Mama Told Me (Not to Come)

Album: It Ain't Easy (1970)
Charted: 3 1

Songfacts®:

  • 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 Newman at first dismissed them as a "teeny-bopper" band, but later rescinded that statement, saying he liked their version a great deal.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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Charles - Charlotte, NC
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Wilson Pickett's 1972 cover made #99 in the US.

Comments: 28

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenA couple years later, Edgar Winter borrowed the bit about not being able to "find the door" for the song "We All Had a Real Good Time."
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {10-22-2015}
    Cory Wells, one of three lead singers in Three Dog Night, passed away Tuesday (October 20th, 2015) in Dunkirk, New York. He was 74...
    Born Emil Lewandowski in Buffalo, New York, Cory initially formed a band while serving in the US Air Force. Migrating to the west coast after his release, Cory's group, the Enemys, became the house band for a year at Hollywood's Whisky a Go-Go-- which is where he met singer/producer Danny Hutton. The two were asked to tour with Sonny and Cher and later, with the addition of Chuck Negron, they created a group in 1968 they called Redwood. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys produced their early efforts and, with a name change to Three Dog Night (named after the coldest of Australian nights when natives slept with three dogs for warmth), they secured a contract with ABC's Dunhill Records...
    The group had 21 straight top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975, including "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" (#1-1970 with Cory on lead), "Joy To The World" (#1-1971) and "Black & White" (#1-1972). Other tunes by the group to feature Cory include "Shambala" (#3-1973) and "Eli's Coming" (#10-1969). They disbanded when the hits dried up in 1976, but reformed within five years and Cory continued to perform with them until last month when he was sidelined with severe back pain...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAccording to Wikipedia Casey Kasem launched American Top 40 {AT40} on July 4th, 1970*...
    And according to Billboard Magazine the #1 record for 'the week ending July 4th' was "The Love You Save" by the Jackson 5...
    The following week "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" moved into the #1 spot on the Top 100...
    * It aired on radio station KDEO in El Cajon, California and also on six other affiliates.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 5th 1972, "Mama Told Me Not to Come" by Wilson Picket entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #100; one week later it rose to #99 and then it fell off the chart...
    But on Billboard's R&B Singles chart it did reach #16...
    Between 1962 and 1987 'Wicked Wilson' had forty-nine records make the R&B Singles chart; eighteen made the Top 10 with five reaching #1, "In the Midnight Hour" {1965}, "634-5689" {1966}, "Land of A 1,000 Dances" {1966}, "Funky Broadway" {1967}, and "Don't Knock My Love - Part One" {1971}...
    May Mr. Wilson R.I.P. {1941 - 2006}.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThe discordant keyboard note the song ends with is the perfect touch.
  • John from Wilkes Barre, PaYou all are wrong, the song "Mama told me not to come" is a double on tundra on a sexual act that is pretty funny when you take it in the context of the actual song. The lyrics "That ain't no way to have fun - son!" ,"I'm looking at my girlfriend, she just passed out on the floor" and "That ain't no way to have fun - ah no no! (maybe I should have listened) . Yes because he got his girlfriend pregnant and that is no way to have fun, mama told me not to "c*m" It's the same thing with the song "Along comes Mary" which is a song about marijuana. So the artist just hides the truth about the song with a double on tundra to get it played on the radio. How many parents would have allowed their kids to buy the song on a 45 single if they real knew the real meaning of the song or it was written as it intended on the record label. It's a real funny song if you listen to it as a sexual double on tundra. He sings over and over again "Mama told me not to come" "Mama told me not to come" with the counter 'Mama told me She said She said". In my opinion they are going to some kind of orgy or a porn video in the making , because it's the "craziest party, there could ever be" with drugs and alcohol and that's how she ended up"passed out on the floor"
  • Rick from Belfast, MeThis song , in my estimation, rates in the top 10 songs from the 1970's
  • John from Kirkland, WaI once heard a story about this song - I think it was many years ago on the Casey Kasem show - that when they were doing the studio recording, they were looking for a specific echo effect and were not coming up with it. During a break, one of the band members was in the bathroom and noticed the echo in there was what they were looking for! The rest as they say is now history - J
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiSome people get the notion that Three Dog Night were the among the good boys of rock and roll when listening to this song when in actuality they were among the most notorious druggies.
  • Adam from West Palm Beach, FlEric Burdon's version is really good. The Eric Is Here album was actually recorded in Detroit, so the song, in general, has a definite Motown feel to it.
  • Wayne from Crockett, TxAt a recent Three Dog Night concert, Cory stopped in the middle of this song, put on a ball cap turned sideways, threw on some gold chains and began singing a rap version of Mama Told Me. It really got the crowd going.
  • Rockie from Oregon City, OrYes Donna Summer sang backing vocals !
  • Tim from Livonia, MiGotta be one of the most awesome rockers of the early 70s.........definately one of the greats!!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesI never saw it as an anti-drug lyric and I don't believe it was meant that way. I interpret it as being about the bad karma / paranoia that can arise from attending the wrong parties with the wrong people while on the wrong substances.
  • Jameson from Lexington, KyAhh, I love this song... this was the theme song of my high school class. You can interpret that however you like... (laugh)
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI think this is like a number of songs of the era that ostensibly warned against drug use but whose appeal ironically stemmed largely from exploiting the intrigue and curiousity surrounding drugs in the young audience of the day.
  • Jonathan from Stamford, CtOn the album Eric Is Here, Eric Burdon, formerly of The Animals, does a version of this song. I haven't heard it though. :-(
  • Mark from Hereford, EnglandJust get the Randy Newman version. All cover versions are inferior. But praise to Three Dog Night for doing it a bit differently to RN. And remember that the Tom Jones / Stereophonics cover of the cover was recorded thirty five years after TDN's version. The production values aren't that much better, considering. And Randy Newman did the music for 'Toy Story', 'The Natural', 'Three Amigos' etc. besides being one of the best songwriters of the last 50 years. Get 'Lonely at the Top' as a sort of best-of, of look for 'Good Ol' Boys' or 'Little Criminals' for some excellent albums. P.s. he has a wicked sense of humour.
  • Cris from Lelystad, NetherlandsThis is the first time I read about other versions. I only knew/know Three Dog Night, and I can't imagine Tom Jones did a better job...

