Blast From The Past: Martin Luther Lennon

Sure, Martin Luther Lennon is an odd name, but if your real name is Tony Perkins, that’s not really going to work, is it? But he didn’t invent that moniker –  Paul McCartney did. “I heard him use the term in an interview referring to what he considered to be the overdone canonization of John Lennon after he was killed as opposed to how he was treated before that.”

But whether you call him Tony or Martin, know that he is one of the true unsung heroes of the powerpop scene over the last couple of decades. He was instrumental in the launch and success of Poptopia, the LA-based pop festival which promoted hundreds of bands and inspired three decade-themed collections on Rhino Records. Although the festival no longer exists, its spirit lives in within International Pop Overthrow and it spawned countless regional festivals like Sparklefest/Shindig , Dewey Beach and Wild Weekend.

As Martin Luther Lennon, Tony appeared on a couple of pop compilations and also issued two very good powerpop albums.  Escape To Paradox Island I liked, but Music For A World Without Limitations remains one of my favorite chestnuts to pull out at any time. With Tony on vocals and bass, Robbie Rist on drums and Steve Refling on guitar – Adam Marsland of Cockeyed Ghost added some guitar and vocals as well – it’s a stripped down rave-up of odd and quirky songs that haven’t crawled out of my head yet. Tony’s voice is a little thin, but I think it perfectly suits the songs, and the band is strong. Rist – who can play anything – is a powerhouse, while Refling adds tasty licks and fills everywhere. It’s pop, it’s punk, it’s rawk, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Not for everyone, but what is?

My favorite song is “No Junkies In West Hills” which flat out rocks; it could also have something to do with the fact that my kids used to sing along with it in the car at the top of their lungs. (Caveat – they thought the song was called “No Chuckies in Wegmans“, which I guess referred to both a character on a popular Nickelodeon show and the name of a regional grocery chain. Fine by me – like I was going to tell pre-school girls the truth?)

Here, in Tony’s own words, are the background to the songs. Go grab a copy and enjoy it now and ever after.

No limitations to how much I love this album

No limitations to how much I love this album

Kill Kill Kill
Written of the course of summer 93 during a time when I was really sick. No real conscious explanation other than the fact that I thought that it would be really funny to write a pop song called “Kill Kill Kill”.

Nobody I know
Actually a much older recording that was made around the same time that the Sympophony songs (89-90) written even earlier at a time when I was really unhappy about living in Los Angeles. (Pop geek note, monster rhythm guitar sound was achieved by double tracked 12 string Rickenbacker that used to belong to Paula Pierce of the Pandoras (RIP)).

Brenda Revisited
Initially inspired by Brenda Spencer, (the girl that “I don’t like Mondays” was written about) a girl two decades ahead of her time as it turns out) and the realization that when I was that age that I was in the same logistical position to do what she did (I grew up across the street from an elementary school and my Dad’s a gun nut).

Gun Heaven
In the tradition of the old spirituals and classic “folk” tunes. Basically “Big Rock Candy Mountain” with guns. Kind of a rip actually

Hologram Sam
Fun with light verse. Check out the big Attractions style jam at the end. I played the guitar lead on this, I rule.

Happygirl
Original title “The adventures of happygirl”. Is not about anyone in particular. Partial attempt to rewrite “I wish I was you mother” by Mott the Hoople.

No Waiting
Original title “Bored in Heaven” which makes it clear as to what it is about (did not want to have more than one song on the record with heaven in the title). I swear I came up with the “all you can eat” food concept before Albert Brooks, But so it goes.

Dr Nu
Only song based on a real life event I was sick with an undiagnosed Epstein Barr type thing that left me barely able to get out of bed and caused chronic chest pains for about five months. The title refers to an amalgam of conventional docs who would not prescribe me painkillers because they thought that I was making it up (got some anyway, Fuck them).

Elephant
People hear this and think that I should make a children’s record. Too bad I don’t like kids.

No Junkies in West Hills
One of a few San Fernando Valley” songs that I have written dealing with it’s reputation as a safe, sterile, white on white suburb with the actual strange reality of the place. How did I manage to spend almost my entire life here? WHY?

Wonderful Us
It’s a HAPPY song. Which seems only fair considering the basic tone of the record. So there you go. Adam arranged and sang all the backups in the out-chorus.

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