Covered Classics: “I Saw Her Again” by Port Cities

Photo of Port Cities performing live

Halifax’s Port Cities are the latest band to perform a song for the Hall of Fame’s Covered Classics series. The group take on I Saw Her Again, a hit song for The Mamas & the Papas, co-written by bandmate and Canadian Denny Doherty (also from Halifax). The song is the latest to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I Saw Her Again was a song-writing collaboration between two men who were part of a much-publicized love triangle within The Mamas & The Papas, North America’s top vocal group of 1966. The ironic hit song describes the extramarital affair between its co-composer, Denny Doherty, and Michelle Phillips, co-composer John Phillips’s wife.

The lyrics profess Doherty’s involvement with the femme fatale: “I saw her again last night/And you know that I shouldn’t/.…But I really need that girl/Don’t know why I’m livin’ a lie…”

With I Saw Her Again, Doherty and Phillips capitalized on the 1960s trend toward autobiographical songwriting and away from the generic ballads churned out by the older generation of professional songwriters. The Mamas & The Papas’ third single, it was released as a 45 in June 1966, capitalizing on their Grammy win for Monday, Monday.

The high-energy, folk-rock tune debuted at No. 53 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart July 2, 1966 (in contrast, the week was dominated by Frank Sinatra’s mellow ballad Strangers in the Night) leaping to No. 5 by July 30. In Canada, the song spent a month in the Top 10 on the RPM chart, and by August 8 attained the coveted No. 1 spot. In the United Kingdom, it reached No. 11, and was seen via video on the “Top of the Pops” TV show.

Denny Doherty (1940-2007) rose from the hard-scrabble north end of Halifax to the dizzying heights of 1960s pop with his rich tenor singing voice. He sang with such pop groups as the Halifax Three and The Mugwumps before co-founding the immensely successful The Mamas & The Papas. When the group split, Doherty became a solo recording artist and actor. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of The Mamas & The Papas.

In the video below watch Port Cities take on ‘I Saw Her Again’ as part of the song’s induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.