Martin Newell (musician)

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Martin Newell
Martin Newell in 2007
Born 1953 (age 61–62)

Martin Newell (born 4 March 1953), also known as "the Wild Man of Wivenhoe", is an English pop musician, singer, guitarist, songwriter, recording artist, poet and author. He grew up in an army family in various parts of England and the Far East. His music is guitar pop with jangly, upbeat, guitar-centric arrangements. He is considered one of the pioneers of early home recording.

Musical career[edit]


In the summer of 1973, a 20-year-old Newell joined the glam-rock band Plod as their lead singer. Plod was signed to London-based indie label Banjul Records in early 1975, and quickly began recording tracks for an album. However, contractual irregularities and financial problems at the label prevented the album from being finished or released,[citation needed] and the band broke up within a matter of a few months of being signed. In 2003, one track from the sessions ("Neo City") was released on a 70s glam-rock compilation CD called Velvet Tinmine. This track was credited to The Plod, and remains the only officially issued work by the band.

After Plod broke up, Newell briefly considered accepting an invitation to audition for the proto-punk group London SS,[citation needed] but decided against it. Instead, he joined Gypp, a pop-oriented progressive rock band, as lead singer. Gypp also played abroad and became popular in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia area on account of their live performances. Gypp issued one 3-song 7" EP in 1978, but their music was out of step with the punk-oriented trends of the UK music scene at the time and the EP received a negative review in the New Musical Express. Demoralised, Newell left the band. By his own account, he then became a "musical recluse", staying in the studio and creating new songs but not playing live gigs for many years.


In the late seventies, Newell led a four-piece rock combo called The Stray Trolleys. They recorded material in 1979 and 1980, but it was not released until 1982 after the band had broken up.

In the meantime, Newell issued his first solo single ("Young Jobless" b/w "Sylvie in Toytown") on vinyl in 1980. By the end of 1980, he was collaborating with Lawrence "Lol" Elliot as The Cleaners From Venus, a band that mostly released their work on cassettes (see Cassette culture) outside the traditional music distribution channels.

By 1983, The Cleaners From Venus had evolved into a band with a floating line-up that featured Newell as its only constant. The band still primarily issued material on cassette, got signed to the West German independent label Modell Records for one vinyl album ("Under Wartime Conditions") and ultimately the German leg of RCA Records which released two albums ("Going To England", "Town And Country").

Giles Smith joined Newell as the only other official member of Cleaners From Venus between 1986 and 1988, and in 1987, Newell returned to performing live under The Cleaners of Venus banner. As well, while releasing Cleaners From Venus material on cassette on a regular basis, through the 1980s Newell also occasionally released cassette singles and albums under his own name. On these solo releases he was usually the only musician.

The Brotherhood of Lizards was another Newell band that was active in 1988–89. It was a joint venture between Newell and the multi-instrumentalist known simply as Nelson.


In 1993, Newell began working primarily as a solo artist with more conventional production values. His first non-cassette solo album, The Greatest Living Englishman, was produced by XTC's Andy Partridge, and was a critical success.[citation needed] Commercially, it remains his most popular and successful album.[citation needed] It was followed by three more albums (The Off White Album, produced by Louis Philippe, The Spirit Cage and Radio Autumn Attic) and an EP (Songs From the Station Hotel) that continued to explore the same subject matter as Englishman, including the charms of rural or small-town English life and portraits of characters and scenes.

Newell has also made live appearances with The Cleaners From Venus and The Stray Trolleys in the 1990s and beyond, and has issued several post-1993 live recordings with these bands. However, studio releases credited to these groups post-1993 are actually all CD reissues of pre-1993 material previously released only on cassette. In addition, Gypp played reunion gigs in 1996, and live Gypp material – as well as Gypp demos recorded in the late 1970s – have now been officially issued on CD.

In 2004 Newell released an album of light jazz songs, The Light Programme. The album was not particularly successful commercially but his next album A Summer Tamarind returned to his usual style and was much more warmly received.

