Browse by Title
V W X Y Z #  

Only the Lonely


The Motels

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The Motels spent the late '70s making a name for themselves in the Los Angeles music scene, and their first two albums, released in 1979 and 1980, met with critical acclaim and cracked the charts in America and Australia. All Four One was their third album, and it contained their breakthrough hit "Only the Lonely," which was written by their lead singer Martha Davis. She explained the song in an interview with Beyond Race magazine. Said Davis: "'Only the Lonely' was one of those songs that was sitting on my guitar waiting for me. It literally wrote itself. It's a song about empty success. It came about while the Motels were experiencing critical acclaim, traveling the world, riding in limos, and yet I was probably as sad as I had ever been. I was in a horrible relationship and had not yet recovered from my parents' death (I doubt one ever does). The contradiction of these two worlds was where "Only the Lonely" lived... bittersweet."
A few years prior to the release of All Four One, The Motels, short on funds, shared studio space with the Go-Go's at The Masque, a buzzing punk hangout in Los Angeles (get more on that in our interview with Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's). In the book MTV Ruled the World - The Early Years of Music Video, Davis tells of these days: "We used to rehearse together in the same room, under the Pussycat Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, in a place called the Masque, which was a famous punk rock place. They rehearsed on one side of the room, and we rehearsed on the other. We got signed first, and they said, 'We're going to move our equipment to your side of the room... maybe we'll get lucky and get signed too.' And they did."

And the release of All Four One coincided with the start of MTV, which led to videos being made for "Only The Lonely" and "Take the L." All Four One went gold, powered by this Top-10 hit, and the next year The Motels appeared on Saturday Night Live.
The video from this number garnered Martha Davis an American Music Award for "Best Performance in a Music Video."
The Motels
More The Motels songs
More songs about loneliness or isolation
More songs in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV

Comments (4):

On June 5th 1982, the Motels performed "Only The Lonely" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
At the time "Only The Lonely" was at #34 on the Top 100 chart...
(See next post below).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
On April 18th 1982, "Only the Lonely" by the Motels entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on July 11th it peaked at #9 (for 4 weeks) and spent 23 weeks on the Top 100...
The group had one other Top 10 record, 'Suddenly Last Summer", and it also peaked at #9 on the Top 100...
Two other records titled "Only the Lonely" have made the Top 100; Roy Orbison's song peaked at #2 (for 1 week) in 1960 and LaFlavour reached #91 in 1980.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Spooky mild reverb, mystical mind's veils waving, and star shimmers of the heart, this is one of my favorite, iconic 80s songs. Thank you, Motels.
- MichaelBrenden, DC, MD
Great guitar and sax solo's
- Keith, Philadelphia, PA
You have to to post comments.
Pete AndersonPete Anderson
Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.
Macabre Mother Goose: The Dark Side of Children's SongsMacabre Mother Goose: The Dark Side of Children's Songs
"London Bridge," "Ring Around the Rosie" and "It's Raining, It's Pouring" are just a few examples of shockingly morbid children's songs.
Jello BiafraJello Biafra
The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.
Francis Rossi of Status QuoFrancis Rossi of Status Quo
Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.