159) The Mamas & the Papas – “Monday, Monday”

Like The Byrds, the members of The Mamas & the Papas started out as mid-level folkies who found success blending their native style of music with modern pop. But whereas The Byrds primarily drew from the up-to-the-minute sounds of Bob Dylan and The Beatles, The Mamas & the Papas seemed equally comfortable in the present and the past, aligning themselves with the burgeoning folk-rock scene but also reaching back to 1950s vocal groups (particularly the boy-girl harmonies of The Fleetwoods), the soft orchestral arrangements of easy listening and the dramatic flair of vaudeville. Their purified version of folk-rock filtered out its rough edges and political streak while retaining its immediacy and autumnal beauty. The group’s warm yet crystal-clear harmonies and immaculate folk-classical production set the template for sunshine pop, but many of their best songs seemed more partly cloudy, as if their perpetual optimism had developed as resistance to the undercurrent of melancholy coursing through their music. The tension within the group frequently seeped into their lyrics, giving even their more upbeat songs an air of fragility.

“Monday, Monday” isn’t as bleak as The Mamas & the Papas’ previous single, “California Dreamin’,” but nevertheless it captures a similar uncertainty and ambivalence. Monday is the day for returning to regular life, the pleasures of the weekend reduced to nothing more than memories and perhaps some lingering aftereffects. It marks both an end of something that may or may not have been good, and a fresh start that may or may not be welcome. “Monday, Monday” neatly splits the difference between these conflicting emotions: in the left channel, it’s all uplifting ba-da-da harmonies; in the right, it’s Denny Doherty’s plaintive lead and a rolling harpsichord line. The opening line of each verse alternates between anticipation (“Monday, Monday / so good to me”) and dread (“can’t trust that day”). In turn, the mellow sway of the verses are twice split by a faster, more driven bridge, where the melancholy tips over into outright misery (“but whenever Monday comes / you can find me crying all of the time”). Like the preceding number-one, the intensity of “Monday, Monday” is heightened by a false ending. But whereas the stop in “Good Lovin’” is like a blown fuse, the song’s relentless scramble gone into overdrive, the one in “Monday, Monday” stems from a reluctance to move forward. But time marches on and so does the song, concluding on a note of acceptance if not enthusiasm: “Monday, Monday / it’s here to stay.” Rather than coming to a fully resolved ending, the song fades out in a cycle of harpsichord and harmonies. There will always be more Mondays. 8

Hit #1 on May 7, 1966; total of 3 weeks at #1
159 of 1016 #1’s reviewed; 15.65% through the Hot 100

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5 Comments

Filed under 08, 1966

5 responses to “159) The Mamas & the Papas – “Monday, Monday”

  1. col1234

    It’s odd that this was the Mama’s and Papas #1 and not their trademark “California Dreamin,” or that song’s gorgeous knock-off “Twelve Thirty” (which offers a golden California canyon in the days before Manson, a doomed paradise) or, my fave, the “hey, I’m sorry I slept with your girlfriend again man” Denny Doherty pop gem “I Saw Her Again.”

    So I’ve tended to write off “Monday Monday” as the slightly dull cousin of all of those songs, the Mamas and Papas single fit for squares. But you make a great case for it, and you’re right, the bridge is fantastic.

  2. Most of the group seemed to agree with you that “Monday, Monday” was inferior – and compared with “California Dreamin’,” of course it was. I think if the release order of the two singles had been switched, CD certainly would have gone to #1. CD stayed on the charts for forever, but as The Mamas & the Papas’ first charting single, there wasn’t the pre-existing fanbase that would have helped propel it to #1. It can’t have helped either that for six of the seven weeks in was in the Top 10, it was stuck with the megaselling Barry Sadler at the top.

  3. speedwell54

    Neither “California Dreamin'” or “Monday, Monday” was their biggest hit in the UK, that honour going to “Dedicated To The One I Love”. Surprising CD only hit no23 on original release which is remarkable considering how well known the song is. All these songs sound like standards to me, like nursery rhymes or hymns. It will be a long, long time before The Mamas and The Papas are forgotten, but when they are, people will still know these songs. 8

    Incidentally in all my UK Chart books “Monday Monday” never has a comma, but always does, in the few US books I have. What’s that about?

  4. RBerman

    “Monday, Monday” also is more complex musically than “California Dreamin'”. Whereas the latter has no chorus and thus more structural repetition, “Monday” has not only some interesting transitionary chords but also a pair of half-step key changes, one each time the bridge comes around, to add to the sense of climbing desparation.

  5. GeorgeL

    This is a fine song for what it is, but several of the M&P’s other songs sound better to my ears (“No Salt on her Tail” “Trip Stumble & Fall” “Strange Young Girls”). In fact, their 2nd album (which contains those songs) is full of gems.

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