Irving Martin

Wolverhampton, 1967

Irving Martin has Black Country connections, if not roots. One time A&R man for CBS, Martin was paid to headhunt talent for both Jack Baverstock at Fontana and Decca Records. He scoured the country searching for potential talent and would record demos for possible hit makers. Irving confirms he 'discovered' Finders Keepers, Montanas and the Californians. After leaving CBS he spent a lot of time in the Midlands searching and producing local talent.
"He is responsible for some of the best UK pop productions in a variety of styles; Pop-beat, Harmony Vocal and dramatic Spectorian Productions, to name just a few."
Martin Roberts 2003
In 1967 he was invited to Wolverhampton by Roger Allen to look at five groups, including The Californians, Finders Keepers and The 'N Betweens. Martin remembers Roger Allen as a typical Northern agent, loud and brusque but sincere and genuine.

He produced both the Californians and Finders Keepers on a variety of records. The Californians actually made eight records between 1967 and 1969. John O'Hara describes the experience of recording as follows:
"Irving Martin used to send me brown envelopes regularly containing demos of numbers which he felt we should consider doing."
"Going into a studio was amazing. It was like entering another world. You lost all sense of time and space. You could be in there for hours, even days, and you would have no idea when you came out if it was going to be day or night or what day it was. I loved it."
"Decca No.1 studio was as big as the Civic Hall. It could house orchestras of 40 or 50 players. I've been in there laying a backing track for a record for hours. It all had to be done live because of Musicians' Union requirements. Once you got the nod that that was a take, the musicians would leave and then you would carry on with the engineers for more hours. It was quite exhausting but also exhilarating."
"Despite all the time we took I was never properly satisfied with the records we made. In many cases I felt the records were over-produced by A&R men like John Stewart or Irving Martin."
It was in 1968 that The 'N Betweens recorded with Irving Martin, in his early twenties at the time. He remembers two studio sessions, possibly a third. 

On one occasion they were accompanied by a member of The Move, Chris 'Ace' Kefford, who had recently tried to commit suicide and still had his wrists bound. He was believed to be a friend of Noddy's. Martin recalls that he sat reading a copy of Auto Trader throughout the session. 
"I remember recording three tracks, a raucous rock number, an upbeat instrumental ('Blues In E') and another vocal track I think?"
Martin sent his productions to Jack Baverstock (a good friend at the time.) Jack told him the group was rubbish and he had no interest in signing them. He found out later that Baverstock had gone behind his back. 

Jimmy Lea explains:
"Jack Baverstock had heard our version of Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind, the Ted Nugent number, and another instrumental which we called Blues In E. Irving Martin had produced both tracks for us. Jack rang up and told us he wanted to make an album with us. We just could not believe it. Apparently it was the instrumental he rated as quite distinctive because of the stomping sound."
Unknown to Martin, Jack Baverstock contacted the group directly. This 'robbed' Martin of a 2% royalty on future productions, (he believes Baverstock got 3%). At the time Martin could not afford to sue Jack financially or professionally. He knew that he would be perceived as a troublemaker within the industry, essentially putting an end to his own career. He has always believed that, in his own words, 'the truth will out'.
"There was Jack Baverstock and this big guy (Maurice Jones). Baverstock was not a nice man but I thought he was a friend. He screwed me and he screwed Roger Allen. I spoke to Jack's wife many years later and she admitted that he took a backhander." 
Martin wasn't green to the cut-throat business, he'd worked with Carter Lewis in the mid 60's, who were signed to Robert Stigwood's agency. Irving Martin was in the building when Don Arden.  Arden turned up with his henchman and hung Stigwood from the balcony. Although he was not directly involved, he would later find himself on the receiving end of Arden's wrath.

Martin's colleague Vic Smith was considering an offer to work for Don Arden. Smith asked Martin what he thought and Martin advised caution considering Arden's reputation. Shortly after, Martin received a call from Arden, who threatened to maim him. Meeting him again some years later, Arden claimed it was nothing personal, just business. I'm told Dick Leahy (George Michael's publicist) can confirm this. 

He recalls that Noddy & Dave were both ambitious, 'by any means necessary' guys while Jim wasn't that bothered and Don was just quiet. Later when he met Jim Lea, Jim remembered him and had the good grace to be embarrassed but spoke to him. 

A couple of times he said he wasn't sure whether Chas Chandler knew about it or not but he did say "Chas was not good." Chandler may not have been aware since he wasn’t involved with the band until the Spring of 1969. When I asked why he thought Chas was not good he said, "He didn't let the band develop musically." 

Personally, I agree with the statement but it would appear that there are still a few wrinkles to iron out.

My thanks to Irving Martin for his time. More info about Irving Martin Productions 


Unknown said...

It's about as close as you can get with the passage of time. One is always left to wonder 'what might have been' but I can't really complain as there have been sensational moments in my career. 'Just different' I suppose.I can't help feeling, and in the light of my past experience, that Slade would have seriously cracked the US if I was around - and certainly Noddy would have got nearer to some serious screen roles. But c'est la vie.
Would be great to meet the artists I worked with during that period again?You tell me.

Mickey P. said...

Thanks for your input Irving, I hope to meet you someday and chat some more. ;-)