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Martha and the Muffins


Martha and the Muffins - Echo Beach / Teddy the Dink - 7

Echo Beach / Teddy the Dink - 7"
Dindisc - 1980


Michael Panontin
In 1978 Ontario College of Art students Martha and the Muffins were busy etching out their tiny niche in Toronto's burgeoning new wave/punk scene. They probably would have been happy just filling places like the Beverly on Queen Street, or selling a few hundred copies of their precocious indie 7" 'Insect Love' / 'Suburban Dream'. Back then, "art bands", as they were dubbed, semi-derisively, had to settle for the scraps while (in)famous local punks like the Viletones and their yobbish violence were hogging much of the headlines. But things changed rather quickly when saxophonist Andy Haas managed to get a demo tape into the hands of Interview music critic Glenn O'Brien, who scored them a gig in March of '79 at New York's new wave mecca Hurrah. Not long after that, as guitarist Mark Gane recalls, "a recording contract was seemingly dropped into our laps and we signed with Dindic/Virgin".

Recorded at the Manor in Oxford, England, 'Echo Beach' is a modernist masterpiece, an infectious shard of pop that got to the #10 spot in the U.K. and #6 down under. This ode to disaffected office staff was written by Gane, whose job checking wallpaper for printing faults led his mind to wander to a mythical beach ("From nine to five I have to spend my time at work / My job is very boring - I'm an office clerk / The only thing that helps me pass the time away / Is knowing I'll be back at Echo Beach some day"). A futuristic anthem if ever there was one, everything about 'Echo Beach', from the spacy guitar/organ intro to the dreamy vocals, hinted at a brave new wave world to come. And though that world would get co-opted soon after by MTV's antiseptic repackaging, 1980 and the modern visions it promised, for a short time at least, were perfectly captured in this near-flawless single.

(For those album-oriented folk, 'Echo Beach' kicked off the Muffins' fine debut LP Metro Music, while the tougher-sounding 'Teddy the Dink' would find its way onto the rushed follow-up Trance and Dance later that same year.)
         


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