#782: What Would Mama Say by Toulouse

Peak Month: January 1978
12 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #13
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “What Would Mama Say”

Heather Gauthier and her sister Mary Lou Gauthier, and Judi Richards were backing vocalists. In the mid-70’s they had been singing backup for various local groups in Montreal in recording studios. However, it wasn’t lucrative enough. In 1975 they decided to become their own performing act. By 1976 their line-up was composed of Heather Gauthier, Judi Richards and Lorri Zimmerman. Their first single on Magique Records, off the Toulouse album, was the French hit “It Always Happens This Way (C’est toujours à recommencer).” It only contained two lines in English but managed to chart outside of Quebec. In April 1977 it reached #39 on RPM Top Singles Chart, #29 in Toronto, #8 in Vancouver and #6 in Ottawa. Toulouse were the first bilingual disco recording act who comfortably sang in English and French. With the cross-over potential of their debut single, Toulouse re-released the album in 1977 with all the vocals re-recorded in English for the American market.


This move proved successful as the act had subsequent hits in the US. Their second album, Export, in 1977 included several tracks that were released as singles. The first was “A.P.B.” It managed to chart in English Canada and spent three weeks at #1 on CHER-AM in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The tune peaked in Vancouver at #9. Toulouse’s next single, also from the Export album, was “What Would Mama Say” which climbed to #13 Vancouver, #7 in London, Ontario, #17 in Hamilton and #19 in Ottawa over the winter of 1977-78.

What Would Mama Say by Toulouse

What would my mama say if she knew what we had been doing?
Oh, I know my brother too well, I know he would never approve.
One night I was walking in the footsteps, the footsteps of a woman.
And you were right behind her, baby, walking in a man’s shoes.

We’ve been fighting our feelings for such a long time.
It’s grown hard on our minds.
Now it just seems such a heavy load, 
we let our emotions get out of control.

What would my mama say?
Tonight I was walking in the footsteps.
What would my mama say?

But what we did was bound to happen.
You were getting restless with your fun and play.
But I was saving my love for a special moment,
something like a wedding day.

What would my mama say if she knew what we had been doing?
I know my daddy too well, I know he would never, never approve.
One night I was walking in the footsteps, the footsteps of a woman.
And you were right behind her, baby, walking in a man’s shoes.

What would my mama say?

“What Would Mama say” is a song about a couple whose emotions get out of control. It seems, from the lyrical clues that the guy was wanting to play the field. Meanwhile, the woman in the song is wanting a solid commitment with her eyes on a wedding day and presumably a monogamous relationship. Chances are they’ve been into some “heavy petting” or more. And in 1977 that could have been a big deal. In her case, the woman’s mama, brother and daddy would’t approve. By asking: What would my mama say, the singer seems to know full well that she’s crossed a boundary that no one else in her family would support. She may well be scandalized by her own indiscretions. After all, she was planning on saving her love for her wedding day.

In an article in Cosmopolitan titled “9 Women Open Up About What It’s Really Like to be a Virgin Until Marriage,” women had a range of stories to reveal.

“Sex for the first time after I got married was terrifying and it hurt like hell. We were so excited to finally to do it that we did the deed in the limo on the way to drop us off at the airport, which was a terrible idea.” ~ Margaret, 22

“We had sex on our wedding night. I was a virgin until marriage, but my husband lost his virginity very young and has had sex with countless women. I guess sex was more of a letdown than anything. I was extremely discouraged by my lack of experience and also insecure in knowing that he’s had a lot of previous experience.” ~ Anna, 23

“It was nerve-racking. I thought I’d just save it until the right person came along, but who would’ve thought I’d save it until marriage! We did other things before… so I did worry because I knew his penis is so small.” ~ Clementine, 21

“The morning after we were married, he woke up with me on top of him in one of the sexy outfits I brought with me. There was a little discomfort the first time, but since then, our sex life has been great.” ~ Erica, 30

“There was so much tension and build-up the months before the night. We waited until the night after the wedding, which was the first night of our honeymoon. We married young, so we rented a cottage about one hour north of home and stayed for four days. I had so many expectations and fears going into it. What if I did it wrong? What if it hurts? What if I hate it and he loves it? We both waited until marriage, but had done second and third base before. That made it a little less scary. It was nice to have someone with me who was just as nervous as I was. We set candles and dimmed the lights. I always imagined a romantic, passionate first time. However, it was awkward and very funny. I would have died from embarrassment if he hadn’t been so calm.” ~ Sarah, 21

Toulouse’s next album, Taxi Pour Une Nuit Blanche, was released in the spring of 1978. The album was in French and did well in Quebec and across the Atlantic Ocean in France. Five French-language singles made their way onto the charts in Quebec and several of these charted in France. A series of mini-tours ensued. When they were over Heather Gauthier left the trio and was replaced by Liette Lomez.

The fourth album was Dangerous Ladies, which featured more disco tracks. However, by the time the album arrived on the record store shelves the disco craze was mostly over. The tracks from the album, “Je N’ai Jamais Pense” and “Rock My Love,” were released as singles and both were made into extended mixes for discos.

A final fifth album in 1981, titled Trois Dimensions, was a more ambitious effort to span both the disco sound the trio had become identified with and the emerging synthesizer sounds of 80’s pop music. However, the three singles they released were all commercial failures. Toulouse continued to appear in concert on occasion and getting gigs to provide studio backup vocals on other recording artists albums. In 1985 Toulouse made one last appearance for an African relief effort named Foundation Quebec-Afrique. This was Quebec’s own response to news of famine in Africa that was different from the English song “Tears Are Not Enough” by the pop ensemble, Northern Lights. The Quebecois song was titled “Les yeux de la faim” (“Eyes of the famine”).

Toulouse split up in 1985.

March 21, 2017
Ray McGinnis

References:
Toulouse bio, Canadian Bands.com
Leanna Commins, 9 Women Open Up About What It’s Really Like to be a Virgin Until Marriage, Cosmopolitan, New York, NY, January 4, 2017.

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