The ‘60s. A decade where psychedelic drugs and peace became the mantra of the hippie movement, the Vietnam War was at its height, and people began to demand more freedom. The American culture was changing, and along with it, so was the music.
In the middle of this change was The Mamas and the Papas. The band created an atmosphere through their music and lyrics that encouraged people to live, love, and act freely. Music journalist and critic Bruce Eder even went as far to say they “soundtracked the late ‘60s.” The four-piece band consisting of John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Deny Doherty, and Mama Cass Elliot, were the sunshine on a sometimes-cloudy decade.
With hits such as “California Dreamin’” and “Monday, Monday” the band rose up the charts. They went from being just another “sunshine pop” band to a voice of reason and a force behind the mass California migration of that era. With their hits and unique song covers, the band kept blooming. “Look Through My Window” is a song that speaks to this decade. It is one of the most authentic and personal songs by John Phillips and has a simple, but relatable message.
During 1964 while still in New York, Phillips and his then-girlfriend and bandmate, Michelle, experienced a brief separation. Phillips assumed that Michelle was in California and wrote his grief about where she might be and with whom. “Look Through My Window” is written almost like a conversation Phillips has with himself, or a close friend. The lyrics flow smoothly with the solemn melody, translating the fact that while he is not happy with the circumstances, he understands. What he didn’t know is she was only blocks away.
After the band’s move to California, other relationship tensions occurred, and the group never fully recovered. They were changed people after 1966. The lyrics of this song may well have been a hint to the band’s future. “We both knew people sometimes change…and nothing’s quite as sure as change.” The Mamas and the Papas changed, and so did the generation of sunshine.
Why is it a “Must Listen?”
I am a fan of this song because of its simplicity and conversational lyrics. After the success of their previous three singles, they released this song with high hopes of charting in the Billboard’s Top Five. But, it only reached number 24. The band then decided to release another single, “Words of Love,” to hopefully make up for the disappointment, and because of that, I feel “Look Through My Window” was overshadowed.
This song is all about letting go and acceptance. The opening harmony, “And the rain beats on my roof / And it does not ask for proof,” is a lovely beginning metaphor. Its as if Phillips is using the rain to show that things happen naturally and the proof is in the fact that it happened. Nothing else needs to be said or done to explain the change. This phrase is repeated throughout the song which ends with a fade out changing the last line to Phillips wondering if he still requires proof.
Phillips lets the listeners into his and Michelle’s relationship. The song’s overall meaning comes from her quotes:
She always said, “I’m not like you” /
“When love is dead, for me it’s through” /
“And I will find and love someone new.”
Ouch. For Phillips, who wants to hold on to this love, these words leave a scar. Sometimes people fall in and out of love, and Michelle is saying she is okay if that happens to them. Phillips sings, “I must admit she knew her mind,” not precisely coming to terms with the idea of her possibly leaving, but acknowledging she was always honest with him about her feelings and beliefs.
This song is a must listen because everyone who has experienced love can relate. Something I have learned is that change can occur quickly. It has been a long road to understanding that some people change and their paths become distant from mine, and that is the central theme of this song; “Look through my window, yeah, to the street below / See the people hurryin’ by / With someone to meet, some place to go / And I know I should let go.” People move on, life moves forward, and so must we.
The rain doesn’t require proof for beating and change doesn’t require proof of changing.
[Photo Courtesy of the Rock Hall Library and Archive]