Source for "Mama lay softly..." lyrics ?

123xyz

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Was having a quick re-read of the cheerily titled " Night falls fast - Understanding suicide" by K. Redfield Jamison when this quote (by Lewis Grassic Gibbon) led me to wonder...


" ... It was not mother only that died with the twins, something died in your heart and went down with her to lie in Kinraddie kirkyard - the child in your heart died then, the bairn that believed the hills were made for its play, every road set fair with its warning posts ... That died, and the Chris of the books and dreams died with it, or you folded them up in their paper of tissue and laid them away by the dark, quiet corpse that was your childhood...
Then Mistress Munro washed down the body that was mother's and put it in a nightgown... and fair she made her and sweet to look at, the tears came at last when you saw her so... . But they ended quick, you would die if you wept like that for long, in place of tears a long wail clamoured endless, unanswered inside your head Oh , mother, mother , why did you do it ? (author's italics)



Obviously, it was the final phrase that made me sit up. Other than that, perhaps too far fetched...? As ever, though, speculating can't hurt...
 

CrystalGeezer

My secret's my enzyme.
Plausible. Didn;t he say in a recent interview that he identified with people who struggled and had strife or something?

The part about that song that always (and still) puzzled me is the WE part,

we're gonna run to you
we're gonna come to you
we're gonna lie down
beside you, Mama

Who's we? Him and who? When I heard it I assumed "Oh, he's part of a group."
 
S

Skylarker

Guest
Interesting find.

What a surprise, Morrissey pinched lyrics.
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
Interesting. But you're missing the obvious source.

The "mama" in the song is either a criminal or someone who has been bruised by the Establishment in some way. Certainly her "son" sounds like a throat-cutter.

Therefore it's a clear and necessary leap. The "mama" in Morrissey's song is unquestionably based on Ma Barker, the Depression-era gangster who was killed by the FBI in 1935. Significantly, she died with a Tommy gun in her hand. (No better at gunplay than she was at domesticity; fellow bank robber Harvey Bailey recounted that she "couldn't plan breakfast" let alone behave like a proper criminal.)

That isn't Morrissey's direct source, though.

The direct source, as I've had occasion to mention before, is a familiar one, a garden of treasures frequently raided by Morrissey's pen: "Batman", the TV series. Season 2, Episode 10, air date 1966: Ma Parker, a criminal mastermind inspired by Ma Barker, and played by the great Shelley Winters, confounds the Dynamic Duo as she runs a clever criminal operation from inside the Gotham State Pen.

QED.
 

123xyz

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Interesting. But you're missing the obvious source.

The "mama" in the song is either a criminal or someone who has been bruised by the Establishment in some way. Certainly her "son" sounds like a throat-cutter.

Therefore it's a clear and necessary leap. The "mama" in Morrissey's song is unquestionably based on Ma Barker, the Depression-era gangster who was killed by the FBI in 1935. Significantly, she died with a Tommy gun in her hand. (No better at gunplay than she was at domesticity; fellow bank robber Harvey Bailey recounted that she "couldn't plan breakfast" let alone behave like a proper criminal.)

That isn't Morrissey's direct source, though.

The direct source, as I've had occasion to mention before, is a familiar one, a garden of treasures frequently raided by Morrissey's pen: "Batman", the TV series. Season 2, Episode 10, air date 1966: Ma Parker, a criminal mastermind inspired by Ma Barker, and played by the great Shelley Winters, confounds the Dynamic Duo as she runs a clever criminal operation from inside the Gotham State Pen.

QED.



?! I really don't follow this at all , I'm afraid.


Firstly, as an aside, the reference I quoted was suggested as a potential lyric source only for the specific lines contained therein. Beyond that , I certainly can't be sure, but finding the source in a book about suicide (i.e. the very topic of "Mama") seemed an interesting coincidence.

The "mama" in question, I always inferred, was yet another general Morrissey character treated recklessly by the abrasive, indifferent hand of bureaucracy. I suppose ,in that way, it seemed quite similar to, say, "Slum Mums".

As for the 1st person narrator (?) as "throat cutter", I didn't read much more in that than Morrissey's (?) desire to play avenging angel again. I suppose, again, it' only coincidence but the other song where throat -slitting/cutting pops up is "Sorrow will come...". I've read somewhere or other on these boards a particular theory which has it that "Mama lay softly.." relates the tale of Morrissey's mother's harassment at the hands of injunction-servers etc. who came at the indirect behest of Joyce (i.e. the very man threatened in "Sorrow").


The Ma Barker/Batman theory - you'll have to lead me, step by step, through that one. To be honest, I can't really begin to understand it and, at first impression, it does appear a bit ... umm, what's a euphemism for "crazy" ?



Interested to hear more...
 
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CrystalGeezer

My secret's my enzyme.
:popcorn:
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
This is the reading I preferred. Morrissey draws far less on existing lit. these days than back with The Smiths, which is fine with me -- we have those records, too.

And I assumed the "we" was him and his sister Jackie.



As for the 1st person narrator (?) as "throat cutter", I didn't read much more in that than Morrissey's (?) desire to play avenging angel again. I suppose, again, it' only coincidence but the other song where throat -slitting/cutting pops up is "Sorrow will come...". I've read somewhere or other on these boards a particular theory which has it that "Mama lay softly.." relates the tale of Morrissey's mother's harassment at the hands of injunction-servers etc. who came at the indirect behest of Joyce (i.e. the very man threatened in "Sorrow").
 

123xyz

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
And I assumed the "we" was him and his sister Jackie.[/QUOTE]




Wow , it never occurred to me that the "we" might be anything other than , I don't know, just dramatic emphasis. I wonder ?
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
I probably shave too much with Occam's razor, but these days I tend to go for the most basic, grounded interpretations.
I think Morrissey is more "on the nose" than he's ever been (cf t-shirts and statements in interviews).
The lyrics still have moments of poetry and evocative imagery, but they're also blunt and ungraceful. I like S-words of today and yesteryear.



And I assumed the "we" was him and his sister Jackie.




Wow , it never occurred to me that the "we" might be anything other than , I don't know, just dramatic emphasis. I wonder ?[/QUOTE]
 

Worm

Taste the diffidence
?! I really don't follow this at all , I'm afraid.


Firstly, as an aside, the reference I quoted was suggested as a potential lyric source only for the specific lines contained therein. Beyond that , I certainly can't be sure, but finding the source in a book about suicide (i.e. the very topic of "Mama") seemed an interesting coincidence.

The "mama" in question, I always inferred, was yet another general Morrissey character treated recklessly by the abrasive, indifferent hand of bureaucracy. I suppose ,in that way, it seemed quite similar to, say, "Slum Mums".

As for the 1st person narrator (?) as "throat cutter", I didn't read much more in that than Morrissey's (?) desire to play avenging angel again. I suppose, again, it' only coincidence but the other song where throat -slitting/cutting pops up is "Sorrow will come...". I've read somewhere or other on these boards a particular theory which has it that "Mama lay softly.." relates the tale of Morrissey's mother's harassment at the hands of injunction-servers etc. who came at the indirect behest of Joyce (i.e. the very man threatened in "Sorrow").


The Ma Barker/Batman theory - you'll have to lead me, step by step, through that one. To be honest, I can't really begin to understand it and, at first impression, it does appear a bit ... umm, what's a euphemism for "crazy" ?



Interested to hear more...

Either I need a bigger tongue or a smaller cheek. :)
 
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