MAMA CASS HATES HYPOCRISY

By Gordon Coxhill
Quiet for two years now, suddenly she gets a smash hit
New Musical Express, Friday, October 25, 1969 

In an elegant mew cottage, a full throated yell away from London ’s busy Oxford Street , I met the last of the red-hot Mamas. Cass Elliot; fat, fantastic and famished.  “Hi,” she said, sweeping me into a delightful lounge, which the French maid was doing her best to tidy, despite the unusable advice from Cass.  “I was hoping you were the man from the store.  I ordered some food and wine hours ago and it still hasn’t arrived.”   

Cass, dressed in a patchwork dressing gown, and showing a pink nightdress underneath as she walked, made herself comfortable by stretching the whole of her avoirdupois on the couch-and believe me, Cass still has a lot of dupois.  

Time To Myself  

“Isn’t it great,” she said, breaking into a smile, “I’ve been here for four days and hardly anyone knows it.  I prefer it that way because I’m here to work, and I need to have some time to myself to get ready, fo it.  Hey, did you know that Paul McCartney used to live in this house, and Warren Beatty and Andre Previn and Mia Farrow?  It seems to be a popular little place.”  

Strange girl is Cass.  The last time we met, it was during one of the coldest spells of last winter.  While most of us were in our beds Cass had been up the night before our chat, making a snowman in the middle of Hyde Park .  Last week, London was basking in a surprise Indian summer, Cass had ordered an immense pile f wood and coal for the fire, which was blazing away when I arrived.   

Who said the personality cult was vanishing from music?  

“I like to be warm all the time,” she explained. “but that’s not the real reason for the fire.  I just love looking at it, watching the flames dancing and seeing faces in them.  I find it great to meditate by.  I was down here at six this morning drinking cups of tea ‘til it was coming out of my ears, and staring into the fire.  

“It’s funny; at home I have to get up about seven thirty to feed my daughter who’s two and a half now.  You’d think that when she wasn’t with me, I’d have a lie in, wouldn’t you?  

“But no, as soon as I was up, I have to get up.  Anyway, there’s so much to do, even though I’m looking upon this trip as something of a holiday.  

“I’m going to see Graham Bond tonight at the Royal Albert Hall, then Im hoping on going to Paris for a few days, then I’m back in London on Tuesday to start rehearsals for the Tom Jones show, and I hope to find time to look at some property.  

Yes, Cass really is going to buy a house in England .   

“I came over with Graham Nash and David Crosby,”  Cass continued.  “Did you hear about David’s tragedy? No? The group was in the studios, doing work on their next album, when David got a message that his fiancée had been killed in an accident.  

“Of course, they dropped everything, and David and Graham came to England to get away from things, but I know it’s going to take him a long while to get over it, and the terrible thing is it’s not the first time it has happened to him.”  

She paused for a few moments and though of her close friend, then lit a cigarette, and proceeded to tell me about the record that has put her back into the charts, “It’s Getting Better.”  

“It was in the charts for eighteen weeks in the States, and sold half a million.  And it’s sold close on a hundred thousand here, wow, that’s phenomenal.  

“I just can’t believe it.  I’m so excited because I’ve been very quiet for the past year, and suddenly I’ve got a big hit in America and Britain .  

Exclusive  

“I’ve discovered that ‘It’s Getting Better,’ has been covered by Paul Jones, and I had an exclusive on that song, so mine must have been first.  I’ve had an album out which includes the song for quite a while, so I guess that’s where Paul heard it.   

“I have never approved of cover versions so you can imagine how embarrassing it was for me when I heard that Harmony Grass had a hit with ‘Move In A Little Closer Baby,’ which I didn’t have released in England, only in America.”  

Just then, Cass noticed the smoke pouring forth from her log fire. Logs by courtesy of Organisation Unlimited.   

“My, just look at all that smoke,” she said in what seemed like authentic glee.  See how it’s making my Stars and Stripes dirty.  Still it’s not the first time the American flag has got a little dirt on it.”  

From that remark, which resulted din hoots of laughter from the small, unintroduced assembly, I gathered that Cass still felt as strongly about the war in Vietnam , as ever.  

“Yes, we all do,” she confirmed, “about Vietnam , about Biafra , about poverty, about ignorance, but these are things which come from love for fellow men, not from words.”  

And does Cass feel like many American musicians today that music should be an extension of one’s own life?  

“Yes, by which I mean that if you are honest in your life then you will be honest in your music, then when a writer interviews you, he’s going to get honest answers.  

“If you don’t do it that way, you get hypocrisy, and God knows, we’ve had enough of that with generations gone by.”  

Although Cass said, in a not so gentle hint that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life talking about the Mamas and Papas, she told me that after the demise of that much-missed group, she found herself taking a few steps backwards.  

“It wasn’t a case of starting over again from scratch,” she said, “not quite in the respect that I knew pretty much how to perform.  

“The problem was finding the kind of music that I wanted to sing, and I’m not even sure I know now.  

“At the moment, if I like a song I’ll sing it.  I haven’t really settled into a style that I feel I can stick to yet and perhaps I never will.  

“A good deal of what the Mamas and Papas did was my type of music at the time and even now, as you’ll be able to tell from my next single, I harp back musically to those early days.  

“At first, soon after leaving them, I purposely didn’t’ do any double tracking on my records because I didn’t want people saying I’d left the group but was stealing their sound.  

“On my next album, “Bubblegum, Lemonade And Something For Cass,” I’ve doubletracked, overdubbed and I really like it.  

“Towards the end, the Mamas and Papas’ music got too intricate, too involved and over produced, and that’s part of the reason I left.  

“In the past two years I’ve learned that simplicity isn’t only a minimum of vocal tracking.  

Cass would have been in Britain for the Isle of Wight Festival, and maybe performed, but she was taken off a plane on the way to New York and spent three weeks in hospital.  “But I would like to do a concert in Britain soon,” she added.  

Another upcoming project for Cass is a lead role in a stage musical.  “If the money is forthcoming, I’ll be doing it,” she told me, starting rehearsals in November.  “It’s called ‘The Yellow Drum’ and it’s a great play from a Truman Capote short story, ‘The Grass Harp’ and in it I’ll be playing Babylove, who has six illegitimate children by six different fathers, and she’s a traveling evangelist, trying to earn just enough to keep her children alive.”  

Cass showed me to the door and she watched as I turned the corner, but I have a sneaking suspicion she was looking for the grocer!