    TDN rules! btw: I found a couple of errors in the text posted here. Could it be that the bit about
    "a hostess not lastin'" comes from another version? Once again, I prefer the girlfriend passed out on the floor!
  • Mike from North Vancouver, CanadaI've heard both, and personally, I liked the Stereophonics/Tom Jones version better. I think their voices sound fine.
  • Edward Pearce from Ashford, Kent, EnglandCan anyone confirm that Donna Summer made her debut on backing vocals on this song?
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesTom Jones and the Stereophonics' remake was not different, it was a carbon copy of the original, from the intro right up to the end. Kelly Jones and Tom Jones voices simply aren't suited to this type of song.
  • Michael from Sutton Coldfield, Englandtom jonjes butchered this song, end off#
  • Nick from Cambridge, EnglandTom Jones and Stereophonics' Version was not appalling, just differant. I have heard both versions, and I think that the Stereophonics has more feeling, and a better, more rounded sound.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesTom Jones and Stereophonics went to UK #4 in 1999 with an absoultely appalling cover of this song, and shortly afterwards Three Dog Night's versions was sampled on some dance tune (can't remember it's name). 3DN's only other UK hit was "Joy To The World", which climbed to #24 in 1973.
  • Mia from Elk River, MnOne of my favourite songs to rock out to! ...I'm really suprised the beat the Beatles' The Long And Winding Road, I never knew that. Anyway, this song rules!
  • Bill Crawford from Oro Valley, AzRandy is the nephew of Lionel Newman,he also wrote the song for all the height challenged people" Short People"
  • Janetlee from Panama City, FlRandy Newman is a terrific songwriter ! He also has done the theme to the USA Network show, MONK (which stars Tony Shalhoub!)
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