at face value, "i wish i was your mother" seems as odd a come-on line--not to mention as gender-confused--as prince's "if i was your girlfriend." both, though, make a great deal of sense, and while prince's declaration is a bit of an intervention, a plea for communication before time runs out, ian hunter's song is, sadly, a postmortem, an "if only ..."
the mandolins from the start, like "please (x3), let me get what i want" at the end, serve notice that this is a sad song, as do lines from hunter like, "i hate the clothes you're wearin', they're so pretty." the tone changes significantly on the chorus : now the mandolin's are out of a rod stewart romp. it's as if, after having stared wistfully into a snow globe, one now finds his or herself on the inside, w/ all those former troubles left behind outside. the lyrics are beautiful :
i wish i was your mother,it's a plea not to go back to how things were, but to how they never were. and likely how they never will be : "is there a happy ending? i don't think so," hunter sings, and a harmonica keens on the fade, like a train leaving the station. it's a breakup ballad nonpareil and a peak for a band known best for its rockers (and peculiar name), and a band not known well enough.
i wish i'd been your father,
then i would have seen you,
would have been you as a child.
i'd have played houses with your sisters,
and wrestled all your brothers
and then who knows,
i might have felt a family for a while.