This song starts with the sound of explosions in the background, indicating it is about a soldier at war. He is sending letters and communicating with his mother, who seems ashamed of him: "You ain't no son of mine, for what you've done they're gonna find a place for you, and just you mind your manners when you go. And when you go, don't return to me, my love." The soldier also feels shame, and is worried that he will be sent to hell when he dies.
Adam - Gilbert, AZ
This features guest vocals from Liza Minnelli. When the band was recording the song, they got the idea to bring in another singer and joking suggested Minnelli, never thinking their producer, Rob Cavallo, could make it happen. A couple weeks later, the legendary singer did her part via satellite. In a 2011 Grammy Museum interview, the band said Liza really got into the role of mom, calling them her babies and spontaneously adding the crying bit at the end of the song. "Everything in there was her," said lead singer Gerard Way. "Nobody told her to do anything, it was really cool."
Gerard told Rolling Stone why the band chose Minnelli for their mama: "We wanted someone who had a lot of strength and a lot of sorrow. Somebody who was a bit of an outsider themselves, faced really hard things - maybe even ridicule - yet somebody so completely talented that their voice shadows all the positive and negative things said about them."
The singer certainly fit the bill. Born to famed singer/actress Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, she became a legend in her own right as a Broadway star and movie actress. Like her mother, however, she struggled with various addictions and tumultuous marriages that made her an easy target for the tabloids.
My Chemical Romance already had this song written when they were looking for someone to produce the album. Several producers were vying for the project after the success of the band's previous album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, but Cavallo got the gig, thanks in part to his reaction to "Mama." He told Tom Bryant, author of Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance: "I just loved the sound of that song so much. I thought it was so haunting, dark and scary. It had this essence of World War II coming over it too. I just stood up in the middle of the performance and started pumping a fist in the air. I just thought it was the greatest thing I had ever heard. I think they liked my enthusiasm..."
It also helped that Cavallo previously worked with Green Day and helmed Jawbreaker's 1995 album, Dear You, which was a big influence on MCR.
During the making of the album, the band stayed at the Paramour Estate in Los Angeles. The mansion is said to be haunted by its former owner, Daisy Canfield Danziger, an oil heiress who was killed in a car accident in 1933. Cavallo believes the house came alive on the album, particularly on this song. "The demo tapes are really crazy to listen to," he told biographer Bryant. "You can almost hear the haunted house in the background. You can almost see the ghosts flying around the room when we recorded those songs. Especially that 'Mama' song. When we played that at Paramour, we were in a giant living room with 40-feet-high ceilings and big windows overlooking Los Angeles, and it was cold. It felt like the dead of winter and we're not used to being cold in Los Angeles. I would wear a ski jacket into that house because the heat didn't get in there. It was freezing. Thinking about it, why did we subject ourselves to that torture?"