In 'Creeque Alley,' Mamas & Papas Told Their Story: Lyrics And Meaning

By | February 4, 2021

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Photo of The Mamas and the Papas circa 1970 by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

"...And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass" -- that's the chorus to "Creeque Alley" by The Mamas And The Papas, and you don't need to be an expert on the band to guess it's an autobiographical song. After all, the most prominent member of the group was "Mama" Cass Elliot, who famously had a weight problem. Listen more closely and you'll hear about Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and John Phillips -- the other three members of the group -- as well as "McGuinn and McGuire," Zal and Sebastian. People seem to be getting together, splitting up, criss-crossing the country and experiencing professional frustrations. There's really quite a lot going on in this 3 minute, 45 second tune, and it captures not just the formation of the group but also the moment when the folk scene was evolving into a new genre called folk-rock.

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To protect their prominent reputation, some bands never admit their difficult upbringings and failures experienced on their road to stardom. But The Mamas And The Papas chose to share the whole messy history in "Creeque Alley." The song was included on their third album, Deliver (1968), and by then they were a well-established pop group, with one #1 single ("Monday, Monday") and three top-five performers ("California Dreamin,'" "I Saw Her Again" and "Words Of Love") under their belts.

Many of the locations in the song were unfamiliar to most of their listeners, including their biggest fans, as were the connections among musicians, so it was really exciting to hear the honest story. Written by the group’s members John and Michelle Phillips, the tune deserves much decoding -- beginning with its title.