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Mother's Little Helper

by

The Rolling Stones



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a housewife who abuses prescription drugs to "get her through the day." It turns around the image of a suburban housewife, who is usually portrayed as cooking and caring for her family, by showing her as a drug abuser. The Stones could get away with this because their image was that of cynical, somewhat dangerous rockers.
Mick Jagger: "It's about drug dependence, but in a sort of like spoofy way. As a songwriter, I didn't really think about addressing things like that. It was just every day stuff that you I'd observe and write about. It's what writing is for really. There is a sort of naivety, but there's also a lot of humor in those songs. They're a lot based on humor. It was almost like a different band, a different world, a different view when we wrote them."
Keith Richards: "The strange guitar sound is a 12-string with a slide on it. It's played slightly Oriental-ish. The track just needed something to make it twang. Otherwise, the song was quite vaudeville in a way. I wanted to add some nice bite to it. And it was just one of those things where someone walked in and, Look, it's an electric 12-string. It was some gashed-up job. No name on it. God knows where it came from. Or where it went. But I put it together with a bottleneck. Then we had a riff that tied the whole thing together. And I think we overdubbed onto that. Because I played an acoustic guitar as well."
Jagger: "I get inspiration from things that are happening around me - everyday life as I see it. People say I'm always singing about pills and breakdowns, therefore I must be an addict - this is ridiculous. Some people are so narrow-minded they won't admit to themselves that this really does happen to other people beside pop stars." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 3)
Stones guitarist Brian Jones played the Sitar on this. It was one of the first pop songs to use the instrument. The Beatles "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," which came out the year before, was the first.
This condemns the many women in England who were abusing prescription drugs, even though The Stones were becoming heavy drug users themselves. The band wanted to make the point that housewives popping pills what not that much different than rock stars taking smack, even though drug laws in England strongly favored the housewives.
This was the first track on Aftermath, the first Stones album with all original songs. Their earlier albums were full of Blues covers.
In England, this wasn't released as a single.
The Stones recorded this in Los Angeles in a custom built studio. It had no windows, because The Stones did not want to know if it was day or night.
Stones drummer Charlie Watts said of this song in In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones: "We've often tried to perform 'Mother's Little Helper' and it's never been any good, never gelled for some reason - it's either me not playing it right or Keith not wanting to do it like that. It's never worked. It's just one of those songs. We used to try it live but it's a bloody hard record to play, although we did perform it live on Ed Sullivan."
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones Artistfacts
More The Rolling Stones songs
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More songs performed on The Ed Sullivan Show

Comments (22):

