Mark Wirtz

Last updated
Mark Wirtz
Mark Wirtz 2007.jpg
Wirtz pictured in Savannah, Georgia, 2007
Mark Philipp Wirtz

(1943-09-03)3 September 1943
Strasbourg, France
Died7 August 2020(2020-08-07) (aged 76)
Spouse(s)Amanda Wirtz
Partner(s)Jeff Janning

Mark Philipp Wirtz (3 September 1943 7 August 2020) [1] was a French pop music record producer, composer, singer, musician, author, and comedian. Wirtz is best known for the never-completed A Teenage Opera concept album, a project he devised while working under contract to EMI at Abbey Road Studios with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. The first single from the planned album, "Excerpt from A Teenage Opera" by Keith West, was a number 2 hit on the UK Singles Chart in September 1967 and encapsulates Wirtz's signature style, described by Mojo magazine as "Phil Spector scoring Camberwick Green". Another track produced and arranged by Wirtz, the 1966 single "A Touch of Velvet - A Sting of Brass" credited to The Mood-Mosaic featuring the Ladybirds, became well-known in Germany as the theme tune for the Radio Bremen television show Musikladen , and was used by some radio stations and DJs in the United Kingdom as an ident, notably Dave Lee Travis on Radio Caroline.



Early life

Wirtz was born in Strasbourg, and raised in Cologne, Germany. He moved to England in 1962. [2]

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 was studying 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. They recorded a single, "Bubble Pop". By 1965 Wirtz had started his first independent production company, and worked with Marlene Dietrich as well as releasing his own instrumentals under various pseudonyms. [2] In 1966, he wrote and produced the single "A Touch of Velvet - A Sting of Brass", an orchestral production credited to The Mood-Mosaic with vocals by the Ladybirds, which became a popular theme tune on pirate radio stations. [3]

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, often with engineer Geoff Emerick, Wirtz wrote and produced landmark recordings by artists such as Keith West, Tomorrow, [4] and Kippington Lodge. He reached global success with his production of "Excerpt from A Teenage Opera" (also known as "Grocer Jack"), recorded by Keith West. Though never completed or released as an entire work at the time, the idea of a rock opera became influential. [5] [6]

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, and Kris Ife 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 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, he 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 weeks 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. He 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 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/critic, writing about food and drama, while publishing his first novels, Sisyphus Rocks and Love Is Eggshaped, as well as selling paintings in a Savannah gallery.

Later years and death

In 2004, giving in to the plea from his daughter Nicole (by now resident in Spain) 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 by PoppyDisc Records in October 2010. In addition, in February 2011, Wirtz was planning to publish his novella Dreamer of Glass Beach, a futuristic fable for all ages, but it has yet to see the light of day despite rumours to the contrary.

Wirtz died on the morning of 7 August 2020 from Pick's disease. [1]

Related Research Articles

Parlophone German–British record label

Parlophone Records Limited is a German–British record label founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon. The British branch of the label was founded on 8 August 1923 as the Parlophone Company Limited, which developed a reputation in the 1920s as a jazz record label. On 5 October 1926, the Columbia Graphophone Company acquired Parlophone's business, name, logo, and release library, and merged with the Gramophone Company on 31 March 1931 to become Electric & Musical Industries Limited (EMI). George Martin joined Parlophone in 1950 as assistant label manager, taking over as manager in 1955. Martin produced and released a mix of recordings, including by comedian Peter Sellers, pianist Mrs Mills, and teen idol Adam Faith.

Geoff Emerick English recording engineer

Geoffrey Ernest Emerick was an English sound engineer and record producer who worked with the Beatles on their albums Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and Abbey Road (1969). Beatles producer George Martin credited him with bringing "a new kind of mind to the recordings, always suggesting sonic ideas, different kinds of reverb, what we could do with the voices".

Apple Records is a record label founded by the Beatles in 1968 as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, plus a selection of other artists including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston. In practice, the roster had become dominated by the mid-1970s with releases of the former Beatles as solo artists. Allen Klein managed the label from 1969 to 1973, then it was managed by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the Beatles and their heirs. Aspinall retired in 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Jones.

<i>Straight Up</i> (Badfinger album) 1971 studio album by Badfinger

Straight Up is the fourth studio album by British rock band Badfinger, released in December 1971 in the United States and February 1972 in Britain. Issued on the Beatles' Apple record label, it includes the hit singles "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue", and the similarly popular "Name of the Game", all of which were written by singer and guitarist Pete Ham. The album marked a departure from the more rock-oriented sound of Badfinger's previous releases, partly as a result of intervention by Apple Records regarding the band's musical direction. Although Straight Up received a mixed response from critics on release, many reviewers now regard it as the band's best album. Rolling Stone critic David Fricke has referred to it as "Badfinger's power-pop apex".

Mute Records Ltd. is a British independent record label owned and founded in 1978 by Daniel Miller. It has featured several prominent musical acts on its roster such as Depeche Mode, Erasure, Fad Gadget, Goldfrapp, Grinderman, Inspiral Carpets, Moby, New Order, Nitzer Ebb, Yann Tiersen, Wire, Yeasayer, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Yazoo, and M83.

Mark Hudson (musician) American musician, songwriter, and record producer

Mark Jeffery Anthony Hudson is an American record producer, musician and songwriter based in both Los Angeles and New York City. After first rising to prominence as a performer, songwriter and TV personality in the 1970s as a member of the Hudson Brothers trio, Hudson achieved independent success as record producer and songwriter, working with a broad variety of artists including Cher, Ringo Starr, Aerosmith, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Hanson, Harry Nilsson, and the Baha Men. Hudson is Italian American.

Dallas L. Austin is an American musician, songwriter, record producer, and film producer.

