The Motels: “Total Control”
It must be the summer heat, conjuring up memories of The Motels’ biggest hit, “Suddenly Last Summer,” that led me to today’s song, their earlier, even better, but maybe less well-remembered hit, “Total Control.” Featured on their 1979 debut album, The Motels, three years prior to their breakthrough in America, it’s an artistic high point I feel they never quite reached again. At least not to my knowledge, seeing as I actually didn’t follow their career all that closely — to which you might say, if you’re a diehard Motels fan (there are some of you still out there, I’m sure), that I don’t know what I’m talking about, then. But I know this: “Total Control” is such a perfect piece of oozing, sensual, yet somewhat sinister new-wave pop that there’s no way they could have outdone it. If I had thought about it at the time of its release, I’m sure I would have predicted the same thing, but even now, knowing that “Suddenly Last Summer” itself was a pretty great piece of songwriting (regardless of how dated its production might sound today), nothing could really come close. “Total Control” describes not just the need of lead singer and songwriter Martha Davis to be in control of the object of her desire, but also perfectly applies to the Motels’ control over the song’s tempo and emotion. Only that complete mastery of the steady, stalking pace and obsessively cool emotional tone would have served the song as well as it does.