem in 2005 based on the song.


1. California Dreamin' (Royal Gigolos Radio Edit)

2. California Dreamin' (Royal Gigolos Extended Mix)

3. California Dreamin' (Flip & Fill Remix)

4. California Dreamin' (Royal Gigolos Vs Hardknock California Screaming)

Cover versions

Significant artistic and commercial uses

Movies and television

Video games


  • The Beach Boys' rendition of the song is mentioned to be playing in a jukebox in the Dead Milkmen's song "Punk Rock Girl."
  • Is played amongst other California-themed songs in the Golden State section of Disney's California Adventure theme park.
  • The name of California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure is a play on the name of the song.
  • Australian band The Smallgoods make mention of the song in a track on their album Down On The Farm.
  • The song's title is used as the name of a sandwich sold at Deli counters at some Safeway supermarkets. It contains Turkey, bacon, avocado, and lettuce.
  • California Dreaming is the name of a restaurant chain in South Carolina and Georgia.
  • The song forms a large part of Current 93's collage album Dawn.
  • The song is played by a band in the 1993 movie "Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story" when Bruce Lee (starred by Jason Scott Lee) and his wife Linda go to a party in California.
  • The song inspired the name of the fictional band California Dreams, from the series of the same name.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "California Dreamin'" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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