Springsteen fans might find this tune familiar. His song “Mary’s Place” on The Rising owes more than a little to this 1964 Sam Cooke track, particularly the chorus. “Meet Me At Mary’s Place” is taken at a more leisurely tempo than the Springsteen tune, being little more than a joyful chug. In fact whenever I play it, it always seems a lot slower than the version I sing in my head. It’s basically a song about partying, about a weary, overworked, stressed guy whose pal implores him to get down to Mary’s and forget about all that shit and have a ball. The theme that music, dancing, good company and a good time can compensate for a hard and troubled life was a central one to all blues based music from the plantation dances to disco and beyond. This song is as good as any at conveying that.
Springsteen’s album was seen at the time as a work heavily influenced by the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001. His “Mary’s Place” takes the same theme of the comfort to be had in the company of friends and the familiar, where you can party and temporarily forget the madness of the outside world. It’s a bigger song in every way to Cooke’s, but Sam’s seems a little less troubled underneath. Despite the depravations of a period when racism was the norm rather than the exception, and the madness of the Cuban Missile Crisis was only a few months in the past, they still seem more innocent times.