“Insect Love” b/w “Cheesies and Gum”
DinDisc Records DIN 4 (UK)
Released on November 3, 1979
Produced by Mike Howlett

Once more, with feeling: Martha and the Muffins re-recorded “Insect Love” for their first release on DinDisc Records, a boutique label established by Carol Wilson under the Virgin UK umbrella. What a difference a producer makes! Mike Howlett, not a commercially proven record producer at this time, separates the instruments quite distinctly and draws out the attack of a well-rehearsed group. The a-side opens with the sound of a buzzing fly, possibly made by Andy Haas on sax.  The organ now takes its place of prominence in the sound of the classic Martha and the Muffins lineup; Ladly’s wurlitzer has a reedy quality that rises above the trebly mix and is held back from the general accompaniment duties it had on the demo version.

This version of “Insect Love” was never released on a studio album, but it is included on the 1987 Martha and the Muffins compilation Faraway In Time. Even Howlett’s improved arrangement doesn’t mask the song’s odd melody and bizarre sentiments, which made for an odd debut single. In fact, this was DinDisc’s intent:

Mark Gane: The interesting thing about Dindisc/Virgin’s approach was, “We’re going to put out this first single, ‘Insect Love.'” They did it quite deliberately because what that meant was everybody went, “Wot, it’s a bunch of Canadians from the colonies!” And the colonies bullshit came up a lot… They deliberately did that because they knew the single was gonna go nowhere. But it got everybody talking about this weird Canadian band.

Carol Wilson: There is a very great deal more to having a hit than making a good record. “Insect Love” was released as an EP, to build a groundswell of interest among the UK music press and the ‘cool’ radio shows. It was ideal for that, and did the job. It was never imagined to be a chart hit. Call it a “loss-leader.”

The b-side is the Metro Music version of “Cheesies and Gum,” previewed here a couple of months before the debut album’s release. Melodically, it’s simpler and more pleasing than the a-side. The song is an instrumental except for breaks where Johnson, Ladly and Gane sing the title four times in a row. (The title refers to the theme of a loft party that Gane, Ladly, and fellow OCA-student Robin Cass threw at their 280 College Street, Toronto flat — “cheesies” being what Americans call cheese puffs.) The song opens with its main hook, a playful interlocking of Martha Johnson’s Ace Tone organ and Martha Ladly’s Wurlitzer organ. (Oddly, the single credits list only one organ player: Martha Ladly on Ace Tone organ.) The rotating showcase of keyboard, saxophone, and guitar solos recalls “Remake/Remodel” — another aspect of the Roxy Music influence that British critics detected in Martha and the Muffins. Personally, I never tire of hearing “Cheesies and Gum”; the joy in the band’s performance is visceral and infectious.

The “Insect Love” single made no dent on the British music market, notwithstanding some insulting hot takes in the music weeklies. Consequently, DinDisc/Virgin pressed the 7″ only in the UK. Meanwhile, back home in Toronto,, Martha and the Muffins were the toast of the town — the last house band of Queen Street West before ambitions, profit-seeking, and gentrification scattered the first cohort of downtown artists and musicians. The band received the distinct honor of a two-page announcement for their single in the “special transgressions issue” of General Idea‘s FILE Megazine.


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)