1995 Interview

Page 1: "San Francisco"

JOHNSON: Let’s talk about the song San Francisco. What inspired you to write that song?

PHILLIPS: Scott inspired me to write the song. We were doing the Monterey Pop Festival, which I produced with Lou Adler, and the town of Monterey was sort of frightened by the thought of two hundred and fifty thousand hippies coming

McKENZIE: Sort of frightened?

PHILLIPS: Sort of frightened. Yeah. You tell it, Scott. You have that thing you do.

McKENZIE: Well, they were terrified. I was hanging out with John and Lou and going up to Monterey. John was on acid most of the time, and he gave a speech to the property owners and the fathers and the mothers and all the relatives of the town.

PHILLIPS: The police chief.

McKENZIE: [Laughs] The police chief.

PHILLIPS: The mayor.

McKENZIE: In which he tried to convince them to hold the pop festival there. And he did, somehow. I don’t know how he did that. During this time I figured that we ought to do a song which was really written to the young people who, obviously, were coming to California that summer, and would really descend on Monterey if this pop festival happened.

PHILLIPS: But the idea was that they would come in peace to the pop festival

McKENZIE: John took it from there.

PHILLIPS: Which they did. There was not one arrest during the whole pop festival.

McKENZIE: Tell him how you got the idea for the imagery.

PHILLIPS: Because I intended to sing it myself, but Scott did it. [Laughs]

McKENZIE: [Laughs] That’s the way it goes. He fell asleep in the studio

JOHNSON: Oh, really?


JOHNSON: What was the inspiration for the imagery and how did you get the lyrics? What were you thinking?

PHILLIPS: Actually, I was thinking of the Olympics and the wreaths that the people wore.

McKENZIE: Garlands.

PHILLIPS: Garlands, yeah.


McKENZIE: When I recorded that song, some friends of mine, all who happened to be initiated by the Maharishi and were meditating all over the place, went out and picked wildflowers in Laurel Canyon and wove garlands of flowers and I wore them on my hair and sang the song. Now there’s a bit of trivia.

PHILLIPS: [Laughs]

McKENZIE: It’s the only song I’ve ever recorded in four takes.

JOHNSON: Where did you do it? What studio? What was the situation? Who was there?

McKENZIE: We did a soundtrack at Western.


McKENZIE: And the vocals at another studio, wasn’t it?

PHILLIPS: The German guy’s.

McKENZIE: German guy?


McKENZIE: German guy? I don’t know.

PHILLIPS: I think it’s called Sound Factory. I’m not sure, though.

McKENZIE: I think John Phillips

PHILLIPS: And we did some overdubs there also, on it.

McKENZIE: Yeah. Didn’t you throw up after I finished?

PHILLIPS: [Laughs] That was before you started.

McKENZIE: [Laughs] While I was singing. I don’t know.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, well, I was asleep in the corner and you snuck in and sang the vocal.

McKENZIE: [Laughs] I knew it was something like that.

JOHNSON: So you wrote it and produced it?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Lou and I produced it, put it together, co-produced.

JOHNSON: Right. Because Lou was the producer for The Mamas and The Papas at that time?

PHILLIPS: That’s right. Yeah.