Alsatian-Born Mark Wirtz began his music career while studying art at London's Fairfield College of Arts
and Sciences, and drama at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Arts, when his college Rock-band, 'The Beatcrackers,' were signed
to a recording contract in 1963 as 'Mark Rogers and the Marksmen' by EMI producer Norman Newell.
By 1965 Mark had started his first independent production company, releasing records that have since become
enduring classics, including Mood Mosaic's, "A Touch Of Velvet, A Sting Of Brass," for EMI's Parlophone Records, and his own
Mark Wirtz Orchestra album, "Latin A Go-Go," for Ember Records
In 1967, Mark accepted EMI veteran producer/A&R chief Norrie Paramor's offer to join EMI Records as in-house
producer. Working at Abbey Road Studios alongside the Beatles and Pink Floyd (the latter whom he was instrumental in signing
to the company), Mark wrote and produced landmark recordings by artists such as Keith West, Tomorrow, and Kippington Lodge.
Most notably, he reached global success with his production of excerpts from the first ever Rock Opera, "A Teenage Opera."
Though never allowed to be completed or released as an entire work, the opera's excerpts "Grocer Jack," "Sam" "Weatherman"
and "Theme" became legendary trail-blazers, which have not only captivated several generations of music fans, but influenced
and inspired artists and musicians world-wide.
In 1969, his creative freedom restricted by drastic, corporate, A&R policy changes, Mark resigned his
post at EMI Records to return to independent production. Associations with Larry Page's Penny Farthing label (Samantha Jones,
Kris "Lion Judd" Ife) and Les Reed's Chapter One label (Philwit & Pegasus, Roger James) followed, during which Mark formed
a co-writing partnership with Kris Ife that has endured to the present day with recent collaborations ("Learning 2 Live With
Love," MWET/Spyderbaby (2005); "One Night Stand" MWET/Anthony Rivers" (2005), and current works in progress for the "Cooking
For Cannibals" soundtrack album (2007)
In 1970, Mark left the shores of Britain to follow an invitation by his fellow expatriate producer and friend
Denny Cordell to work with him at Hollywood's Shelter Records.
In 1973, Mark signed a writer/artist/producer contract with Capitol Records for whom he recorded two acclaimed
albums, "Balloon" and "Hothouse Smiles."
In 1975, dropped by Capitol for his refusal to tour or perform publicly, Mark signed with ace producer Tom
Catalano and veteran publisher Dan Crewe's RCA-distributed TomCat label, an association that was doomed to be a short-lived
when the label folded only week's after Mark's first single release, "We Could Have laughed Forever,".
Having become a parent in the same year, hence home-responsibility-bound, Mark dropped his "loose cannon"
career pursuits and, under the name of Marc Peters, submerged into the role of "hired gun" session arranger/conductor in partnership
with producers including Kim Fowley and Jimmy Bowen. Numerous Pop/R&B and Country hit records followed, featuring an array
of artists as diverse as Helen Reddy, Leon Russell, Vicky Leandros, Kim Carnes, Dean Martin and Anthony Newly.
In 1979, signed by Russ Regan to Interworld Music/CBS Records as writer and producer, Mark returned to the
studio to produce his third solo album, "Lost Pets," sequentially joined by ace guitarists Richard Bennett and John Beland,
keyboard players Alan Lindgren and Tom Hensley, drummers Billy Thomas and Denny Seiwell, bassists David Hungate and Les Hurdle.
In the midst of a session for the only half-finished production, a medical emergency call from his daughter's Kindergarten
principal prompted Mark to close the piano lid, abort the project and leave the studio. Priority committed to hands-on single
parenting of his daughter Nicole, Mark vanished into obscurity and a hiatus from the music business that would last for more
than twenty years...
During those years, after savings had run out and royalties had dwindled, Mark took on a gamut of art-alien
jobs, including tele-marketer, waiter, maître 'd, blood-stock agent, interpreter, voice-over artist, undercover agent, seminar
leader and eventually sales manager for the prestigious 'Geneva' merger & acquisition firm.
