Tuesday, August 13, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Mama Told Me Not to Come

In 1970, Three Dog Night scored a number 1 hit record with Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” It was the first of two charting singles from their “It Ain’t Easy” album. Although songwriter Randy Newman also recorded the song in 1970, it was not his version that provided the inspiration for the arrangement of the Three Dog Night hit. They were influenced by the first recording of the tune from 1966.

Newman wrote the song for a planned solo album by Eric Burdon, as the line-up of The Animals was in flux. Rather than listing the album as a solo project, the LP “Eric is Here” was issued only in the US by MGM under the name of Eric Burdon and The Animals – although only two members of the band, Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins, are known to have appeared on the album. Session musicians were drafted to be vicarious members of The Animals – a band that no longer existed at the time the album was recorded.

MGM had planned to release “Mama Told Me Not to Come” as a single in March 1967; however, it shelved the idea and released a new recording by Eric Burdon and a reconstituted Animals lineup. “When I was Young,” a single only release, did quite well at the time and peaked at #15 in the US. It did not fare as well in the UK where it only scratched the surface at #40.

I wonder what would have happened if “Mama Told Me Not To Come” had been released as a single by Burdon. Would it have charted? If so, would it have affected Three Dog Night’s climb to the top with the tune three years later? Comparing the two versions, clearly Cory Wells and Three Dog Night’s interpretation was the superior version, and a song about a wild party was probably better fodder for the public in 1970 than it would have been in March of 1967.

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