My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004), their second full-length and first on a major label, was a tentpole record in the burgeoning emo-punk scene.
The black-and-red wearing, eyeliner-donning New Jersey boys took a massive risk when they returned in 2006 with the decidedly un-emo but very theatrical LP The Black Parade. Even more shocking? A guest appearance from none other than Liza Minnelli on deep cut “Mama.”
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The Black Parade culled inspiration from rock operas of yesteryear (Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the Who’s Tommy, to name a couple) along with the glam-rock of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Told from the perspective of “The Patient,” the album explores death and dying as the lead succumbs to cancer.
Minnelli is the album’s lone guest feature, arriving at the end of the record’s most Broadway-ready tune. The Patient is writing a letter to his mother, bluntly pointing out her failures in raising him and his failures as a son. Minnelli arrives for two lines, sounding like her voice is coming through on an old-fashioned radio.
“And if you would call me a sweetheart/I’d maybe then sing you song,” Minnelli offers. She dramatically sobs over the outro.
“I wanted a voice to finally talk back to me,” lead singer Gerard Way told Village Voice in 2011, “and I wanted somebody kind of motherly, but who was also a survivor, had been through a lot, but was rooted in theater. She was the first person that came to mind, and then [producer Rob] Cavallo had made a phone call to her assistant, and that was it. She did it for free and she was happy to do it.”
MCR never performed the song with Minnelli live during The Black Parade era and ended up parting ways six years later. Even though Way still seemed reluctant to reunite the band earlier this year, the emo kings ended up announcing a few global live shows, including the first one this Friday in Los Angeles. And who knows? Maybe it will be the perfect time to invite Minnelli onstage for a quick, theatrical appearance.
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