“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 last album’s success. Top of the list was the ace R&B rhythm section of bassist Tinker Barfield and drummer Yogi Horton, who appear on the next two singles. The new figure was English producer David Lord, who was heretofore known for his work with Peter Gabriel, the Korgis, and Icicle Works; reportedly, Mark and Martha chose him for the distinctive outro that he arranged and recorded for the XTC song “Wake Up.” Rhythm tracks were laid down in Montreal’s Le Studio, and then Mark and Martha accompanied Lord across the Atlantic to his home base: Crescent Studio in Bath, England. Lord was a sympathetic studio experimentalist, though more in the manner of George Martin than Daniel Lanois. Lord’s background was in classical music; his talents included whipping out complex music charts on the spot; and he was game for studio tricks (e.g., individually tracking each of Mark’s six guitar strings, placing microphones in rubbish bins) so long as they served the song — a very British idea of the pop song.

M+M came up with a winner for this single. “Song In My Head” is an uncomplicated pop-funk number — essentially two chords with a melodic ascent for the pre-chorus — given the Big 80s™ production treatment. If the twinkling keyboards almost overpower the head-bobbing groove that Gane, Barfield, and Horton groove, Johnson sounds very in her element. The lyrics revisit the break-up-song theme that Martha minted on “Paint By Number Heart,” but her delivery now shows none of the vulnerability or reserve of the Muffin years; with no evident irony, she sings, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my head.” With MuchMusic support of the single’s big-budget promo video, “Song In My Head” became a staple of Canadian Gen-X radio formats, in large part because it’s a quintessential North American drive-time single — “sun roof off, driving through the desert or driving home during rush hour with a tune coming out the radio and your arm stuck out the window,” as British record man Dave Bates describes this music-industry unicorn. The radio edit on the 7″ imperceptibly trims seconds off the solo and outro and probably juices up the mix for car speakers.

The single version of “Song In My Head,” plus the 12″ dance mix and dub mix, are included on the 2019 CD reissue of The World Is A Ball, as is the 7″ single’s b-side. “Riverine” is an instrumental that feels incomplete, not so much for its minimalism (which characterize “Xoa Oho”, the b-side for M+M’s last big single) than for its peculiar lack of musical development or thematic direction. Consider it the promise of a track. It comprises a call and response between a whacking rhythm section (who goes uncredited — my guess is it’s bassist David Piltch and drummer Mike Sloski, M+M’s touring musicians) and Mark’s treated chicken-scratch guitar over a looped tone. Occasionally a keyboard taps out the figure of a melody that, in some previous iteration, may have held together the song’s original foundation. Anyone looking to mix a bombastic rhythm track into, say, something by Power Station (the mid-80s supergroup, not the recording studio) might want to look this b-side over.


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)