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It's in the contract....our name in ham...
All about the Motels.
On August 9-10, 1978
I saw a group my brother was playing inthe Motels at the Whisky a Go-Go, a legendary, cool club on the Sunset Strip. They seemed cool. Jeff, who had been working with Martha Davis for six months arranging and cowriting songs, eventually invited me down to a rehearsal to play sax on one song. I arrived one evening at the rehearsal room at the Masque a basement under an adult theatre at the corner of Hollywood and Cherokee, and immediately noticed a few things: Martha Davis was a good-looking woman with a bad perm; her voice was truly beautiful (all I could think of was peaches 'n' cream), and the sound system sounded good too, an Altec Lansing. I could tell Martha had unmistakable talent. I began rehearsals with the group, just playing sax on one song ("Dressing Up") and then beginning to play Polymoog synthesizer on some other songs. I sort of oozed into the group.
On August 25th, 1978, my birthday, I was 24 years old, and had joined the Motels. Time to play! We drove up to San Francisco to play our first gig. Onstage, my keyboard suddenly didn't make a sound. So I sat in the audience (fourteen people) and watched the rest of the band play the Ashkenaz Folk Dance Hall. I found out later the keyboard had blown a fuse.
I obviously didn't know diddly about synthesizers, and I didn't own an amp, so when we played gigs the keyboard was plugged directly into the sound system. I could barely hear myself because the speakers were in front of me on stage. One night at Club 88, I glanced down at a slider marked "Pitch Transpose" and noted, with a sort of sinking feeling, that it was on. I listened carefully to the band and me and noted that I was playing in a completely different key than the band. On every song.
The next day I bought a keyboard amp and turned off 'Pitch Transpose.' With this simple, musically historic adjustment,the Motels made a giant step from involuntary bitonality to rock band.
We split the rehearsal space with the Go-Go's, who were just starting out. X rehearsed in a room across the hall. The Masque was a funky, interesting place. Darby Crash (of the Germs) would crash in the "office."
The Motels Ponder the Future at the Masque 1979
Marty Jourard, Brian Glascock, Michael Goodroe, Jeff Jourard, Martha Davis
photo by Marvin Rinnig
On Sep 7th I worked at a place for a few days that sold Biofeedback Training devices. Bad job.
On Sep 19th I started doing pasteup for Sage Publications in Beverly Hills. I was chain-smoking Real cigarettes and dropping ash all over the layouts. It was a...bad job. Desperate, I went to an employment agency and believe it or not, got a job at a record company! Ranwood Records put out Lawrence Welk records, and then became GRT Records, with Janus Records (Al Stewart) and Berserkeley (Greg Kihn, The Dickies, Jonathan Richman) and Barnaby (The Everly Brothers oldies). Now wešre talking! I learned a lot about record companies and how to screw them up: just hire a bunch of golfers from Sunnyvale who had previously run a tape duping company that manufactured cassettes for the labels, and have them take over the companies. They went bankrupt soon after they laid me off with severance pay: figure it out. I was obviously the glue that held the company together. Is there any justice in the record biz?
First gig at Madame Wong's, 12/27/78 Michael Goodroe,Me,Brian Glascock, Martha Davis, Jeff Jourard
Meanwhile, the Motels were starting to play around town at Club 88, Gazzarris and a club in Chinatown called Madam Wong's. Many bands played there, The Police did a surprise gig, The Motels, The Knack, The Pop, The Kats and others played this fine venue with the long staircase I schlepped the equipment up at least 25 times. A "buzz" was created. L.A. is a small town: as soon as one label became interested, a few more did, then more, until the place was filled with A&R reps from various record companies. We signed to Capitol Records on May 12, Mother's Day actually. "Hey, mom, happy Mother's Day, guess what!?"
Here is an album-by-album social/musical history of the Motels. Each album is named and details follow.
We recorded our first album from May 14 to June 24th 1979. The first track we cut as a signed band was "Route 66," the Nelson Riddle theme song to the TV show from the '60s. It didn't make it to the LP. We also cut "People, Places, and Things" (June 17) and never quite got it right, although it kicked ass live. We literally set up in the studio two days after playing Wongs and ran through our set. We were extremely rehearsed, having played Wongs over thirty-five times. It was a thrill to be in a real studio cutting tracks. The album cover was shot by the photographer who did the Cars' first album. He kept asking "Where's the cocaine? Where's the girls?" Ha! We didn't know.
That summer (1979) the Motels played some warmup gigs in San Diego, Oakland (August 24th with The Tubes and Pearl Harbor and the Explosions) and Riverside, then flew to the East Coast on our first real tour, with a bus, a tour manager, the whole works. We played in Amityville, NY September 13th at a gig we called "The Amityville Horror," you reached the stage through a hatch in the basement dressing room and up a ladder. There were mice in the basement and standing pools of water; an auspicious beginning for our tour. 14th: Philadelphia, 15th16th, Boston; the album was officially released September 17th; 18th, Toronto; 19th and 20th, Hurrah's in NYC.
