The Making of Atom Heart Mother out now! 2008-23-10

The Motors

2006 finally saw the release of the three Motors albums on CD, in their entirety, with correct artwork and track listing.

Given that the 2nd album here was the first record I ever bought, as an 8 year old kid, and that these CD sleevenotes gave me the opportunity to interview the band’s guitarist Nick Garvey, it is perhaps the work I’m proudest of and a good example of the work I do.

These CDs are available on Captain Oi! And these sleevenotes are reproduced with their kind permission.

Sleevenotes - 1

Originally released as the LP Virgin V2089, October 1977.

To many, The Motors, if ringing any bells at all, were a one hit wonder. After all, their 1978 top 10 hit ‘Airport’ is still being played on television over 25 years on. But although their career was tragically short, The Motors were far from one hit wonders, as this, their first of three albums, shows.

Bridging the gap between pub rock and new wave, The Motors were formed in late 1976 by Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster, at the height of the punk movement, and quickly gained good reviews in the press. Going back a few years though, the band’s history lies in the heart of the British pub rock movement, and a band called Ducks Deluxe. The Ducks were formed in 1972 by Sean Tyler and Martin Belmont on guitars, Tim Roper on drums and, after a few months, Nick Garvey on bass. Nick, born April 1951 in Stoke on Trent and a former Flamin’ Groovies roadie, had been a chorister at Kings College, Cambridge and was an accomplished musician, (although Garvey would disagree; “accomplished is not a word I would use, three chords goes a long way”). Nick liked the bass because “it had less strings”.

Ducks Deluxe debuted with a track on the double 10” LP ‘Christmas At The Patti’, a concert recorded 19 December 1972 in Swansea with Man, Martin Ace and Dave Edmunds.

Signing to RCA in 1973, Ducks Deluxe released their eponymous debut album; high energy pub rock with really rock’n’roll energy, the album featured Sean as the main vocalist as he wrote most of the material, but Nick and Martin sang several songs. The band picture on the cover saw Garvey wearing shades, hiding the results of an altercation at Heston services after a gig the night before the photoshoot.

Late 1974 saw the band’s second album ‘Taxi To The Terminal Zone’, with the addition of Andy McMaster on keyboards. McMaster, born July 1941 in Glasgow, had previously played with various groups in the 1960s, including The Sabres (which featured Frankie Miller). When the Sabres split in 1966, Frankie and Andy and two others spent 6 months in Torremolinos, calling themselves… The Motors.

At the end of the year, internal disagreements led to Garvey and McMaster moving on, the Ducks working on into 1975, touring Europe and releasing a posthumous single and live album. McMaster wrote songs in a house in Wales while Garvey worked on a farm near Cardigan before moving back to London and playing guitar with The Snakes. They did mostly pub gigs for six months covering 50s style rockers and releasing a cover of the Flamin’ Groovies ‘Teenage Head’ as a single in 1976. More than half the songs they played were by Chuck Berry, with Nick learning the licks at 16 RPM. The singer, Rob Gotobed, later played the drums in Wire. Tired of the lack of original material, Garvey left, and having found McMaster a squat in the same Stockwell road, they started working together again, with manager Richard Ogden who Nick had known since he was three.

November 1976 was the turning point, as Andy and Nick recorded some demos at Pathway Studios; both were prolific song writers and talented multi instrumentalists. Early the following year a band was put together, featuring Snakes drummer Richard Wernham, who used the pseudonym of Ricky Slaughter.

Andy McMaster never wanted to play anything but the bass in the Motors, so he could move about, and despite having already written “Airport” it wasn’t used as it didn’t fit the original Motors’ sound. Nick: “We demoed 4 new songs at Pathway with Andy on the bass, me on guitar and a welsh drummer called Ned, from Sean’s band, whom we exhausted; we played a lot faster than he was used to, they were exciting tracks.”

Recruiting second guitarist Rob Hendry, they made their live debut on March 4th at Stevenage College, followed by five dates in London (including The Marquee) where they distributed demo tapes.

On the 22nd March the band recorded three tracks for a John Peel Session at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, broadcast a month later. The only recording of this line-up, the tracks were ‘Emergency’, ‘Bring In The Morning Light’ and ‘Dancing The Night Away’ all later re-recorded for The Motors’ first, this, album.

Friday May 13th 1977 saw The Motors sign to Richard Branson’s Virgin label, before the band recruited guitarist Bram Tchaikovsky (real name Peter Bramall) to replace Hendry. Bram had previously recorded the single ‘Grown Up’ for United Artists with the band Heroes.

