Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: It Ain't EasyReleased: 1970Charted:
This was written by Randy Newman
, the nephew of Academy Award-winning composer Lionel Newman. The song is about a party that left a "bad taste" in the writer's mouth. The drug scene was fairly new to American middle-class youth at that time.
Randy Newman explained in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone: "It's a guy going to a party, and he's a little scared. The first line ("Will you have whiskey with your water or sugar with your tea") was a vague connection to acid. I don't remember being thrown off by that stuff then. If I was that unsophisticated - which is possible - I wouldn't admit it."
Eric Burdon & The Animals released the first version of this song, including it on their 1967 album Eric Is Here. That same year, P.J. Proby also covered the song.
At this point, Randy Newman had yet to release any solo material. When he started recording his own material (starting with his 1968 debut album) many of the songs had already been recorded by others. "Mama Told Me Not to Come" was included on his second album, 12 Songs, which came out around the same time Three Dog Night issued it. Newman had little chart success as an artist in these early years, but Three Dog Night did, and their raucous rendition was the one listeners preferred. Newman at first dismissed them as a "teeny-bopper" band, but later rescinded that statement, saying he liked their version a great deal.
He enjoyed the royalty checks as well, a fact confirmed by Three Dog Night's lead singer Cory Wells who said after it became a #1 hit, Newman called him and said "I just want to thank you for putting my kids through college."
This song has the distinction of being the very first #1 hit on the American Top 40
syndicated radio program. The show, hosted by Casey Kasem, became popular on AM radio throughout the world until its decline in the mid-1990s. This beat out The Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road
" (their last hit record before the final breakup) and Elvis Presley's "The Wonder of You" for top chart honors in early August 1970.
Newman's version runs 2:12, which is about the same length as the original Animals recording. The Three Dog Night Rendition stretches out to 2:58, with longer instrumental passages and an extended outro.
Cory Wells, who sang lead on this track, was the Three Dog Night band member who pushed to record it. He was a big fan of the song and played it with his previous band.
Wilson Pickett's 1972 cover made #99 in the US.