The Stones hated the typical image of the American housewife of the times, and castigated her time and time again--never better than here in this song, where she really has no redeeming traits. She herself became fed up with herself by the time the 70's rolled around, when we saw "I Am Woman" and "At 17" and "You're So Vain" charge up the charts, presenting us with a very different image of women. In a way, the Stones led the woman's lib movement with this & similar songs putting down the American housewife.
- Matthew, Toronto, ON
The Drugs referenced are Pheno-Barbitone and Possibly also side reference to Purple Hearts
Drinamyl both of these were in Use in Britain in the Early Sixties
Ludes Quaaludes were not generally Prescribed by General Practicioners The Above two were
It does not matter what Drugs ere available in America it is a Social Commentary upon British Society The Drugs are only part of the problem it`s also referencing The Start of Supermarkets, Instant Cakes, Frozen Steaks, all quantify as "Mothers Little Helpers"
- William J., Originally Glasgow , United Kingdom
It doesn't matter what the actual pill was..it could be any pill any day any way...
I love this song and think it is funny...and true...and still is previlent in todays world..I was six years old when it came out...what a gas!!! Ha!!
- Peggy, Nevada, OH
The song is definitely about Methaqualone, more commonly known as Quaaludes, or just Ludes. This is the pill that is referred to as the "mother's little yellow helper" They were extremely popular, and over-prescribed during the 60's and 70's, which led to many addictions and deaths. This is where the song comes from, in particular the verse "if you take more of those, you will get an overdose".
- Jason, Philadelphia, PA
Also, Patrick - http://www.benzo.org.uk is a highly inaccurate site. They do say that the song references Valium, but for the reasons I gave in my previous post and the fact that the site you've referenced contains mostly misinformation, I still believe that the song is about Nembutal (pentobarbital).
- Jake, Boston, MA
I was always told Valium (Roche brand diazepam CIV), which is marketed just about the world over in the ever iconic yellow "mothers little helper" 5mg tablets (white 2mg and blue 10mg). In the US, most generic diazepam 5mg tablets are also yellow. "Outside the door, she took 4 more" since diazepam is practically non-toxic, that dose would be harmless; "if you take more of those, you will get an overdose" it is almost impossible to overdose on diazepam (Valium) unless an excessive (several hundred tablets) are consumed and combined with other depressants. In 1966, Hoffman LaRoche was only beginning to market their new drugs (Librium and Valium of the BZD class). Chances are doctors were not handing out scrips for Valium in 1966 like crazy as the drug was very new (and of a new class) and had not yet proved itself as a powerful anti-anxiety medication. MY GUESS then is that IF THIS SONG IS ACTUALLY ABOUT ANY PARTICULAR DRUG, it is probably Nembutal (brand pentobarbital CII). Nembutal was (is?) available in 100mg small yellow capsules ("pill" is an ubiquitous term). Pentobarbital is also far more habit forming and FAR MORE dangerous ("get an overdose") than diazepam. So there you go - this song may not be in reference to any particular medication, but if it is, I would guess Nembutal. But, since Valium is generally more well known (today) and was so overprescibed in the 1970s, I prefer to think that this song is about it. :)
- Jake, Boston, MA
Quaaludes, I forget where I heard this, but the song is about ludes... I believe so, at least.
- Sean, Colorado Springs, CO
This is a cool song. It was also used in Home Alone, the movie. I love the song. Brian was soooooooo talented he could play any instrument that you put in front of him. I love the Beatles song too they are number 1 on my list.
- Shannan, Wilmington, DE
The citar riff are hypnotizable!
- Pedro Paulo, Nova Friburgo, Brazil
i havent heard this song but i really want to! it sounds good and interesting
- angie, the sky, United States
What's up Stef.
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
One of the Stones best.
- Jon, Oakridge, OR
I don't have anything to add to the drug discussion, but i have a pretty funny story. One of the guys at a local radio station said he hosted a radio show and he would play this and "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane right next to each other. The DJ then went on to say that with everything being so politically correct these days you can't do that kind of thing. I didn't get it at first until I asked my dad what "White Rabbit" was about, and I told him the DJ's story. He explained to me that both songs were about people using drugs. After that, I thought it was pretty funny.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
This is a slight digression from the obvious drug-related discussion. Does anyone else dig the song's quasi-country/western type swing; you know, "doctor pleeease, some more of theeeese. . ." Musically, it's very diverse when compared to the Stone's entire oeuvre.
- Lucus, Mount Airy, NC
To end all discussion the song is definitely about Valium as you can read on http://www.benzo.org.uk/valium2.htm

The song itself is still up to date as medication addiction is a growing problem.
- Patrick, Wevelgem, Belgium
Mother's Little Helper is the common name of Valium, most predominately taken in 5mg pills- but nowadays mostly taken in 20mg.
- Anna, Wellington, New Zealand
I always thought Valium. The colors used could be different in England, I supose?
- Gregmon, Intelbuquerque, NM
this has the best line ever: "what a drag it is getting old"

Now you gotta love that.
- Katie, Gasoline Alley, Australia
No, Brian Jones did not play the sitar on this, but 12-string mandolin.
- Mr. Chimp, Brno, Czech Republic
Valium was actually availiable in 1963, so it could be either. the drugs(valium and miltown) are very similar in their target users which are middle class people who didnt want to visit shrinks because of the label of being mentally ill.
however since the song reference to a "little yellow pill" i would have to put my guess at valium since miltown is usually a 200 mg pill or more where as valium is a 2-10mg pill.
- john, triangle , NC
Actually, I do not believe that Valium was on the market in 1966. The drug was likely Miltown (meprobamate) which was a widely used tranquilizer in the mid-60's
- Mark, Riverside, CA
I am pretty sure that the drug referred to is valium, as in a five milligram "little yellow pill". Not sure you were aware of that. If you were, sorry to be redundant. Don
- Don, Spokane, WA
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