The new four piece toured the UK supporting The Heavy Metal Kids in June, before starting recording this album at the end of the month, with renowned producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. The Motors quickly made their open air debut on a Sunday lunchtime at Reading Festival, 28th August, and the following month the band released their debut single ‘Dancing The Night Away’ (VS186), backed with ‘Whiskey And Wine’, also from the album, peaking at no.42 in the chart. The track was originally written as the single version, only to be extended for the full album version which also appeared on a 12” single. Mono and stereo edits appeared in the USA.

The album, titled ‘The Motors 1’, was released a week later and peaked at no. 46 in the UK charts, and 30 in Melody Maker. The labels featured blue labels with the ‘Two Virgins’ logo in bold and the ‘Motors’ logo smaller under the track listing on one side, with the two logos reversed on the other side. In the USA the sleeve was altered to enlarge the ‘Motors’ logo, omitting the band picture and ‘1’, making for a simpler sleeve and implying the title as ‘The Motors’, The label also features the more multi coloured ‘Two Virgins’ logo.

That album, the one in your hand right now, is a prime slice of new wave rock’n’roll, or as Mick Wall once described it, New Wave of British Heavy Pop. With touches of boogie a la Status Quo, it was applauded at the time. ‘Dancing The Night Away’ was later covered by American pop metal giants Cheap Trick, while ‘Phoney Heaven’ was covered live by NWoBHM stars Samson in their early days.

September 1977 saw The Motors headline their first UK tour, 25 dates including four at London’s Marquee, before going out as support to Wishbone Ash. Another Peel Session, this time produced by Tony Wilson, was recorded in September, featured ‘Phoney Heaven’, ‘Freeze’, ‘Dancing The Night Away’ and the non album ‘You Beat The Hell Out Of Me’. The latter would appear as a b-side to the ‘Be What You Gotta Be’ single (VS194) (the tracks were switched sides in France) which rounded off a very busy year rather nicely, while in the US an alternate mix of ‘Cold Love’ was released, backed with ‘Phoney Heaven’.

So in under a year, from recording demos to releasing an album, several singles, TV appearances and tours (including 5 weeks in the USA), it had been a very busy and successful year.

And that classic debut album you now have here, in its entirety. Their second album ‘Approved By’ was released early the following year, and their final set ‘Tenement Steps’ in 1980. Enjoy!

Sleevenotes - Approved by The Motors

Originally released as the LP Virgin V2101 with inner sleeve, April 1978.

“Ah! The Motors. Didn’t they do ‘Airport’?” How many times do you hear that! Well, too often. Even more will recognize the music without knowing the band. The Motors were, in their short lived career, several hit wonders. Four years, three albums and several Top Of The Pops appearances, it was all over too quickly.

This, their second album, is perhaps their best known. On CD in full, with the original sleeve too! Although it didn’t chart as highly as their first album ‘1’, peaking at no. 60, it contains the band’s two best remembered singles ‘Airport’ (still used on television when airports or aeroplanes are shown) and the equally catchy ‘Forget About You’.

Released in 1978, the band had been very busy since they formed in February 1977. But the band’s history can be traced back several years, when bassist / vocalist Nick Garvey, a one time roadie for the Flamin’ Groovies, was playing in a renowned pub rock band called Ducks Deluxe. Making their vinyl debut on the live compilation LP Christmas At The Patti in 1972, they released their eponymous debut album and several singles on RCA the following year. In 1974 they added keyboardist / vocalist (and in The Motors, bassist too) Andy McMaster, a Glaswegian who had played in the Sabres with Frankie Miller in the mid sixties and later recorded a solo single. ‘Taxi To The Terminal Zone’ saw McMaster add his own writing talents, but they both soon jumped ship, leaving the Ducks to finish their course with a non album single and a farewell live album.

McMaster wrote songs while Garvey played with the Snakes, releasing a solitary single ‘Teenage Head’. Unsatisfied with the lack of original material, he left the band, and teaming up with McMaster they began songwriting. By January 1977 they had some demos, and in February formed The Motors. Settling with Snakes drummer Ricky Slaughter (well, it was the year of punk) and former Heroes guitarist Bram Tchaikovsky (“If you’re going to use a stage name, you may as well as go the whole way” Garvey once told me), the band signed to Virgin and released their debut album ‘1’. It received some rave reviews, and included the hit ‘Dancing The Night Away’. With Garvey on guitar and McMaster on bass, it was a prime slice of new wave rock’n’roll with touches of boogie and pub rock; a classic set indeed that bridged pub rock and new wave.

