Your benevolent 80s overlord is back! That wonderful term of endearment was the creation of one of my best friends, Hopey T. We collaborated on many radio shows over the years, and last week, we started on our first writing collaboration, a screenplay for a Comedy / Drama film set in the 80s. It’s gonna be pretty bleeping cool, much like Hopey T herself.
Speaking of Hope, she got a song stuck in my head last week that I’ve never forgotten about, but just hadn’t thought about in awhile – the wonderful “Belly Of The Whale” by Burning Sensations.
Formed in the Los Angeles, California area in 1982, Burning Sensations was a Rock band founded by Tim McGovern, the former lead guitarist for The Motels (and former love interest for that band’s leader and lead singer, Martha Davis).
Tim had been with The Motels for their first two albums, and during the 1981 recording for their third album, titled APOCALYPSO, Tim had disagreements with the album’s producer Val Garay, who has worked with many artists like Kim Carnes (they shared a Record Of The Year Grammy Award for “Bette Davis Eyes”), Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Ringo Starr, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Armatrading and much more.
Well, by the end of 1981, Martha Davis and Tim McGovern broke up, he left the band and the APOCALYPSO album never materialized (Capitol Records said it was “too weird” and “not commercial enough”). What turned out to be The Motels’ third album, 1982’s ALL FOUR ONE, would become their big breakthrough album and featured the Top 10 hit, “Only The Lonely,” plus “Take The L” and even a couple of songs co-written by Tim McGovern, “Art Fails” and “Tragic Surf.”
After his departure from The Motels, Tim McGovern founded Burning Sensations, whose name might be a throwback to Reggae group names like The Wailing Souls or The Mighty Diamonds, or even non-Reggae acts like The English Beat.
Burning Sensations released one EP (BELLY OF THE WHALE in 1982) and their self-titled full-length album in 1983, which featured covers of songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival (“Down On The Corner”) and Jimi Hendrix (“I Don’t Live Today”).
The BURNING SENSATIONS album also featured “Belly Of The Whale,” a song which fuses Rock and Calypso and whose sound may or may not have been inspired by that Motels album that didn’t work out.
Though “Belly Of The Whale” did enjoy some success on MTV (the video features a tribute-of-sorts to the biggest music act of that year, Michael Jackson), it was never a hit, a fact that still surprises me to this day. But, as I’ve come to realize over the years, some of the best songs ever released were never really hits at all.
Burning Sensations contributed one more cover in their short time together, with a cover of Jonathan Richman’s “Pablo Picasso” featured on the 1984 soundtrack to the cult classic, REPO MAN, with a sound harkening a bit to Wall Of Voodoo.
The six men who comprised Burning Sensations would be together for just five years, and broke up in 1987. At last check, Tim McGovern leads a Classic Rock band in the Pacific Northwest called Knucklehead. But, I’ll remember Tim most for writing one of the catchiest and danceable classics of the 80s that never became a hit, though it’s always been one with me. Maybe even Ishmael and Jonah would agree.