The Motels performing live in 2011
|Genres||New wave, alternative rock|
|Years active||1975–77, 1978-87, 1998–present|
|Associated acts||Berlin, The Pop, The Dogs|
|Past members||Dean Chamberlain
David Van Pattoen
The Motels are a new wave band from the Los Angeles area best known for "Only the Lonely" and "Suddenly Last Summer," each of which peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100, in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Their song "Total Control" reached No. 4 on the Australian charts in 1980. Martha Davis (born January 19, 1951), the lead singer, reformed a version of the band called "The Motels featuring Martha Davis" in 1998 and toured as such with various line-ups of musicians. In 2013, the band was rebranded with a permanent name, Martha Davis and The Motels. That band is touring the world with a line-up of musicians that have been playing with Davis for over 10 years, longer than the original Motels were together.
The first incarnation of The Motels formed in Berkeley, California, in 1971. Lisa Brenneis (bass) coaxed Dean Chamberlain (lead guitar), Chuck Wada (rhythm guitar) and Martha Davis (vocals, guitar) into forming a band (then called The Warfield Foxes). Hoping for better exposure and seeking a recording contract they made a move to Los Angeles in 1975. While in L.A., Lisa Brenneis left and the band changed its name to "Angels of Mercy" and then to "The Motels", with both Davis and Wada contributing original songs to the repertoire. The band acquired two new members around this time to fill vital slots: Richard D'Andrea on bass and Robert Newman on drums.
The Motels and two other local bands, The Pop and The Dogs, kicked off the local band scene with a concert at a self-produced show titled Radio Free Hollywood, held at the old theatre, Troupers Hall. Prior to this show, few if any unsigned bands played local high profile clubs like the Whisky and The Roxy. The band guested on Rodney Bingenheimer's popular radio show and, after recording a demo for Warner Bros. Records, which was turned down, they were offered a contract with Capitol Records. The band declined Capitol's offer and disbanded in 1977, citing musical differences amongst themselves. One song from their Warner Bros. demo, "Counting", was included on the Rhino Records compilation Saturday Night Pogo, released in 1978.
Chamberlain was heard again in his band Code Blue which signed to Warner Bros. Records. Richard d'Andrea joined The Pits and later enjoyed almost three years with The Know. Robert Newman is a successful art director and designer. Chuck Wada still writes and performs and is a financial advisor. Lisa Brenneis has written a series of books about Final Cut Pro editing software and grows pixie tangerines in Ojai, California.
In March 1978, Davis and lead guitarist Jeff Jourard (formerly of a pre-fame version of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) decided to reform The Motels. Extensive auditions resulted in a new line-up of the band being formed, consisting of Jourard's brother Marty, who played both the saxophone and keyboards, Michael Goodroe on bass, and Brian Glascock on drums. Short on funds, the band shared rehearsal space with The Go-Go's at L.A.'s notorious punk basement, The Masque, and they played in Chinatown, at Madame Wong's restaurant/nightclub with such regularity that they were almost considered the house band. The Motels began to draw faithful crowds around the L.A. music scene and on Mother's Day 1979 the group signed with Capitol Records, releasing their debut album The Motels four months later. Their first single, "Closets and Bullets", made no impact on the charts, but their second single release, "Total Control", found its way to the Top 20 in France and the Top 10 in Australia.
In 1980 Jourard was replaced as lead guitarist by Davis' boyfriend Tim McGovern and the band went back into the recording studio to record their second album, Careful. Released in June 1980, the album climbed to the No. 45 spot on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S. In Europe and the UK, the songs "Days Are OK" and "Whose Problem?" became Top 50 hits; "Whose Problem?" was also a top hit in Australia and "Danger" was a Top 20 hit in France.
The band hired record producer Val Garay for their third album, Apocalypso. It was scheduled to be released in November 1981, but after Capitol Records heard the final product, they rejected it for being "not commercial enough" and "too weird". The band attempted to go back and re-record the entire album but in the process, Davis and McGovern's relationship dissolved and by December 1981 McGovern was no longer in the band (McGovern subsequently formed the band Burning Sensations). The rest of the band members forged on to finish recording the new album, although Garay eventually made extensive use of studio musicians to augment or replace the band members' efforts. Craig Krampf, according to Garay, played all the drums on the record; Waddy Wachtel was featured on guitar, while bass duties were split among two studio players. Adrian Peritore (who went by the name Guy Perry) was hired in late January and played lead guitar on some of the tracks, including "He Hit Me". The album was released on April 5, 1982 under the title All Four One.
