Black Stations/White Stations

Serendipity is something one of my brothers and I talk about a lot. He and I both experience it all the time; maybe we’re just more open to observing and receiving it; I don’t know.

Anyway, I thought it was time to venture down the basement to visit my vinyl collection to find an oldie to post. I landed on M+M, originally Martha and the Muffins, a band that started up in 1977 and which I’ve talked about here numerous times in relation to others’ music (here, here and here). 

M+M’s most famous single is likely “Echo Beach,” from Metro Music (1980). I was checking out their 1983 record, Danseparc and while I was listening to the songs from it on the M+M YouTube channel, a song from their next album, Mystery Walk, came on autoplay, a song I hadn’t heard in many years, “Black Stations/White Stations.” Mystery Walk is unmistakably M+M, but it shows an evolution of funk and soul in their sound, with a primal undercurrent through much of it (complementing and acknowledging the cave paintings on the album cover). 

Photo of three long-play record covers.

In my opinion, M+M stacks up well against any band of the art-rock and electronic dance genres. Their records feature imaginative writing and innovative instrumentation, recording and engineering by band mainstays Johnson and Mark Gane (whose vocals remind me a lot of David Byrne of Talking Heads) along with player/producer Daniel Lanois (brother to then M+M bassist Jocelyne Lanois, and a frequent collaborator with brothers Brian and Roger Eno, U2 and others). While the earlier Danseparc is an excellent album, it has a lot of bits of staccato in it. Mystery Walk is much more inviting and might have a broader appeal. It’s a solid album, and I’ve enjoyed listening to it today.

I remember that none of my friends ever liked the band. Our musical tastes diverged sharply as I became more enamoured with obscure and art-rock and ambient music (thank you, Brian Eno). 

So, the serendipitous part came today when I read the description of the video for Black Stations/White Stations, which included a quote from Martha Johnson about her inspiration for the song. Her words resonated for me because of what I’ve learned so far in reading and dialogue since #BlackoutTuesday, and were a reminder to keep learning and listening to all perspectives.

Johnson says, “I was driving around in the band van listening to some pop radio station when I heard the DJ introduce the song ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ by telling the listeners that when Van Morrison had originally written the song it was titled ‘Brown-Skinned Girl.’ He had been strongly urged to change it as his record company at the time was worried that the title and interracial theme might offend some people and hurt his chances of having a hit with the record.

I thought this story was so ludicrous until I started thinking about here we were in 1984 and not much had changed as music was still segregated into black music stations and white music stations.”

While I bought Mystery Walk when Martha and the Muffins released it that year, I didn’t know this background to the song until today.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video for the song from Martha and the Muffins’ official YouTube channel

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