A Long Lost Band Called “The Movies”

This frivolous little post came about because I recently re-watched the original Fun with Dick and Jane (1977) and was reminded of how crazy I was about the theme song to that movie when it first came out 44 years ago. Its refrain “Wahoo! How time flies, we were once ahead of the game” is an earworm — it gets in your head and won’t leave. I felt that way then and now it has returned to torment me. It sounds Beatley, with a bit of Nilsson and the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle thrown into the soup. Back in the day, I retained the song in my mind for a few days, where it subsequently evaporated, and now I have encountered it again with the added bonus of having the tools to find out more about it. It wasn’t easy. That’s the other reason I’m posting; to make the search easier for others, because the band that recorded the song was only together for a year, and they have almost no internet presence. And superlative art, including pop music, should never be forgotten.

As I learned from the credits to the film, the band was called “The Movies”. Back in the ’70s that was a pretty cool name for a pop group. In the age of search engines, it is a nightmare. If you Google “The Movies” you will die a centenarian before you ever encounter anything about this band. But I found some scraps by adding other search terms and was able to learn a few things, though they be few, from this valuable article. The Movies were from Milwaukee, and composed of former members of The Messengers, the first white band signed by Motown. The members were Michael Morgan, Peter Barnes, and Ted Medbury. They were a vocal trio, a popular thing at the time, if The Hudson Brothers, Three Dog Night, and The Bee Gees have anything to say in the matter. And they recorded but one LP, self-titled, on Arista Records, which at the time was brand new. They also performed on the last episode of Howard Cosell’s Saturday Night Live program on ABC (a short-lived variety series that debuted a few months before the vastly better known SNL).

The Movies’ brief time in the sun appears to have been torpedoed by Arista’s honcho Clive Davis over some mysterious incident. Would love to know what happened, because otherwise I’m just going to imagine all sorts of things. Anyway, the article I mentioned contains a couple of their tunes off the record, which was produced by Providence’s Vini Poncia, then best known for being Ringo Starr’s co-writer on several hit songs on the Ringo and Goodnight Vienna albums. I am crazy about that Beatle-y sound, though even I have to admit it was not at all commercial in 1976. Even the actual Beatles had altered their own sounds as solo artists to tack with the times. In a vacuum, the music is tremendous, but there wouldn’t have been much market for it when disco was taking off. It would be a few years before the public would be receptive to that kind of thing again (I always think of the 1982 theme to Cheers “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” as a sort of benchmark). At any rate, for the curious, here’s the theme to Fun with Dick and Jane,