Mama (Genesis song)

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"Mama"
Single by Genesis
from the album Genesis
B-side "It's Gonna Get Better"
Released 22 August 1983
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl
Recorded The Farm, Surrey; 1983
Genre Progressive rock
Length 6:46 (album version)
6:07 (single version)
5:18 (video edit / radio edit)
7:27 (long version)
Label Atlantic, Virgin, Vertigo
Writer(s) Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s) Genesis, Hugh Padgham
Genesis singles chronology
"Paperlate"
(1982)
"Mama"
(1983)
"That's All"
(1983)
Genesis track listing
"Mama"
(1)
"That's All"
(2)

"Mama" was the first single from Genesis' 1983 self-titled album. It is recognizable for its harsh drum machine introduction composed by Mike Rutherford, which leads into minimalist synthesizer lines in minor keys and finally Phil Collins' reverb-laden voice. It remains the band's most successful single in the UK, reaching No.4 on the UK Singles Chart.[1] It also made the top 10 in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands. It was less popular in the USA, only reaching No.73 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] A 1992 re-release of the single managed to scrape into the Top 40 in Germany.[3]

A live drum kit, modified with the "gated reverb" effect, is used in the final verse.

The song resurfaced in 2007 as part of the Turn It On Again tour, albeit transposed down a tone to account for the deepening of Phil Collins' voice as he grew older.

Theme[edit]

The song's theme involves a young man's longing for a particular prostitute. On the DVD The Genesis Songbook, the band and producer Hugh Padgham revealed that the inspiration for Collins's laugh came from rap music pioneer Grandmaster Flash's song "The Message".

From the 1983 Genesis Three into One Wavelength 3-LP vinyl radio show interview:

Our manager, when he first heard it, thought it was about abortion, the kind of feeling of the, you know, the foetus, if you like, saying to the Mother 'Please give me a chance, can't you feel my heart, don't take away my last chance', all those lyrics are in the song but in fact what it is, is just about a young teenager that's got a mother fixation with a prostitute that he's just happened to have met in passing and he has such a strong feeling for her and doesn't understand why she isn't interested in him. It's a bit like [British actor] David Niven in The Moon's a Balloon, I don't know if you've read that book, he's very young, just come out of cadet college or whatever, and he meets this quite, you know, 45-year-old prostitute who he has a fantastic time with. He's special to her but it definitely can't go any further than what it is and that's really what the song is about, with sinister overtones.

—Phil Collins

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song essentially plays out the lyrics, showing Collins singing to a mysterious woman while Banks and Rutherford play in the background. One sequence involves Collins, cloaked in shadows and illuminated by a red light (at approximately 3 minutes 30 seconds into the video). When performed live, white lights were shone from underneath the stage to recreate this sequence.

Versions and live performances[edit]

There are at least four versions of the studio recording of "Mama": the original, full-length cut (7:27, released as a 12" single and later as a CD single, backed by the full-length 6:27 version of "It's Gonna Get Better", also from the Genesis album); a somewhat early-faded version (6:46, released on the Genesis album itself); an edited version (6:07, released as a 7" single and on the compilation album Turn It on Again - Best of '81-'83); and a heavily edited version (5:18, released on the promotional video, promo DJ 7" and 12" singles, and the 1999 compilation album Turn It on Again: The Hits). A rehearsal take, dating from 1983 and referred to as a "work in progress", is included at the end of the third disc of Genesis Archive 2: 1976-1992. This demonstrated how Genesis would try out new songs; the band would play while Phil Collins would just sing anything that came to mind, normally without actual words.

The song was played live during the Genesis[4] , Invisible Touch,[5] The Way We Walk,[6] Calling All Stations[7] (with Ray Wilson on vocals), and Turn It On Again[8] tours.

A live version appears on their albums The Way We Walk, Volume One: The Shorts and Live Over Europe 2007, and their DVDs Genesis Live at Wembley Stadium and When in Rome 2007. The song also appears on the 1984 VHS release The Mama Tour.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1983/1984) Peak
position
Austrian Singles Chart[9] 10
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[10] 7
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[11] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[12] 5
New Zealand (RIANZ)[13] 27
Norway (VG-lista)[14] 3
Swiss Singles Chart[15] 2
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[1] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[2] 73
US Billboard Top Rock Tracks[2] 5
Chart (1992) Peak
position
Germany (Media Control Charts)[3] 33

Cover versions[edit]

"Mama" was covered by the band Magellan on the 1996 Genesis tribute album Supper's Ready. The song was also covered by the French extreme metal band Carnival in Coal and released on their album French Cancan (1999). Brazilian power metal band Angra covered the song on their EP Hunters and Prey (2002). "Mama" was covered by the Finnish heavy metal band Tarot as the second track on the single for "Undead Son", the only single release from their 2003 album Suffer Our Pleasures.

Cultural references[edit]

  • Illusionist David Copperfield has used the song during one of his stage segments, the "Cocoon" illusion.
  • The song was also featured in an episode Magnum, P.I. ("Death and Taxes" - Season 7), a popular US television series in the 1980s starring Tom Selleck. This particular episode involves a killer targeting prostitutes and communicating to Magnum clues about his next crimes by way of riddles.
  • The gated-reverb drum intro line was used by South Indian music director Deva in 1995 for the Mani Ratnam produced Tamil movie Aasai for the song, sung by Unnikrishnan and K. S. Chithra. The Tamil song also sampled the keyboard from the original 7" version of the track from 2:26 til 2:36. The lack of copyright laws in South India enabled Deva to sample without the need to credit Genesis. The soundtrack was awarded the "Best Music" for 1995 by the Tamil Nadu state government beating out original compositions like Bombay from A.R. Rahman.[citation needed]
  • The song is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV on the radio station Liberty Rock Radio 97.8.

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Chart Stats - Genesis - Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Genesis > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 February 2010 (2010-02-01). 
  3. ^ a b "Chartverfolgung / Genesis / Single". Music Line (in German). Germany: Media Control Charts. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Mama Tour Songs & Dates
  5. ^ Invisible Tour Songs & Dates
  6. ^ The Way We Walk Tour Songs & Dates
  7. ^ Calling All Stations Tour Songs & Dates
  8. ^ Turn it on again Tour Songs & Dates
  9. ^ "Genesis - Mama - austriancharts.at". Retrieved 1 February 2010.  (German)
  10. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 - Week 40, 1983". Retrieved 1 February 2010.  (Dutch)
  11. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3. 
  12. ^ "irishcharts.ie search results". Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  13. ^ "charts.org.nz - Genesis - Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  14. ^ "norwegiancharts.com - Genesis - Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  15. ^ "Genesis - Mama - hitparade.ch". Retrieved 1 February 2010.  (German)

External links[edit]