“Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream”
Muffin Music MM 001 (Canada)
Released in February 1979
Produced by Martha and the Muffins

This is a self-released single under the band’s DIY label, Muffin Music. The tracks were taken from a June 1978 demo of five songs (the other three recordings are “Teddy the Dink,” “Trance and Dance,” and “Echo Beach,” all still unreleased) and remixed by CFNY disc jockey Keith Elshaw. The classic six-member line-up — Martha Johnson (vocals and keyboards), Mark Gane (guitar), Carl Finkle (bass), Tim Gane (drums), Andy Haas (saxophone), Martha Ladly (keyboards and background vocals) would have only been together for three months when they went into a small Toronto recording studio to lay these down to tape. The distinctive features band are readily apparent, with Carl’s melodic bass lines and Andy’s jazzy attack already notable, but the Muffins aren’t yet the well-rehearsed unit they would be by the end of 1979. In particular, the two Marthas aren’t quite the equal vocalists that their first label would encourage them to be.

“Insect Love” remains one of the more eccentric songs of the Muffins catalogue. Written by Gane, its jarring intro grabs the listener with its chromatic steps, a fuzz guitar and saxophone doubling each other, before a soap-opera organ soundtracks Johnson’s narration of a guy who just can’t find love in his own class of animals. The lyrics channel Bryan Ferry’s persona of the louche casanova, given further twist when sung by women. The energetic arrangement isn’t as developed as it would be when re-recorded for the next single. All five players play through just about every section, perhaps reflecting the early band’s democratic ethos.

On the b-side, this version of “Suburban Dream” is the first of three different takes that Martha and the Muffins would record. Mark Gane says this is the second song he ever wrote, which probably dates it to 1977. The song is a straightforward example of the vaudevillian 50s/60s style often favored by ironic rock’n’rollers of the 70s. For early new wavers, it offers a familiar structure to insert themselves into instrumentally, and also a cultural form in which to display mocking, critical distance. In this case, the lyrics parody the suburban life that the band and their fellow Queen Street West scenesters were fully rejecting at this point in Toronto history. The track swings along at a breezy dance tempo, practically the same BPM as the a-side, demonstrating to potential clubowners this still-unambitious band’s suitability for dancefloors.

Martha and the Muffins might have sold this single at New York’s Hurrah club on March 2, 1979, where they met Virgin Records A&R man Dave Fudger. Fudger passed on their demo cassette to Carol Johnson, the head of Virgin Publishing who was in the process of forming her own boutique label for Virgin. By August 1979, Martha and the Muffins were recording at Virgin’s Manor Studios outside of Oxford for their debut single and album on DinDisc Records.


The 7″ catalogue:
Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream” (MM 001)
Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Cheesies and Gum” (DIN 4)
Martha and the Muffins – “Echo Beach” b/w “Teddy The Dink” (DIN 9)
Martha and the Muffins – “Saigon” b/w “Copacabana” (DIN 17)
Martha and the Muffins – “Paint By Number Heart” b/w “Copacabana” (VS 1115)
Martha and the Muffins – “About Insomnia” b/w “1 4 6” (DIN 19)
Martha and the Muffins – “Suburban Dream” b/w “Girl Fat” (DIN 21)
Martha and the Muffins – “Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” (DIN 27)
Martha and the Muffins – “Women Around The World at Work” b/w “Twenty-Two in Cincinnati” (DIN 34)
Martha and the Muffins – “One Day in Paris” b/w “Women Around the World at Work” (104.209)
Martha and the Muffins – “Swimming” b/w “Little Sounds (Excerpts)” (VS 1136)
Martha and the Muffins – “Danseparc (Everyday It’s Tomorrow)” b/w “Whatever Happened to Radio Valve Road” (WAKE 1)
Martha and the Muffins – “World Without Borders” b/w “Boys in the Bushes” (WAKE 2)
Martha and the Muffins – “Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing” b/w “I’m No Good at Conversation” (WAKE 4)
M+M – “Black Stations/White Stations” b/w “Xoa Oho” (WAKE 7)
M+M – “Cooling the Medium” b/w “Big Trees” (WAKE 8)
M+M – “Song In My Head” b/w “Riverine” (WAKE 14)
M+M – “Someone Else’s Shoes” b/w “Million Dollars” (WAKE 16)
M+M – “Only You”; b/w “Watching the Boys Fall Down” (WAKE 18)