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Superwoman syndrome fuels pill-pop culture

February 24, 2010

While scanning this morning, I came across the article, “Superwoman syndrome fuels pill-pop culture.”   I have indeed read about the Superwoman syndrome, which prompted my post, “Attention Baby Boomers:  The Donna Reed Syndrome Exists” (11/17/2009).  While reading the article, my memory was jarred by a Rolling Stones recording, “Mother’s Little Helper.”  This would cause me think that the “superwoman” syndrome is nothing new.  Perhaps it is a woman’s nature to take on the world — because of a lack of ability on the part of males?  Now, that’s a thought!!

I’ve included the Rolling Stones music via a YouTube video, in addition to the lyrics  and “song facts” about this piece of music.  It rings a strikingly familiar note to today’s “Superwoman.” 


 What a drag it is getting old
“Kids are different today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

“Things are different today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And for help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

“Life’s just much too hard today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day


This song is about a housewife who abuses prescription drugs to “get her through the day.” It turns around the image of a suburban housewife, who is usually portrayed as cooking and caring for her family, by showing her as a drug abuser. The Stones could get away with this because their image was that of cynical, somewhat dangerous rockers.

Mick Jagger: “It’s about drug dependence, but in a sort of like spoofy way. As a songwriter, I didn’t really think about addressing things like that. It was just every day stuff that you I’d observe and write about. It’s what writing is for really. There is a sort of naivety, but there’s also a lot of humor in those songs. They’re a lot based on humor. It was almost like a different band, a different world, a different view when we wrote them.”

Keith Richards: “The strange guitar sound is a 12-string with a slide on it. It’s played slightly Oriental-ish. The track just needed something to make it twang. Otherwise, the song was quite vaudeville in a way. I wanted to add some nice bite to it. And it was just one of those things where someone walked in and, Look, it’s an electric 12-string. It was some gashed-up job. No name on it. God knows where it came from. Or where it went. But I put it together with a bottleneck. Then we had a riff that tied the whole thing together. And I think we overdubbed onto that. Because I played an acoustic guitar as well.”

Jagger: “I get inspiration from things that are happening around me – everyday life as I see it. People say I’m always singing about pills and breakdowns, therefore I must be an addict – this is ridiculous. Some people are so narrow-minded they won’t admit to themselves that this really does happen to other people beside pop stars.” (thanks, Bertrand – Paris, France, for above 3)

Stones guitarist Brian Jones played the Sitar on this. It was one of the first pop songs to use the instrument. The Beatles “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” which came out the year before, was the first.

This condemns the many women in England who were abusing prescription drugs, even though The Stones were becoming heavy drug users themselves. The band wanted to make the point that housewives popping pills what not that much different than rock stars taking smack, even though drug laws in England strongly favored the housewives.

This was the first track on Aftermath, the first Stones album with all original songs. Their earlier albums were full of Blues covers.  In England, this wasn’t released as a single.

The Stones recorded this in Los Angeles in a custom built studio. It had no windows, because The Stones did not want to know if it was day or night.  Stones drummer Charlie Watts said of this song in In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones: “We’ve often tried to perform ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and it’s never been any good, never gelled for some reason – it’s either me not playing it right or Keith not wanting to do it like that. It’s never worked. It’s just one of those songs. We used to try it live but it’s a bloody hard record to play, although we did perform it live on Ed Sullivan.”



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