Tag Archives: rocking surrey

The Neon Knight Bows Out

The much-admired Woking, Surrey music producer and sound engineer MARTIN BIRCH died on 9 August 2020.

Martin “the farmer” Birch was closely associated with British rock acts such as Deep Purple, Rainbow, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath,, and especially Iron Maiden.

BIRCH a.k.a. “the headmaster” is considered to have been (along with Tom Allom) a pioneering Metal producer.

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Birch gained his first recognition for his work on The Faces 1970 album “The First Step” (producer/engineer.)

He produced ten Iron Maiden albums, from Killers (1981) through to Fear of the Dark (1992).

His “Piece of Mind” by Iron Maiden (1983) is often cited as the best produced metal record of all time.

He began his career as an audio engineer with Jeff Beck, Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple, and went on to produce and engineer eleven albums for Deep Purple. In fact, he gained his first recognition for his work on The Faces 1970 album “The First Step” (producer/engineer.)

He began at the old De Lane Lea Studios in London where Deep Purple’s Fireball (1971) was recorded (he worked as an engineer on the project) and later worked at the Battery Studios in Willesden, London (aka Zomba) where he worked on Killers, Iron Maiden (1981) among many other projects.

As a musician, Birch played rhythm guitar on Adam Faith’s “I Survive” (1974) , and he provided backing vocals for Roger Glover’s “Elements” (1978) and tape techniques for Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time” in 1986. He earned writing & arrangement credits for several recordings including: Maiden’s “Live After Death” (1985) and Whitesnake’s “Don’t Break My Heart Again” (1981).

Iron Maiden’s first album to feature vocalist Bruce DickinsonThe Number of the Beast” ( recorded in 1982, at Battery Studios) is often described, by rock ‘n’ metal cognoscenti, as “Metal’s Sergeant Pepper”. During the recording,      Birch was involved in a collision with a mini-bus transporting a group of nuns. According to legend, after the crash he was presented with a repair bill for £666!

Since his semi-retirement in 1992, and after producing Maiden’s Fear of the Dark, Birch had been mainly working on preparing box sets and re-releases.

Engineer & Producer Martin Birch
Engineer & Producer Martin Birch

Selected discography

1969 – Beck-Ola, Jeff Beck (engineer)
1970 – In Rock, Deep Purple (engineer)
1972 – Argus, Wishbone Ash (engineer)
1973 – Penguin, Fleetwood Mac (producer, engineer, mixing)
1975 – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (co-producer, engineer, mixing)
1980 – Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath (producer, engineer)
1982 – Saints & Sinners, Whitesnake (producer, engineer, mixing)
1982 – Assault Attack, Michael Schenker Group (producer, engineer)
1983 – Piece of Mind, Iron Maiden (producer)
1984 – Powerslave, Iron Maiden (producer, engineer, mixing)
1992 – Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden (producer, engineer, mixing)

METROPOLIS BLUE Launch

Last night, in the precious and incomparable BOILEROOM music venue in Guildford, Surrey a brand new record label was launched in style. The famous Metropolis Studios have joined the The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) to launch an exclusive record label named METROPOLIS BLUE. It is a project led by ACM students for ACM students, with guidance from industry professionals with experience in ACM and Metropolis

LKJ – a deep and bold song style & sharp confidence…

By joining ACM’s unrivaled creative industry education with the world-class status of Metropolis, ACM students will gain the exclusive experience that they need to get ahead in this competitive industry.

Chairman of ACM and Owner of Metropolis Studios Kainne Clements said: “We promised more industry-based learning and connected opportunity than any other provider and I am both excited and proud to deliver on this by launching the new record label, specific to ACM, powered by Metropolis.

And Richard Connell CEO at Metropolis Studios said: “Metropolis is renowned for sonic excellence, customer service and placing the artist at the centre of everything. We don’t just represent what the industry does, we are what the industry is doing, here and now, and I see it as a privilege to share this with the emerging talent that are the ACM students, from day 1.

The launch-night on Monday 4th March 2019 was enthusiastically attended — not solely because the first few punters through the door were promised free headphones (if they decided to join a long line) — but largely because of the incredible musical talent on offer.

Bethany – energetic…

After a wholehearted introduction from Neon Islands front-man Carlos de los Santos we heard from the amazingly talented indie singer/songwriter Leoni Jane Kennedy [LKJ] — the ACM Freddie Mercury Scholarship Recipient of 2018 — whose combinations of folk, pop, power balladry and blues united with her deep and bold song style and sharp confidence reminded us of Jefferson Starship era Grace Slick.

If you can imagine a finger-picking Melissa Etheridge, young and passionate, playing songs of desire and deception, you will be close to understanding the phenomenal talent of LKJ.

We also enjoyed Bethany Davey – whose “No Time To Lose” [shared below] is an energetic RnB number with work-rhythm patterns and massive wobbles slung around its waist… suggesting this is destined for dance-floor’s around Europe. File alongside Kele Le Roc.

Big queue for headphones…
Congratulations to all the recording artists who venture onto this exciting new student-inspired label. Wishing everyone success and achievement!

The event was sponsored by Monster.

Main Image: Presenter Carlos de los Santos of Neon Islands

Photos by @neilmach 2019 ©

Link: https://www.facebook.com/metropolisblue/

Notes: Since its opening in 1995, ACM has represented every corner of the creative industries. Metropolis Blue will act not only as a springboard for ACM students’ careers as artists, producers, managers, and entrepreneurs, but will also teach them the vital skills they need to make informed decisions about their futures.

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PAPA GEORGE and MICKY MOODY — Live in Staines

Award-winning bluesman PAPA GEORGE and legendary guitarist MICKY MOODY played a live concert at the fabulous STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB on Thursday night. Rock vocalist and talented composer ALI MAAS joined them onstage as a special guest.

The duo played a selection of blues, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel songs that included some choice cover songs as well as a selection of Papa George’s own first-class numbers.

Songs like Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” had the crowd swaying along with its indolent lurching pace — the lethargic guitars and fervent passion of the lyrics penetrated every moment.

George’s fine picking on “You Can Love Yourself” ( by contemporary Delta blues artist Keb’ Mo’) was praiseworthy. As was the liquid bottleneck slide work from Micky.

Here George’s voice was wood-tar and old brandy seeing him perfectly capable of producing cream-hazelnut highs — husky-textured but sweet, sweet, sweet — from those incredible vocal folds.

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Papa George at Staines Riverside Club — here with Ali Maas

Jesus on the Mainline”  ( Ry Cooder)  was finely picked.

This gradually evolving Gospel number is a crowd favorite.

Encouraged to sing, the crowd at Staines joined-in enthusiasticall with the good-natured call and response.

Who likes John Lee Hooker?” cried Papa George. There was a yell of support so the musicians launched into “Crawling King Snake.

This a delta-blues song from the 1920’s that is almost always identified with Hooker. George’s voice on the piece was curmudgeonly and appropriately raw — but the guitarists had a whole lotta fun with the arrangement when they stumbled upon Muddy Waters’ “You Need Love” [the precursor to “Whole Lotta Love”]

The dynamic interaction and interdependence between these two consummate guitarists — plus their whiskey ‘n’ dry voices, with velvet textures — along with a canny song choice and the highlight ALI MAAS appearance — meant that this was a night to remember.

Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2017 ©

Link: https://www.facebook.com/StainesRiversideClub/
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