Mama Kin

Song Review by

Laying down a big, chunky guitar riff with a singular tone, on "Mama Kin" Joe Perry guides Aerosmith through what has become a signature rock & roll tune for a legendary band with over 20 years of catalog highlights, and he forms the foundation to an influential style that bridged early rock & roll with hard rock. Celebrating the rock life that would ultimately almost kill them, Aerosmith kicks on this catchy, Chuck Berry-esque rocker. Clearly showing a Keith Richards/Rolling Stones and New York Dolls influence, the band tones down the hard rock aspects of their music and concentrates on the pop hooks: the opening riff, dramatic stops, half-step climbs, an infectious chorus, and fun-as-all lyrics with an original catch-phrase title, a title that would go on to be the name of the band's live music club in Boston in the '80s and '90s. The track is stacked with guitar riffing and soloing; an introduction is quickly followed by a solo break and then another re-intro before finally getting to the first verse. Produced by Adrian Barber, whose resumé already spanned from the Allman Brothers to the Velvet Underground, the recording also features saxophone from Dave Woodward, an element that places the song even more in the rock & roll (emphasis on "roll") rather than in the hard rock/metal category the band would occupy for most of their pre-comeback career. Though, even at their hardest, Aerosmith never lost their swing. The sounds of the instruments -- Joey Kramer's drums, Brad Whitford's rhythm guitar, and Tom Hamilton's bass -- are all crisp, mining the middle of the frequency spectrum. Perry's guitars have just the right amount of tube overdrive to match the inherent edge of Steven Tyler's vocals, here already showing promise of being one of rock's great voices on the band's debut record, Aerosmith (1973). Tyler, who wrote the song, pens an ode to the touring lifestyle, though he seems to already be warning of the very pitfalls that eventually trapped the band: "It ain't easy livin' like a gypsy/Tell ya honey how I feel/I've been dreaming floatin' downstream/And losin' touch with all that is real...You act like a perpetual drag/You better check it out or someday soon you'll have to climb back on the wagon...Keepin' touch with Mama Kin/Tell her where you've gone and been/Livin' out your fantasy/Sleeping late and smoking tea." Tyler ultimately succumbs to the joys of the "sleeping late and smoking tea" aspect of the life, but he clearly has his reservations; he appears to switch narrators -- while remaining in the first person -- from the rocker-gypsy to his "mama kin." Is Tyler here aspiring to be hard rock's Faulkner? Probably not, but there's more to his lyric than meets the ear.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Aerosmith 1973 Columbia 4:27
Gems 1988 Columbia 4:28
Pandora's Box 1991 Legacy / Aerosmith / Columbia 4:27
No Image 1994 Sony Music Distribution 4:27
Pandora's Toys 1995 Sony Music Distribution 4:26
Aerosmith/Get Your Wings/Toys in the Attic [1998] 1998 Legacy / Aerosmith 4:28
Guitar Heroes [Rivie're] 1998
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 3:29
Aerosmith's Greatest Hits 1973-1988/Classics Live! 2001 Sony Music Distribution 4:26
O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits 2002 Columbia 4:26
The Collection: Aerosmith/Get Your Wings/Toys in the Attic [2004 Long Box] 2004 Legacy / Columbia 4:28
The Broadcast Archives 2008 The Broadcast Archive 4:24
The Essential Aerosmith 2011 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Legacy 4:25
Rocks Donington 2014 2015 Eagle Rock 6:33
Bad Boys From Boston 2018 Hobo 4:24