By Steve Newton
It’s a sad day for fans of ’70s and ’80s hard-rock and heavy-metal. Martin Birch, who produced and/or engineered more popular metal albums than most anyone, died earlier today at the age of 71.
Birch produced such monumental loud-rock albums as Rainbow’s Rising, Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, Blue Oyster Cult’s Fire of Unknown Origin, and Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast.
Birch is best known for his work with Maiden, as he produced and engineered nine of their albums. When I interviewed Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1983 he told me that it would be “unthinkable” to do an Iron Maiden album without him.
“Martin thinks the way we do about the music,” said Dickinson, “so he can be really critical like, ‘You can do a better guitar solo than that.’ Or I’ll be singing away and he’ll go, ‘I think you can sing it a little bit better than that. I think you can go for one more performance and push it a bit more.’ And that’s how he works. He’s always wringing the last drop out of everything you do.”
When he wasn’t officially wearing his producer’s hat, Birch was racking up credits as an engineer, including work on such stellar discs as Deep Purple’s Machine Head, Faces’ Long Player, and Wishbone Ash’s Argus.
Besides being a master at crafting heavy sounds, Martin Birch was a man of many nicknames, including Sir Larry, Basher, Big Ears, Court Jester, Doc, The Farmer, The Wasp, Headmaster, Jah, Live Animal, Masa, Mummy’s Curse, Plan B, Pool Bully, The Bishop, The Juggler, The Ninja, Phantom of the Jolly Cricketers, and Disappearing Armchair.
He was also known as Martin “Black Night” Birch, apparently for his work with Deep Purple around the time of the influential Deep Purple In Rock album.
R.I.P. Black Night.