3 Dog Night – Mama Told Me Not To Come (1970)


Mama Told Me Not to Come“, also written as “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)“, is a song by American singer-songwriter Randy Newman written for Eric Burdon‘s first solo album in 1966. Three Dog Night‘s 1970 cover topped the US pop singles chart. Tom Jones and Stereophonics‘ version also reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart in 2000.

Newman original and first recordings

Newman says that the song was inspired by his own lighthearted reflection on the Los Angeles music scene of the late 1960s. As with most Newman songs, he assumes a character; in this song the narrator is a sheltered and extraordinarily straitlaced young man, who recounts what is presumably his first “wild” party in the big city, is shocked and appalled by marijuana smokingwhiskey drinking, and loud music, and – in the chorus of the song – recalls that his “Mama told [him] not to come”.

The first recording of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” was cut by Eric Burdon & The Animals. A scheduled release of a single in September 1966 was withdrawn, but the song was eventually included on their 1967 album Eric Is Here.

Newman’s own turn at his song was released on the 1970 album 12 Songs, and was characterized by Newman’s mid-tempo piano accompaniment, as well as Ry Cooder‘s slide guitar part, both of which give the song the feel of a bluesy Ray Charles-style rhythm and blues number.

Three Dog Night version

“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”
Single by Three Dog Night
from the album It Ain’t Easy
B-side “Rock & Roll Widow”
Released May 1970
Recorded 1969–1970
Studio American Recording Company
Genre Rock
  • 3:19 (album version)
  • 2:58 (single version)
Songwriter(s) Randy Newman
Producer(s) Richard Podolor
Three Dog Night singles chronology
Mama Told Me (Not to Come)
Out in the Country

Also in 1970, Three Dog Night released a longer, rock ‘n roll and funk-inspired version (titled “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”) on It Ain’t Easy, featuring Cory Wells singing lead in an almost humorous vocal style, Jimmy Greenspoon playing a Wurlitzer electronic pianoMichael Allsup playing guitar, and Donna Summer on backing vocals, though uncredited.

Billboard ranked the record as the No. 11 song of 1970. The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on July 14, 1970, the same day that It Ain’t Easy was certified gold. It was also the number-one song on the premiere broadcast of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem on July 4, 1970.

Cash Box suggested that this song could “do for Randy Newman what the Fifth Dimension did for Laura Nyro” since Three Dog Night is “the first to apply muscle to his material.”