John David Martin, more familar to us as Moon Martin, is fondly recalled as one of the best power pop artist/composers of the late 70's ~ or in this writer's opinion, of any decade.
Moon could turn out three minute pop novels like few others, and did so with excellence on his Capitol albums. Moon's music was extremely accessible, and 7 or 8 tracks from each album could easily have been singles. However, in the realities of the record business, having talent and producing great records does not necessarily equat commercial success.
Moon's live performances were great, he had the tightest band you could see in the late 70's/early 80's, and the songs were there. For some reason, though, commercial success evaded Moon almost entirely in the US. Very few countries around the world fully discovered Moon's brilliant pop records when he was at his best. And today his music is often referred to as "cult" or non-commercial.
John Martin, (he was nicknamed "Moon" because he wrote so many
moon in the lyrics) was born in 1950, and grew
Altus, a small
Oklahoma. As soon as he
school in 1968, he and his
band The Disciples
bought a car and went to
changed the group's
name to Southwind.
Moon was the guitar player and did not write too many songs. Although he later recorded "Bootleg Woman" from the Southwind album "What A Place To Land". Following two unsuccessful albums, Southwind broke up in 1971 and Moon went on a six month tour of doing what he likes best ~ fishing!
Before that, Moon had already had already gotten into studio work, and played guitar and sang backup vocals on the "Linda Ronstadt" album in 1971, which also featured all members o the brand new group the Eagles, and John David Souther. He also recorded with Gram Parsons, but since Parson's voice was severely affected by his drug use at the time, the tracks they cut instead turned up on the Jesse Ed Davis album "Ululu".
Moon decided to pull out of studio work, and move towards a solo career. For a while he combined songwriting with regular jobs as a lorry driver and in a flower shop. His luck changed when Mink DeVille recorded Moon's "Cadillac Walk", one of the strongest tracks on DeVille's debut album in 1977. Producer Craig Leon (Ramones, Blondie) had used three Moon Martin songs for Lisa Burns' debut album ~ "Victim Of Romance"...."Love Gone Bad" and "Cry When You're Alone" ~ and Leon happily agreed to produce Moon's debut album "Shots From A Cold Nightmare".
The album was packed with chunky guitars, pop hooks and songs with "hits" written all over them. It was not difficult to trace Moon's influences back to Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and his favourite band ~ The Beatles. None of the songs on the first album made the charts for Moon, but were certainly recognized by other artists. Moon played guitar, did backup vocals and wrote three songs ~ "The Achin' Kind", "Paid The Price" and "Victim Of Romance" for ex-Mama's and Papa's Michelle Phillips only solo album "Victim Of Romance" in 1977. Two of these songs later appear on Moon's own albums. As previously mentioned, there was also Mink DeVille's "Cadillac Walk", the Lisa Burns recordings, but more significantly, Robert Palmer took "Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" all the way to #14 in the US in the summer of 1979.
The followup "Escape From Domination" was released in 1979 and was even better than the debut. Moon's lyrics were fresh, basic, down to earth love stories, often portraying love gone bad or love out of reach. Simple as they were, Moon always managed to avoid cliches by including food for the imagination in his lyrics. The production on the second album, again by Craig Leon, was perfectly clean and distinct ~ Moon Martin is the kind of artist where "less is more" is an approprate expression.
This time, two of the tracks charted in the US. Moon had a Top 30 hit with "Rolene", and also charted with "No Chance". "Dreamer" and "I've Got A Reason" were two other strong tracks on the album, the latter also recorded by Rachel Sweet for her 1980 Stiff album "Protect The Innocent". "Escape From Domination" charted not only in the US, but also in Sweden and France, where Moon was getting a lot of recognition. By this time, Moon Martin had his band ~ The Ravens ~ were ready to tour ~ it featured Dennis Croy on bass, drummer Rick Croy and Jude Cole on guitars and backup vocals. Just like Moon, Cole had arrived in LA at the age of 18, and a month later found himself on the road with Moon Martin and the Ravens. After a year with Moon, Jude was asked by Will Birch, drummer with UK band The Records, to join the band as lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist, which he did at the ripe age of 19. For a short period, Cole tried to be in both bands, but eventually quit both to pursue a solo career.
Moon Martin's third album "Street Fever" in 1980 dispalyed more classic power pop grooves on gems like "Five Days Of Fever", "Pushed Around", "Breakout Tonight", "Bad News" and "Whispers". The album had a moderate chart showing in the US, but reached the Top 20 in Sweden and France.
The record company and Moon were both concerned about the lack of success in the US, and for the fourth album decided to enter a new path. They ditched the Ravens and the cool, airy guitar pop production of the first three albums in favour of a thicker, more keyboard/synthesizer based sound in order to "modernize" matters. To further strengthen their case, they brought in Robert Palmer to produce "Mystery Ticket" (1982). The result was Moon's weakest album to date which failed to chart in the US, but again went Top 20 in Sweden. The new sound and production was not the entire reason for the poor performance in the charts ~ Moon's songs were not up to normal standards on the album, but there were exceptions. "Aces With You" was excellent, and so was "Paid The Price", which was also recorded by Nick Lowe on the "Abdominable Showman" album in 1983. Another of Moon' favourite artists, Dave Edmunds recorded Moon's rocker "Don't You Double (Cross Me Baby)" on his album "Information".
Mystery Ticket was Moon's last album for Capitol. In the 80's and 90's he has recorded albums for smaller labels in the US and France without stirring any waves. He also wrote "My Eye On You" for Bette Midler's "No Frills" album.
In 1999, "The Very Best of Moon Martin" collects Moon's finest moments. Magic pop sounds as fresh today as it did many moons ago.
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