While taking acting classes during off-times and burning the midnight oil in the pursuit of a new career as
a novelist, Mark also realized a life-long ambition to be a comedian by studying and performing at Hollywood's 'Groundlings'
Improv Theater, to eventually take his first steps onto the stages of Hollywood's comedy clubs, including the Comedy Store
and the Improv.
In 1996, his daughter grown up and in college, Mark moved to Savannah, GA, where he kept busy as an award-winning
freelance magazine columnist/food- and drama critic, while publishing his first novels, "Sisyphus Rocks" and "Love Is Eggshaped,"
as well as selling his paintings in a Savannah gallery.
In 2004, giving in to the plea from his by now in Spain residing daughter Nicole to produce her Rock-band
leader boyfriend's debut album, Mark flew to Barcelona and returned to the studio for the first time in many years to produce
Les Philippes' "Philharmonic Philanthropy." Before year's end, the band's album was #1 in the Independent label charts and
has since become a 'neo-psych Rock' cult classic.
His music appetite re-awakened, Mark continued his rebounded studio activities by subsequently producing his
own 'Mark Wirtz Eartheatre' solo album "Love Is Eggshaped," Spyderbaby UK's "Glassblower" CD, and Anthony River's yet unreleased
In 2006, Mark rekindled his passion for comedy by performing regularly in Florida and Georgia comedy clubs,
while working on his new, monologue/music CD/book project currently in-progress, "Cooking For Cannibals."
- - You started out as a performer, but I get the impression there was a producer inside of you struggling
to get out very soon already. What were your ambitions at the time ?
- My original ambition was to become a comedian -- the music was intended to be a means
to that end as a stepping stone. When I started to have some success with my music, I got side-tracked and put my comedy dream
on the shelf.
- - You've been involved with records as a writer, musician, producer, arranger and who-knows-what-else. Was
that part of the attraction ?
- I am at heart an entertainer, regardless of what I do, and always had complete, movie-like,
visions of my projects -- hence my audio-visual "movies on record" concept. Rather than trying to explain my visions to arrangers,
songwriters, etc. etc., I felt it more authentic, time- and cost-efficient to do it myself, while enjoying working with interpretative
talent to add their nuances to it.
- - Can't avoid the name of Phil Spector here. How did he influence you ?
- I loved the audacity and drama of his sound and music. While having been influenced by
Spector as a hero, or I should more accurately say inspired, my work differed severely in the sense that Spector went for
a one-dimensional, statically arranged, wall-like sound, whereas I went for three-dimensional sound perspectives and melodically
dynamic/moving - even playful - arrangements.
- In spite of a bunch of fairly straight forward pop singles, you go "Latin" on your first album. What's
the story there ?
Latin American sounds and rhythms have always been a favourite of mine, and I braided
those elements in virtually all of my arrangements, even if often subliminally so.
- You've had an amazing bunch of musicians backing you up on those mid-60"s tracks... Big Jim Sullivan, the
lesser known but not less talented Vic Flick, Nicky Hopkins and an up and coming Jimmy Page. Can you name some of the tracks
you used Page on ?
Page and I didn't get along. He was a brilliant player, but only on his terms and at his whim
-- unreliable, undisciplined, moody, and a poor sight reader, the latter an essential skill for my written orchestrations.
Page worked on several of the Colinio Productions (incl. Russ Loader and Dany Chandelle), but by the time I joined EMI as
a staff producer, he only sat in on some jam recordings (for which he was perfect), including Caroline Munro's "Sporting Life."
- You described this as your favourite era. Can you name some favourite tracks/sessions here ?
The Colinio days were fantastic, because there was only the challenge and the dream and
the realization of it, in total freedom, without bureaucratic /political pressures or rules. Engineer Mike Ross, my group
of musicians/ singers, and I were a tightly bonded team and we worked as hard as we enjoyed what we created.
- Its hard to conceive that these magnificent tracks by Jan Panter and Steve Howe have remain unreleased
until the Fantastic 2cd set. What else has been left in the can ? How did that affect and/or change you ?
I never gave it any thought. I did very little analyzing or deliberating back then. There
was only ideas and putting them on record as best as I could. The only unreleased track recorded before I left the UK, remains
the mysteriously missing epic production of "Two's Company, Three Thousand's a Crowd," a grand-scale musical comedy production
featuring Tim Rice and Samantha Jones.
