12.07-MAMA TOLD ME NOT TO COME (Three Dog Night)

Three Dog Night


Want some whiskey in your water? Sugar in your tea?
What's all these crazy questions they're askin' me?
This is the craziest party that could ever be.
Don't turn on the lights 'cause I don't wanna see.

     Mama told me not to come.(2x)
     "That ain't the way to have fun, no"

Open up the window, let some air into this room.
I think I'm almost chokin' from the smell of stale perfume.
And that cigarette you're smokin' 'bout scare me half to death.
Open up the window, sucker, let me catch my breath.

     Mama told me not to come. (2x)
     "That ain't the way to have fun, son" (2x)


The radio is blastin', someone's knockin' at the door.
I'm lookin' at my girlfriend - she's passed out on the floor.
I seen so many things I ain't never seen before.
Don't know what it is - I don't wanna see no more.

     Mama told me not to come. (2x)
     She said, "That ain't the way to have fun, son."
     "That ain't the way to have fun, no."

     [Scat on the chorus]


Randy Newman originally wrote Mama Told Me Not to Come for Eric Burdon to sing, and he did record it with the Animals, but it was withdrawn in 1966 from being a single release. It shows up in an early Eric Burdon 1967 solo album Eric is Here, which included the single Help Me Girl. Harpsichord is used on the Burdon track. Given that Burdon was about to become something of a psychedelic guru, the rube stance of the Newman lyric failed to capture the optimistic spirit of the age. By the time Three Dog Night recorded the song, popular opinion had begun to turn against drugs. [The drifting off coda of the Three Dog Night version is reminiscent of the First Edition’s 1968 recording of Just Stopped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), one of the earliest hit records after the Summer of Love to criticize drug use.] Mama Told Me wasn’t Three Dog Night’s first American Top 10 single release, but it was their first to reach #1 in the U.S. Furthermore, for the first time, Three Dog Night had a hit in the UK.

The warped psychedelic sound that had usually communicated “higher consciousness” was employed in the Three Dog Night song to suggest wooziness, a party gone too far. During the Summer of Love no one sang about “passing out” from marijuana, but here the singer’s girlfriend is completely out of it. The rube stance of being scared half to death is cut with the singer’s disdain for drug use. Marijuana is described as smelling like stale perfume, and the singer begs to have a window open. He slips in an insult with the request, calling the drug user a “sucker”.