Robert Palmer recorded your song, Bad Case Of Loving You, which charted well. How did this recording with Robert Palmer come about?
At that time, my publishing company was one of the top publishing companies. I had Bad Case Of Loving You and Rolene and No Chance did well that year. So I had three chart records that year, for the same publishing company. At that time, it was very difficult for a rock record to do well. Even Pat Benatar was having trouble cracking the Top 20. Some people were saying that Bad Case Of Loving You is the song that brought rock back to the charts. Because, at that time, you had Fleetwood Mac, which I really like, but it's not rock. And, you had Rupert Holmes with Pina Colada, things like that. How Robert came about recording the song was that Robert told me he was going to do a show, and he was being driven to the show by a program guy, and the program guy asked him if he had heard this new Moon Martin record and played him Bad Case Of Loving You and Robert, later, put it in his set. That was back when people took chances. These days, the shows are so organized and rehearsed, that they have a set list and don't deviate from the list.
Do You know if that is the first time he had ever heard your music or was he already familiar with it?
As far as I know, that is the first time he had heard my music.
He then became a big fan of yours.
Yeah, actually, at one time, he was doing 3 or 4 songs of mine in his set.
Do you recall hearing his version of Bad Case Of Loving You on the radio for the first time?
I don't remember hearing it for the first time, on the radio. I don't listen to much radio. I do remember hearing Rolene on the radio for the first time. We were on tour and the guys in the band liked to listen to the radio, so they would have the radio on. I was recording Escape From Domination, in Vermont and I'm in Vermont, and someone says, "Hey, Robert Palmer is recording Bad Case Of Loving You." I said, "Really?" I said that it would be interesting if Bad Case and one of my songs, come out at the same time. So I get back home to California, and I get a call from Warner Brothers and they said, "Robert's down here and wants to meet you. Could you come down?" And, they said, "By the way, Bad Case Of Loving You is going to be a number one record." This is before the record is even released.
How was it that Robert Palmer was chosen to produce Mystery Ticket?
After Street Fever didn't do so well in the United States, Capitol said, "You need to stop producing your own records. You need to get another producer." And that wasn't any problem with me and I said, "Okay." I said, "Let's go find another producer." And Capitol, at that time, wanted to sign Robert Palmer. I think Capitol thought that by me getting Robert Palmer to produce this record, it was a way to help them sign Robert and they did sign Robert Palmer. After he got off Island, they did wind up signing him. So, I looked around for different producers. I auditioned, in my mind, a lot of producers. I went and talked to a lot of them and I found out that a lot of them didn't know anymore than me and most of them knew a lot less than me. I was going to interview Mutt Lange, but he wanted me to do a 3 or 4 song demo and keep in mind, I was a big thing in Europe and I was saying, "He doesn't know who I am, he doesn't know what my stuff sounds like," and I didn't want to have someone judge my new material to see if he wants to produce me or not. Of course, I might think differently now. (laughter) That would have been a good match. I like his songwriting and I like his production and it would have been a good match for me.
Mystery Ticket has a bit of a techno-pop, keyboard-based sound to it which is somewhat different than your other albums. Was this a direction you wanted to take or did Robert Palmer have some say in the direction you took with this album?
Well, no, this was pretty much me. Craig Leon, my first producer, even says this. He says he and I did one of the first techno records. Now, I think Donna Summer did the first techno record. I was just putting a little more rock into what Donna Summer did. At the time, I was really liking the synth thing that was happening over in Europe and Bad Case Of Loving You was in that direction and so all you gotta do is put a little more synths in it. So this album was not a big stretch, from my imagination, from what I had done in the past. It was just a different over-dubbing approach. Robert was more than happy to help me achieve that because he had been working with Gary Numan and some guy from Tangerine Dream and he knew how to make that kind of record and there was a new way to cut tracks which was you cut with a sequencer and it was a more musical approach. Robert had to put up with a lot of flak in Europe because I was kind of like their American guitar-hero, Chuck Berry hero, roots-rocker guy in Europe and I came out with this techno record and when they interviewed Robert, they would say, "Why did you take our guitar-hero and make him into this techno-gentleman's-quarterly kind of artist?" (laughter)
Mystery Ticket sell less than your other albums in Europe?
