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Whatever happened to Carolyne Mas?

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Remembering the 1979 debut album by Carolyne Mas 

Remembering the 1979 debut album by Carolyne Mas

Carolyne Mas released her debut album in 1979. Critics hailed the New York-based singer as “a female Bruce Springsteen”, as I recall. This may have been what prompted me to buy it (on cassette) when I was 14.

I played the hell out of the tape. My favourite songs: “Stillsane”, “Quote Goodbye Quote” and “Sadie Says”. All came back to me with a visceral thrill when I listened to them again on Mas’ website.

Video—Carolyne Mas, “Stillsane” (live):

In the song “Sadie Says” Mas spits out the line “I like to piss away my pay.” That line and her reading of it still sneaks up on me at certain moments. It’s part of my pop-culture hard-drive.

There were some great songs on her second album, Hold On, as well. The title track (an “Everlasting Love” rip/homage), “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).

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

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 Carolyne 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-eaten 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 table 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.

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