The members began rehearsing as the Versatiles in early 1966 and auditioned for Marc Gordon, who headed Motown's Los Angeles office. Although the group's demo tape was rejected by Motown, Gordon agreed to manage them and brought them to the attention of Johnny Rivers, who had just started his own label, Soul City Records. Their first Soul City single, "I'll Be Lovin' You Forever", was a flop.
In 1965 The Mamas & the Papas' first single, lead member John Phillips' "Go Where You Wanna Go", failed to open the foursome's chart career. Undaunted, The 5th Dimension covered the same song virtually note-for-note (except for the last verse's upward modulation), and their early 1967 version climbed into the top 20 on both R&B and pop stations and peaked at #16 on the Hot 100, opening the fivesome's chart career.
Budding young songwriter Jimmy Webb supplied the group with their breakthrough hit, "Up, Up and Away", a mid-1967 #7 hit that won five Grammy Awards. The following year, the group scored major hit singles with "Stoned Soul Picnic" (U.S. #3) and "Sweet Blindness" (U.S. #13) and received a gold record for their album Stoned Soul Picnic.
That album also included "California Soul", which peaked at #25 in February 1969. Weeks later the group's success broke wide open, with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from the musical Hair topping the Hot 100 in April and May and "Wedding Bell Blues" doing so in November, with a U.S. #20 cover of Neil Sedaka's "Workin' On A Groovy Thing" in-between. Those four singles kept the group on the Hot 100 all but four weeks in 1969.
Later top 20 hits included 1970's "One Less Bell to Answer" (U.S. #2), 1971's "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes" (U.S. #19) and "Never My Love" (U.S. #12) (1971), 1972's "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" (U.S. #8) and "If I Could Reach You" (U.S. #10). The group also had seven other top 40 hits, the last being 1973's "Living Together, Growing Together" (U.S. #32) from the film Lost Horizon.
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