- Instead of going to Los Angeles with Kim Fowley, you picked up an offer from EMI "with full creative freedom".
In retrospect a poisoned gift ?
Nope. It was fine. I have never regretted anything. The only thing that bummed me out was that
when I joined EMI, I was forced to use Abbey Road Studios and engineers, breaking up my significant work in progress with
Mike Ross and altering my creative path. Even though I formed a virtual brotherhood with Abbey Road engineer Geoff Emerick,
my entire career would have developed differently had Mike and I been able to continue working together at Bond Street's Levy's
studio. Mike and I and Levy's were a magical combination much like Spector, Le vine and Gold Star.
In any case, it led to you working with Tomorrow (feat. Steve Howe; later of Yes). At the same time
you got the idea for Teenage Opera. The way I see it the two of them were very much intertwined. Is that how you saw that
True, but, considering EMI"s offer, moving to LA at that time was not even an option.
- A question unanswered on the Fantastic Story CD is if 10,000 words in a Cardboard Box is an unreleased
"Twink Tomorrow" & "Junior Tomorrow" single...?
I have no knowledge of that single. When Keith went his own way, with Steve still by
his side, I simply continued with Twink and Junior as Aquarian Age, and we had high hopes. When the single flopped, Twink
joined the Pretty Things and Junior left the business.
- Excerpt from a Teenage Opera (commonly known as grocer Jack) was a huge smash all over Europe. Yet the
LP, what could have been an absolute highlight in your career, was never to be. The beginning of the end ?
Other than the shame and embarrassment that hurt me, the assumption having been that
I, personally, wasn't capable of delivering, instead of putting the blame on the political wall that stopped the production
of the entire work, I never gave it much thought and just got on with it. I've never much looked back in my life. By the time
a record came out, I was typically deep into another project already.
- Was the concept of Teenage Opera all worked out already or were you making things up as you went along
at that point ?
I had a complete musical and dramatic vision.
- How accurate to the original concept is the cd as it is available now ?
Totally inaccurate. There are the three, original, T.O. tracks and a few backing track
out-takes. That"s it, that's all. All the other material on this CD was simply produced within the same, general, time vicinity
of the authentic T.O. recordings.
- Rumour has it that while at EMI you have done arrangements for The Beatles...
No. Mike Leander arranged a number of things. My only work with/ for a Beatle were my
productions with Grapefruit for Paul McCartney. Those recordings, for some reason, also appear to be mysteriously missing.
- How about their cover of Strawberry Fields Forever...?
Tomorrow's Strawberry Fields -- no, the Beatles had no involvement. Paul McCartney (who
was working with the Beatles in Studio 2 at the time) came to studio 3 for a visit during the Tomorrow sessions, but Keith
was very rude to him and told him to fuck off. Very embarrassing. Not surprisingly, Paul never came back, nor did any of the
other Beatles visit. Talk about stupid!
- And still from the gossip department...What's the link between you and Pink Floyd ?
Mates and mutual fans - as they were close to Keith, Steve, Twink and Junior.
- You refer to the post-Teenage Opera singles as the "immediate aftermath" (on Fantastic Story). I take it
this is an attempt to be as neutral as possible. Musically it's a return to basics...
Actually, I was trying to make pop records that the BBC might play. In vain. Only Philwit
& Pegasus was a genuine "MW creation."
- Yet you consider Barefoot & tiptoe as "once more with vision", while 10000 words in a cardboard box
is as good on every level ! Classic tracks that could have been huge hits. Lack of promotion ?
Barefoot and Tiptoe was an incredible indulgence -- a record that, by rights, should
never have been produced. I was in love and not thinking straIght. Conversely, I still think that 10 000 words was a genuine
gem. If that record had happened, Twink and Junior and I would have followed with some amazing stuff...
- - What the deal with Samantha Jones ? I get the impression there was no real vision of what direction to
- "Today Without You" is my favorite (and in my opinion best) pure pop record I made in the UK.
The album was a fairly rushed project, virtually recorded live, material picked by Larry Page, or written by me and Kris Ife
specifically for Samantha. I loved working with Sam and I still like the LP, despite its technicolor MOR "after dinner mints"
ambience. It was a gig.