The first single from All Four One was "Only the Lonely", which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. The song "Mission of Mercy" also received enough airplay to reach No. 23 on the Top Tracks chart. In addition, two other singles, "Take the L" and "Forever Mine", also managed to reach the Billboard Hot 100. The release of All Four One, the band's first successful U.S. album, coincided with the emergence of MTV, which led to music videos being created for both "Only the Lonely" and "Take the L". Davis won an award in the Best Performance in a Music Video category at the American Music Awards in 1982 for her performance in the "Only the Lonely" video. During 1982, the band added keyboardist/guitarist Scott Thurston formerly of Iggy and The Stooges to their touring line-up.
Producer Val Garay was now firmly in control of album and video production for the band and had also become their new manager, following the band's decision to dispense with their previous management company, Fritz Turner Management. In January 1983 The Motels appeared on Saturday Night Live. The band returned to the recording studio in February 1983 and released the album Little Robbers later that same year. Again, session players were used extensively; on record, "The Motels" were Martha Davis and a revolving cast of musicians, although for live shows there was a definitive band.
The first single from the album, "Suddenly Last Summer", was a Top 10 hit in the United States, with the album eventually going gold in America, Canada, and a number of other countries. In August 1983, at the insistence of Garay, David Platshon was added on drums with Glascock reluctantly moving over to percussion.
During this period Martha Davis also provided co-lead vocals on "The Monkey Time", a track on the The Tubes' 1983 album Outside Inside. The song was intended to be the second single from the record, following the highly successful single "She's A Beauty". But a disagreement with her management and the record label prompted The Tubes to re-record the song with Michelle Gray on co-lead vocals. The subsequent delay in releasing the single killed the momentum the album's first single had built and the re-recorded "Monkey Time" had no notable chart success. Furthermore, all subsequent pressings of the "Outside Inside" album featured the version with Michelle Gray until the 2012 remastered release of the album on the Iconoclassic label. That re-issued version features the Martha Davis version in its original album position and the Michelle Gray version (listed as the "Single Version") as one of four bonus tracks.
The first leg of the Little Robbers tour started in January 1984 but ended abruptly in February with the firing of Garay as manager for personal reasons. Drummer Platshon was dropped and Glascock resumed his spot on the drum chair. The band continued performing under new management and they recorded songs for two film soundtracks: "Long Day" was recorded for Moscow on the Hudson and "In the Jungle" was recorded for Teachers. By mid-summer the band were back in the recording studio working on new material.
In late 1984, Capitol Records brought in producer Richie Zito, in an attempt to maintain the band's commercialism. After more than a year of recording, the group finally released their fifth album, Shock, in September 1985. The first single from the album was "Shame", which reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 10 on the Top Rock Tracks chart in the U.S. Two other singles were taken from the album: the title-track "Shock" and "Icy Red", with the former peaking at No. 84 on the Billboard chart. From early 1986 to February 1987 The Motels worked on songs for a planned sixth album. However, on February 13, 1987, Martha Davis took each member of the band in turn to a local bar to notify them that she had decided to dissolve the band and go solo.
All of the members of the 1982—1987 line-up of the band reunited in 2004 for an appearance on VH1's Bands Reunited; rejoining Davis were Michael Goodroe, Marty Jourard, Brian Glascock and Adrian Peritore (aka Guy Perry). On August 9, 2011 the original version of the Motels' third album, Apocalypso, was released by Omnivore Recordings.
Martha Davis solo
Davis released her first solo album entitled Policy in November 1987. Musicians who worked with her included Clarence Clemons, Kenny G and Charlie Sexton. In November, she had a No. 8 hit in Australia with "Don't Tell Me the Time", but in the U.S. the song only reached No. 80. the album's critical reception was lukewarm, with many reviewers praising Davis' voice but noting that the album sounded lightweight and lacking atmospheric punch. Soon afterwards, Davis asked to be released from her contract with Capitol Records.
After leaving Capitol, Davis focused on different music styles and recorded songs for several film soundtracks but it appeared as if her music career was winding down. In the early 1990s she began performing occasional surprise gigs which found her experimenting with new songs that she had written.
Martha Davis has released several albums in the new millennium. She released ...So the Story Goes in 2004, Beautiful Life in 2008, and in 2011, she released a children's music album, Red Frog Presents: 16 Songs For Parents And Children.