It sold less than Street Fever, which was a big hit, but it still sold better than my first two records. And, it had a bona-fide hit, it had X-Ray Vision, which was a hit in Europe.
The album was recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. I bet it was quite a lot of fun.
Yeah, I was there for 4 or 5 months and Robert was very patient with me. I have a lot of ideas, so I would have one idea, and while they were trying that idea, I would have six more. Plus, I'll have 3 or 4 parts going on in my head. I would construct the songs in my head and I would say, "The bass part does this and the keyboard part does that," and I would have all these scenarios in my head. Well, Robert does it a different way. Robert will bring in a musician and let the musician play and whatever that musician plays he fixes that up and then, brings in somebody else and then that musician has to play to that drummer. Well, I don't like doing it that way because you paint yourself into a corner with each subsequent overdub and I have since learned that that can be a very good way of doing things and you can come up with some unique surprises that way, but at the time I was more into constructing variations in my head. Robert was very patient and did a great job. Looking back at it, I probably made a mistake remixing some of his mixes. I think his mixes were probably better than mine. I learned some things. Probably, at the expense of the record. I went to a dance club in LA and they were playing X-Ray Vision, which was a big dance hit in the United States, and I noticed that I had put on too much bottom end. I have subsequently learned to be more careful about the mixing setup that I use. I remember Robert didn't like the mixes because he was saying, "Where's the mid-range?" And he was absolutely right because there was so much bottom end that got jacked, on there, there was no guitars and stuff. But, hey, you live and learn.
You mentionned that the timing of the video for X-Ray Vision was not good because, by then, the song Bad News from Street Fever was just taking off in Europe...
Well, it just shows you how things happen. We had finished Sreet Fever. It was done. Its life was over. I had produced Street Fever myself and it didn't do well, so the label said I had to get a new producer. So, I get Robert Palmer and we're working on Mystery Ticket and in the middle of doing it, and this is about a year after Street Fever was released, and I get a call saying we need you to come to Europe for some promotion and I said, "Promotion for what?" and they said, "For Street Fever," and I said, "That album is done," and they said, "No, it's a hit." So, I had to leave in the middle of doing Mystery Ticket with Robert, to go promote the record that I produced, that everybody said was bad because it was my production. Now, it's a big hit in Europe.
How long were you gone?
I was gone 3 weeks. I told Robert, I said, "Listen, I know you have been working with me for a long time and it must be boring as hell. Bring some guys in and cut some songs and if I come back and you're not finished I'll wait around. I don't care." So while I was gone, you know what he cut? Some Guys Have All The Luck. So I am walking down the hall of Compass Point, and I hear this tune and I thought, that sounds like Aces With You, which is the single that I thought never got a fair shot. So anyway, when it comes time to release Mystery Ticket in the United States, they don't want to promote it in Europe because they want to promote Street Fever. Now, keep in mind, we now have 2 records: Street Fever, which is all guitars, and Mystery Ticket, which is all synthesizers. Capitol is very happy I'm doing this new sounding record. But, meanwhile, I've got this giant record that was on the Radio Monte Carlo's charts for, like, 30 weeks and it was in every disco from Greece, to Spain, to Germany, to Italy, and I had never had any success in Italy because they were more disco-oriented. They took Bad News, cut out the bridge and sped it up a little bit and it became this giant disco hit and it's all guitars. So six months later, I'm coming out with Mystery Ticket which is all synthesizers. It was a nightmare. What we should have done was reassess everything. Do I want to come out with a synth record now that I have this guitar record doing so well? I loved the synth record that was coming up, but everyone in Europe blamed it all on Robert (laughter) and it wasn't his fault. I was the one who wanted to do a synth record because Capitol said I needed to do something different.
Interview by Ron Balliet - 2000