Blogging at the intersection of urban studies and popular music

dance with me while they sleep: the 7" singles of Martha and the Muffins

dance with me while they sleep: the 7″ singles of Martha and the Muffins

Let’s start with the obvious: Martha and the Muffins were never a ‘singles band.’ The musicians in Canada’s greatest new wave band came of age in the 1970s, a time when the rock album was the format of choice for mass audiences and (in the case of the young Muffins)...
the story of DinDisc Records

the story of DinDisc Records

OMD were a perfect fit for what I had in mind for DinDisc — they had a serious, artistic side with real depth, as well as a commercial, pop side. That duality was reflected in all the early DinDisc signings, like Martha and the Muffins, and then the Monochrome Set....
how the Queen Street West scene began, pt. 1: the Thornhill sound

how the Queen Street West scene began, pt. 1: the Thornhill sound

THE EVERGLADES are ambassadors of the Thornhill Sound, a sound long fermenting in the rec rooms and condo apartments just north of STEELES AVE. Among its proponents include: Martha and the Muffins, Johnny and the G-Rays, the B-Girls, and the now defunct Dishes, Cads, E-Static and the legendary Oh Those...
in exile: the rootless cosmopolitanism of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club

in exile: the rootless cosmopolitanism of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club

I’ve never quite understood why the Gun Club, one of the all-time great Los Angeles bands, had an estranged relationship with their city of origin. It seems to me no local critic or serious music fan can deny their impact on L.A.’s music legacy. One of the great cult bands...
putting the Hudson Valley on the musical map: Basilica Soundscape and O+ Festival

putting the Hudson Valley on the musical map: Basilica Soundscape and O+ Festival

Over the last month I’ve been writing for Sound It Out, a new music blog that covers adventurous new music from a snark-free, consumer-friendly point of view. “The music may be evil, but we’ll try not to be” is the motto. Most of my writings there are basic reviews and...
the greatest reinventions in pop-music careers, #50-41

the greatest reinventions in pop-music careers, #50-41

Today I take up a question of pop-culture history: which performers made the most unexpected left turns with their careers?  I farmed this question out awhile back to readers of this blog, and today I start filing the results based on my own subjective assessment.  Debate and criticisms are welcome...
Martha and the Muffins: a book project in musical urbanism

Martha and the Muffins: a book project in musical urbanism

This summer I begin in earnest a new research project on the Canadian new wave group Martha and the Muffins.  I’ve blogged about them extensively already, focusing on the mixed-gender approach and geographical sensibilities that inform their work.  The book I intend to write will incorporate these into a new...
sound in 70 cities: the European urbanism of Simple Minds

sound in 70 cities: the European urbanism of Simple Minds

Dream, dream, dream It’s the eighties’ youthful theme Loving the city A theme for great cities And loved ones And love – “Wonderful In Young Life” (1981)   Americans know them mostly as “that Breakfast Club band” from the 80s, but Scotland’s Simple Minds have carried on in one form...
musical suburbanism, pt. 1: Kidz Bop and the commodification of kids' listening

musical suburbanism, pt. 1: Kidz Bop and the commodification of kids’ listening

Last summer I took a family roadtrip and was driven slightly insane by the heavy rotation of Kidz Bop CDs on the car stereo.  In a rare moment of solitude carved out of a frenzied week, I sent out these missives via Twitter:   1. if one promise of musical...
studying the college music scene and beyond

studying the college music scene and beyond

Remember the bands that formed in college?  You heard them at dorm parties, frat parties, apartment parties, the campus bar, battle-of-the-bands competitions, and impromptu outdoor settings.  They practiced in dorm rooms, dorm basements, conservatory and theater rooms, backyard sheds, and laundry rooms, amusing/irritating neighbors and passers-by.  Many college rockers and...
Tito Larriva: the hombre secreto of L.A.'s culture industry

