Rolling Stones – Mother’s Little Helper… Drug Reference Week

What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today, I hear every mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill

This is one of my favorite periods of the Rolling Stones. You don’t hear this song as much.

Stones guitarist Brian Jones played the sitar on this track… it was one of the first pop songs to use the instrument. The Beatles “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” which came out the year before, was the first.

The Stones missed this experimentation when Brian was gone in my opinion. The song is about house wife’s addictions to Miltown or Valium to help them get through the day. Everybody was pointing their fingers at rock stars because of drugs and the Stones threw it back at them.

The song peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100 and  #14 in Canada in 1966. The song was written by Jagger and Richards.

Mick Jagger: “It’s about drug dependence, but in a sort of like spoofy way. As a songwriter, I didn’t really think about addressing things like that. It was just every day stuff that you I’d observe and write about. It’s what writing is for really. There is a sort of naivety, but there’s also a lot of humor in those songs. They’re a lot based on humor. It was almost like a different band, a different world, a different view when we wrote them.”

Mick Jagger: “I get inspiration from things that are happening around me – everyday life as I see it. People say I’m always singing about pills and breakdowns, therefore I must be an addict – this is ridiculous. Some people are so narrow-minded they won’t admit to themselves that this really does happen to other people beside pop stars.” 

Keith Richards: “The strange guitar sound is a 12-string with a slide on it. It’s played slightly Oriental-ish. The track just needed something to make it twang. Otherwise, the song was quite vaudeville in a way. I wanted to add some nice bite to it. And it was just one of those things where someone walked in and, Look, it’s an electric 12-string. It was some gashed-up job. No name on it. God knows where it came from. Or where it went. But I put it together with a bottleneck. Then we had a riff that tied the whole thing together. And I think we overdubbed onto that. Because I played an acoustic guitar as well.”

From Songfacts

This condemns the many women in England who were abusing prescription drugs, even though The Stones were becoming heavy drug users themselves. The band wanted to make the point that housewives popping pills what not that much different than rock stars taking smack, even though drug laws in England strongly favored the housewives.

This was the first track on Aftermath, the first Stones album with all original songs. Their earlier albums were full of Blues covers.

In the UK, this wasn’t released as a single. In America, it was the group’s eighth Top 10 hit.

The Stones recorded this in Los Angeles in a custom built studio. It had no windows, because The Stones did not want to know if it was day or night.

Stones drummer Charlie Watts said of this song in In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones: “We’ve often tried to perform ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and it’s never been any good, never gelled for some reason – it’s either me not playing it right or Keith not wanting to do it like that. It’s never worked. It’s just one of those songs. We used to try it live but it’s a bloody hard record to play.”

 

Mother’s Little Helper

What a drag it is getting old

“Kids are different today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

“Things are different today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Life’s just much too hard today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – Mother’s Little Helper… Drug Reference Week”

  1. Interesting info on the instruments. I remember when Valium was big. The big pharmas always seem to have a pet prescription they push, not only for adults but for kids, and even for pets now 😦 Anything but experiencing reality. I’m not sure who said it first as it is attributed to many people out on the net, but I never forgot it: “Reality is for people who can’t take drugs.” Funk dat! I think there are two distinct segments of society when it comes to drugs and reality, and each camp prefers one or the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I played with valium and Xanax when I was in my 20s but that is as far as I went. Being in a band I got offered everything but knew better.
      They try to push something to sell no doubt. The more are hooked…the more they sell…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been looking at what editions of the Stones 60s albums I have and the difference between the US and UK editions has been making me a bit OCD. I think the American ones are generally better, but I have the UK ones which are often missing the big songs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t understand why Aftermath left this song off of the US version.
      It was a big album…from what I read the Beatles toyed with naming the Rubber Soul album… After-Geography.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow…I just compared it to Rubber Soul and it beat it by almost 10 minutes. It’s 44.38 long…Sgt Pepper was 39.36…it could have been. the longest

        Like

  3. I can’t believe that over the probable 50 times I’ve heard this song in my life, I never got all the lyrics – or at least failed to properly listen to them very closely. (I’m actually pretty bad about that, as a song’s melody and groove appeal to me more heavily than lyrics.) At any rate, the lyrics are fantastic, and it’s a great song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Even as a kid I appreciated this song and knew the words. I thought it was about diet pills too, which were amphetamines, over-prescribed and abused back then. And then there was the valium to calm down, I guess?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it might have been about both. “And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day” and then “mother needs something to calm her down”…so yea it’s going in both directions

      Liked by 1 person

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