The Way To Have Fun

‘Mama Told Me Not to Come’ was written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966.  Three Dog Night’s 1970 cover version was longer, and a bit more raucous rendition of rock ‘n roll and funk-inspired music, which listeners enjoyed and it topped the US pop singles chart with the title ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come)’ on their fourth album which was titled It Ain’t Easy.  Randy Newman was well known for his biting sense of satire and he poked fun at height challenged folks in his 1978 hit ‘Short People’ as well as in his 1980’s parody of yuppies ‘I Love LA’.   Randy says that this song was inspired by his own lighthearted reflection on the Los Angeles music scene of the late 1960s where a guy attends a party and he can’t believe what he is seeing.  Newman creates a character who is a sheltered and extraordinarily straight-laced young man, and this man recounts events from what is presumably his first wild party in the big city.  The character is shocked and appalled when he witnesses marijuana smoking, whiskey drinking, loud music, and he recalls that his “Mama told [him] not to come”.

This song has the distinction of being the very first #1 hit on the American Top 40 an internationally syndicated, independent song countdown radio program that featured the best-selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico.  The show, hosted by Casey Kasem, became popular on AM radio throughout the world until its decline in the mid-1990s.  This song 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.

The musicians for Three Dog Night on this song are Mike Allsup playing guitar, Jimmy Greenspoon the keyboard player used a Wurlitzer electric piano, Joe Schermie on bass guitar, Floyd Sneed playing drums, Cory Wells singing lead vocals, Danny Hutton on background vocals and Chuck Negron also singing background vocals.  From 1969-1974, nobody had more Billboard Top 10 hits than Three Dog Night, and they sold more records, and more concert tickets than any other group during this era.  They were undoubtedly the most popular band in America, with 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, 18 straight Top 20s, 11 Top 10s, 3 U.S. number ones, 7 million-selling singles and 12 straight Gold LPs.  By late 1975 they had sold nearly 50 million records.  The band was unique for its time, featuring three separate lead singers, Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells.

Danny Hutton was a solo artist, and his song ‘Roses and Rainbows’ hit #73 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of 1965. Chuck Negron grew up in the Bronx, and he began his music career in his teens, recording his first single record and he performed at the world famous Apollo Theater with the vocal group The Rondells.  Chuck got the attention of Columbia Records, where he recorded a series of flop singles as Chuck Oberon.  Cory Wells was asked by Sonny and Cher to join their tour after they heard him singing at The Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles.  On that tour that he met Danny Hutton and Danny knew Chuck from their days with Columbia Records.

Danny had made friends with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who wanted to get into producing other acts and quickly took the three singers under his wing.  He suggested the new trio call themselves Redwood, because it reminded him of something tall and strong.  The trio started putting together their own band, one by one, recruiting Jimmy Greenspoon on keyboards, Joe Schermie on bass, Floyd Sneed on drums and Michael Alsup on guitar.  They played small California clubs with no permanent name, until one night Danny’s girlfriend, June Fairchild, came up with a suggestion.  She had read a magazine article about the Australian aborigines, who on cold nights, would sleep beside their dogs for warmth.   The very coldest weather was called a three dog night.

Will you have whiskey with your water
Or sugar with your tea
What are these crazy questions
That they’re asking of me
This is the craziest party
That there ever could be
Oh, don’t turn on the light
‘Cause I don’t want to see

Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come
That ain’t the way to have fun

Open up the window
Let some air into this room
I think I’m almost choking from
The smell of stale perfume
And that cigarette you’re smoking
‘Bout to scare me half to death
Open up the window sucka
Let me catch my breath

Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come
That ain’t the way to have fun, son
That ain’t the way to have fun, son

The radio is blasting,
Someone’s beating on the door
I’m looking at my girlfriend
She’s passed out on the floor
I seen so many things
I ain’t never seen before
I don’t know what it is
But I don’t wanna see no more

Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come
She said, that ain’t the way to have fun, son

That ain’t the way to have fun,

Mama told me, Mama told me, Mama told me
Told me, told me,

Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come

That ain’t the way to have fun, no
That ain’t the way to have fun, son

That ain’t the way to have fun, no
That ain’t the way to have fun, son

That ain’t the way to have fun, no
That ain’t the way to have fun, son

That ain’t the way to have fun, no
That ain’t the way to have fun, son

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is “Mom/Mother/Flowers”.

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