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Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Insipid Record Collection - The Motels

Here is another band I felt never got enough credit for being good. The Los Angeles based "New Wave" band The Motels struggled a long while before ascending to the charts consistently in the early 80's, but they had some terrific songs. I wrestle with which one is my favorite all the time. I absolutely loved the songs "Suddenly Last Summer" and "Danger," but I think my all time fav by The Motels is "Take The L." Martha Davis had a great voice and a nice way of expressing her relationship angst. A curious thing about some bands is that they have to chart elsewhere globally before some of these US based record labels bother to sign them. In the case of The Motels, they had an international hit in France and Australia with "Total Control" in 1979 before Capitol records deigned to sign them. You folks might think I'm a whack job, but I'd like to believe I would have made a terrific A&R guy back in the day. I missed one of my callings there for sure. I still feel like I have an excellent ear for music (hey, stop laughing!) and am much more open minded about music than many of the people I have known over the years. Oh well, that and two cents will get you about as far along in life as you might imagine. You are looking live at my music career unfortunately...

To this day it's not clear to me how some folks in charge of programming at local FM radio stations are influenced by factors other than the music. There is just no accounting for some bands rising and others sputtering when the talent level seems so obvious in favor of the band that can't seem to make it. Funnily enough, it was only in the early to mid 80's that I felt albums really got frisked in full for every last great single. Some of the records that benefited at the time were Bruce Springsteen's Born in The USA, John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow and Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. Each of these records had up to five or six "singles" consistently played on FM radio. Even the mighty U2 no longer gets that kind of respect. The merits of No Line On The Horizon aside, it seemed be sabotaged by the worst lead single they've had in decades in "Get On Your Boots." I thought "Magnificent" was brilliant you barely hear it a mere ten months after it was released. They are playing "I'll Go Crazy" a bit now, but the record is probably done as far as singles are concerned. Zooropa and Pop got more respect than that. Weep not for U2, but it's just another sign of the terrestrial radio apocalypse. Selling singles the way they do today won't make anyone rich.

Back to The Motels; they were all over the FM dial from 1979 to about 1983. Exceedingly poor management allegedly left the band broke, unbelievably enough, by 1987 at which time lead singer Martha Davis decided to go solo. They resurrected, to little fanfare, around 1998, but after 1985's Shock they really were never heard from again for all intents and purposes. I hesitantly submit that The Motels are one of those bands that if you can grab a comprehensive greatest hits package you are probably good to go. They had five studio albums plus name only releases in 2007 & 2008. The players behind Davis have shifted many times, but with her voice out front the sound is instantly recognizable. Regarding today's posted single "Take The L," I wish I had written it myself. Take The L out of Lover and it's of my all time favorite rock song sentiments. The Motels seemed to get lost in the female fronted mass of successful 80's acts like The Go-Go's, The Bangles, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and that ilk. Those were pretty consistent acts, but it's a shame The Motels have faded from most people's memories. I don't know a thing about Martha Davis personally, it wasn't like she was in the news all the time (at least that I can remember), but I just loved her voice. Still do. "Danger" your love is like a stranger...."Who's Problem Am I?" if I'm not yours...and then "Suddenly Last Summer"....all these songs still sound great to this very day...

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