Peter William Dawkins was a New Zealand record producer and musician, best known for his late-1960s to mid-1970s New Zealand hits and his 1970s productions for Australian-based pop artists, including Dragon, Australian Crawl and Air Supply. He won multiple production awards, including the Countdown Producer of the Year. In the late 1980s, he developed Parkinson's disease.

Mark Summers

Mark Summers is the English CEO, sound engineer and music producer of Scorccio, a music production company founded in the UK in 1996. A London DJ since 1979, he is a guest lecturer and masterclass presenter on sample replay production, sound engineering, DJ culture, sampling and the music industry. His productions have been featured on hits for Diplo, Sam Smith, the Prodigy, Pitbull, Fatboy Slim, David Penn, Jess Glynne, Disclosure, Steve Aoki, CamelPhat, Swedish House Mafia, the Shapeshifters and many other notable music artists. He is related to Herbie Flowers, one of the UK's best-known session bass players.

Bobby V American singer from Georgia

Bobby Marcel Wilson, better known by his stage name Bobby V, is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. He has charted three No. 1 albums on Billboard's U.S. Top R&B Chart since 2006. Bobby V's first major single, "Slow Down", produced by Tim & Bob, charted No. 1 on Billboard's U.S. Top R&B Chart and peaked at No. 8 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The single was certified gold by the RIAA. His second single, "Anonymous", was produced by and featured a guest appearance from producer Timbaland.

<i>Tomorrow</i> (Tomorrow album) 1968 studio album by Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the only studio album by the English psychedelic rock band Tomorrow. It was originally released in 1968 by EMI Parlophone in the U.K. in a black and white sleeve. A slightly different version of the album was also released in the U.S. in 1968 as Sire Records SES 97012, one of the first releases on that label. Although it was not a success when it was first released, it is now widely regarded as one of the best psychedelic rock albums ever made.

Scotty Emerick

Walter Scott Emerick is an American country music artist, known primarily for his work with Toby Keith. In addition to penning several of Keith's singles, Emerick has also written for Sawyer Brown, George Strait, Kenny Chesney and several other artists. In 2004, Emerick was named "Songwriter of the Year" by the Nashville Songwriters Association. He recorded an album, The Coast Is Clear, for DreamWorks Records in 2003, and has charted four singles on the country charts, including a No. 24-peaking duet with Keith, "I Can't Take You Anywhere", which Keith had previously recorded on his 2001 album Pull My Chain. "What's Up with That", performed by Emerick, was featured in the soundtrack to the film Broken Bridges.

Keith Hopkins, known by his stage name Keith West, is a British rock singer, songwriter and music producer. He is a solo artist and also the lead singer of various groups including Tomorrow, a 1960s psychedelic rock band. West wrote most of his own songs, often in collaboration with Ken Burgess. Despite critical acclaim and support from BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, who featured Tomorrow on his The Perfumed Garden show, the group was not a major commercial success.

<i>A Teenage Opera</i> 1996 soundtrack album by Mark Wirtz and Tomorrow

A Teenage Opera is a musical project from the 1960s, created by record producer Mark Wirtz.

Rosalind Judith Hannaman was a British singer, mostly active in the 1960s.

"Excerpt from 'A Teenage Opera'" is a 1967 single by Keith West, produced by Mark Wirtz. It was a big hit in Europe, peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The single was part of a bigger "A Teenage Opera" project. The song was written by Wirtz and West, credited as "Philwit / Hopkins".

Mark Opitz is an Australian record producer and audio engineer. He was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952 and moved to Brisbane in 1959 spending his teenage years there. He is a childhood friend of Kym Gyngell.

The Ladybirds

The Ladybirds were a British female vocal harmony trio, most famous for their appearances on The Benny Hill Show. They participated in over 60 episodes between 1968 and 1991. In addition, they were long-standing backing singers to many established artists, and perennial television performers.

Lon & Derrek Van Eaton were an American vocal and multi-instrumentalist duo from Trenton, New Jersey, consisting of brothers Lon and Derrek Van Eaton. They are best known for their association with the Beatles through the brothers' brief stint on Apple Records, and for their subsequent session work in Los Angeles for producer Richard Perry. As well as recording their own albums, during the 1970s they appeared on releases by artists including George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon, Martha Reeves and Art Garfunkel. Beatles biographer Robert Rodriguez describes the Van Eaton brothers as arguably the closest the Apple record label came to delivering on its initial promise of "plucking unknowns from obscurity" and launching them as successful recording artists.

<i>Brother</i> (Lon & Derrek Van Eaton album) 1972 studio album by Lon & Derrek Van Eaton

Brother is the debut album by the American pop-rock duo Lon & Derrek Van Eaton. It was released on the Beatles' Apple record label in September 1972 in the United States and February 1973 in Britain. It includes the single "Sweet Music", produced by George Harrison, and was otherwise produced by Klaus Voormann, a friend and longtime associate of the Beatles. On release, the album received favorable reviews from music critics but failed to achieve commercial success. Rolling Stone critic Stephen Holden hailed it as a "staggeringly impressive first album".


  1. 1 2 "Mark Wirtz dies aged 76". The Strange Brew. Retrieved 8 August 2020.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. 1 2 Colin Larkin, "Mark Wirtz", The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Retrieved 10 August 2020
  3. "The Story Behind "The Teenage Opera"". Archived from the original on 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2016-09-30.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. Unterberger, Richie. "Biography: Mark Wirtz". Allmusic . Retrieved May 29, 2010.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. "Mark Wirtz". The Strange Brew. 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  6. Thorpe, Vanessa (2017-07-29). "Grocer Jack has his day as A Teenage Opera finally goes on stage". The Guardian . Retrieved 2018-10-17.