'Mad Mark' Wirtz
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'Mad Mark' Wirtz

Savannah, Georgia, United States

Savannah, Georgia, United States
Band Comedy Singer/Songwriter

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Mark Wirtz, aka ‘Mad Mark’ Wirtz (aka Mark Peters), is an Alsatian born (3 September 1943 in Strasbourg) pop music record producer, composer, singer, musician, author, and stand-up 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, from which only four songs were ever finished before a concerned EMI pulled the plug on the project. (RPM, with Wirtz's direct involvement, pieced together all surviving songs from the unfinished project and issued it on CD.)

His signature style has been described by Mojo magazine as "Phil Spector scoring Camberwick Green", a sound most perfectly encapsulated on Wirtz's masterpiece, "Grocer Jack (Excerpt from A Teenage Opera)". This 1967 hit single is a densely orchestrated psychedelic marvel, which tells the whimsical and sad tale of an old man ("Grocer Jack"), who dies unappreciated, except by the children who loved him and miss him. The completed Teenage Opera songs all feature similar themes, usually based around elderly craftsmen carrying on with their outdated traditions (a weatherman, a steam train driver) to the ambivalence - and sometimes ridicule - of the community. The project has been likened to a British Smile, due largely to its near mythical status as a "lost" masterwork, but also because of the singularity of its creator's strange and magical vision.
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 1970, Wirtz left London for the United States where, based in Hollywood, he joined fellow UK expatriate producer Denny Cordell at his Shelter Records company as associate producer and engineer.

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 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, 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, 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 (the latter whom he was instrumental in signing to the company), Wirtz 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, 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 with 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, Wirtz left the shores of Britain for 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 acclaimed albums, Balloon and Hothouse Smiles (both released under the name "Marc Wirtz").

In 1975, dropped by Capitol for his refusal to tour or perform publicly, Wirtz 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 Wirtz's first single release, "We Could Have Laughed Forever." Having become a parent in the same year, hence home-responsibility-bound, Wirtz dropped his "loose cannon" career pursuits and,