The Motels Featuring Martha Davis will bring their 1980s hits and new material to the State Theatre.
The Motels Featuring Martha Davis will bring their 1980s hits and new material to the State Theatre. (Courtesy Of The Motels)
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I love the '80s!" That's the rallying cry for a popular VH-1 series and for the seemingly endless rerelease of movies and CDs populated by then-hipsters wearing neon and leg warmers, and for a thriving concert business in reunited bands of the era.

Wolf Trap offered one such show Aug. 26, the Regeneration Tour with the Human League, Belinda Carlisle, ABC, A Flock of Seagulls and Naked Eyes. If you missed it or can't get enough, there's another chance to blast to the past tomorrow as Martha Davis brings her latest incarnation of the Motels to the State Theatre.

The group's commercial heyday was in the early 1980s, when "Only the Lonely" and "Suddenly, Last Summer" were pop hits. That short window of big-time fame belies a musical career that began more than 35 years ago and continues today.

The first incarnation of the Motels dates to 1971 in Berkeley, Calif., where guitarist/vocalist Davis played in the Warfield Foxes. In 1975, the band moved to Los Angeles, changed its lineup and name and found its footing in the local scene, even recording demos for Warner Bros. and Capitol Records before disbanding in 1977, citing the usual musical differences.

A year later, Davis re-formed the Motels with new players. The group shared rehearsal space with the Go-Go's at Los Angeles's famous punk club the Masque and played regularly at Madame Wong's, a restaurant/nightclub at the heart of the burgeoning New Wave scene. In 1979, the Motels signed with Capitol and released a self-titled debut album. Although the first U.S. single fizzled, a second, "Total Control," landed on the French and Australian charts.

In 1980, the band recorded its second album, "Careful," which went Top 50 in the United States. The overseas response was better. "Whose Problem?" was a hit in Australia, and "Danger" was a Top 20 single in France.

The United States finally got the memo when the group's third album, "All Four One," came out in 1982 and became the Motels' best-selling release.

The single "Only the Lonely" went Top 10 on the rock and pop charts. With MTV rising as a cultural tastemaker, Davis won Best Performance in a Music Video at the American Music Awards.

The 1983 album "Little Robbers" launched another U.S. Top 10 single, "Suddenly Last Summer," pushing the album to gold here and landing the band on "Saturday Night Live."

But as the '80s wore on, the Motels' luck appeared to run out. The band toured and recorded its sixth album, "Shock," in 1985. The single "Shame" hit No. 21 on the U.S. pop charts and No. 10 on the U.S. rock charts. But plans for a seventh album, begun in 1986, were scuttled when Davis dissolved the Motels and went solo.

Davis's first album, "Policy," featuring guests Clarence Clemons, Kenny G and Charlie Sexton, appeared in 1987. Although it spawned an Australian hit ("Don't Tell Me the Time"), to many, it seemed her career was winding down.

Never count a strong woman out. Davis experimented with musical styles, outlets and collaborators throughout the 1990s. In 2005, she released her second solo album, "So the Story Goes," with musicians she considered potential members of a new and improved Motels. As the fever for all things '80s ignited, the Motels would be there to catch some sparks.

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