Written by lead singer Glenn Danzig, "Mother" is rather vague and cryptic. One interpretation is that Danzig is beginning a descent into something evil, probably Satanism, and his family is concerned. Throughout the song he tells his mother and father to stay away, as he can't be helped, and he's definitely not suitable for children:Tell your children not to walk my way
Tell your children not to hear my words
In an interview with Big Brother
magazine, Danzig offered a rare explanation of his lyrics, claiming the inspiration for "Mother" was Tipper Gore, who as a member of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC)
pushed for regulations on music she felt was harmful to children. As a result, the record industry agreed to place warning stickers on albums with explicit content.
Mike - Helena, MT
Glenn Danzig was lead singer of the influential horror-punk band Misfits from 1977-1983. After that band split, he formed a group called Samhain, which morphed into the group Danzig. "Mother" is part of their first album, released in 1988.
Rick Rubin, known for his work with LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, and Slayer, produced the Danzig album and released it on his new label, Def American.
In 1987, Rubin saw Glenn Danzig's band Samhain in concert, and they struck up a deal. When Rubin sat in on a rehearsal, he didn't think Glenn's bandmates were up to snuff. Glenn brought in drummer Chuck Biscuits, but it still wasn't working, so they held auditions and found guitarist John Christ. Samhain bass player Eerie Von stayed on, and the group was christened Danzig.
"Mother" found an audience with fans of hardcore music when it was released in 1988, but it cast a much wider net in 1993 when it was remixed by the Louie Brothers and re-released as a single. The remix was marketed as a live recording, but it's essentially the original version of the song with some crowd cheering dubbed in. This was all part of a push by their label, Def American, to market the band to a mainstream rock audience that was suddenly amenable to music that was previously confined to the outer edges. The plan worked: "Mother" actually got some airplay and charted as a single, reaching #43 in March 1994. This was a time when grunge was the dominant subgenre in rock, but stations needed variety, so they stepped outside their comfort zones and ended up with playlists that included Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, The Offspring, and even Danzig.
In his songs, Glenn Danzig came off as a man with bad intentions, and his public persona seemed dangerous and a bit nefarious, with no trace of the levity that made the likes of Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne so accessible. Some presumed he was a Satanist, channeling the Devil in songs like "Mother." When the song was re-released in 1993, the group's label, Def American, tried to move the band more to the center by issuing a "Danzig Handbook," the first order of business dispelling the misconception that the band are Satan worshipers. "Some people interpret Danzig's lyrics as being about the devil," it states. The songs are actually about rebelling against authority, whether it's parents, teachers, or the government."
In the Handbook, he also breaks down "Mother," assuaging concerns any program directors would have over putting it in rotation:
"I wrote 'Mother' about he PMRC and parents who tell their kids what to listen to. Parents should guide their children, not live their lives for them. Kids should discover life on their own."
The original video for "Mother" proved controversial, showing was looks like a Satanic ritual. Following a shot of Glenn Danzig standing on a pentagram, we see him looking over a woman who is strapped to a platform. He holds up a chicken, and she gets spattered with blood. MTV made Danzig edit the video to make it suitable for broadcast; their label sold both versions on VHS.
The 1993 re-release came with a live video shot at Danzig's 1992 Halloween show
This video features live footage from the 10/31/1992 show at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in California. MTV gave the song a boost when they put it on their Buzz Bin compilation album.
"Mother" was later included on various hard-rock/heavy metal/alternative music compilations, including the video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (where it plays on Radio X) and Guitar Hero II (to which a final solo was added).
The cartoon metalheads Beavis and Butt-Head are big fans of this song. At one point when they're watching the video, they wonder what Glenn Danzig does when he's not on stage. "I bet he scores with chicks and fights a lot," Beavis says.
American folk rocker Lissie
covered this in 2014 for the soundtrack to the Evolve