Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Story of California Dreamin'

Have it read to you on youTube
I want to thank uvurob for his California Dreaming -- Acapella/Acoustic Mashup video which is a nice arrangement of various (mostly acoustic) covers of the Mamas and the Papas' California Dreaming spliced into one song. Sometimes its funny what will reveal some inner truth about yourself and explain some of our quirkyness.

Well California Dreaming by the Mamas and Papas is one of my all time favorite songs. I have fond memories of walking to Jr. high school and high school in San Leandro, CA on many a cold, overcast, gloomy day and California Dreaming was my inner theme music. I felt one with the song as if it capture some quintessential part of me.

I really love the song in all its perfusion of versions and have more covers of California Dreaming (15) than any other song in my "Covers all around me ()" playlists. The real unusual thing about this song is that I would have more but this is the only song where I deliberately eliminated certain covers because they change certain lyrics. More specifically they change "I pretend to pray" to "I began to pray". Normally I don't mind slight variations in lyrics and if they are novel enough or fit well within the overall style and emotion of a performance they are a plus. But if I try to listen to one of these versions, I find that once they get to "I began to pray", I almost reflexively stop it or go to another song. And what is really, really annoying about these versions they include some absolutely wonderful and unique covers like Jose Feleciano, Bobby Womack, Eddie Hazel, and The FlashBulb. I did sort of assume that it was just an atheist thing but I like too many songs with much more overtly religious/spiritual lyrics for that to fully explain it. For years now I have noticed that I do this but never gave it much thought.

Then the other day after listing to uvurob's video mashup a few times, I found myself trying to find all the versions on his video to determine if they all had the right lyrics. My original justification was that I was curious if uvurob used only the "correct" versions. This was turning out to not be an easy task because links to the versions were not supplied and I was having to go down the list of California Dreaming covers to find them. At some point while searching thru endless covers, I realized that my quest to determine if uvurob's video used the correct lyrics was more than a curiosity but actually would impact my opinion about the video even though it did not violate my inner rule. By the time I realized this, I had gone through more than 140 versions of the song.

So I asked myself what was I doing or more importantly why was I doing it? To answer my question, I started trying to remember what was going through my head back in my youth when I remember the song so vividly.  All I can remember is the feeling of oneness with the song. Mind you this was not a single event but happened periodically when the weather was cold and overcast from 7th grade thru most of high school and at the time I blamed it mostly on the weather. What I now suspect, is that the lyrics touched me much deeper than I ever knew.

A little background. To my knowledge I have never believed in god or any religious myths, even though I was raised a Roman Catholic. My disbelief was not due to any seen deficiencies or contradictions in the churches teachings, the influence of some person I admired, or some trauma that turned me away from it; I just never believed any of it was true. In fact my earliest memory on the subject is that in second grade I remember thinking "God is like Superman; good but not real". I don't remember having any animosity towards the church and participated in many of the church functions to include periodic mass, Sunday school and teen events. I did like many of the social functions and the music in folk mass was cool. I do remember in Sunday school thinking that studying the stories in the bible was a waist of time and that these guys are fooling themselves but I never really questioned it in class or talked about it to anyone. About the time I started high school going to church did begin to bother me and when I was a sophomore I came out of the closet, although be it mostly so I could sleep in on Sundays. Up until college I don't remember actually knowing anyone who called themselves an Atheist or even having any meaningful conversation about my beliefs. For me at the time, it was always just a given that I didn't believe any of what others believe. But I due remember feeling very isolated and alone.

I can't say for sure but based on my current behavior anomalies and my emotional state at the time, I suspect that the lyrics

I stopped into a Church
I passed along the way
I got down on my knees
and I pretend to pray

had captured some aspect of my life in a very real way to me. I now wonder if through the song I realized that I was not alone in my pretending my way through life. Or maybe it was just that it gave me something to identify with myself. Regardless I do feel that my inability to enjoy some versions of the song probably stems from that period in my life.

So does my figuring out why I can't enjoy some versions of California Dreaming mean I will be able to now despite their "incorrect" lyrics? How about adding them to my playlist? Not right now but given time and my love for many of those versions, I might be able to at some point.

Related: Covers of the Week - California Dreaming (Mamas & Papas)

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