Song Of The Day 9/15/2016: Carolyne Mas – “Stillsane”

The Hidden '70s, Part 3 – I’ll be honest: Going through Carolyne Mas’ biography on her official site is a little depressing. Universally acclaimed as a powerful songwriter and live performer, praised for her street-smart, heartfelt but unsentimental lyrics, favorably compared to Bruce Springsteen and Steve Forbert, it’s amazing to me that so many music professionals had no idea what to do with her. I hate to be general about it, but it’s pretty obvious it’s because she wasn’t a man.

Record labels were consummately terrible at marketing female rock musicians at the time. (Making it worse on Mas was her being signed to Mercury, whose promo department in the ‘70s was so famously incompetent that Graham Parker wrote “Mercury Poisoning” about them.) If women weren’t making gentle pliable popstuffs, bemoaning their solitude with tinny string arrangements or staying inside their glass disco cases in the ‘70s, they were out of luck. The independent ones doing rock simply throttled and maybe even disgusted the patriarchy at the top of the echelon. Some of those even started smoking our cigarettes instead of those long, skinny ones we went out of our way to provide to them!

The easily aroused music press wound up being no big help either. Although Mas was putting out great songs like her debut single “Stillsane” (#71, 1979), and had more than a few honest journalists touting her abilities, she was still being called “The Female Bruce Springsteen” and placed in articles with headlines like “Rockettes,” “Chick Singers Need Not Apply” and — this from the Village Voice, for Chrissakes — “They’re Cute, But Can They Sing?” Meanwhile Mas was a touring machine, opening for bands like Cheap Trick and Southside Johnny (another male rocker she was compared to). Acts like Bon Jovi and Jerry Seinfeld opened for her. She trouped on through the early part of the ‘80s, even as Us magazine frustratingly but accurately opined, “Mas may never gain mainstream acceptance because she doesn't fit into any feminine molds.”

There’s a whole lot more to her story, some of it even more horrific and face-palming, but happily Mas is still around, making the occasional album and pursuing a degree in integrative health. And of course the music journalism and major label record industries are now mostly free of sexist condescension and knee-jerk caption-based information! Of course, that's mainly because both of them barely exist anymore. 

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