“Mama, We All Go to Hell”

Lyrics from My Chemical Romance's "Mama"

“Mama, We All Go to Hell”

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Who would have guessed a hard rock song could inspire an entire historical fiction novel?

But that’s exactly what happened with my novel, Angel of Mercy It was inspired entirely by the song “Mama” from My Chemical Romance‘s album Welcome to the Black Parade.

The song begins and ends with the sounds of a bombardment, reminding me of World War I. The opening line is the sentence “Mama, we all go to hell.”

While the song is full of imagery related to war killing off mothers’ sons, it also became the inspiration for several characters.

  • The song’s narrator and Mama became Geoffrey and Mrs. Bartlette, his mother.
  • “And when you go don’t return to me, my love” and “If you can coddle the infection they can amputate at once” were the inspiration for Hettie, the main female character, who is a nurse.
  • Indeed, all the characters in the novel were indirectly inspired by the song as they are all doomed to their fate. “We’re damned after all. Through fortune and flame we fall.”

Welcome to the Black Parade was inspirational in other ways as well. The lyrics in the liner notes look very similar to an old newspaper, with several articles lined up in neat columns. Even the parade outfits the band used for the album and its subsequent tour, have a bit of an early 20th-century look.

Other Rock Inspirations

“Mama” is not the only rock song which provided inspiration, although it is the most important.

Other songs were inspirational because of their imagery, even if the lyrics don’t pertain to human conflict. Two examples are Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws” and Sheppard’s “Geronimo” because of these lines:

“The forest that once was green was colored black by those killing machines.” — Dirty Paws

“Bombs away” (repeated multiple times) and “Well I’m just a boy, With a broken toy, All lost and coy, So it’s here I stand, As a broken man.” – Geronimo

Editing Inspiration

As much as “Mama” helped inspire the development of Angel of Mercy, Chevelle’s album Sci Crimes helped inspire the editing process. It is worth noting that the album itself has nothing to do with war, but certain songs or lines incited emotion because they reminded me of chapters from the novel.

Three examples:

“Shameful Metaphors” with its sad melody reminded me of a pivotal death scene. Specifically these lines:

Lyrics from Chevelle's "Shameful Metaphors".
Lyrics from Chevelle’s “Shameful Metaphors”.

“New Momentum” reminded me of the Hundred Days Offensive: “So drawing into one another keeps Momentum driving forward like a Torching sun”

Finally, “Fall into Your Shoes” reminds me of the Lost Generation with lines like “Feeding off the youth” and “Closing chapters tell of a final virtue”.

The Lost Generation is a term applied to those born between 1883 and 1900. They were lost not only because of the high casualty rate during World War I, but because the survivors became disillusioned.

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Updated: 14 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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