Actresses and singers Mackenzie, Chynna and Bijou Phillips hosted a small reception in New York on August 28th to celebrate the release of Phillips 66, their father John Phillips’ posthumous new album, two days before what would have been his sixty-sixth birthday (hence, the album’s title). The party took place at the Phillips Club on — you guessed it — Sixty-sixth Street.
“He would sit with me and play me a song on guitar and just one voice,” remembered Mackenzie. “The next time I’d hear it I would realize the way he heard it, with the most gorgeous four-part harmony. He pulled that out of the universe and was able to give it to people. That’s an incredible talent.”
The mostly acoustic Phillips 66 is the former Mamas and the Papas’ leader’s first batch of new recordings in over thirty years. It was completed in January, just days before he was hospitalized for various complications that culminated in his death from heart failure on March 18th. Among the selections are an updated version of the Mamas and Papas’ hit “California Dreamin'” and “Me and My Uncle,” which, as legend has it, Phillips wrote one night during a hotel room party in the early Sixties after a Judy Collins performance in Arizona.
Collins, also on-hand at last night’s celebration, was the first to record the song for her 1964 live album, Concert. “He called me up after receiving a royalty check, but couldn’t remember writing it!” she said. In later years Phillips would joke that with the arrival of each new check his memory of writing the song would return.
Also in attendance was Phillips’ widow Farnaz, as well as legendary guitarist Chris Spedding and keyboardist (and The Late Show With David Letterman band leader) Paul Schaffer, both of whom played on Phillips 66.
“He truly is one of the greatest rock & roll composers of all time,” said Schaffer, who also appeared along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the recently released collection of lost Phillips sessions Pay, Pack and Follow. “[In 1998] I participated in his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the three surviving [Mamas and the Papas] members to sing ‘California Dreaming,’ which was really one of the most wonderful experiences that I’ve had.”
Phillips’ longtime friend and producer Harvey Goldberg summed up the evening in a toast. “To have John sing me a song was always a magical moment,” he said. “I hope that everybody that gets to hear Phillips 66 gets to feel like they spent some time with John. Thanks for the music.”