Berkeley born and bred, Martha Davis fell in love with “a hardcore juvenile delinquent” at the age of 12. Soon she was pregnant, married and living in Florida. Her husband enlisted in the Air Force, went to Vietnam, and left Davis – aged 16 – with two infant girls.
She returned to the Bay Area, worked a succession of nowhere jobs and lived in a succession of nowhere apartments until she slowly found herself getting caught up in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
In 1974 she moved to Los Angeles and formed The Motels with Jeff Jourard (guitar), his brother Martin (keyboards and saxophone), former jazzer Michael Goodroe (bass) and UK session drummer Brian Glascock.
In mid-1979, The Motels signed to Capitol Records and were almost immediately ushered into the studio with staff producer John Carter. “We literally signed the papers on Sunday and were in there recording on Monday,” Davis recalls.
The Motels self-titled debut LP fared moderately well, with strongest sales (not surprisingly) in their Los Angeles home base.
Despite containing the hit ballad Total Control, the album was a disappointment for some, though. Long-time Motels followers complained about the absence of sparks their live performance generated. Somehow it wasn’t captured on vinyl.
France, in turn, discovered The Motels: posters for their dates at the Club Gibus were plastered all over Paris, sporting an awkward translation of Los Angeles Times‘ pop critic Robert Hilburn’s raves (“More electric than Blondie‘s Deborah Harry . . . more consistent than Patti Smith . . .”)
Her boyfriend, Tim McGovern, replaced Jeff Jourard during sessions for the band’s second album, Careful (1980). Though its singles, Whose Problem and Days Are OK flitted into the US and UK charts, they fared well in regional charts in Australia, a territory where the group made its strongest impact.
At home, their albums and singles tended to hover around the lower half of the Top 40, although they scored two Top 10 hits with Only The Lonely (1982) and Suddenly Last Summer (1983).
The group folded in 1987.