Dean Chamberlain

Under Appreciated

The bandleader and songwriter for Code BlueDean Chamberlain is best known as one of the founders of the 1980’s new wave band the Motels, which had two #9 hits with “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer” in 1982 and 1983, respectively.  The band was formed, however, all the way back in 1971.  Originally called the Warfield Foxes, the bandmembers were Lisa Brenneis (bass), Dean Chamberlain (lead guitar), Chuck Wada (rhythm guitar) and Martha Davis (vocals, guitar).  Chamberlain eventually tired of the Bay Area scene and moved to Los Angeles; as he puts it:  “I came down to L.A. to see Iggy Pop at the Whisky a Go-Go and stayed.”  The rest of the bandmembers joined him there by 1975Lisa Brenneis had originally been the impetus for the formation of the band, but she dropped out shortly after the move.  Richard D’Andrea replaced her on bass; the band also added drummer Robert Newman.  After calling themselves Angels of Mercy for a time, they settled on the name the Motels
After struggling for a couple of years, Capitol Records offered the Motels a recording contract in 1977; instead, the band broke up, citing creative differences.  From Dean Chamberlains standpoint, he thought that there was too much emphasis on lead singer Martha Davis.  One song, “Counting” survived from this very early period in the Motels; the song was first included on a 1978 Rhino Records compilation album, Saturday Night PogoCountinglater appeared as the final track on the first album, simply called Motels, which came out in 1979.  I have seen the album several times in record bins; maybe it is the lack of “The” or the fact that it has a completely different look from their flashy later albums, but I never even thought of this album as being by the Motels.  In any case, the only bandmember still around from the original Motels was Martha Davis.  Dean Chamberlain describes the Motels that he helped found as being “a crazyass funky [Led Zeppelin] style band”. 
Dean Chamberlain was born in San Francisco and grew up in the nearby city of San Mateo.  After the Motels (the original band that is) broke up, he ran an ad looking for other musicians; out of this, a trio called Skin was born in 1978 that also included Michael Ostendorf (bass) and Randall Marsh (drums).  They started playing gigs in the L.A. area, and scouts for Warner Bros. Records signed them the day after they heard one of their shows.  Ostendorf left the band, and after Gary Tibbs replaced him on bass, they changed their name to Code Blue, hospital-ese for a patient requiring immediate resuscitation.  (There are a lot of other hospital codes, but TV medical shows only ever seem to use the blue one). 
After Code Blue’s demise, Dean Chamberlain played and toured for a while with the L.A. country punk band Tex & the Horseheads (though he was evidently not a bandmember) and then formed a trio called Resurrection.  With three members of a latter incarnation of punk band T.S.O.L. – Joe Wood (vocals), Mitch Dean (drums) and Dave Mello (bass) – and another guitarist from heavy metal shock-rockers the MentorsDean Chamberlain was next in a band in the early 1990’s by the name of Orange Wedge that played what he called “southern fried acid-speed-blues”. 
After taking about 15 years off from the music scene, Dean Chamberlain formed a new roots-rock/blues band called The Honorable DHC with fellow Code Blue member Randall Marsh on drums and Ted Russell Kamp (also with Shooter Jennings’ band) on bass.  Their debut EP, Welcome to Wonder Valley came out on CD in 2011
I picked up the album for this month’s UARB at the same time as that of Wild Blue, and not surprisingly, I was confusing the two bands in my mind for quite a while before I learned my way around their albums.  I thought it would be kind of fun to include two bands with such similar names in the UARB list.   
Meanwhile, the Code Blue EP was insinuating itself into the part of my cerebrum where my favorite songs are stored; after just a few plays, I was really starting to love these four songs – “Whisper/Touch”, Face to Face, “Hurt”, and “The Need” (all written by Dean Chamberlain).
(September 2012)
Last edited: March 22, 2021