Friday, August 8, 2008

Better Get Motoring To The Airport

Like everyone, there have been times when I’ve recalled a snippet of a song, a few words, a piece of a melody, but just couldn’t dredge up the name of the song or the artist from my memory. For years the song ‘Airport’ by the Motors was one such song. When it had first been released I would have only been 9 or 10, and most likely I would have heard it playing in the background whilst my older sister was glued to the TV watching Countdown or listening to the radio, but it had made an impact all the same. It was almost twenty years later that I stumbled across it by chance. I purchased a compilation CD called ‘London On The Line’, mainly for 3 or 4 other tracks I was after, but when I skipped to track #12, I knew I’d uncovered a hidden gem.

The Motors were a British quartet that formed in early 1977, initially geared towards a punkish pub rock sound, but soon encompassing a more radio friendly new wave pop style. Their initial line-up was Andy McMaster (vocals/bass), Nick Garvey (guitar/vocals), both ex of Duck Deluxe, Ricky Wenham AKA Ricky Slaughter (drums) who for a brief period had been in a band with Garvey called The Snakes, and Rob Hendry (guitar). They played their first gig at Stevenage College near London on March 4th 1977. Regular gigging followed over the next couple of months, and in May the band were signed to a recording deal by Virgin Records (this was on the strength of demo recordings made by McMaster and Garvey the previous January).

Soon after Peter Bramall, better known as Bram Tchaikovsky, replaced Hendry on guitar. The band began playing larger venues over the Northern summer period, culminating in an appearance at the Reading Festival in August 1977. During the same period the Motors began recording their debut LP, with producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange at the controls. Their debut self titled album (UK#46) was preceded by the advance single release ‘Dancing The Night Away’ (UK#42) in September ‘77. The band made their British TV debut the same week when they performed the song on ‘Top Of The Pops’. Steady touring continued across Britain before the Motors took off from the airport, bound for America for a short tour, designed to establish a profile there.

In February 1978 the band started work on their sophomore LP that would eventually be titled ‘Approved By The Motors’. The album and its first single ‘Airport’ were launched mid year, the single ‘Airport’ soaring to #4 in the U.K. and #31 here in Australia. The second single ‘Forget About You’ also performed well in their native U.K. (#13), though strangely the album fell short of expectations (UK#60/OZ#74). I picked up a second hand vinyl copy of the album initially, but a couple of years later was stoked to come across a CD re-issue whilst trawling through a music shop in Adelaide.

Shortly after the release of the ‘Approved By The Motors’ guitarist Bram Tchaikovsky departed the band. He had until that time been on a retainer salary rather than a fulltime member of the group, and this was a big fact in his split. Drummer Rick Slaughter also departed a short time later, leaving McMaster and Garvey to carry on. Bassist Martin Ace and drummer Terry Williams were recruited, though essentially as side-men to play on future studio recordings.

McMaster and Garvey continued as a duo, still under the Motors’ name, and recorded the 1980 album ‘Tenement Steps’ (US#174). The album lacked some of the spark of their earlier work, but did include the minor hit ‘Love And Loneliness’ (UK#58), the song being the Motors only foray into the U.S. singles charts (#78). But the band ran out of gas soon after, and the Motors were abandoned by the side of the road in 1982.

Of the Motors alumni, Bram Tchaikovsky enjoyed the highest profile. He formed a trio taking his name as the group’s name. The other members of Bram Tchaikovsky were bassist Micky Broadbent and drummer Keith Boyce. They scored a U.S. top 40 hit in 1979 with the song ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ (#37) from the album ‘Strange Man Changed Man’. The band toured with the likes of The Cars and Alice Cooper, but by 1981 Tchaikovsky, this time as a soloist, recorded his last album titled ‘Funland’. The album was produced by former Motors’ bandmate Nick Garvey, who also recorded a solo album in 1982 called ‘Blue Skies’. Tchaikovsky went on to run a recording studio for a time, and continued playing in a few low key blues outfits. Garvey became a session musician, McMaster reportedly continued to play and record locally in and around England’s southeast, whilst Slaughter played for a number of bands during the 80s including Fallen Angels.

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