Certain Songs #1210: Mott The Hoople – “I Wish I Was Your Mother”

Album: Mott
Year: 1973

The final song on Mott, “I Wish I Was Your Mother” was a folk-rock masterpiece that showcased not just Ian Hunter’s worship of all things Bob Dylan, but also Mick Ralphs proficiency with multiple stringed instruments.

Opening with a mandolin trilling over a gently-strummed acoustic guitar — one of the top three uses of a mandolin on any rock song, the other two being “Maggie May” and “Losing My Religion” — “I Wish I Was Your Mother” gets across on Hunter’s quietly resigned vocals, expertly calibrated to put pauses where you wouldn’t on lines like “is there a happy … ending . . . I don’t think so.

And then with the mandolin, a ghostly harmonica, Morgan Fisher’s piano and an ever-increasing amount of backing vocals all kicking in at the exact right amounts, “I Wish I Was Your Mother” soars into its indelible chorus.

Oh I wish I was your mother
I wish I’d been your father
‘n then I would have seen you
Would have been you as a child

Played houses with your sisters
And wrestled with all your brothers
And then who knows
I might have felt a family for a while

It’s so lovely, you might not even notice how sad it is. After a whole album about hanging with the boys in his rock ‘n’ roll band, “I Wish I Was Your Mother” could almost be seen as explaining why being in a rock ‘n’ roll band was so important to Ian Hunter in the first place: where he could feel a family for awhile.

While it wasn’t as popular as “All The Young Dudes” or “All The Way From Memphis,” it’s possible that “I Wish I Was Your Mother” has turned out to be the more indelible song. It’s been covered by artists like Dramarama, Maria McKee & Alejandro Escovedo, as well as many others even more obscure.

And it makes sense: not particularly tied to a place and time, “I Wish I Was Your Mother” hits on more universal feelings of wanting to belong to a family, makeshift or not.

“I Wish I Was Your Mother”

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