Mama (Genesis song)

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Genesis-Mama (Single Cover).jpg
Single by Genesis
from the album Genesis
B-side"It's Gonna Get Better"
Released22 August 1983
StudioThe Farm, Surrey
GenreProgressive rock
Length6:49 (album version)
6:07 (single version)
5:18 (video edit / radio edit)
7:27 (long version)
LabelAtlantic, Virgin, Vertigo
Songwriter(s)Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s)Genesis, Hugh Padgham
Genesis singles chronology
"That's All"

"Mama" is a song by the English rock band Genesis, released as the first single in 1983 from their self-titled album. It is recognisable for its harsh drum machine introduction composed by Mike Rutherford, which leads into minimalist synthesizer lines in a minor tonality and finally Phil Collins' reverb-laden voice. It remains the band's most successful single in the UK, peaking at 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 US, only reaching No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] A 1992 re-release of the single managed to reach the Top 40 in Germany.[3]

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


The song's theme involves a young man's longing for a particular sex worker. On the DVD The Genesis Songbook, the band and producer Hugh Padgham revealed that the inspiration for Collins' 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 fetus, 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


The Linn LM-1 rhythm was programmed by Mike Rutherford, rather than drummer Collins. It was fed through an AMS RMX-16 reverb on the gated reverb setting and then into a Fender amplifier (though Mike Rutherford remembers it was a Mesa/Boogie model) with a large amount of distortion.[4][5] The signal from the amp was mixed with a direct signal from the Linn to give the drum sound some character. Tony Banks used a Synclavier, ARP Quadra, E-mu Emulator, and Sequential Circuits Prophet-10 in the recording. The Quadra's rhythmic pulses were triggered by the 16th note hi-hat pattern coming from the Linn drum machine. A low E drone was recorded on the Prophet-10 through most of the song. A koto, which happened to be in the studio one day, was sampled into the Emulator and used in the song because it was felt that no other sound worked in the section.[4]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song plays out the lyrics, showing Collins singing to a mysterious woman while Banks and Rutherford play in the background. The video is shot in a sepia tone until halfway through when colour fades in.

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 in a shortened version on 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). An extremely rare 3:30 and heavily edited version was released on a 1983 Italian promo 7-inch. A 10:43 "work in progress" take from the 1983 sessions 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 Mama Tour, Invisible Touch,[6] We Can't Dance,(only for the first shows)[7] Calling All Stations[8] (with Ray Wilson on vocals), Turn It On Again and The Last Domino?[9] 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 1985 home video release The Mama Tour.




Sales certifications for Mama
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Germany (BVMI)[28] Gold 500,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Silver 250,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

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.


  1. ^ "Genesis | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Genesis Chart History: Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Chartverfolgung / Genesis / Single". Music Line (in German). Germany: Media Control Charts. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  4. ^ a b Banks, Tony. "Tony Banks & the Evolution of Genesis". Interview by Dominic Milano. Keyboard Magazine, November, 1984.
  5. ^ Reissues Interview 2007 2008.
  6. ^ "Gig guide". Archived from the original on 20 March 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  7. ^ "Genesis - The Movement - Gig Guide". Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Gig guide". Archived from the original on 20 March 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  9. ^ "Genesis - the Movement - Gig Guide". Archived from the original on 20 March 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ "Genesis – Mama" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Genesis – Mama" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  13. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  14. ^ " search results". Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  15. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 40, 1983" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  16. ^ "Genesis – Mama" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  17. ^ "Genesis – Mama". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  18. ^ "Genesis – Mama". VG-lista. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Genesis – Mama". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  20. ^ "Genesis: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  21. ^ "Genesis Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Genesis Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  23. ^ " – Genesis – Mama". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  24. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1983". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  25. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1983". Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  26. ^ "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1983". Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  27. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts". GfK Entertainment (in German). Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  28. ^ Ehnert, Günter (1990). Die Gesamte Hit Bilanz – Deutsche Chart Singles von 1956 bis 1989 (in German). Norderstedt, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany: Taurus Press Verlag Populärer Musikliteratur. ISBN 3-922542-24-7.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Genesis – Mama". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 6 April 2021.