Posts Tagged ‘Martin Birch’

Martin Birch. RIP.

August 10, 2020

Or should I say Martin Birchtree, Enginearole, as he was memorably credited on one Machine Head tape reel…

1970 was a cracking year to be let loose in the record shops, seeing how far my pocket money would go. I bought Deep Purple In Rock of course (Engineer on Hard Lovin’ Man? Martin Birch) but did explore other bands, and one of the first singles I picked up was Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi. Engineer? Martin Birch.
A mate at school then brought Thank Christ For The Bomb along to play a track from one day (in form assembly of all places) by The Groundhogs (to be outdone by Split later that year, an astonishing audio experience). Engineer? Martin Birch. Another lad was raving about the track Phoenix by a new band called Wishbone Ash. Engineer? Martin Birch.
And that was just 1970.
What I’m trying to say is that Martin’s name has been on my radar most of my music buying life. And the same happened with the next generation of rock fans as his credit began to appear on a raft of post-Deep Purple projects like Whitesnake, Rainbow and PAL. The following wave of heavy metal again drew on Martin’s skills, in particular Iron Maiden (though by now he was credited as Producer, Engineer, Mixer, Tape Op and Technician!). After which he hung up the earphones in his early 40s and left the business.
Despite that early retirement, the extensive list of studio projects he got through is remarkable when you start to look carefully through it, albeit for many Deep Purple fans it is Machine Head which will be the one he is probably most remembered for. I and a few others have literally been going over every felt pen mark on the album’s tape boxes this last week or so to try and glean the tiniest bit of new information from them for the upcoming biography. Indeed it is with a heavy heart that I will close the file on my laptop where I had begun a list of niggling questions I was hoping to put to him shortly (Derek Lawrence called him up last year on my behalf – they’d kept in touch, explained what we wanted, and got an OK to call, on the proviso to “tell him I’m very unlikely to remember anything very much!”).
The sixth member of Deep Purple? It’s a soubriquet which he certainly deserved thanks to his handling the rest of Deep Purple’s classic era (and in a couple of cases even beyond).
It’s unusual for studio personnel to become as well known as the musicians they work for, but judging from the astonishing coverage Martin Birch’s passing (at just 71) has generated among the papers and news sites today, as well as rock fans, we’re not the only ones for whom his work has resonated so strongly.

degrees of separation

March 13, 2013

The deaths of Alvin Lee, guitarist with Ten Years After, and Peter Banks, founder member of Yes, have been announced. I remember enjoying TYA live in the early seventies not long after their big 1970 hit Love Like A Man, with the amazing extended live version on the flip. Alvin’s connection to the DP Family comes through a 1987 solo album Detroit Diesel, on which Jon Lord played Hammond (on two tracks – alongside other familiar names like Vicky Brown, Boz Burrell and George Harrison – it was even produced by Lou Austin).
By the time I got to see Yes they were into their ‘classic’ line-up era, but like many kids at school I recall the risqué sleeve to the first Flash album (1972), a band which Peter Banks formed after leaving Yes. It was only much later that I learned their albums were produced by Derek Lawrence and engineered by Martin Birch (just a few weeks before he zoomed off to do Machine Head).