Thursday, January 29, 2015

STATE OF SHOCK: The Moirs: Margot is No Moir

Before lesbians were out and romping on the tennis court (Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, etc.) or openly dishing as hosts of their own talk shows (Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O'Donnell, etc.) the weird Moirs sisters were singing a song of Sappho: "Who Needs a Man?" Not that anyone was paying attention. The death of Margot Moir hasn't gotten a lot of attention either

On January 27, Margot Moir died. While I wasn't in a "state of shock" (the title of their second and last album), I was surprised. Was it THAT long ago that I got a promo copy of the album? How…old…was she?

Only 55.

Next question, what do I say about The Moirs (last name pronounced the same as American TV personality Bill Moyers)? It's a bit of a left-handed compliment to say that I kept the album all these years just because it was so visually and musically weird. But it's true.

Back in the day, I was a young rock writer specializing in all the weird and edgy stuff that the rock editors didn't keep for themselves. They tossed me a dozen demo albums with a warning: "Pick one…ONE of these obscure debut albums to review for the next issue." I interviewed people nobody else on the staff cared about or wanted to talk to. So it was, that I scored a copy of "State of Shock," with a three page bio on light blue paper from Rocket Records' publicity department. Whatever drone was working for that label didn't know anything about writing an eye-grabbing opening line:

"Fifteen years ago the entire Moir family emigrated to Australia from their native forfar, in Scotland. On returning for a two-year sojourn some years later, a neighbor gave one of the girls a guitar, which helped to ease the tedium of their return to Australia. It began with Jean, but Margot soon joined with early dabblings in music and vocal techniques."

Zzz. I did know what a sojourn was, but not a "forfar." It turned out to be a typo and should've been the town of Forfar. So far, so uninteresting. But happily for the girls, they did have a top ten Aussie hit in 1974 with "Good Morning (How Are You?)" and the following year recorded the album "Lost Somewhere Beyond Harmony."

Three years later, Rocket Records thought America might want a spooky, pedo-goth trio of Kate Bushes. Or maybe a girl-group variation on The Chipmunks. So "State of Shock" became the first album by The Moirs to be released in America. How sad that when I wangled an invite to a Rocket Records party for new artists, I got to talk to President Elton John his own self, and Colin Blunstone, and Lorna Wright, but...nope. The Moirs weren't there. I never did get to see the three sirens in the flesh, assuming they had any. But I kept the 1978 record, which turned out to be their last. 18 years later, Margot issued a solo album that included a new version of "Who Needs a Man." What she did for the next 18 years, I have no idea. She's survived by her two sisters, the younger Jean (born in 1957) and older Lesley (born in 1962).

Who needs a download of "Who Needs a Man?" Why not you? The music's a cheesy brand of vaudeville rock, somewhere between "Winchester Cathedral" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." There's a doodle-ee-doo type bit of scatting as well, which might be a nod to the aggravating ""A Doodlin' Song" from the 50's, or just a variation on vodo-ee-odo. I guess "nyaa nyaah" was already done by McCartney and wife. The precocious number is the only one on the album with music by Margot. The lyrics are by Jean (who wrote the music for all the other songs). The sisters chide a girl for not hooking up with a willing lesbian:

"Met up with a girl who had a surprise. WOOO! You thought she was strange because she wanted to hold your hand. She said "Listen sugar, are you disappointed 'cause I ain't a man? Who needs a man?"

"Well your parents just wouldn't understand how a daughter could not love a man (too bad). Loving like this can bring a lot of pain. Some people don't think that you are the same. Who needs a man?"

Man, if you need something weird, here it is:



nivram0544 said...

Hi there,
We need this STATE OF SHOCK album reissued and remastered on a CD format as ALL the vinyls in the USA/Europe are both rubbish quality.!! No Japanese pressing neither.

Ill Folks said...

Shame on the Japanese. I mean, they rescued Severin Browne and Craig Doerge! It would seem that most artists (even ones chronicled on THIS blog) would be able to sell out a modest pressing of 500 or 1000, from old fans and curious newcomers.

It's possible there's some greedhead problem (the rights owners holding up for a ridiculous advance) or some confusion. Sometimes contracts are lost, or the actual ownership is up to interpretation, and people leave it alone rather than risk a lawsuit for having re-printed and created some kind of "tortuous interference" that ends up costing "treble damages."

Always a sad, sad situation, and often absurd.