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Mark Wirtz: Savannah, Georgia, United States, 2007
|Born||3 September 1943|
|Residence||Georgia, United States|
Mark P. Wirtz (born 3 September 1943 in Strasbourg, France) is an Alsatian pop music record producer, composer, singer, musician, author, and comedian. As a producer, Wirtz's most famous output is from the mid to late 1960s, when he worked at Abbey Road Studios with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, under contract to EMI. Wirtz is chiefly known for the never-completed A Teenage Opera concept album. Another track by Wirtz, the 1966 "A Touch of Velvet, A Sting of Brass" under the name Mood Mosaic, with The Ladybirds as backing singers, became well known in Germany as the theme tune for the Radio Bremen show Musikladen and was used by some radio stations and DJs in the United Kingdom as ident, notably Dave Lee Travis on Radio Caroline.
His signature style has been described by Mojo magazine as "Phil Spector scoring Camberwick Green", a sound most perfectly encapsulated on Wirtz's 1967 hit single "Grocer Jack (Excerpt from A Teenage Opera)".
Early career (1960s)
Mark Wirtz began his music career while studying art at London's Fairfield College of Arts and Sciences. According to a former flatmate, "Three things already stood out in him at the age of seventeen: his prodigious talent as an artist – he could paint original work in the style of any of the grand masters; his natural ability as a musician – he could pick out any tune on the piano by ear; and his zany sense of humour – he idolized the comedian Jerry Lewis."
He studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, 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 Wirtz had started his first independent production company.
In 1967, Wirtz 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, Wirtz wrote and produced landmark recordings by artists such as Keith West, Tomorrow, and Kippington Lodge. He reached global success with his production of excerpts from the first rock opera, A Teenage Opera. Though never completed or released as an entire work, several of the opera's singles, such as "Grocer Jack", became influential pieces.
Wirtz was married to singer Ross Hannaman for a period of time. Together, they wrote and recorded the song "Barefoot and Tiptoe" under the name The Sweetshop, erroneously believed to have been from A Teenage Opera. Wirtz and Hannaman divorced in 1969, at which time Wirtz teamed up with poetry writer Maria Feltham to record Wirtz's concept album, Philwit and Pegasus, for composer Les Reed's Chapter One label.
In 1969, his creative freedom restricted by drastic changes in A&R policy, Wirtz resigned his post at EMI Records to return to independent production. Associations with Larry Page's Penny Farthing label (Samantha Jones, Kris Ife and Les Reed's Chapter One label (Philwit & Pegasus, Roger James) followed, during which Wirtz formed a co-writing partnership ("Learning 2 Live With Love," MWET/Spyderbaby (2005); "One Night Stand" MWET/Anthony Rivers" (2005), and the Cooking For Cannibals soundtrack album (2007).
In 1970, Wirtz moved to Los Angeles, California, to accept an invitation by his fellow expatriate producer and friend Denny Cordell to work with him at Hollywood's Shelter Records. In 1973, Wirtz signed a writer/artist/producer contract with Capitol Records for whom he recorded two albums, Balloon and Hothouse Smiles. Both were released under the name "Marc Wirtz".
In 1975, dropped by Capitol for his refusal to tour or perform publicly, Wirtz signed with producer Tom Catalano and veteran publisher Dan Crewe's RCA-distributed TomCat label, a short-lived association because of the label folding only week's after Wirtz's first single release, "We Could Have Laughed Forever". Having become a parent in the same year, Wirtz dropped his "loose cannon" career pursuits and, under the name of Marc Peters, became a freelance session arranger/conductor in partnership with several producers, including Kim Fowley and Jimmy Bowen. HI subsequently created numerous pop, R&B and country songs that featured an array of artists as diverse as Helen Reddy, Leon Russell, Vicky Leandros, Kim Carnes, Dean Martin, and Anthony Newley.
In 1979, signed by Russ Regan to Interworld Music/CBS Records as writer and producer, Wirtz produced 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, and bassists David Hungate and Les Hurdle. However, the production was never finished due to Wirtz's decision to concentrate on his family, leading to a 20-year hiatus from the music business.
Hiatus from music
During those years, after savings had run out and royalties had dwindled, Wirtz 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 a Geneva merger and acquisition firm.
While taking acting classes during off-times and in the pursuit of a new career as a novelist, Wirtz also realized a lifelong 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, Wirtz moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he became 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 paintings in a Savannah gallery.
In 2004, giving in to the plea from his by-now Spain-residing daughter Nicole to produce her rock-band leader boyfriend's debut album, Wirtz 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 No. 1 in the independent label charts. Wirtz 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 Rivers' Marked Confidential.
In January 2006, Wirtz found a path back into comedy by collaborating with Jacksonville, Florida's "Jax Comics" group of working comedians, initially working out at the Comedy Zone, then moving on by touring the southeast's comedy clubs in the development of his stand-up comedy act.
In 2010, Wirtz produced an all-new solo studio album, Lost Pets 2, scheduled for international release bv PoppyDisc Records in October 2010. In addition, in February 2011, Wirtz published his novella, Dreamer of Glass Beach, a futuristic fable for all ages.
Wirtz resides in Savannah, Georgia. He has a daughter, Nicole.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Biography: Mark Wirtz". Allmusic. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
- "Mark Wirtz". The Strange Brew. 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
- Thorpe, Vanessa (2017-07-29). "Grocer Jack has his day as A Teenage Opera finally goes on stage". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-17.