We flew to England for our European tour October 10 through 31. What a thrill! To be playing, jet-lagged, in Paris, London, Hamburg, smoking way too many Dunhill cigarettes, overeating, drinking too much Martel Cordon Noir. In Hamburg we played "Musikladen," a popular television program. To give you an idea of the variety of music being played at this time, we were on the bill with Sylvie Vartan, Wilson Pickett, Bette Midler and Lene Lovich:
Hamburg Musikladen TV show taping Oct 18, 1979
l to r: Martha Davis, Bette Midler, Wilson Pickett, Lene Lovich
We played more in the U.S. after our return from Europe Oct 31:
- Nov 8 NYC Trax
- Nov 9 Amherst, MA U Mass
- Nov 10 New Haven, CT Toad's Place
- Nov 11 Providence, R.I. Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
- Nov 14 Asbury Park, NJ Fast Lane
- Nov 15 Washington, DC Bayou
- Nov 16-17 Boston, MA Paradise
- Nov 18 Philadelphia, PA Bijou
- Dec 2 Denver, CO Rainbow Theatre
- Dec 3 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom
- Dec 4 Seattle, WA Showbox
- Dec 5 Portland, OR Euphoria Club
- Dec 6 Stanford, CA Stanford University
- Dec 7-8 Los Angeles Roxy Theatre
- Dec 10 Thousand Oaks, CA Cal State Lutheran
- Dec 11 Los Angeles, CA USC Patio
- Dec 13 San Diego, CA Catamaran
- Dec 15 Los Angeles, CA American Bandstand TV show
- Dec 16 San Francisco, CA Old Waldorf
- Dec 23 Los Angeles, CA Madame Wong's
and we played American Bandstand December 15th. All in all, not a bad year for music and The Motels, and to a certain extent, me.
The Motels were a good live band. We played a lot in our 8 1/2 years together. Here is a complete list of
EVERY LIVE MOTELS PERFORMANCE.
Jan 1, 1980...Goodbye Jeff, Hello Tim!
Jeff got kicked out of the band by Martha Davis on New Years Day 1980 so that Tim McGovern, Martha's boyfriend, could join and create world peace. Our first rehearsal was depressing and loud as Martha and Tim drank whiskey and played garbage. I left pissed off. Jeff wanted me to quit and start a band with him, and Martha wanted me to stay. For an hour I'd decide to quit, then the next hour decide to stay. Then ten minutes each. I soon lost my mind in a damned- if- you -do, damned -if- you- don't scenario. In the end, after Michael Goodroe called me and said, "look, how much longer do you think this is going to last? Maybe six more months...so stick around and take the money...", and realizing I was my own man, I stayed for six more years.
Tim was (and still is) a highly talented musician from Syracuse, NY who was a great drummer and excellent guitarist (he played a Fender Mustang sprayed flat black). Tim demoed songs he'd written as well as songs Martha had composed, and he was brilliant at capturing energy on tape. He used a Tascam 144 Portastudio and a Linn drum machine.
We began rehearsing January 7th in Capitol Records' Studio C and rehearsed all week, then appeared on American Bandstand January 12th. Dick Clark genuinely liked Martha and the band and he really did look like he does on TV, sort of perfect. We started recording our second album Careful Feb 4, 1980 with Carter producing and Tim contributing some songs and much of the musical arrangements. We cut most of the record at Sunset Sound, some at Capitol, with overdubs at Richard Perry's Studio 51.
My diaries reveal this selected studio info for 1980:
- Capitol Records Studio B:
- Feb 4 "Whose Problem?"
- Feb 5 "Party Professionals"
- Feb 6 recut "Whose Problem?" and cut "Danger"
- Feb 14 recut "Amigo"
- Feb 15 recut "Bonjour Baby"
- Feb 19 recut "Danger"
- Mar 18 "Cry Baby"
- Mar 19 "Days are OK (But the Nights are Made for Love)"
- Studio 55
- Mar 20 "Slow Town"
Mildly psychedelic in nature, Careful displayed the birth of my songwriting skills on a major label. Me and Micheal Goodroe, The Motel's affable bass player, were asked by Carter to write songs five songs. Me and Goodroe went in the back of the studio, actually the drum room, and wrote "Bonjour Baby," a song with the keyboard feel of "Oliver's Army" (from Elvis Costellošs "Armed Forces"), "Crybaby," with a riff inspired by "Old Flame" by Thin Lizzy, and "Careful," inspired by....oh, never mind. Very wierd words. We recorded all three, so me and Goodroe did all right on "Careful."