Tito Larriva: the hombre secreto of L.A.’s culture industry

As a central destination for musicians, actors, filmmakers and artists, Los Angeles has more than its share of unsung, forgotten or behind-the-scenes figures who have made a significant mark on the city in the course of their careers. In this category, one of my favorites is Tito Larriva, who readers...
living the urban crisis at the new wave rent party

living the urban crisis at the new wave rent party

I recently downloaded the reissued Human Switchboard album, Who’s Landing in my Hangar? Anthology 1977-1984, which set me off again obsessing about a subgenre of new wave that I’ve never really seen recognized.  I don’t even know how best to name this subgenre, although I’m convinced it has a musical coherence. ...
looking for the Hudson Valley hipster

looking for the Hudson Valley hipster

In the town where I live, there’s been a lot of chatter over a recent NY Times article which reports how Brooklynites (an apparent synonym for NYC’s mobile, creative types) are descending upon the Hudson Valley area some 75 miles north of the city to live, visit, consume, and generally do...
musical urbanism: statement of a scholarly project

musical urbanism: statement of a scholarly project

It’s promotion review time for me, and in writing a research statement for the three anonymous sociologists evaluating my work, I’ve had the occasion to compile and synthesize my thinking on musical urbanism into a single essay.  Think of this post as a users manual for understanding what I’ve been...
how Joy Division came to sound like Manchester

how Joy Division came to sound like Manchester

[Update: this blog post has been expanded and revised into an article for the Journal of Popular Music Studies.] I’m always puzzled when I hear how Elvis Presley or Mick Jagger “sounded black” when they first appeared on the radio.  Back in the 70s, when I was a kid listening...
just stay put: an alternative vision for arts-based urban revitalization

just stay put: an alternative vision for arts-based urban revitalization

Here are some thoughts about a different way to think about arts-based urban revitalization, written in the form of a suspiciously confident manifesto.  These ideas are completely pie-in-the-sky and fly in the face of the prevailing wisdom in this field, but I’m fine with that if it reveals some fallacies...
Latest entries
M+M – "Only You" b/w "Watching the Boys Fall Down" (WAKE 18)

M+M – “Only You” b/w “Watching the Boys Fall Down” (WAKE 18)

“Only You” b/w “Watching the Boys Fall Down” Current/RCA Records WAKE 18 (Canada) Released in March or 1987 Produced by David Lord, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson Confession: I haven’t heard this on its 7″ recording format, unlike all the other singles I’ve written about in this series. But the time lengths on the labels...
M+M – "Someone Else's Shoes" b/w "Million Dollars" (WAKE 16)

M+M – “Someone Else’s Shoes” b/w “Million Dollars” (WAKE 16)

“Someone Else’s Shoes” b/w “Million Dollars” Current/RCA Records WAKE 16 (Canada) Released probably in winter 1986 Produced by David Lord, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson “Someone Else’s Shoes” is another pop-funk number featuring the Tinker Barfield/Yogi Horton rhythm section. Structurally it’s similar to “Song In My Head” — two chords with variation on the pre-chorus...
M+M – "Song In My Head" b/w "Riverine" (WAKE 14)

M+M – “Song In My Head” b/w “Riverine” (WAKE 14)

“Song In My Head” b/w “Riverine” Current/RCA Records WAKE 14 (Canada) Released in spring or summer 1986 Produced by David Lord, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson For their sixth album, M+M’s The World Is A Ball, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson brought in their widest array of musicians yet that included key contributors to their...
M+M – "Cooling the Medium" b/w "Big Trees" (WAKE 8)

M+M – “Cooling the Medium” b/w “Big Trees” (WAKE 8)

“Cooling the Medium” b/w “Big Trees” Current/RCA Records WAKE 8 (Canada) Released in summer 1984 Produced by Daniel Lanois, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson All album versions for this single… although apparently there’s also an alternate Canadian 7″ of “Cooling the Medium,” even with the same WAKE 8 catalogue number, that swaps out the album...
M+M – "Black Stations/White Stations" b/w "Xoa Oho" (WAKE 7)

M+M – “Black Stations/White Stations” b/w “Xoa Oho” (WAKE 7)

