Mother of mine! It's her day, so why not serenade her?
Victoria Richards counts down the top 10 cheesy tributes to our mums – and, four decades on, catches up with the boy for whom Opportunity Knocked
Sunday 14 March 2010
With his cheeky Motherwell lilt, crooked grin and perfectly coiffed side parting, prepubescent child star Neil Reid had sons and daughters everywhere reaching for their tissues and into their pockets to propel his 1971 single, "Mother of Mine", to fame that would last a thousand Mother's Days.
The saccharine ode, first aired on the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks, shot to number two in the UK singles chart, had a headline spot on Top of the Pops and notched up almost a million sales in the UK and 4.5 million worldwide. Reid's self-titled album reached number one in the UK chart, making him – at 12 – the youngest person to reach the top spot.
Now, almost 40 years on, his song still stands head and shoulders above a swamp of nauseating tributes – crafted by musicians as diverse as Ronan Keating, Snoop Dogg and even The A-Team's Mr T – to the most important women in our lives: mums.
Dave McAleer, record historian for the Official Charts Company, said that Mother's Day is "the perfect excuse" for record companies to cash in on a recurring national period of weak-minded sentimentality. "The record industry looks on Mother's Day as a wonderful time to sell a lot more records, so the appeal of sappy songs is never going to die out," he said. "Snoop wasn't afraid to put it out there, but in this day and age, they do seem more out of place than ever. As for Neil Reid, are there really any mums out there who still love that sort of thing?"
Reid, now 50, disagrees. "I think context plays a huge part," he said. "At the time, I was at the leading edge of the teenybopper movement. You may think it wouldn't appeal to today's market, but it's not that different from the kids you see on Britain's Got Talent."
After almost 20 years in showbusiness and a stint as a financial adviser, life for the former child singer couldn't be more different. Reid now lives in Blackpool, where he works as a management consultant – and has even formed his own church.
"I look back and I think, 'I really enjoyed that'," he said. "But a friend once told me, 'Yesterday is dead and no one lives there any more'. And I don't live there any more either. I've moved on and done other things I'm just as proud of. It amazes me that the song still has legs today, 38 years later. It gets played every Mother's Day, though I never listen to it. I'm not embarrassed but my daughter would kill me!"
Reid said he has "no regrets" about getting involved with showbiz at such an early age, but chose to "get out – before it threw me out". "It probably would've all ended anyway," he said. "The business was changing markedly."
He then started looking at "other avenues" and, in January, set up Oasis Blackpool, a "progressive, 21st-century church". "The definition of a church in the Bible is a meeting of people anywhere – it doesn't have to be in an old building," he said. "I wanted our services to be more contemporary."
But one thing you won't find him doing is telling the congregation about the life he had in his early teens. "I would never, ever bring it up unless I was asked," he said. "That would be so sad, wouldn't it? A guy at a dinner party saying: 'I had a number one record that sold 4.5 million copies'. I don't want to be that guy."
So, was "Mother of Mine" really all that bad? Here are our top 10 toe-curling odes to mums. After a listen to some of these, you might be more than ready to forgive Neil Reid.
Top 10 odes to mother
10. Christina Aguilera, Oh Mother
The 'Dirrty' singer released the syrupy track 'Oh Mother' as a fourth single on her third studio album, Back to Basics, in 2006, which sold more than 300,000 copies in the UK. It was released as a digital download on 31 December 2007, but failed to chart in Britain, despite gaining impressive airplay.
9. Cyndi Lauper, I Want a Mom That Will Last Forever
'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' singer Lauper, 56, recorded the 'moving' melody 'I Want a Mom That Will Last Forever' – written by Mark Mothersbaugh, 59, co-founder of new wave punk band Devo – for the children's movie Rugrats in Paris in 2000, which grossed £68m in sales worldwide. Lauper, who has released 11 albums and more than 40 singles, is about to turn her hand to blues with a new album, due this spring.
8. Snoop Dogg, I Love My Momma
The smooth rap star's heartfelt 'I Love My Momma' is a bizarre contrast to the likes of his hit single 'Bitch Please', featuring Xzibit and Nate Dogg, or 'Ghetto Symphony' from his 1999 album No Limit Top Dogg. Grammy award-nominated MC Snoop, 38, must have wiped a tear from his eye when he wrote: 'My momma was my homey my daddy, and my best friend.'
7. Boyz II Men, A Song for Mama
The cloying R&B hit 'A Song for Mama' was picked as the theme song to the 1997 American movie Soul Food. It sold 24,000 copies in the UK, charting at 34, but was more successful in the US, spending two weeks at number one on the R&B chart. The lyrics include the lines: 'Mama, you're the queen of my heart, your love is like tears from the stars'. Nice!
6. Céline Dion, A Mother's Prayer
French-Canadian warbler Dion, 41, re-recorded and renamed the gushing 'A Prayer' – originally a duet with Andrea Bocelli – for her 2004 concept album Miracle, which celebrated 'the joy of babies'. It sold an impressive 110,000 copies in the UK.
5. Ronan Keating, This is your Song
The sentimental 'This Is Your Song' appeared on the Boyzone star's fifth studio album, Songs for My Mother, a tribute to his mother Marie, who died from breast cancer in 1998. The album sold more than 190,000 copies in the UK. Keating, 33, originally had no intention to record the song, but was persuaded to do so by his bandmates.
4. Mr T, Treat Your Mother Right (Treat Her Right)
Mr T – aka Laurence Tureaud, 57 – had already made his name as The A-Team's B A Baracus when he recorded a motivational video for children in 1984 entitled Be Somebody ... Or Be Somebody's Fool!. In addition to teaching kids how to make tripping up look like breakdancing, he sang the bizarre rap melody 'Treat Your Mother Right (Treat Her Right)', written by Ice-T.
3. Spice Girls, Mama
'Mama' was the fourth single on the debut album Spice by Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, Mel B and Mel C. Devised by Mel B to 'pay tribute' to the girls' mothers, it sold 600,000 copies in the UK. Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty can now be found, respectively, on the catwalk, judging Dancing on Ice, on the bookshelf, in the studio and on the stage.
2. Elvis Presley, Mama Liked the Roses
The distinctly non-festive track appeared, bizarrely, on a re-release of his Christmas Album in 1970. It was put out as a 'flip' to his top 10 single 'The Wonder of You'.
1. Neil Reid, Mother of Mine
Former child star Reid was discovered aged eight singing at a pensioners' party. Known as 'Wee Neil Reid', he won Opportunity Knocks in 1971 with the saccharine 'Mother of Mine', which reached number two in the UK singles chart and sold 4.5 million worldwide. Reid, 50, is now a management consultant and has even formed his own church.
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