Album: It Ain’t Easy
. . .
Yesterday, I pointed out that Three Dog Night had 11 top ten singles from 1969-1974, while missing an even bigger stat: every single single they released between 1969’s “One” and 1974’s “Sure As I’m Sitting Here” made the top 20. 18 in a row. I doubt that’s a record, but it’s a pretty strong run of popularity. And once again, given this overlapped with the beginning of my AM radio days, I remember nearly all of them.
They also cranked out eight albums in that period (OK, their debut came out in 1968, but still), but only three of them made the top ten on the albums chart, because people saw them as a singles act, full stop.
Anyways, out of all of those songs, my favorite is this utter desecration of a Randy Newman song. That of course, I had no idea was a Randy Newman song when I heard it on the radio. Instead, I enjoyed the spooky noises — opening with Jimmy Greenspoon’s ghostly keyboards — and Cory Wells singing about an adult world I could only imagine.
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
The verses are juxtaposed with the usual all-hand-on-deck chorus, with Wells, Chuck Negron and Danny Hutton overdubbed to sound like a thousand people all yelling the chorus at us.
Mama told me not to come
Mama told me not to come
“That ain’t the way to have fun, no” (Uh-uh!)
That first verse is followed by a quick stop time keyboard riff from Greenspoon before going straight into the second verse, which seemed a bit less fun.
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 scared me half to death
Open up the window, sucker!
Let me catch my breath
The second chorus is followed by a guitar solo from Mike Allsup — even though Three Dog Night was essentially the vocalists, they did have the same backing band for quite some time — and headed back into the final verse where things have gotten real dire.
The radio is blastin’
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
I’m lookin’ at my girlfriend
She’s passed out on the floor
I’ve seen so many things
I ain’t never seen before
Don’t know what it is
I don’t wanna see no more
After that, it’s about a million variations of “Mama told me not to come” and (especially) “that ain’t the way to have fun, son,” over guitar solos, vocal overdubs and stop-times, as they try to recreate the ambience of the party that they fled. While I’m not sure they succeeded, and and still not sure whether “Mama told me not to come” is a double-entendre or not, it’s still a fun song.
“Mama Told Me Not To Come was also their first #1, topping the charts in 1970. It wouldn’t be the last, as both “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White” — both of which I like even fine if they’re both a bit, um, extra, — followed in 1971 & 1972. In between the massive massive smashes were moodier things, like the quietLOUDquiet #7 “Liar” and the environmental warning of #15 “Out in The Country,” both of which are pretty great songs even if I’m not writing about them.
“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”
“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” Live in 1970
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