“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 singles? Then this 7″ compensates by serving up one of the severest radio edits in their catalogue, plus an unused recording from the This Is The Ice Age era.

In reviewing Martha and the Muffins’ singles, I’ve tried to listen to them on their own and refrain from comparing them to the album versions of this decidedly album-oriented group. That’s difficult in the case of this a-side. The Danseparc version of “Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing” is extraordinary in the Muffins repertoire; at 5:54 in length, it’s not their longest recording, but it feels like it, structured around a symmetrical suite of musical sections, each of which exerts has their own gravity while together comprising a fascinating whole. (Songwriter Mark Gane’s long-standing interest in architecture and landscape design seems to have had some influence). This edit cuts out a full two minutes, shortens several elements, and deletes two passages altogether. Gane’s angular guitar arpeggios still appear twice, first to open the track and then mark its second half, but have been shortened unequally. Significantly, the single version removes the mesmerizing passages that incorporate field recordings of rain forest pygmy songs. The song’s melodic left turn at the halfway point (“not knowing where I am,” sings Gane) now only hints at the original version’s unknown destination.

Currently unreleased on any Martha and the Muffins album, the edited single version foregrounds the song’s itchy, postpunk funk and tidies up Gane’s lead vocal a little. It probably justifies the comparisons of the Danseparc-era Muffins to Talking Heads (whose single “Burning Down the House” was also released that summer). Was that the reasoning behind this radical rearrangement? In a recent email, Mark Gane told me:

We didn’t pay much attention to these “radio edits.” I don’t think Martha and I had much or anything to do with them other than reluctantly going along with the A&R and marketing people who thought such things would help push airplay. As the artists, we felt that chopping up songs for radio compromised the integrity of our work, which was probably viewed by RCA as totally pretentious and counterproductive for a band making pop music. (Which maybe it was!)

“I’m No Good at Conversation” is a 1981 recording by the band that toured This Is The Ice Age: the Danseparc quartet — Mark Gane, Martha Johnson, Jocelyne Lanois, Nick Kent — plus original sax player Andy Haas, who was still a Muffin at the time, and keyboardist Glenn Schellenberg, on loan from his synth-pop band TBA. (Appropriately, you can find it today on the expanded 2005 CD reissue of This Is The Ice Age.) A Mark Gane composition, the pleasant tune at its center is bookended by two interesting sections. The extended introduction conveys the suspense of a new group of musicians locking into a groove; the coda is punctuated by unexpected instrumental ellipses as Martha repeats, “I remember them all…”


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)