In late 2005 the British singer Richard Shelton released a jazz vocal album called Top Cat with five Newell compositions. Newell's songs have also been recorded by Miki Huber, The Jennifers, Kerry Getz, R. Stevie Moore and Alphaville.

Literary career[edit]

Newell is better known to some as a poet and author; he has released several volumes of poetry (often in collaboration with James Dodds) and a memoir, This Little Ziggy, about his youth and his days in Plod. In 2007 he released a volume of reminiscences, anecdotes and historical information about his beloved Wivenhoe. He is also a weekly contributor of poetry to The Sunday Express, He now writes a weekly column for the East Anglian Daily Times (for which he won columnist of the year in the EDF/ East of England Media Awards in January 2010), performs annually at the Essex Book Festival and occasionally finds time to issue spoken word recordings of his poems.


  • Blow Away your Troubles as Cleaners from Venus, 1981 (Man at the Off-licence Tapes) No catalogue number (Cassette release)
  • On Any Normal Monday as Cleaners from Venus, 1982 (Man at the Off-Licence Tapes) No catalogue number (Cassette release)
  • Barricades and Angels as The Stray Trollies, 1982 (Man at the Off-Licence Tapes)- catalogue number POW 003 (Cassette release)
  • Secret Dreams of a Kitchen Porter, 1982 (Man at the Off-Licence Tapes) – catalogue number NOW 004 (Cassette release)
  • Midnight Cleaners, 1982 (Man at the Off-Licence Tapes)- catalogue number MAO CO5 (Cassette release)
  • In the Golden Autumn as Cleaners from Venus, 1983 (Man at the Off-Licence Tapes) – catalogue number FRAU 006 (Cassette release)
  • Under Wartime Conditions as Cleaners from Venus, 1984 (Man at the Off-Licence) – catalogue number TAO 008
  • Songs for a Fallow Land as Martin Newell, 1985 (Man at the Off-Licence) – catalogue number 009 (Cassette release)
  • Living With Victoria Grey as Cleaners from Venus, 1986 (Cassette release)
  • Mind How You Go as Cleaners from Venus, 1987 (Jarmusic) (EP)
  • Going to England as Cleaners from Venus, 1987 (Ammunition)
  • April Fool 1987) (Jarmusic) (EP)
  • Town and Country as Cleaners from Venus, 1988 (Man at the Off-Licence)
  • Winter as Cleaners from Venus, 1988 (Jarmusic Pink Lemon) (LP)
  • Lizardland as Brotherhood of Lizards, 1989 (Deltic), reissue 1995 (Long Play)
  • Number Thirteen as Cleaners from Venus, 1990 (Man at the Off-Licence)
  • Golden Cleaners as Cleaners from Venus, 1993 (Tangerine)
  • The Greatest Living Englishman, 1993, featuring Andy Partridge of XTC, (Humbug, Pipeline) CD and cassette. Reissued with bonus CD of poetry recorded live as The Greatest Living Englishman: Very Limited Edition, 1993 (Humbug); also in 1995 and 1996 (Jarmusic) and 1996 and 2000 (Cherry Red)
  • Live 1987 as Cleaners from Venus, 1993 (Jarmusic Pink Lemon)
  • Let's Kiosk, 1995 (Humbug) EP
  • Live in Japan as Cleaners from Venus, 1995 (Jarmusic Pink Lemon)
  • The Legendary 13 as Cleaners from Venus, 1995 (Jarmusic Pink Lemon) (EP)
  • Back from the Cleaners as Cleaners from Venus, 1995 (Tangerine)
  • The Off White Album, 1995 (Jarmusic), reissued 2002 (Cherry Red) with Newell reading excerpts from This Little Ziggy and an enhanced video track.
  • Martin Newell, 1996 (Jarmusic) promotional CD
  • Box of Old Humbug, 1996 (Humbug) double CD with the content of The Greatest Living Englishman, The Off White Album, and Let's Kiosk
  • Don't Step on My Rainbow as Cleaners from Venus, 1996 (Jarmusic) box set of five 7-inch singles
  • The Wayward Genius of Martin Newell, as Martin Newell, Cleaners from Venus, and Brotherhood of Lizards, 1999 (Cherry Red) compilation CD
  • Mind How You Go / The April Fool 1999 (Jarmusic) cassettes re-released on CD, with extra material
  • Wild Man of Wivenhoe and Black Shuck 1999 the poems recorded
  • My Back Wages: A Collection of Cleaners Rarities as Cleaners from Venus, 2000 (Jarmusic)
  • The Spirit Cage, 2000 (CD on Cherry Red, LP with bonus single on Jarmusic)
  • New Europeans as Martin Newell and The Cleaners From Venus, 2000 (Jarmusic) (limited edition EP)
  • Barricades and Angels + Secret Dreams of a Kitchen Porter as the Stray Trolleys (Jarmusic)
  • Songs From the Station Hotel, 2002 (Jarmusic) (EP)
  • Radio Autumn Attic, 2002 (Cherry Red)
  • "Live at the Greyhound", 2003 (vinyl EP, Jarmusic), spoken word
  • Living with Victoria Grey': The Very Best of the Cleaners from Venus, 2004 (Cherry Red)
  • The Light Programme, 2004 (Cherry Red), includes Newell reading excerpts from This Little Ziggy
  • A Summer Tamarind, 2007 (Cherry Red)
  • Spoke 'n' Word. Poems About Essex By Martin Newell. A collection of poems read against a pastoral background soundtrack. November 2007 (Self Released)
  • English Electric, 11 track cassette tape (Burger Records) and download album credited to The Cleaners From Venus. Released June 2010. All new compositions. Available solely from his website. Pending forthcoming CD release.


