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Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and Whitesnake producer and engineer Martin Birch dead at 71

Martin Birch
Martin Birch (Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns - Getty)

Legendary rock producer and engineer Martin Birch has died at the age of 71.

The news was confirmed on Twitter by Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale, who said: “It is with a very heavy heart I’ve just had verified my very dear friend and producer Martin Birch has passed away.

‘Martin was a huge part of my life, helping me from the first time we met through until Slide It In. My thoughts and prayers to his family, friends & fans.”

Birch worked on some of the best-known albums in rock with artists including Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Fleetwood Mac and Rainbow.

He first collaborated with Deep Purple for Concerto For Group And Orchestra in 1969 and went on to work on albums including Deep Purple In Rock, Machine Head, Burn and Stormbringer. That led him to hook up with Iron Maiden for their 1981 album Killers.

That began a long relationship between Birch and Maiden, with Birch behind the desk for the band's next nine albums, including The Number Of The Beast, Powerslave, Somewhere In Time and Fear Of The Dark.

Speaking with Classic Rock about 1982’s The Number Of The Beast, Birch said: “I had the same feeling on The Number Of The Beast as when we did Deep Purple’s Machine Head. It was the same kind of atmosphere, the same kind of feeling, like, something really good is happening here.

“I remember we spent ages getting the vocal intro to the title track right. We did it over and over and over until Bruce Dickinson said, ‘My head is splitting. Can’t we move on and do something else and come back to this?’ But I wouldn’t let him do anything else until he’d got it perfect. It drove him crazy.”

Birch also had a close association with Coverdale and Whitesnake, lending his talents to multiple records including 1978’s Trouble through to Slide It In in 1984. He worked with Rainbow on records including Rising and Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll, and engineered a trio of Wishbone Ash’s albums: their self-titled debut in 1970, Pilgrimage the following year and 1972’s Argus.

With Black Sabbath, he was producer and engineer on Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules, while Birch also worked with Fleetwood Mac between 1969 and 1973, Jon Lord on his solo material, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Gary Moore and Michael Schenker Group.

Sabbath’s Geezer Butler has said tribute to Birch, saying: “Really sad to hear of the passing of Martin Birch. Brilliant producer. Had the pleasure of working with him on the Black Sabbath albums Heaven And Hell and Mob Rules. Condolences to Vera and family."