Mackenzie Phillips’ “High On Arrival”: How Terrible Revelations Affect Our Entertainment Choices
Choosing music or movies based on the moral standing of the artists involved can whittle the media buffet down to nearly nothing, but Mackenzie Phillips’ recent revelations in her memoir, “High On Arrival,” is perhaps the greatest challenge facing music fans who prefer to look past the personal failings of artists. Phillips’ story about being molested, then having several years of consensual sex, with her father, John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, is a horrible and unimaginable story for most people, and if anything good is to come of it, perhaps it will help others with similar stories deal with their own trauma.
The less serious but long-lasting impact on the public at large is that this story about John Phillips is likely to forever shadow our perceptions of his band’s music. As my friend Phil Bacharach wrote in a Facebook post, “I seriously will never be able to listen to one of my favorite all-time songs, ‘I Saw Her Again,’ in the same way.”
Pop culture is packed with sickos, and the roll call almost goes without saying: Jerry Lee Lewis, Roman Polanski, Serge Gainsbourg, Michael Jackson (yes, allegedly — don’t start) — and depending on the breadth of their influence, occasionally their art can transcend whatever damage has been done by their personal proclivities or outwardly bad behavior. There’s probably several shoes waiting to drop with Jacko, so it’s hard to tell if “Thriller” survives the stories to come, though “P.Y.T.” is fairly impossible to listen to now, no matter what happens.
As for John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas, we already knew that Phillips had severe problems, but nothing on the order of this. It will be interesting to see if oldies stations curtail their daily plays of “California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday,” “I Saw Her Again” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.”
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