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Martha Davis and The Motels Check In at Pt. Pleasant NJ


By Danny Coleman

originally published: 08/26/2014
"Well, it came about, it's a funny thing; the band formed in California and we moved to L.A. We had changed our name to Angels of Mercy and we were like, it's just not right, it makes us sound like we are some charity or hospital organization. We were driving down Santa Monica Boulevard and at the time it was where all of the motels were and one of the guys said, "What about the motels?" I said, "Perfect!" We went to the gig and the guy was about to introduce us as Angels of Mercy and we said, "No! Wait! We are The Motels!" I remember that gig, we got paid in hamburgers!"

That is the story of how one of the quintessential MTV generation bands, The Motels, got their name as told by none other than "the voice" herself; Martha Davis.

Davis chuckled as she recalled that payment of ground beef on a bun but she also knew that the band had something special going on as well. Many years, multiple personnel changes and a variation on the name later; this edition called "Martha Davis and The Motels" will be taking the stage at Jenk's Pavilion in Point Pleasant, NJ tonight at 8 p.m. in yet another great Sammy Boyd production.

Originally forming in 1971 as The Warfield Foxes in Berkeley, CA the band made the move like so many others to the big city of L.A. where they were hoping to increase their visibilities and fortunes. The group's sound however, was totally unlike anything else at the time and they found themselves placed squarely in the genre of "New Wave;" something that Davis didn't mind. "Well, it worked out quite nicely for us really," she explained. "The early Motels started with a different name and we decided that we were going to move to L.A and make it big; Ha Ha! (laughing). The scene was a big umbrella then, there were so many different bands and types of music and we didn't really fit in any of them. We weren't the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt, you know, that whole southern California type of band and we weren't part of the emerging punk or goth scene; so I guess we were put there."

Their move seemed to pay off as after making an appearance on a popular radio program they recorded a demo for Warner Brothers Records; which, much to their despair was rejected. Ironically, they were offered a contract with Capital Records which they declined and disbanded shortly thereafter in 1977 citing "musical Differences."



 
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They didn't sit idle very long, reforming in 1978 with Davis and guitarist Jeff Jourard leading an entirely revamped line up. As luck would have it, the band wound up signing with Capital Records in May of 1979 and had some commercial success with their releases in France and Australia. "It was mostly Australia," says a seemingly curious Davis. "We actually just toured there back at the beginning of the year. We made an appearance years ago on a program hosted by Molly Meldrum who really supported us and is widely known and he was very much a reason for our success there. Australians also seem to march to a very different drummer when it comes to music and they really got behind us; they are very supportive."

The band split again in 1987 despite having commercial success with hit singles "Only the Lonely" and "Suddenly Last Summer:" reforming this line up only briefly in 2004 for an appearance on VH1's "Bands Reunited." Davis also pursued a solo career which saw her work with various industry heavy weights like Clarence Clemons and Kenny G; even making a children's album as she continued her quest to make music.

In 1997, Davis began making live appearances with a new group of musicians; billing themselves as Martha Davis and The Motels. This configuration performed more than 70 shows in the U.S and Australia as well as released an independent album and worked in conjunction with Sony Records to release a live album entitled "Standing Room Only."

A switch in management in early 2013 brought a renewed commercial success for the band, touring with other '80's bands such as Bow Wow Wow, The Bangles and the Go-Go's; with whom they shared rehearsal space years prior. Davis freely admits that she's driven by her love of music; nothing more, nothing less. "It's what I do," she said as she let out a satisfied laugh. "I love it! Heck, I only play the first three chords then I just make stuff up!" Once again laughing loudly at her own self, Davis elaborated a bit more about her current musical lot. "I live on 72 acres in Oregon; I'm a writer first with no shortage of inspiration. Honestly, singing isn't something I ever wanted. I didn't set out to be a singer but I love it and considering I've never had any formal training; I'd say things have turned out ok."



 
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The current group of musicians that Davis has in the fold are much of what drives her and the band to continue. The line up she works with now has been together longer than the original Motels. "Uh, well, we have one original member in the band and the other guys, well, I've been working with them longer than the originals. They are amazing talents and just great guys. There is such a tremendous chemistry with us; I really love these guys, they are so much fun! It is a humbling experience every time I step on stage with them, it really is."

Davis, like so many other veteran musicians, sees today's music scene as a changed and evolving world; one which is saturated with uncertainty. "It's a different world. Anybody can go into their bed room and make a record today. Record companies are not sure what to do next, the industry as a whole is definitely not sure of anything. I do know this, as an artist the royalty checks have gotten smaller; people aren't buying full albums any longer. The digital down load age has allowed people to pick and choose what songs they want. Gee, I look at it differently, my thinking is that if the people only want to buy one or two songs off of my album, then I need to make a better album. We need more artists making better albums so that every song or almost every song is a hit; we need to make it harder for the public and the fans to choose. Can you imagine only buying one song from a Beatles album? In those days you couldn't wait to go to the record store to buy the entire album from a band you liked because every song was a hit; it's not that way anymore. I think artists need to start writing to sell entire albums again and not just singles."

Tonight at Jenk's Pavilion, Davis says we can expect the full gamut of material from her and the boys. "Oh boy!," she said with much enthusiasm. "It's the last night of the tour and then we head home. We have shows booked in L.A. at the Canyon Club on September 26 and The Mint on September 30. So Jenk's will have all of the old songs, new ones and plenty of great musicianship! I'm hobbled a bit as my friends dog took out my knee recently, I wasn't expecting it and it took me by surprise. I'm getting better though and will do my best; it's gonna be a fun show!"

Tickets for tonight's 21 and older show can be obtained from The Motels web page at www.themotels.com at a price of $18 or pay $22 at the doors which open at 7 p.m. To discover more about Jenk's Pavilion, please go to www.jenkinsons.com .



 
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Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7:000pm EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.

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