By Newell[edit]

  • I Hank Marvinned... ("Martin Newell, c/o The Essex Festival, Department of Literature, University of Essex"; no publisher or year stated; no ISBN.) 16-page booklet of poems
  • Under Milk Float. The Greyhound Press, 1992. Illustrated by Barry Woodcock. ISBN 0-9519100-0-0. 60-page book of poems
  • The Illegible Bachelor. Festival Books, 1996. ISBN 0-9519100-5-1. Poems
  • Poetic Licence: The Best of 1990–1996. Jardine Press, 1996. ISBN 0-9525594-2-0. Poems
  • Wild Man of Wivenhoe. Jardine Press, 1996. Illustrated by James Dodds. ISBN 0-9525594-3-9 Long poem
  • New. 1999. ISBN 1-85215-078-5. Poems
  • Black Shuck: The Ghost Dog of Eastern England. Jardine Press, 1999. Illustrated by James Dodds. ISBN 0-9525594-8-X. Long poem
  • Late Autumn Sunlight: East Anglian Verses. Jardine Press, 2001. Illustrated by James Dodds. ISBN 0-9539472-3-8. Poems
  • This Little Ziggy. House of Stratus, 2001. ISBN 0-7551-0267-3. Memoir
  • The Song of the Waterlily: The Building of a Boat. 2003. Illustrated by James Dodds. ISBN 0-9539472-4-6. Long poem
  • Return to Flanders. Jardine Press, 2004. Illustrated by Andrew Dodds. ISBN 0-9539472-8-9. Long poem.
  • Spoke 'n' Word. Jardine Press, 2006. Illustrated by Charlotte Bernays. ISBN 0-9552035-0-3. 19 poems about Essex. Supposedly inspired by bicycle rides in the county.
  • A Prospect Of Wivenhoe. Snapshots of an English Town. Wiven Books 2007. ISBN 0-9557313-0-5.
  • Selected Poems – A Career Best Of. Jardine Press 2008 ISBN 978-0-9552035-6-5

With contributions by Newell[edit]

External links[edit]