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John Phillips - Andy Warhol presents Man on the Moon

Andy Warhol presents
Man on the Moon

John Phillips

Available from

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

This is the latest in a series of CD releases to present the leadman for the Mamas & Papas, John Phillips, in his fullest light. I critiqued the last one, Pussycat, and Man on the Moon is a very hip follow-on compendium of 34 songs—not one ever released before this very moment—from a play written by Phillips, produced by Andy Warhol, directed by Paul Morrissey, and featuring members of Warhol's Factory as well as Denny Doherty (also of the Mama & Papas). The comedic play debuted off-Broadway in '75, then closed after only five days, almost immediately forgotten by all but Warhol/Philips aficionados. His wife, singer Genevieve Waite (a main figure in the play), cites this event as decisive in Phillips' much-covered further descent into a hellish drug addiction. He and she had worked on the presentation for years, and it completely and decisively imploded in less than a week…a very surprising fact once the soundtrack's heard, as the cabaret is very good indeed.

Not only is the disc a full boat of cuts, but you also get encrypted video footage of parts of the 1974 rehearsal, an Adobe PDF of the playbill, photos, reviews, clippings, early scripts, and song orchestrations, making the release a cornucopia. And what a horn of plenty! The play is by turns acidic, funny, wry, satiric, and parodic, a non-stop lampoon of events and topics current of the day: Werner von Braun, class war, free speech, the space race, etc. The closest parallel I can think of is a cult film many B-movie aficionados cherish: The Phantom of the Paradise, and that perhaps points to what might possibly have rescued Phillips. Had the play made it into film, it would undoubtedly have joined Greaser's Palace and other art-house flicks of the era. That much, at least, would've endowed John with a well-deserved second-wind modicum of respect.

The 8-page liner, written by Chris Campion & Jeff Greenberg, is loaded with vital facts and sidelights, bringing the time back to life. Several photographs indicate what surreal staging was had as each cut takes on a different facet of song style and theatrical approach. The recording's very good, undoubtedly remastered from the original tapes to now be more sonically full than the original. Quite a few tastes of Phil Ochs, flapper girls, Tom Rapp, Irving Berlin, and a wide assortment of older archetypes pop up. Without doubt, this is, aside from all the ultra-cool work he did with the Mamas & Papas, my favorite John Phillips release by far.

Track List:

Man on the Moon Studio Recordings
featuring John Phillips:

  • Song of Introduction
  • Andy's Talkin' Blues
  • Midnight Deadline Blastoff
  • Mission Control
  • Oh Andy My Assistant
  • Boys form the South
  • Speed of Light
  • Royal Astronomer's Waltz
  • If King Can Can, Who Can't?
  • Welcome to the Moon Man
  • Star Stepping Stranger
  • Love is Coming Back
  • The Last of the Unnatural Acts
  • Penthouse of Your Mind
  • Wee Funkie Little Bats
  • Close Your Eyes
  • Handcuffs
  • Truth Cannot be Treason
  • There is a Place
  • A Myth Amongst the Family of Man
  • Yesterday I Left the Earth
  • Stepping Through the Stars

Recorded live by Warhol; 1975:

  • Overture
  • Sunny Sunny Moon
  • My Name is Can
  • Star Stepping STranger / Convent
  • Penthouse of Your Mind
  • Starburst

Genevieve Waite performing as Angel:

  • Girls
  • American Man on the Moon
  • Though I'm a Little Angel
  • Me oh My, This Learning to Fly
  • The Universe

Studio Recording Out-Takes:

  • The Elephants and the Donkeys
  • Plastic Bouquets

Video Rehersal Footage:

  • Plastic Bouquets
  • Penthouse of Your Mind
  • Champagne and Kisses
All songs written by John Phillips except
Love is Coming Back (Phillips / Waite).

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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