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Music writer Gavin Martin has died, aged 60

Gavin Martin
(Image credit: https://tinyrecords.co.uk/)

NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin has died in Barbados aged 60. 

Born in Belfast and raised in Bangor, County Down, Gavin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster (which would lend its title to Stiff Little Fingers’ enduring punk classic).

After working as a freelance stringer for the NME for a couple of years – he first made an appearance in the paper’s letters page at the age of 13 and supplied reviews while still a schoolboy at Bangor High – Gavin moved to London in 1980 to become the title’s Media Editor and features writer.

During a long association with the paper he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Pogues, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Dexys Midnight Runners, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM and Sting. Not to mention Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others.

Alternative Ulster

Gavin Martin's punk fanzine Alternative Ulster (Image credit: Alternative Ulster)

In the nineties, Gavin took his ebullient, passionate and poetic style of writing to VOX magazine where he manned the media desk while drinking mushroom tea in his bare feet. Also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop (opens in new tab) and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay (opens in new tab), and was the Daily Mirror’s regular Music Critic from 2001. It was in this particular capacity that he interviewed, well, everybody… How long have you got? 

Gavin was possessed of an acerbic wit, an encyclopaedic brain, broad impeccable taste and an unflinching devotion to the truth that meant he’d never pull a critical punch. 

This would occasionally put him at loggerheads with the artists he’d encounter. 

During a particularly messy confrontation with Van Morrison, an artist with whom he always enjoyed a volatile relationship, Van called him “a monkey on my back” and demanded that someone supply him with a tape recorder of his own. Van intended to conduct an interview with Gavin, so he would “know what it was like”. 

They later reconciled.

Gavin Martin was a one-off. In 1994, he famously interviewed the 25-years-dead Rolling Stone Brian Jones via a psychic for an NME cover story, his Talking Musical Revolutions live events brought live interviews to the stage, illuminating the innate rock ’n’ roll in the spoken and written word, while his debut 2016 album (opens in new tab), also entitled Talking Musical Revolutions, is a lost classic that you really ought to investigate. In 2019 he released the album Utopia (opens in new tab) as Martin & Bell with multi-instrumentalist Martin Bell.

The Waterboys’ Mike Scott has tweeted: “I'm gutted to hear of the death of music writer Gavin Martin. He wasn't just a fantastic writer, he was a fantastic person. I loved that man. Travel on well, my friend. See you on the other side.” 

Thea Gilmore also tweeted: “So sad to hear of Gavin Martin’s death. He was a fearless writer and a passionate music lover. I have very blurry happy memories of my first ever album launch, second album, a pub and a lot of fuschia lipstick. Safe travels onward Gavin, you will be missed so much.”

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Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.