John Lennon – Mother

This came off of John Lennon’s debut solo album….John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The church bell heard at the start of this track was actually faster and higher-pitched initially, and John actually slowed it down to make it sound spookier and more haunting.

What I’ve told people is if you have a party going on…don’t play this album! Don’t get me wrong…this is one of the great solo Beatle albums but it’s not a toe tapper to say the least. It’s probably my favorite Lennon album. This song is obviously about his mom Julia.

This is one of three songs which Lennon wrote for his mother, along with “Julia” and “My Mummy’s Dead”.

He lost his mother when he was 17. She was walking to catch a bus and was hit at a crosswalk and killed instantly. The driver was Eric Clague an off-duty cop… he was also a learner-driver and shouldn’t have been on the road unaccompanied, and he was suspended from the force because of it…he was never charged with being drunk, and alcohol wasn’t mentioned at the inquest.

His Aunt Mimi raised John from a youth when his mom and dad split up and his dad left never to be seen by John again until he was famous. He lost his mom when he was young and permanently at 17 when she was killed.

Lennon wrote this while he was undergoing Primal Scream therapy by psychotherapist Arthur Janov… where he was dealing with a lot of issues that were detailed in the lyrics.

The album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts, #2 in Canada, and #8 in the UK in 1970.

Lou Reed: “That was a song that had realism,” “When I first heard it, I didn’t even know it was him. I just said, ‘Who the f–k is that? I don’t believe that.’ Because the lyrics to that are real. You see, he wasn’t kidding around. He got right down to it, as down as you can get. I like that in a song.”

From Songfacts

This features Klaus Voormann on bass and Ringo Starr on drums. In addition to his work in music, Voorman is an artist, and designed the cover of The Beatles album Revolver. He also played bass with Manfred Mann. 

On many of his early solo recordings such as this one, Lennon’s arrangements are more simpler and sparser than on the Beatles songs. In the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, he explained this was because, “I’ve always liked simple rock.” The former Beatle added: “I was influenced by acid and got psychedelic, like the whole generation, but really, I like rock and roll and I express myself best in rock. I had a few ideas to do this with ‘Mother’ and that with ‘Mother’ but when you just hear, the piano does it all for you, your mind can do the rest. I think the backings on mine are as complicated as the backings on any record you’ve ever heard, if you’ve got an ear.

Anybody knows that. Any musician will tell you, just play a note on a piano, it’s got harmonics in it. It got to that. What the hell, I didn’t need anything else.”

Producer John Leckie explained to Uncut magazine August 2010 that the screams heard on this track were actually edited into the song once the rest of the vocal had been recorded. Lennon would attempt the screaming finale every night, careful never to try it in the daytime in case it destroyed his voice. “The screams were double-tracked,” Leckie pointed out. “John didn’t like the raw sound of his own voice. He always wanted lots of stuff on it. Spector’s contribution, really, was to be generous with reverb and echo.”

Arthur Janov created primal scream therapy, which he detailed in his book The Primal Scream. Folks were always sending Lennon books, and a copy of Janov’s book found him. Lennon was intrigued because the therapy reminded him of the screaming Yoko would often do in her works, but then he looked into it as a way of helping him resolve issues from his childhood. John and Yoko invited Janov to England, where they met with him to vet his practice. They liked what they heard and decided to try some sessions when they went to Los Angeles. For Lennon, it was a breakthrough, and led to this song.

“It’s just a matter of breaking the wall that’s there in yourself and come out and let it all hang out to the point that you start crying,” Yoko said in describing the therapy (Uncut, 1998). She added: “He was going back to the days of when he wanted to scream, ‘Mother.’ He was able to go back to that childhood, that memory.”

This is the theme song to the FX TV series Better Things, which stars Pamela Adlon as a single mom to three girls. To get the song, she wrote a letter to Yoko Ono and lobbied FX to budget for it.

David Bowie covered this in 1998 for a Lennon tribute collection that never came to fruition. His take was done in collaboration with longtime producer Tony Visconti. It remained unreleased until January 8, 2021, when it was made available for the first time to mark what would have been Bowie’s 74th birthday.

Mother

Mother, you had me
But I never had you
I, I wanted you
You didn’t want me
So, I
I just got to tell you
Goodbye
Goodbye

Father, you left me
But I never left you
I needed you
You didn’t need me
So, I
I just got to tell you, mm
Goodbye
Goodbye

Children, don’t do
What I have done
I couldn’t walk
And I tried to run
So, I
I just got to tell you
Goodbye
Goodbye

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

22 thoughts on “John Lennon – Mother”

  1. a great party album… for when it’s 2AM, you want to go to bed but there’s that last couple who won’t take the hint and want to keep on playing Pictionary and drinking…
    that primal scream therapy was also a big factor in Tears for Fears writing ‘songs from the Big chair”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That primal scream therapy doesn’t sound fun! It is a good album though….maybe his greatest….lyrics and melodies were great…just not peppy by any means.

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  2. I got introduced to this back in 2013. One member of my global group had primal scream therapy and shared this in an email. Lennon had a hard time and I can’t listen to it. The painful energy is too much for me to bear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s not a song or album you play at a party unless you want it to end. A lot of pain with his mom, his uncle George, and the ending of the Beatles.

      Like

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