- - After a period of a certain disinterest, had Philwit & Pegasus become a
make it or break it thing ?
- Not really. I was thrilled that Les Reed just said to me, "Go make an album, do whatever
you want." When, 4 weeks later, I played the finished master to Les, he was incredibly enthusiastic. We both believed that
the album would happen. It didn't. That pretty much killed my career in London -- I couldn't get any more work. So, I finally
accepted Denny Cornell's long-standing offer to join him at his Shelter Record in Hollywood.
- - Who would you have loved to produce ?
- In the early days, Gene Pitney. In later years, Tina Turner... Not too many I can think
of, simply, because most of the artists/ bands I admired the most, like Queen, Super tramp, ELO, 10 cc etc. were doing just
fine without me. -- Oh yeah, Harry Nilsson!!! Yeah, no shit! I coulda made some amazing records with him. I would have loved
to have gotten my hands on "The Point" and produce an entirely different version with Harry, co-writing some extra material.
- - Have you ever considered performing live or taking any one of these projects to a stage ?
- I'm quite happy performing comedy two to three times a week in comedy clubs, as well as work-shopping
my "Cooking For Cannibals" one-man show -- which I intend to perform in the UK. One man, one mic, one piano.
- - Your records have been issued under many aliases, several not by your choice. Do you think that caused
a certain lack of identity towards the audience and damaged your career ?
- Nah... those things were demoes that were illegitimately released as singles and only discovered
recently as works associated with me. I smile at those records now, realizing that I was, for a few months, actually part
of a Rockband, without even knowing it at the time -- the Matchmakers. Oh yeah, we had a lot of fun, and the records sound
like it. They're hard on the line of satire... ALMOST Rock slapstick! LOL
- How do you look back on those first years in the States ?
Oh... a lot of waiting (immigration stuff), months in-between projects, and trying to
find my identity in the US. I missed England and London and me mates... I think it was out of that yearning to belong that
I made some erroneous marriage partner decisions, which resulted in family responsibilities that took me out of orbit...
- You then turned your back on the music industry. Why ?
To raise my then infant daughter as a hands-on, single, parent. Which I did -- from diapers
to tampons. She's turned out to be a great human being, so I did something right.
- A few years ago there was a comeback. Did the interest in your cd play a part in that ? And with the www
in full bloom by now, you must have realized there was still an interest in your music, perhaps even more than ever !
If you're talking about a renaissance of interest in my stuff, that was sparked by rpm's
fictitious release of the "A Teenage Opera" CD
- Starting with Teenage Opera, you note "movies on record" on your Fantastic Story set. I think that is an
element that has always been there, even down to the song titles...
It's still there in everything I do. I make movies, just not projected on a movie, or TV screen,
but in people's heads.
- Tell us about Love is Eggshaped...
An intended bridge between the past and the future. After an initially luke-warm reception
in the UK (to raves in the USA among music aficionados), the CD is finally gaining momentum as a cult gem... Word of mouth
is spreading and it'll radio stations are picking it up. As always, my stuff grows on people before it is appreciated. Mind
you, I don't have another 40 years left before my new stuff is finally accepted, LOL.
- Now there's the first Spyderbaby cd. An amazing cd, yet its release was not evident. Visions of Teenage
Opera all over again ?
Even though, from EMI down, the labels loved the album, they refused to release it because
they felt that the Spyderbaby gang was too old. So, a couple of months ago, my partner Dieter and I released it ourselves
on our own Dreamtunes label to at least get it on the market. But Dieter and I are not a real record company, so it"s a very
low-key release, so far only known about by collectors. I am still hoping that enough excitement will spread and prompt a
distributor to get involved.
- What"s still in the works ? There has been mention of a Christmas Wishmas album...?
"Wishmas"? There doesn"t appear to be a market for it. The only project on the map right now
is my "Cooking For Cannibals" show/CD-DVD/book. A big undertaking, and quite, quite different from what people are used to
from me. Exciting!? I'm done with the past. The LIE CD was the concluding bookend.
How did I do? Give you what you were looking for?
Warm best, Cheers,