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I Knew Your Mom When She Used to Rock and Roll: 17 Great Songs for Mother's Day

Mom. Where would we be without her? Nowhere, that's where. That's why, once a year, even the least attentive sons and daughters dial up 1-800-Flowers, make brunch reservations at the local fern bar or, if they're still in grade school, manufacture some sort of flower-decorated chotchke with their very own hands. How completely un-rock and roll Mother's Day is, you're saying -- how extremely the opposite of everything that's cool. Except that, truth be told, there is a whole, er, motherlode of very cool songs by, for and about moms. So put the damned orchid corsage in the fridge, sit up straight and for god's sake get a haircut, because we're about to embark on a 17-song tribute to the woman who gave you life. Would it kill you to call her afterward?

The Decemberists' "A Cautionary Song"
I think I was standing behind Colin Meloy's mom at SXSW this year, and she certainly doesn't look like the type to sneak out for this kind of twisted nighttime odyssey. Still, if you're going to get busted for nocturnal visits to the dockside, it might as well be by one of the best acoustic singer/songwriters to emerge in recent years. This cut's goofily jaunty beauty is only slightly undercut by its unhealthy fascination with "what your mother does while you're sleeping."

James Brown's "Use your Mother"
It's pretty clear what kind of use Brown was anticipating on this unbelievably funky guitar and bass-powered early track. You might think this cut is too sexy for Mother's Day -- but then again, how do you think she got you?

The Replacements' "I'm in Trouble"
Westerberg hates music ("too many notes") and hates his father, but he knows who to call when things get hot. We hope she's not still pissed that he forgot to take out the trash. Hey, Paul, every mother needs a little help now and then.

The Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper"
The chemical kind of help, that is. Well, what kind of drugs would you be taking if your kid ditched the London School of Economics to be a rock star?

The Lookouts' "My Mom Smokes Pot"
Little yellow pills? They're not for everyone. Lookout Records founder Lawrence Livermore's mom apparently opts for more organic, hemp-derived relief from stress, which is fine when she's mellow but not so great when she freaks out like jello. What's so stressful about being a mother anyway? Well, you hear things like...

The Happy Flowers' "Mom, I Gave the Cat Some Acid"
A raging screamfest from perhaps the rock world's worst-adjusted duo ever, the mid-1980s twosome of Mr. Anus and Mr. Horribly-Charred Infant (pseudonyms, we suspect). There's nothing happy or flowery about this track, but hang on, because the songs-that-your-mother-is-sure-to-hate section of this list is just getting started.

The Driving Stupid's "My Mother Was a Big Fat Pig"
This obscure mid-1960s garage band was (temporarily) rescued from oblivion when Sundazed released Horror Asparagus Stories, which led off with this hymn to motherly beauty and refinement. Actually the whole family comes off badly -- father was a toad, sister a witch, brother a frog, grandma a snake, grandpa just green, and the singer, well, kind of stupid.

Panics' "Wanna Kill My Mom"
Christgau called this early 1980s Sex Pistols-influenced quartet "the best LA punk band" ever, except for the fact that they were from Indiana. Oh yeah, and they also wanted to kill their mom.

Vom's "I'm in Love with Your Mom"
While we're on the famous rock critic's trope, guess who sings on this fairly disgusting rave-up about a friend's hot mom (Sample lyric: "Got my fingers in you babe, but I wish they were in your mom." )? Whore like the rest of them Richard Meltzer, that's who. He's fronting a band that later morphed into the Angry Samoans, and if you like punk, you will like this fast-paced, obscenely funny song.

Radar Brothers' "Mothers"
One of several family member-themed tracks on last year's amazing And the Surrounding Mountains finds Putnam and company in full swirling psychedelic mode, with room filling-guitars and lovely piano. It's so pretty you forget to wonder why the mothers are so angry and what they're going to do after they sharpen their spears. Hmm, sweeping orchestral sound, abstract lyrics, beautiful vocals -- what does that remind me of?

Pink Floyd's "Matilda Mother"
Syd cuddles up with mom for some quality story time in this Eastern-influenced, folk-twinged excursion to never never land, from the epoch-making Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Oh mother, tell me more.

Pink & Brown's "Soccer Moms"
This song just about explodes right out of the player, all raw fury and frustration. It's exactly the kind of song you'd imagine playing right before that hockey dad hauled off and killed a guy. If I were coach, I'd put these girls' kids in right away.

Theoretical Girls' "Mom and Dad"
This legendary, short-lived (extant less than two years, 16 shows, 25 songs) avant garde punk group brought together musical heavyweights like Jeffrey Lohn, Margaret Dewys, Glenn Branca and Wharton Tiers. But apparently, given this driving slab of intense but structured pop noise, even cool downtown types love their mammas (and dads).

Eugene Chadbourne's "You Still Live with Mom and Dad"
Folk-oddity Eugene Chadbourne puts his distinctive nasal croon to work on this stripped-down ballad to a girl who is already 17 but still living with mom and dad. Remixes for the Dubya era will update this figure to 35.

The Seconds' "Mommy Mommy Mommy"
The band that shares a drummer with one of the era's most hyped musical phenomenons (hint: work backwards through the alphabet and stop before you hit the White Stripes) rocks so no-wave hard you'll be begging for your mommy.

Jello Biafra and Nomeansno's "The Sky is Falling and I want my Mommy"
Even Jello looks for reassurance from mom when things get rough -- though it's hard to see what she could do about crashing space satellites and Chernobyl. Anyway, we hear that Jello last spoke to his mom in 1975, when after an extended bout of "that kind of talk" she told him "You can come out of your room when you're ready to apologize."

Sleater-Kinney's "Sympathy"
Can I just be serious for a minute? Having a child is the most amazing experience on earth. Corin Tucker captures the fear and love and intensity of motherhood in this soulful song dedicated to her son Marshall.

-- Jennifer Kelly

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