1977 had been a year of hard work, with several tours, TV appearances, two Peel sessions and a trip to America. To round it off, on the 22nd and 23rd of December, The Motors played two gigs at London’s Marquee Club. The second date was recorded and broadcast in February the following year, when they also appeared live on The Old Grey Whistle Test, where they played ‘Dancing The Night Away’ from their first album, ‘Be What You Gotta Be’ (a non album single) and ‘You Beat The Hell Outta Me’, a track from the forthcoming (ie this) album that was a different version of a single b-side.

Nick: “We needed a b-side, cobbled two song bits together and recorded it with Alan Winstanley somewhere in London.”

This album, Approved By The Motors was recorded in February 1978, using some material written by McMaster and Garvey prior to the band’s formation. The music was a contrast to the debut album, featuring McMaster on keyboards, mainly on tracks he’d largely written, with Garvey switching between bass and guitar. More polished, melodic, and in some cases poppier too, but it still has it’s powerpop rock’n’roll moments. The roots hadn’t been lost completely.

Released in April 1978, the album came with an inner sleeve and initially with an ‘Approved By’ sticker. In many territories the band picture on the front was mirrored on the back, making it hard to tell which way round it should be.

With confidence growing, McMaster and Garvey produced the set themselves, with the help of Peter Ker, who’d engineered the November 1976 demos.

The same month saw the track ‘Sensation’ (VS206) released as a single, in a picture sleeve with the non album ‘The Day I Found A Fiver’ on the flip. The intention was to have 50 with a free £5 note offer, but it’s said that Virgin pressed nearer to 3000 of these and had to have most destroyed.

June the same year saw perhaps The Motors’ defining moment, the release of ‘Airport’, the album’s opener, as a single (VS219). Still heard on TV today, it’s probably the one track everybody will recognise, even if they don’t know the band’s name. Catchy with a memorable chorus, a classic pop tune, almost the perfect single, breaking the top 5 in the singles chart and selling nearly 500,000 copies in the UK alone and another half a million in Europe. The b-side was ‘Cold Love’, while the blue vinyl 12” added ‘Be What You Gotta Be’, both tracks recorded live at the Marquee in December the previous year.

Ironically, ‘Airport’ was only ever played live a handful of times, (with three extra musicians from The Dodgers), because the overdubbing and keyboard layering were just too difficult to reproduce on stage.

Most of June was spent touring, with the Bedford College gig at the end of the month recorded for broadcast by the BBC. Look out for those rare transcription discs!

The follow up single, ‘Forget About You’ (VS222) did nearly as well, making the UK top 20. Virtually becoming the band’s second signature tune, it’s equally memorable.

Like ‘Airport’, there was no picture sleeve in the UK but a multitude of sleeve variations can be found on foreign pressings. The single was backed with the non album ‘Picturama’, while the red vinyl 12” had a three song medley, here on CD for the first time.

The 7” was issued as Virgin were switching label designs, from blue + logo both sides to red one side green the other, so this single is available with both, if you’re a real completist.

During some time off in the summer guitarist Bram played some solo dates with his own band, Battleaxe, a template he’d later use when he’d go solo.

August 1978 and Reading was to be The Motors’ final UK concert, playing second only to Status Quo; going out with a bang is the best way.

A short European tour followed, while the fourth single from the album was released. ‘Today’ (VS236) was issued, backed with the non album ‘Here Comes The Hustler’. This alternate version of ‘Today’ is markedly different to the album version. It has an added string orchestra and a horn part played by Nick’s brother Patrick (“the proper musician in the family”), Michael Desmarais on drums and Nick on bass. Sadly it didn’t sell, and this chapter of The Motors came to a close; Garvey and McMaster were by then down to a duo.

Wishing to retain interest, Virgin re-released Approved By The Motors with a different sleeve. Were they considered too ugly on the original sleeve? Virgin couldn’t understand how an album with two hits on it didn’t sell well. Allegedly, audience research said the picture put people off; it’s a fickle world! Some were pressed on red vinyl too. A sticker ‘including the hits Airport, Forget About You and Today’ was perhaps a little hasty, but you can see where they were coming from. Sadly this was all too little too late.

This, their second of three albums (their final album ‘Tenement Steps’ was released in 1980), is one of pop’s finest overlooked moments, regardless of image. Definitely Approved.

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