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Papa John Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1987

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Phillips was born in 1935 of a full-blooded Cherokee mother and a career officer in the Marines, and had an unexceptional if mostly unhappy childhood. In his teens he learned to play the guitar, exhibited musical talent and began the drift into a music career. By 1965 he had formed the folk-rock group The Mamas and the Papas. Although married, he actively pursued women and also took much pleasure in a variety of pharmaceuticals, and found, with the success of the group, unlimited access to both and the financial ability to gratify those and other desires. Phillips's penchant for drugs led him into increasingly deeper waters, culminating in an arrest in 1980 and a long drying-out period. This is a compulsively readable, juicy autobiography of an egocentric, unrestrained, creative, good-hearted man. It is a revealing look at life at the top in the turbulent '60s that will have the reader alternating between envy, disgust, fascination and nostalgia. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Rolling Stone and US; Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Probably no pop music group epitomized the era of the hippies, flower power, and the love generation better than the Mamas and the Papas. Their mellow style and close harmonies brought them instant fame and fortune. Almost as quickly, alas, it dissolved into classic discord fueled by drug abuse, clashing egos, and irresponsible sex. Michelle's version of events tends to emphasize the brighter side. While still in her teens, she met and married John, 10 years older and already a well-known folksinger. It was the beginning of a tempestuous but productive relationship that escalated their lifestyle into the celebrity fast lane. Michelle thrived on it all; for her, it was a beautiful time of "good vibrations." By contrast, John's reminiscences offer the darker vision of the alcoholic and drug addict. At first the constant partying seemed to enhance the group's creativity. But the supercharged atmosphere led to a nonstop parade of lovers: John names names, filling in the raunchy details that Michelle only sketches. With the band's resultant demise, the Phillipses separated. John's next project, a space rock musical, flopped. That set off a harrowing descent with his new wife into a nightmare of drug abuse that culminated in heroin mainlining. Ever resilient, John has somehow survived and is now on the nostalgia tour circuit. A tale of regeneration, his book is a hard and honest account whose glamor is tempered with grimness. Paul G. Feehan, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (June 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440167833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440167839
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By DC Denizen on July 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
After reading Michelle Phillips's marshmallow memoir, "California Dreamin'," I knew there must be more to the story of the Mamas and the Papas. So I sought out her ex-husband's. At more than two-and-a-half times the length, "Papa John" did not disappoint. It contained all of the sordid details that Michelle chose to omit, and then some. In fact, it was a little TMI (too much information) for my taste.

John seemed to be writing this comprehensive tome with his own mortality in mind, wanting to document for posterity every detail of his life. The book covers his ancestry, his childhood and family, his escapades as a young man, his first marriage, meeting Michelle, forming the Mamas and the Papas, his subsequent career and third marriage, and his ugly descent into drug abuse. Not surprisingly, I found that the most interesting part of the story began and ended with Michelle.

On the plus side, John includes interesting recollections of the Mamas and the Papas, and throws in a few shocking revelations about other celebrities as well. More importantly, he gives us a historical, inside account of one of the most vibrant and creative periods in popular culture: the beginnings of L.A.'s pop-rock music scene in the Sixties.

The later chapters, which deal primarily with his (and his children's) heavy drug taking, were written in painstaking, tedious, and often disturbing detail. Perhaps putting it all down for the record was therapeutic for John, or perhaps he was attempting to discourage others from going down the same path. Either way, they were at times so repulsive that I had to skim through much of them.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By K. Swanson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
JP might have called this, "My Life and The Kitchen Sink", because there is no end to the extraneous details. For those looking for stories of the Mamas and Papas, they're here, with plenty of good tales of their early days. But then the real theme of the book takes hold: drugs, drugs, and then some more drugs to go with those other drugs. What, we're out of drugs?! Let's buy more with our next $100,000 royalty cheque!

After a while it just gets depressing. No matter how many names and whacked-out chemical adventures he drops, Phillips comes off as a man who has no idea how to live an intelligent life. What to say about a guy who shoots up his teenage daughter with cocaine? (And what to say about her, One Day At A Time's Laura Mackenzie Phillips, who complains that he missed her vein?) After a while you just stop feeling sorry for the guy and start hating him, especially when he kidnaps his kid with his pathetic loser of a wife Gen and they drive cross-country, fleeing the law while they shoot heroin in front of their ten year-old son as they are driving.

I don't care how many great tunes he wrote, that's despicable stuff. He should have known better from his own f'ed up childhood, but apparently not. At what point do you stop blaming drugs and start taking some responsibility for your actions? When you get busted and not a minute sooner; that's the lesson this book teaches.

The only truly useful thing about this tome is that it's a great reason to never do hard drugs. I remember that when this book came out in '86 and Rolling Stone had an excerpt, the quote I could never forget was from JP's junkie buddy, Keef the Moron Richards: "Street heroin is for losers." (Dilaudid is for "winners" like him and Phillips.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By imapony on April 5, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This reviewer has often wondered, "With all the drugs they did, shouldn't the Mamas & Papas have made music rivaling 'Time Has Come Today' and 'In-a-Gadda-da-Vida'?" I didn't know the half until I read Papa John.

Phillips writes his life like a novel (beginning with stunningly dysfunctional grandparents), with such joie de vive that even when he's a cad, a shirker, a deadbeat dad, and a destroyer of Federal property you can't help but like the guy. (You gotta love when he packs a load of 45s on his trip to fight in the Cuban revolution. Guns? No, records!) The chapters on the semi-folk boom of the sixties are enjoyable, ditto the parts about how the Ms&Ps managed to work together creatively while living together fitfully, and his ironic takes on iconic figures are priceless. But PJ, to quote the song, is "a real straight shooter if ya know what I mean," and it's his drug experience--decades of it--that gives the book its structure, its meaning, and its power. The deluded euphoria, hallucinatory bliss, fun and paranoia of hiding from the straight world, nonstop multisensory hell of withdrawal, desperation of trying to cop something, anything for a buzz--it's all there, up-close and radioactively articulate. This Papa takes no prisoners and doesn't let himself off the hook for one second. One of the most important drug memoirs you'll even read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. L LaRegina on October 24, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Phillips, singer-songwriter most noteworthy for his quartet the Mamas and the Papas, cuts no corners in his mid-1980s autobiography PAPA JOHN. Phillips, who died in 2001, discloses information many would hide. Please note that while he tells all about others - Elvis Presley and especially Mick Jagger come across as righteous but Pete Townsend seems a jerk - the most embarrassing and personal truths the author tells regard himself. PAPA JOHN reads as though it's an unauthorized biography, yet it is an autobiography.

No one or two examples of John Phillips' remarkable candor would do justice to the details he shares in PAPA JOHN. But whether it results in his enviable accomplishments or heartbreaking failures, this man drives fast and doesn't know what the brake pedal's for.

PAPA JOHN's mid-80s publication proves a year or so too soon, as not long after the book came out the Beach Boys would incorporate the John Phillips tune "Kokomo" to make one of the biggest records of that decade. (By the way, Phillips wrote the melodic part of the song; someone else composed that grating, rugby chant-like chorus.) It would have made for a more satisfying conclusion, as by the 1980s the author was almost as well-known for his personal problems as for what first made him famous, his musical talent.

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