It was 1970. The Mamas and the Papas had broken up, though they would still release one more contract-fulfilling album in 1971, People Like Us. And John Phillips, the group’s primary songwriter, launched his solo career with his album, John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.).
It must have looked at the time like the start of something big: The Mamas and the Papas were hugely popular, of course, and Phillips was the group’s handsome, charismatic musical leader. But it wasn’t to be: Phillips’ solo career never took off, due largely to his drug problems, and he never released another solo album before dying in 2001 (though some of his other solo music was later released, posthumously).
On the last track of John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.)., the man who co-wrote “California Dreamin’ ” returns to that theme, sort of, with “Holland Tunnel,” an earnest, mid-tempo, gospel-flavored song in which he seems to be asking an ex-lover to leave the guy she’s with in New York (“First thing you do, drive right through that Holland Tunnel/Pay your toll to the soul on the other side”), get on the New Jersey Turnpike and keep going until she’s back with him in California (“Hock your watch and ring, ’cause it don’t mean a thing/When you get home, I’ll buy you something new”).
Check it out below.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.