Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Music Box: The Motels

In the band's early '80s heyday, I thought the Motels were nothing more than a poor man's Pretenders, and didn't pay them much attention. Years later, I came to realize that Martha Davis was one of the New Wave's most evocative presences, with her smoky vocals, her crazy eyes and her dark and moody lyrics that frequently examined the dark side of Los Angeles. Although the band's MTV hits -- "Only the Lonely," "Suddenly Last Summer" and, especially, "Shame" -- were certainly enjoyable, I think the real turning point came in 1986 when I saw Jonathan Demme's underrated "Something Wild." There's the robbery scene in the grocery with Ray Liotta and Jeff Daniels -- every second more tense than the next -- and the Motels' "Total Control" plays robotically in the background. It's such a brilliant film moment made even more perfect by that song. It was then that I had to race out and get every song they ever recorded and what a joy it was to discover the band's first five studio albums (1979's "Motels," 1980's "Careful," 1982's "All Four One," 1985's "Shock") and Martha's 1987 solo debut, "Policy."

All these years later, Martha Davis and her Motels are still making interesting music. (Check out their latest releases here.) And I'm still discovering some of the old stuff. It seems their most successful album -- 1982's "All Four One" -- was reissued years ago with many of the original takes from when it was first submitted to the label -- and rejected -- in 1981 as "Apocalypso." I only found out about the reissue with these bonus tracks last night and have been searching the Web looking for a copy. (I think I've succeeded!) Now if we could just get Martha to play live in the Big Apple someday soon ...

And I'd sell my soul for "Total Control" over you ...


"Shame" on every little thing that we do ...



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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Kenneth:

The Motels were actually featured on TV Land's "High School Reunion" that aired this Spring. They appeared at the reunion's "prom" looking a little worse for wear, but still rocked the house. (I know, I can't believe I watched it either.)

I always heard that Eddie Money wrote "Take Me Home Tonight" with Martha Davis in mind for the "Be my little baby" part, but then was able to get Ronnie Spector, so she did it instead. I always felt bad for Martha because of that.

Scooter said...

I soooooo loved The Motels and thought Martha had such an emotional voice, dark, rich and naked. I was lucky enough to see them put on an improtu show one night in LA toward the beginning of their career. It was amazing!!! Thanks for bringing back some great memories!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for the memories and the reminder that I need to also begin seeking out the Motels back catalogue... "Only The Lonely" and "Suddenly Last Summer" are two of my all time 80's songs.

Keep up the great blogging!

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