Bring Out the Gimp

Musings on pop culture by freelance journalist Shawn Conner

Revisited: Carolyne Mas

Carolyne Mas album cover

Carolyne Mas’ 1979 debut album. I had this on cassette when I was 14!

I thought about this album the other day. I had it on cassette – it came out in 1979 so I would’ve been 14 (Mas would have been 24). I might have bought it because it was advertised in Creem Magazine. I do recall a review, or at least a blurb, saying something along the lines of “We’ve been waiting for a female Springsteen and here she is”, or something.

Anyway, I recall playing the hell out of the tape… at least, a few of the songs, including “Stillsane”, “Quote Goodbye Quote” and “Sadie Says” all were instantly familiar when I heard them again recently on Mas’ website.)

I thought of this album (released on Mercury in the U.S. and Polydor on Canada) because of the song “Sadie Says”. In particular, there’s a line where Mas spits, “I like to piss away my pay,” and that’s exactly how I felt the other day, after I got my first paycheck for a new part-time job and I was sitting out on my balcony drinking an expensive craft beer. Not sure if that’s exactly the scenario Mas has in mind when she wrote the song, but there you go.

YouTube video – Carolyne Mas, “Sadie Says”:

There were some great songs on her second album, Hold On, as well. The title track (an “Everlasting Love” rip), “Stay True”, “Running From the High Life”, “You Can Not Win If You Do Not Play” (a Steve Forbert song) are all still fine rock songs; “Amsterdam” is a lovely, stripped-down ballad (Mas got a lot of attention for another ballad, “Snow”, off her debut).

A third record, Modern Dreams, featured Mas looking like an airbrushed Barbra Streisand on the cover. The music inside was slicker than on the first two albums; looking at the tracklisting, I can’t recall what one song sounds like, even though I had the record.

Then this happened – something I had no idea about. According to the bio page on her website:

JANUARY 1986: Carolyne shares the stage with Springsteen and others at THE STONE PONY in Asbury Park, NJ, in a benefit to help the workers affected by the closing of a 3M plant in Freehold, NJ. She performs at the STONE PONY again on the 22, with J.A.M. (more about them later), and just as things are finally looking up, in the early hours of January 26, she is rushed to a Jersey Shore hospital, fighting this time for her life.

Just who broke into Carolye Mas’s apartment, stabbing her 9 times, slitting her throat, then taking her prize Telecaster and her trademark hat, remains a mystery to this day. No cash was taken, though plenty was around. A half-eatten ham-and-cheese sandwich, a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup along with a can of tuna fish in a brown paper bag, and most disturbing, a copy of a Conan the Barbarian comic book, are all found at a picnic tabel outside her window. The door is forced open with a knife. She is stabbed in her sleep. She crawls to the door to open it for a neighbor who awoke for no explainable reason to check on her, and he calls the police.

Jesus Christ.

Mas survived. She made a fourth record, 1989’s Action Pact, which was released in Germany. And then…

Well, there’s more to her story; it’s all there on the bio page of her website.

Anyway, today Mas sounds to me like a missing link between Pat Benatar and Bruce Springsteen. Some of these songs are worth hearing, so check out her website for more if you like what I’ve included here.

Video – Carolyne Mas, “Stillsane” (recored live at the Empire Theatre, Paris, Dec 1979):

Next: Holly and the Italians.

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