“Black Stations/White Stations” b/w “Xoa Oho” Current/RCA Records WAKE 7 (Canada) Released in February 1984 Produced by Daniel Lanois, Mark Gane and Martha Johnson Exhausted by keeping a group of full-time members together, Martha Johnson and Mark Gane informed Jocelyne Lanois and Nick Kent after the final concert of the Danseparc tour (at Toronto’s Ontario...
Martha and the Muffins – "Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing" b/w "I'm No Good at Conversation" (WAKE 4)

Martha and the Muffins – “Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing” b/w “I’m No Good at Conversation” (WAKE 4)

“Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing (Edited)” b/w “I’m No Good at Conversation” Current/RCA Records WAKE 4 (Canada) Released probably in spring or summer 1983 Produced by Daniel Lanois with Mark Gane and Martha Johnson Were you maybe disappointed by Martha and the Muffins’ use of album cuts for both sides of their previous two...
Martha and the Muffins – "World Without Borders" b/w "Boys in the Bushes" (WAKE 2)

Martha and the Muffins – “World Without Borders” b/w “Boys in the Bushes” (WAKE 2)

“World Without Borders” b/w “Boys in the Bushes” Current/RCA Records WAKE 2 (Canada) Released probably in winter or spring 1983 Produced by Daniel Lanois with Mark Gane and Martha Johnson Martha and the Muffins released two more album tracks for the second single to promote Danseparc. Opening with two thumps on the drums, “World Without...
Martha and the Muffins – "Danseparc (Everyday It's Tomorrow)" b/w "Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road" (WAKE 1)

Martha and the Muffins – “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” b/w “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road” (WAKE 1)

“Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” b/w “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road” Current/RCA Records WAKE 1 (Canada) Released in January 1983 Produced by Daniel Lanois with Mark Gane and Martha Johnson In 1982, Martha and the Muffins were freed from Virgin Records (though not yet Virgin Music, the publishing division) and handed back control of their...
Martha and the Muffins – "Swimming" b/w "Little Sounds (Excerpts)" (VS 1136)

Martha and the Muffins – “Swimming” b/w “Little Sounds (Excerpts)” (VS 1136)

“Swimming” b/w “Little Sounds (Excerpts)” Virgin Records VS 1136 (Canada) Released probably in January 1982 Produced by Martha and the Muffins and Daniel Lanois The DinDisc imprimatur is gone: Virgin’s boutique indie label had folded by this time, and all its artists under contract were transferred to the parent company. Meanwhile, Canada’s Polygram division was...
Martha and the Muffins – "One Day in Paris" b/w "Women Around the World at Work" (104.209)

Martha and the Muffins – “One Day in Paris” b/w “Women Around the World at Work” (104.209)

Licensing this single to Germany’s Ariola label must have been a quick matter for DinDisc/Virgin, if the cheap design reproduced on both sides of the sleeve cover is any indication. Superimposed over a generic photo of the Eiffel Tower is a promo portrait of the defunct Martha and the Muffins line-up — Martha Ladly, Carl...
Martha and the Muffins – "Women Around The World at Work" b/w "Twenty-Two in Cincinnati" (DIN 34)

Martha and the Muffins – “Women Around The World at Work” b/w “Twenty-Two in Cincinnati” (DIN 34)

“Women Around The World at Work” b/w “Twenty-Two in Cincinnati” DinDisc Records DIN 34 (UK) Released on August 28, 1981 Produced by Martha and the Muffins and Daniel Lanois In 1981, Martha and the Muffins were back in Canada for good; they wouldn’t have known it at this time, but they would never perform before...
Martha and the Muffins – "Was Ezo" b/w "Trance And Dance" (DIN 27)

Martha and the Muffins – “Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” (DIN 27)

“Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” DinDisc Records DIN 27 (UK) Released on October 30, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett More than any other Martha and the Muffins single, this feels like the one that got away. Like every single they released in 1980 after “Echo Beach,” this made no impact on the British charts....