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The future sure looked better when we were in the past, didn't it?
January 17, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Most people have heard of Daniel Lanois for his production work with U2 and Brian Eno but he started his climb to fame with a little band called Martha and the Muffins who had a monster hit song.

Martha and the Muffins created their biggest hit, Echo Beach in 1980 without his help but when his sister Jocelyn joined the band in 1981, it came to be that he produced their album This Is the Ice Age, on which you would find another awesome song, Women Around the World at Work and Swimming. Saxophone player Andy Haas, an integral part of the Muffins, left the band in 1982 after having "issues" with his bandmates. Martha and the Muffins changed their name to M+M and put out another song to reach the charts, Danseparc in 1983, and Black Stations/White Stations in 1984.

Time passed with another minor hit and not much more but the group never formally broke up. Singer Martha and guitar Mark got married, had a child, moved from Canada to England and back. In 2010 they released Delicate. Their time had come and gone, but the track Drive shows that they still know how to make half decent music.

Other goodies

There were two Marthas, Johnson and Ladly. Martha Johnson sang lead and had the voice on most if not all of their hits. Ladly moved on to work with Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer, Roxy Music, The Associates, OMD, and was New Order's Peter Saville's girlfriend. That's her painting on the cover of their 1981 EP Factus 8.

For the curious - An interview

The meaningless - Mojo's list of 100 singles you must own, Echo Beach at #67 and the only Canadian band on the list.

The odd fact - On a gazillion compilations, but a strange and pointless tidbit, novelist Ian Banks has it on his own personal collection CD.

And what's he up to today? Andy Haas and his saxophone moved to NYC and is currently in avant-gard jazz band Radio I-Ching.

And what happened to...? Jocelyne Lanois went on to help form Canadian folk/rock band Crash Vegas (that's not her in the video - that's the wonderful Michelle McAdorey). Jocelyne played on Sarah McLachlan's album Solace as well as Martha and the Muffins latest album.
posted by ashbury (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Daniel Lanois also released two awesome solo albums, For the Beauty of Wynona and Acadie. (And Shine, which I was terribly disappointed in, and apparently two others I didn't know about.)
posted by cereselle at 7:53 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Until this I'd always thought that Echo Beach was sung by Nena, of 99 Red Balloons fame. For the first time ever, I've just listened to them back to back and realised that the singers have completely different voices.
posted by veedubya at 7:56 AM on January 17, 2012


This is one of my fav tunes - Daniel Lanois, The Maker. Something very evocative there, for me it has an essential bit of Quebec embedded within it.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:02 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


In university, I saw an Oktoberfest show where an oom-pah-pah band was performing. About nine guys on stage in lederhosen, playing tubas and accordions and glockenspiels and so forth. They played their first set of polkas and such, went for their break, returned, and launched into "Doin' It Right on the Wrong Side of Town." After a single kick-ass R'n'B number, they went without comment straight back to the polkas.

Years later I played in a folk band that played only Canadian songs: no "Whiskey in the Jar" or "The Water Is Wide" but plenty of of obscure Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot tracks.

I had carried the memory of the oom-pah-pah band's detour into rhythm and blues for many years and convinced my bandmates to try something similar. And so our audiences, after hearing us do things like "Farewell to Nova Scotia" and "Sonny's Dream" and "Alberta Bound" would be caught off-guard to hear "Echo Beach" arranged for acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and upright bass. Our singer nailed the vocal part, and as a bonus, she pulled off Haas' sax solo on a kazoo. It killed every time.

I like to think that somewhere out there some of our audience members have since gone on to form bands and thrown startling left turns into their own setlists.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also check out Black Dub

I Believe in You

Ring the Alarm

posted by Keith Talent at 8:14 AM on January 17, 2012



Daniel Lanois also released two awesome solo albums, For the Beauty of Wynona and Acadie.


+1 For the Beauty of Wynona. If I had such a list, it would make my top 25 or so albums of all time.

I guess this thread isn't so much about Daniel, but still. That album is a must listen.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:18 AM on January 17, 2012


Lanois' first production work, for Hamilton, Ontario mutants Simply Saucer, produced some of the grimiest, weirdest music of a weird and grimy era.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2012


Shine is also worth checking out.
posted by punkfloyd at 8:22 AM on January 17, 2012


Also: the 30th Anniversary version.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:27 AM on January 17, 2012


Lanois' influence on Martha and the Muffins is really evident on Jets Seem Slower In London's Skies (self-link; visuals by me), which is from the album This Is The Ice Age.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2012


Wow-- I had no idea about Ladly and her painting! Had that poster on my wall when I was 12.

The Martha and the Muffins song most often stuck in my head is "Cheesies and Gum".

Terrific post!
posted by activitystory at 8:32 AM on January 17, 2012


The reason I always like 'echo beach' is because from 9-5 I have to spend my time at work; my job is very boring, I'm an office clerk. The only way I have to spend my time away is listening to Echo Beach again.
posted by GuyZero at 8:37 AM on January 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Just revisited his 'Belladonna' LP the other day. Excellent stuff.
posted by interrupt at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2012


I live a couple blocks from Lanois' Grant Avenue Studios, which is where (I believe) Echo Beach was recorded.

