Moon Martin

He must’ve had a bad case of something.

Music has turned into news. There’s no filter, no trusted authority. There’s an endless firehose of material and no one can be trusted to separate the noteworthy from that which should be ignored.

But that’s not the way it used to be.

It was very simple…did you have a record deal?

I’m not talking about an indie. That’ll take your rights and give you bupkes. I’m talking about one of the well known majors, or one of their divisions. Who didn’t sign you for a single, but an album. Who promoted you as if you were gonna break through. Who signed you for five records, even if they only put out two, but you got a good push, like Moon Martin.

He got five. That’s how many albums John David “Moon” Martin had on Capitol. I bought three of them.

Now there was a scene in Los Angeles. In the mid-seventies it was punk in New York, but in the late seventies it was new wave in Los Angeles. And Moon Martin was considered new wave.

Although you could tell he was not. As in he wasn’t new. It’s hard to hide age. Even though everybody in the public eye lies about it. Yup, that record executive, that act, they’re perceived to be young when they’re old. And the truth is they’re old because that’s how long it takes to make it. The young phenoms are often products of the system, the idolmakers, whereas those who stick tend to have been kicked around a bit, took time to get their footing before they broke through, even though they wanted it more than the young phenoms, it’s all they ever wanted.

So if you go to Moon’s Wikipedia page, he was born in 1950.

But if you read some of the obits, he was born in 1945. Which makes complete sense. If for no other reason than his hair was prematurely gray nearly instantly. And there’s no way he could have played with Hendrix and Joplin if he was only 20, they died in 1970.

But Martin did.

Once again, there was not only a clear line between who was worth paying attention to, you either were a musician or you were not. If you weren’t, you couldn’t survive. You couldn’t play in cover bands, you couldn’t move to Los Angeles and scrap your way up.

Moon Martin was from Oklahoma. A state many had never been to, still haven’t been to, which we knew as the home of Leon Russell and his posse. Other than that…the state sat above Texas and had oil and..?

It was a bigger country back then. But a smaller world, because there was less in it.

So, Moon Martin moves to Los Angeles with his band Southwind. Not that I ever heard of it. He plays with Linda Ronstadt and hangs with Glenn Frey and then he got his deal. And when the album came out, the first, “Shots From a Cold Nightmare,” in ’78, we knew about it, because the rock press was still a thing, and he got coverage in the “Los Angeles Times,” before they cut the newshole down so small most people gave up their subscriptions.

And the truth is you saw Moon around town.

Music didn’t dominate bedrooms, it dominated clubs. And you went. Because staying home was anathema. Moon was a cut above, because he had his aforementioned record deal, he was a nascent star.

And then came “Bad Case of Loving You.”

By this time we’d already moved on to the second album, “Escape From Domination,” “Rolene” was heard on KROQ, back when that was a free form station, before the ROQ of the 80s, before the death of rock and the decimation of the station this year.

But at this point, Moon Martin was not famous for the Robert Palmer cover, but the Willy DeVille covers. DeVille also had a deal with Capitol, but he was from New York, and anything but earthy, it looked like the daylight would kill him, although I did see him once during the afternoon at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, but he was better at the Whisky, his natural environment. DeVille covered “Cadillac Walk” back in ’77, which is one of the reasons I bought “Shots From a Cold Nightmare,” I was a big fan of DeVille, and if you wrote his most famous song, you were worth paying attention to.

As for Robert Palmer… I’d already moved on. I started with “Pressure Drop,” with the delectable “Give Me An Inch,” and went back to the debut, “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” with its killer opening medley, but “Some People Can Do What They Like” disappointed me.

It was the fifth Robert Palmer LP that contained “Bad Case of Loving You,” upon which Palmer, or most likely his record company, added “(Doctor, Doctor)” to make sure the audience knew this was the track and album to buy.

This was 1979. Six years and three albums before “Riptide” and “Addicted to Love.” “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” was a radio hit. And it got played, all the time on AOR stations, you see this was before Palmer was seen as Mr. Suave, the cut was a blistering runaway rock track and it got the attention it deserved.

Actually, Moon Martin got a bit of MTV exposure, with 1982’s “X-Ray Vision,” but this was before Duran Duran, before everybody had the channel in their home, when pre-eighties acts could get a shot, and although it was cool to see him there, most people will never remember.

And then the Capitol deal ended. But we did not forget him. He had that major label record deal!

The last time I saw Moon Martin was probably about fifteen years ago, he was flying back from Canadian Music Week on the same plane. I did not go up to talk to him, he did not project airs, but he was on a level above me, he’d played in the rarefied world of rock stars.

Moon Martin died. TWO WEEKS AGO!

I just found out yesterday. There was no obit in the “Los Angeles Times,” no big story I saw anywhere. Just this tidbit, whose thread I followed back to obituaries.

They said Moon lived comfortably on his royalties. Can one big hit deliver that much cash?

Well, you got paid more in the old days. But these days, having written a classic rock cut, how much money could you make?

I don’t know.

I don’t know how he died.

All I know is Moon Martin sold his soul to rock and roll. He followed the music to the very last note. He died with his guitar strap on. It wasn’t a fling, something he did before law school. He had no desire to work at the bank. (Although let’s not forget Harry Nilsson was a teller!) It was all music, all the time.

That’s my generation, we got bitten by the rock and roll bug and could not let go.

It’s my brethren who are buying all those tickets to the classic rock shows. They’re not just reliving their youth, this is their identity!

And then there are those who dedicated their entire lives to the sound. Musicians. And people on the other side of the fence. For every famous manager you’d be stunned how many are starving, or people who once had a gig at the label… They can’t let go, they can’t leave the circus. They’re in it til they die.

Like Moon Martin.

Comments are closed