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"Mama" was the first single from Genesis' 1983 self-titled album. It is recognisable for its harsh drum machine introduction composed by Mike Rutherford, which leads into minimalist synthesizer lines in a minor tonality and finally Phil Collins' reverb-laden voice. It remains the band's most successful single in the UK, peaking at No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.[1] It also made the top 10 in Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands. It was less popular in the U.S., only reaching No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] A 1992 re-release of the single managed to reach the Top 40 in Germany.[3]

Genesis-Mama (Single Cover).jpg
Single by Genesis
from the album Genesis
B-side"It's Gonna Get Better"
Released22 August 1983
Format7" vinyl, 12" vinyl
RecordedThe Farm, Surrey; 1983
GenreProgressive rock
Length6:49 (album version)
6:07 (single version)
5:18 (video edit / radio edit)
7:27 (long version)
LabelAtlantic, Virgin, Vertigo
Songwriter(s)Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
Producer(s)Genesis, Hugh Padgham
Genesis singles chronology
"That's All"

Former Genesis member Steve Hackett in interviews said "Mama" was his favorite song from the band after his departure, calling it "beautifully haunting."

The song resurfaced in 2007 as part of the Turn It On Again tour, albeit transposed down a whole tone to account for the deepening of Phil Collins' voice.



The song's theme involves a young man's longing for a particular prostitute. On the DVD The Genesis Songbook, the band and producer Hugh Padgham revealed that the inspiration for Collins's laugh came from rap music pioneer Grandmaster Flash's song "The Message".

From the 1983 Genesis Three into One Wavelength 3-LP vinyl radio show interview:

Our manager, when he first heard it, thought it was about abortion, the kind of feeling of the, you know, the fetus, if you like, saying to the Mother 'Please give me a chance, can't you feel my heart, don't take away my last chance', all those lyrics are in the song but in fact what it is, is just about a young teenager that's got a mother fixation with a prostitute that he's just happened to have met in passing and he has such a strong feeling for her and doesn't understand why she isn't interested in him. It's a bit like [British actor] David Niven in The Moon's a Balloon, I don't know if you've read that book, he's very young, just come out of cadet college or whatever, and he meets this quite, you know, 45-year-old prostitute who he has a fantastic time with. He's special to her but it definitely can't go any further than what it is and that's really what the song is about, with sinister overtones.

— Phil Collins


The Linn LM-1 rhythm was programmed by Mike Rutherford, rather than drummer Collins. It was fed through a reverb unit and then into a Fender amplifier with a large amount of distortion. Tony Banks used a Synclavier, ARP Quadra, E-mu Emulator, and Sequential Circuits Prophet-10 in the recording. The Quadra's rhythmic pulses were triggered by the 16th note hi-hat pattern coming from the Linn drum machine. A low E drone was recorded on the Prophet-10 through most of the song. A koto, which happened to be in the studio one day, was sampled into the Emulator and used in the song because it was felt that no other sound worked in the section. [4]

Music videoEdit

The music video for the song plays out the lyrics, showing Collins singing to a mysterious woman while Banks and Rutherford play in the background. One sequence involves Collins, cloaked in shadows and illuminated by a red light (at approximately 3 minutes 30 seconds into the video). The video is shot in a sepia tone until 2 minutes 40 seconds into the video when color fades in. When performed live, white lights were shone from underneath the stage to recreate this sequence.

Versions and live performancesEdit

There are at least four versions of the studio recording of "Mama": the original, full-length cut (7:27, released as a 12" single and later as a CD single, backed by the full-length 6:27 version of "It's Gonna Get Better", also from the Genesis album); a somewhat early-faded version (6:46, released on the Genesis album itself); an edited version (6:07, released as a 7" single and on the compilation album Turn It On Again – Best of '81–'83); and a heavily edited version (5:18, released on the promotional video, promo DJ 7" and 12" singles, and the 1999 compilation album Turn It On Again: The Hits). An extremely rare 3:30 and heavy edited version was released on a 1983 Italian promo 7-inch. This remains the shortest edited version of the song. A 10:43 rehearsal take, dating from 1983 and referred to as a "work in progress", is included at the end of the third disc of Genesis Archive 2: 1976-1992. This demonstrated how Genesis would try out new songs; the band would play while Phil Collins would just sing anything that came to mind, normally without actual words.

The song was played live during the Genesis,[5] Invisible Touch,[6] The Way We Walk,[7] Calling All Stations[8] (with Ray Wilson on vocals), and Turn It On Again[9] tours.

A live version appears on their albums The Way We Walk, Volume One: The Shorts and Live Over Europe 2007, and their DVDs Genesis Live at Wembley Stadium and When in Rome 2007. The song also appears on the 1985 home video release The Mama Tour.

In 1986, the song appeared in a seventh season episode of Magnum, P.I. ("Death and Taxes").

Chart performanceEdit

Chart (1983/1984) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[10] 45
Austria (Austrian Singles Chart)[11] 10
Germany (Offizielle Deutsche Charts)[12] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[13] 7
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[14] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[15] 5
New Zealand (RIANZ)[16] 27
Norway (VG-lista)[17] 3
Swiss Singles Chart[18] 2
United Kingdom (The Official Charts Company)[1] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[2] 73
US Billboard Top Rock Tracks[2] 5
Chart (1992) Peak
Germany (Media Control Charts)[3] 21

Cover versionsEdit

"Mama" was covered by the band Magellan on the 1996 Genesis tribute album Supper's Ready. The song was also covered by the French extreme metal band Carnival in Coal and released on their album French Cancan (1999). Brazilian power metal band Angra covered the song on their EP Hunters and Prey (2002). "Mama" was covered by the Finnish heavy metal band Tarot as the second track on the single for "Undead Son", the only single release from their 2003 album Suffer Our Pleasures.



  1. ^ a b "Chart Stats – Genesis – Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Genesis > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Chartverfolgung / Genesis / Single". Music Line (in German). Germany: Media Control Charts. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  4. ^ Banks, Tony. "Tony Banks & the Evolution of Genesis." Interview by Dominic Milano. Keyboard Magazine, November, 1984.
  5. ^ Mama Tour Songs & Dates
  6. ^ Invisible Tour Songs & Dates
  7. ^ The Way We Walk Tour Songs & Dates
  8. ^ Calling All Stations Tour Songs & Dates
  9. ^ Turn it on again Tour Songs & Dates
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ "Genesis – Mama –" (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Genesis – Mama –". Offizielle Deutsche Charts (in German). Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Week 40, 1983" (in Dutch). Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  14. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
  15. ^ " search results". Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  16. ^ " – Genesis – Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  17. ^ " – Genesis – Mama". Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  18. ^ "Genesis – Mama –" (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2010.

External linksEdit