Mama Can't Buy You Love

Album: The Thom Bell Sessions '77 (1979)
Charted: 9
Play Video


  • A variation on the "Can't Buy Me Love" theme popularized by The Beatles, this song finds Elton John offering only his love, which he hopes will be enough to win the object of his affection, who has lots of rich boys to choose from. Many of Elton's songs have a bit of his persona in them, but not this one: He was one of the richest and most successful entertainers on the planet and had developed a taste for opulence.
  • This was Elton's first hit song that he didn't co-write. It was written by team of Leroy Bell and Casey James, who recorded as Bell & James. It was one of three songs Elton recorded when he teamed with the Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell at the end of 1977 in hopes of making an album. By this time, Elton was coming down from highs of several years of hitmaking and was looking for new sounds. On the outs with his writing partner Bernie Taupin, he teamed with Bell, who produced the three tracks, including "Mama Can't Buy You Love." But when Elton abandoned the project, the three songs were binned. In 1978, he released A Single Man, his first album without Taupin. When it underperformed, his record company decided to finally release the songs he recorded with Bell, issuing them in 1979 on an EP called The Thom Bell Sessions '77. "Mama Can't Buy You Love" was released as a single and got Elton back to the US Top 10 for the first time since "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" in 1976. It also rose to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • The Spinners, who Thom Bell produced, sang backup vocals on this track. They recorded lead vocals that they hoped would be used along with Elton's, but those weren't used. According to the group, they thought it was going to be a joint collaboration, not an Elton John solo album. They did speak highly of working with him though, saying it was an honor to work with him.
  • In the UK, a different track from the EP was issued as a single: "Are You Ready For Love?" That one stalled at #42 in 1979, but a 2003 house remix by Ashley Beedle took the song to #1 in 2003. The remix was also a #1 Dance hit in America.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Brandi Carlile

Brandi CarlileSongwriter Interviews

As a 5-year-old, Brandi was writing lyrics to instrumental versions lullabies. She still puts her heart into her songs, including the one Elton John sings on.

Lip-Synch Rebels

Lip-Synch RebelsSong Writing

What happens when Kurt Cobain, Iron Maiden and Johnny Lydon are told to lip-synch? Some hilarious "performances."

Peter Lord

Peter LordSongwriter Interviews

You may not recognize his name, but you will certainly recognize Peter Lord's songs. He wrote the bevy of hits from Paula Abdul's second album, Spellbound.

Mac Powell of Third Day

Mac Powell of Third DaySongwriter Interviews

The Third Day frontman talks about some of the classic songs he wrote with the band, and what changed for his solo country album.

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)Songwriter Interviews

The former Metallica bassist talks about his first time writing a song with James Hetfield, and how a hand-me-down iPad has changed his songwriting.

Mick Jones of Foreigner

Mick Jones of ForeignerSongwriter Interviews

Foreigner's songwriter/guitarist tells the stories behind the songs "Juke Box Hero," "I Want To Know What Love Is," and many more.