I look back on this period, 17 years later (1997 minus 1980, do the math) and marvel at how easily I placed songs on a major label release, simply because the producer needed and asked for songs! God! As a professional songwriter you bust your ass to write a song, then your publisher (you hope) busts similar ass to get the tune to an artist. For years after the Motels broke up, I wrote songs hoping they would get covered and I had little success. It showed me how important luck can be in getting into a signed band and getting your songs cut. No one ever wants to talk about luck because by its very definition, you can't control it. If you could, it wouldn't be luck. Talent helps, but never underestimate being in the right place at the right time, also known as "timing."
After we finished recording "Careful" we played some warmup gigs around town. I broke up with my girlfriend on March 6. It was sad, especially since I got back together with her a few months later, went with her for six more months, then broke up again. Boo-hoo-hoo.
Let us have a brief moment of silence for all the break-ups in the world.
Among the songs on "Careful" was one Martha originally for The Pointer Sisters called "Danger" but they didnšt use it so that was our first single. The album came out June 9.
We toured in the summer of 1980 opening for The Cars, our first major tour playing the "Sheds," large outdoor facilities owned by the Nederlander Company, there was a roof over the first 5,000 people and then a Grass Pass for others to sit on a hill to hear the act, we played about five of these, we toured from August 24 to October 30. I turned 26 on the road. That was a truly exciting tour, and the first time I felt like I was truly in the mainstream of pop music culture. You should have seen the clothes the Cars wore. Jeez.
Playing New Wave music was tricky. There were all these knobs and sliders on the keyboards.
Then there was those two pesky saxophones I had to suddenly pick up and play. I wore two sax straps, one set for tenor, the other for alto. At least
I was wearing a Dickies polyester jump suit that I washed in the motel room sink. Life was good.
The Cars: Ric Ocasek was aloof (we called him "Oh Cash a Check"), Ben Orr was always eating a chili dog at airports, but was nice, Eliot Easton was crazed and funny and personable, Greg Hawkes was a sweet, small guy, highly talented musically, and the drummer, David Robinson was kind of a mystery.
By now I had cultivated the sensitive,vaguely Italian look...
TOUR ITINERARY AUGUST--DECEMBER 1980
Sports Arena L.A. 9/80 opening for the Cars
Click here to see our touring schedule TEXT version
And come to think of it, once again, here is a list of
EVERY LIVE SHOW AND TV TAPING WE EVER DID.,
AUSTRALIA AND EUROPE TOUR
On October 31 we flew to Auckland, then played Australia after one gig in New Zealand, played a three week tour, and the fans dug us, we were on "Countdown," the equivalent of American Bandstand. At the end of the tour we traveled twenty-four hours straight, flying Perth to BOMBAY to London, then to Amsterdam to the fabuous Hotel Pulitzer.
Here is a video of the show we played in Amsterdam--we're on the video after 1:30 of the Split Enz and the Q-Tips. Amsterdam was such an amazing town...many things were legal there that were not legal in the States. I say no more.
November 23rd at the Pinkpop Music Festival
We played Brussels November 23rd. All I remember from that city was the beautiful Hotel Amigo, and me buying a half kilo of Belgian chocolate for my girlfriend, eating most of it in twenty minutes, then going into probably mild insulin shock. It was worth it.
Then December 1st we flew from London to Madrid and played on Spanish TV, then Dec 6 we flew from Stockholm, where we played Musikladen with Lene Lovich, Wilson Pickett and Bette Midler. I have a photo of me and the Harlettes, Bette's backup singers.
By December 20 I had developed a serious low grade flu, and I remember shopping for Christmas gifts in Rome for my girlfriend and my friends and family and I could barely walk or turn my neck. Anyway, all my gifts got stolen from LAX airport straight out of the suitcase. It was near Christmas and the baggage handlers saw luggage (unlocked) with tags declaring "Motels 1980 World Tour" on them. "Gee, I wonder if there is anything interesting in this suitcase? Letšs just set them aside over here." A week after filing for lost luggage, a man found an empty suitcase in a dumpster, empty except for a Motels photo with the Capitol records logo on it. He called Capitol, and they called me. All that was left was a pair of jeans.
New Years Eve we played the Country Club in Reseda (San Fernando Valley) and I played accordion, I think, for "Auld Lang Syne."
Here are some notes from 1981:
Saw The Police at the Sports Arena. "Donšt Stand So Close to Me" was their current hit. They filled up the arena with plenty of sound.
Motels played The Midnight Special.
We met with Val Garay, the manic, talented tyrant who produced our next two albums and drove us (and the rest of L.A.'s music people) nuts. He had just recorded "Bette Davis Eyes" and it was selling like crazy, nine million worldwide. Val thought Tim was a borderline genius and we began recording our third album with Tim more or less producing and Val engineering.
Is there more to tell? Hey...can Aretha sing?
Part Four:All Four One, Little Robbers, Shock and Beyond
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