From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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
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)
- 386 DX - The Russian "cyberpunk-rock band" in 2000.
- Ace Andres --2002 album Cowboy Hat Blues features former Mamas & Papas member Jill Gibson.
- America -- Used in their live set. Dewey Bunnell handled the lead vocals and Gerry Beckley did the backgrounds.Template:Fact
- American Idol Season 1 contestants.Template:Fact
- American Music Club -- bonus track on their 1994 album San Francisco.
- Baby Huey -- 1971 album The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend.
- The Beach Boys -- two cover versions. One was released on a Radio Shack sampler cassette Rock 'N' Roll City in 1983 Template:Fact and a re-recorded version appeared on the CD Made in The USA (1986) The music video for this latter version features cameo appearances by John Phillips, Michelle Phillips (Mamas and Papas) and Roger McGuinn (The Byrds). McGuinn also contributes a 12-string guitar solo on that version.
- Benny Benassi released a house remix in 2004.
- Bobby Womack -- R&B remake, 1968 (Minit 32055) reached #43 Pop, #20 R&B.Template:Fact
- The Bridges cover this song live in concert.
- The Carpenters -- rough demo version recorded in 1967. This song was one of 5 that was sent out as part of their demo tape and won them a recording contract with A&M Records in 1970. Appears on their Gold compilation.Template:Fact
- Dada -- bonus track on the reissue of El Subliminoso
- Dik Dik -- Sognando California (1966)
- DJ Sammy -- featured on his 2002 album Heaven.
- Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic -- album Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs as a guitar jam.
- Farhad Mehrad, Iranian blues singer, did an acoustic guitar cover in 1970, re-released after his death on the album Phoenix
- The Flashbulb -- album Kirlian Selections.
- Fleming & John, a folk-pop band, for the album Vietnam -- A Musical Retrospective (1998)
- The Four Tops-- 1969 Motown album Soul Spin
- Gary Hoey as a guitar instrumental.
- Hi-Standard -- Japanese punk rock band, 1996 EP Californian Dreamin'
- Jack Frost. A Doom metal band from Austria. In "Gloom Rock Asylum" (LP, 2000)
- Jann Arden -- 2007 album Uncover Me.
- John Phillips -- solo acoustic version, background vocals sung in Spanish.Template:Fact
- José Feliciano -- 1968 album Feliciano! and used as the b-side of his "Light My Fire" single.Template:Fact
- Lee Moses -- an Atlanta R&B artist on his one release, Time and Place
- The Lettermen -- 1969 album I Have Dreamed.
- Mocedades -- in Spanish "California espera" 1992
- Mower -- heavy metal, 2006 album Not For You.Template:Fact
- Queen Latifah -- 2004 album The Dana Owens Album.a
- River City People -- 1990 album Say Something Good.
- The Seekers -- on their 1966 album Come the Day
- Shaw Blades -- on the 2007 album Influence.
- Six Pack -- on the 2008 cover album Discover (lyrics are in Serbian language).
- Tapani Kansa -- in Finnish "Kalajoen hiekat" 1978
- The Ventures -- 1966 album Go With The Ventures -- an instrumental version
- Wes Montgomery as an instrumental.
Significant artistic and commercial uses
Movies and television
- The small 1979 movie California Dreaming used the song for its soundtrack very effectively at the dramatic highlight of the film; however, the song was replaced for the VHS release, presumably due to royalty concerns.
- The song was used extensively and as a leitmotif in the Hong Kong movie Chungking Express (1994) by Wong Kar-Wai, and is often referred to as the theme song to that film.
- Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story -->
- The song is in the soundtrack for the independent action film Quiet Cool.
- Forrest Gump
- Played by the protagonist several times in the film He Died with a Felafel in His Hand. The original version is played during the final credits.
- 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes
- An episode of Jackass.
- First episode of the 1996 Korean television drama Papa, when Han In-pyo (played by Jeong Chan) jumped about on his own bed mindlessly.
- Was the theme song for the 2001 Japanese drama Yume no California (California Dreams).
- The song is included in the soundtrack of the Argentine movie "Tango Feroz" about the life of rocker Tanguito.
- A 'tribute' to the song was done by Matt Berry in the cult show Snuff Box, with lookalikes of the band (and Matt).
- Played as an intro theme to TV coverage of the 1974 World Series, the first all-California-teams Fall Classic.
- Played as soundtrack and motif in California Dreamin' by Cristian Nemescu (2007).
- Saturday Night Live spoofed the song once.
- Performed by Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon, in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
- Sung in the second episode of the third series of The Two Ronnies.
- Briefly played in an episode of The Critic when Jay leaves New York City for Los Angeles.
- Briefly in an episode of the TV-Show Californication
- A remixed version is featured in the film The Big Tease
- The song features prominently in the Australian movie He Died with a Felafel in His Hand (2001), where Noah Taylor tries to master its guitar chords.
- This song is part of the soundtrack of the FPS Men of Valor.
- BeautifulDay, a video game music composer in O2Jam has a remix available in the game.
- It is in the game Karaoke Revolution Volume 3.
- 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.