Third incarnation: The Motels featuring Martha Davis
In 1997, Martha Davis began appearing live with a band composed of Erik Lemaire (guitar), Adrian Burke (bass), Jason Loree (drums), and David Van Pattoen (keyboards/guitar). This group began calling themselves Martha Davis and The Motels in March 1998. After 1998, the line-up consisted of Mic Taras on lead guitar, Angelo Barbera on bass, Kevin Bowen on keyboards, Michael Barbera on keyboards/saxophone, and Jason Loree on drums. In 1999 Nick LeMieux joined the band on keyboards. The repertoire performed at these gigs consisted almost entirely of new material. In 2001 the band changed to a compact, four piece ensemble with Davis and Taras being accompanied by Fritz Lewak (drums) and David Sutton (bass). By 2004 the band had performed more than 70 concerts and toured in the U.S. and Australia. As of 2006 the band included Davis on vocal and guitar, Nick Johns (bass/keyboard), Eric Gardner (drums), Clint Walsh (guitar), and Jon Siebels (guitar).
In 2005 Davis and the new Motels released an independent CD titled So the Story Goes which sold out. Sony Records also released a live album titled Standing Room Only, which was recorded live in 2006 at the famed Coach House Club in San Juan Capistrano. The Motels featuring Martha Davis also appeared on the U.S. version of Hit Me, Baby, One More Time and toured the U.S. and Australia in 2007. Martha Davis performed at Seattle's Teatro ZinZanni in 2005, for which she collaborated with TZ Maestro Norm Durkee to make the special CD Omnium, which is available only through the Teatro ZinZanni gift shop. In August 2007, she joined other 1970s and 1980s acts for the Australian concert series Countdown Spectacular 2.
The album Clean Modern and Reasonable, issued in September 2007, was the first release under the banner "The Motels" in 22 years. The album contains acoustic versions of past hits, B-sides and Davis solo material, including new recordings of "Take The L", "Only the Lonely", and "Suddenly Last Summer". In April 2008 Martha Davis/The Motels released two new albums on the same day; The Motels' new studio album This and the Martha Davis solo project Beautiful Life. The solo album was billed as a darkly autobiographical journey through Davis' life.
The Motels 2009 summer tour found Martha Davis once again surrounding herself with all new musicians: Felix Mercer (keyboards), Matthew Brown (bass), Matthew Morgan (drums), and Matt Miller (guitar). However, previous members continued to play in the band in a mix-and-match arrangement depending on the venue.
At the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, Davis made available two direct to download releases, one of which, "Mr. Grey", was a single from her forthcoming album, then provisionally known as the Jazz CD. She followed this release with an album of children's songs titled Red Frog Presents: 16 Songs for Parents and Children which was released on January 20, 2010, while work on her Jazz CD continued. As of late summer 2011, Davis put her jazz album (rechristened as "I Have My Standards") on hold, but she still plans to release it down the line.
Current incarnation: Martha Davis and The Motels
At the end of 2012, Martha Davis and The Motels opened for The Go-Go's at the Hollywood Bowl, their first performance at this venue. On January 19, 2013, Martha signed with manager Greg Sims of Vesuvio Entertainment. Martha Davis began 2013 performances on January 25 at the NAMM convention in their “Living Legends” special concert series on the Main Stage. This was the beginning of a rise in the band's popularity and success. A coast-to-coast summer tour ensued, performing with acts such as Bow Wow Wow.
During the 2013 tour, the band was listed in flyers and websites as "Martha Davis and the Motels" and became the band's official name, with a lineup consisting of Nick Johns (bass/keyboard), Eric Gardner (drums), Clint Walsh (guitar) and Brady Wills (bass). Subsequently, original Motels sax and keyboard player Marty Jourard rejoined the band for many 2014 dates, starting with a sellout show at the Whisky a Go Go, which was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. A hi-definition film of that concert is in the works, with Emmy-Award winning cinematographer Roy H. Wagner and directed by choreographer Denise Faye, known for her work on "Chicago" and "Burlesque." Later in 2013, Jourard also joined the band for a successful tour in Australia/New Zealand, where Davis appeared on the network TV shows "Mornings" and "Spicks and Specks."
It was recently announced that Martha Davis and The Motels will join The Go-Go's for a U.S tour in summer 2014. Currently, the band is recording a new album to be released in late 2014 or early 2015.
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- Independent Music Awards 2012: Apocalypso - Best Re-Issue Album
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- [dead link]
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