He sat in on dozens of albums recorded at Grant Avenue, and it's also where Lanois recorded his jingle for African Lion Safari.

(I'll do everyone a favour and not link that.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was in my last two or three years of high school in Buffalo, I used to listen to the Toronto radio stations all the time. It was the only place to hear things like this and all the other new wave music that was around.
posted by freakazoid at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2012


I had a Canadian roommate who told about the existence of Martha and The Muffins in the same conversation where I learned of Doug and The Slugs.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2012


I live a couple blocks from Lanois' Grant Avenue Studios, which is where (I believe) Echo Beach was recorded.

Nah, the album was recorded in England. Lanois hadn't started working with them yet by then. And bear in mind that it is Lanois' studio only by tradition; Bob Doidge took over ownership of the place over 25 years ago. I first recorded there in the early nineties and Lanois was long gone by then.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lanois did the African Lion Safari theme!? That kinda blows my mind.

In a way, that's just as cool as recording Simply Saucer, Acadie, his collaborations with Brian Eno, and all his production work. I wonder if he added the roar from a source recording.

He just built a new studio in Toronto, I believe. A little north of Bloor and Landsdowne.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2012


Thanks for the African Lion Safari earworm, Renault.
posted by rocket88 at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the correction, ricochet.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2012


So what you're saying is, Daniel Lanois ruined Martha and the Muffins?
*bolts*
Echo Beach was the best!
posted by zomg at 9:07 AM on January 17, 2012


Lanois did the African Lion Safari theme!? That kinda blows my mind.

He downplays that fact. It was on his wiki page, but doesn't seem to be there anymore. Still, annoying as it is, it's a helluva jingle, and everything a jingle is supposed to be. It's to his credit, maddening as the jingle may be.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2012


(And just to be clear, I will always be a Lanois fan -- his work on Crash Vegas alone... The first album, before everyone started fighting and Jocelyne left.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:10 AM on January 17, 2012


Warning: the African Lion Safari commercial
posted by Flashman at 9:19 AM on January 17, 2012


As part of her stage banter in Hamilton a couple of years ago, Feist said that once upon a time, her old guitar was stolen, and that after she received her big red Gretsch from her uncle (?) at (what I remember being) Grant Avenue. Anyone know anything more about that story?
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:29 AM on January 17, 2012



Echo Beach, far away in time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:39 AM on January 17, 2012


(And just to be clear, I will always be a Lanois fan -- his work on Crash Vegas alone... The first album, before everyone started fighting and Jocelyne left.)

You're not wrong: Red Earth is a fucking fantastic album. And they were not too shabby post-Red Earth, either; Pocahontas is that rare cover that exceeds the original, in my view.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:52 AM on January 17, 2012


Echo Beach is the new outdoor concert venue on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto. I'm really disappointed that there isn't a bakery on its grounds selling muffins, but some enterprising TO baker should rectify this oversight.
posted by stannate at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


some enterprising TO baker should rectify this oversight.

hmmm...I actually know an enterprising TO baker...
posted by Hoopo at 10:06 AM on January 17, 2012


There was a sort of consumer-awareness show on Canadian television in the 70's and 80's called "Live it Up." I wrote to them when I was a kid and they sent me a letter back, including a 45 single of their disco theme song. I still have it in the basement.
Years later I was going through my records and noticed that it said "Engineered by Dan Lanois" on the label.
posted by chococat at 10:08 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huge Daniel Lanois fan. 5 years ago or so I caught his tour where he had Tortoise as both opener and backing band for his set. I'm still disappointed they never recorded and released their encore collaboration, 'Illinois'.
posted by mannequito at 11:47 AM on January 17, 2012


This is the only thing I could find on YT from that tour. It's really dark though.
posted by mannequito at 11:50 AM on January 17, 2012


Thanks for this post! Another Martha and the Muffins alumnus was John Oswald, of Plunderphonics fame. A sniippet of M+M's "Boys in the Bushes" (on which Oswald plays saxophone) appears on one of his Mystery Tapes.
posted by peterkins at 1:50 PM on January 17, 2012


I've only been to Toronto once. I actually went to Echo Beach to watch the sun go down. In January. In a blizzard. And all I got was this lousy Metafilter comment.

Thanks, Ashbury.
posted by kandinski at 2:10 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always find it weird when I don’t know a song like this, I’ve heard the name Martha and the Muffins but not the song, and I feel like I knew everything recorded back then. Was this an east coast thing? It’s funny how regional things still were back then.
posted by bongo_x at 2:20 PM on January 17, 2012


My favourite experimental-audio piece from 'This is The Ice Age' is Boys Without Filters.
posted by ovvl at 6:02 PM on January 17, 2012


There was a sort of consumer-awareness show on Canadian television in the 70's and 80's called "Live it Up."

'Live it Up' was something else. Years later, I met a production assistant from that show, and I asked her: "What is it with those cool Zuni dancers in the closing credits?" She said that the producer was an insane genius who found the footage in an image library, and he really liked it.
posted by ovvl at 6:24 PM on January 17, 2012


Paint By Number Heart ins one of my mixtape secret weapons.
posted by klangklangston at 2:49 AM on January 18, 2012


Here Is What Is (2007) is a great documentary that gives some insight into Lanois' creative process. Well worth watching for any music lover.
posted by SNACKeR at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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