Remembering Moon Martin

The vastly unsung New Wave act and writer of “Bad Case of Loving You” dead at age 69

Moon Martin (Art: Ron Hart)

Obscurity rarely brings its rewards. That’s especially true for any artist that wants to be more than a backseat driver and instead gain fame by standing in the spotlight. Sadly, it was the former scenario that mostly characterized Moon Martin’s career.

Martin, who died on May 11 at the age of 69 will be forever remembered as the man who wrote the mega hit “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” for Robert Palmer and the minor hit “Cadillac Walk’ for Willy DeVille. Ironically Martin originally recorded both songs first on his 1978 album Shots from a Cold Nightmare, one of several early albums he released on Capitol at the end of the ‘70s, Yet despite having originated the two tune, their origins remain overshadowed by the better known versions even now.

Moon Martin Shots From A Cold Nightmare, Capitol 1978

Nevertheless, for all the apparent frustration, Martin did enjoy a prolific recording career that spawned four albums on Capitol (the aforementioned Shots from a Cold Nightmare, Escape from Domination, Street Fever and Mystery Ticket), a pair of French imports (Mystery Ticket, Dreams on Fire), and three final releases (Cement Monkey, Lunar Samples, and the belated Louisiana Juke-Box). Nevertheless, by the end of the ‘90s, his recording career was over and any attempt to further establish himself as a singular presence effectively came to an end.

Martin, whose given first name was “John,” acquired the nickname “Moon” due to his predilection for referencing the word “moon” in his lyrics. Born in Oklahoma, he made his first entry into the musical universe as part of a rockabilly band called the Disciples, a group he, Eric Dalton, Fontaine Brown, and Jim Pulte formed at the University of Oklahoma in the mid ‘60s. After relocating to Los Angeles in 1967, the band changed its name to Southwind and recorded three albums under that aegis with little to modest success. 

Moon Martin Escape From Domination, Capitol 1979

Martin’s own efforts took flight ten years later during the height of the punk/power pop movement wand it was there that he found himself a perfect fit. His rocksteady grooves and brash attitude were seemingly at odds with his owlish, librarian-looking persona, but he still managed to define himself in an era where image was everything. And while wider recognition evaded him throughout his career, he was able to make a minor dent in the pop charts regardless. Two of his songs, “Rolene” and “No Chance” pierced the top 50, although in the latter case, just barely. He was better served when his track “X-Ray Vision” became an early MTV staple in 1982. 

Martin’s death was officially listed as due to natural causes. 

 

AUDIO: Moon Martin The Ultimate Anthology

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

5 thoughts on “Remembering Moon Martin

  • May 17, 2020 at 1:55 am
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    Moon Martin was born in 1950 and he was 69 at the time of his death.

    Ron Balliet
    A friend of Moon Martin

    Reply
  • May 20, 2020 at 2:00 pm
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    “Rolene” grabbed me when I first heard it and led me to Martin’s work, which I still enjoy all these years later. It’s a shame that he never got the acclaim he so deserved, and he gets bonus points for writing the song that turned me on to Robert Palmer as well.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2020 at 10:16 am
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      He was working on a new project for the last several years . I understand friends of his are attempting to complete this project, and perhaps his fans will be surprised to hear his latest work someday.

      Reply
  • November 6, 2020 at 9:14 pm
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    He really understood Rock N Roll he had a PHD in it as far as I am concerned! RIP John

    Reply
  • December 15, 2020 at 2:36 am
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    Moon Martin was the real deal. His music is unbelievable and I was introduced to his music by my older brother. Moon should have gotten more credit than he did. He did a few Chuck Berry songs as well. One Rock and Roll legend paying his respect to another.

    Reply

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