“Gavin Martin was definitely one of the good guys,” says Paul Charles. “He was close to a lot of musicians, but wasn’t afraid to set the tone when he felt some of their work was below par. The funny thing is that the majority of artists really liked him. for his honesty…”
Tributes continue to pour in for music writer Gavin Martin, who grew up in Bangor, who died while vacationing in Barbados on March 10, aged 60.
During the Irish punk rock summer of 1977, while still a teenager, Martin co-founded and edited the influential fanzine Alternate Ulster – to which a young Steve Morrissey contributed. Stiff Little Fingers originally wrote their iconic anthem, “Alternative Ulster”, for a Flexi disc to be released by the fanzine.
Martin continued to write for NME, having first appeared in the magazine’s letters section when he was just 13 years old. He wrote the first NME cover interview in 1981, before the release of October. Later, he took on the role of music critic at The daily mirror.
In December 2017, he released Talk about musical revolutions, a spoken word/punk collection of “coming of age tales told amidst rest and fire.”
“I was an avid reader of Gavin Alternate Ulster fanzine, which I bought with glue sniffer in Rough Trade, and his debut NME dispatches,” says heat press Deputy Editor, Stuart Clark. “He made Belfast sound like the punk rock capital of the world, which maybe it was at the time. If Gavin Martin said a record was worth buying, that was enough for me.
“I never got to meet him, but I was incredibly excited a few years ago when he followed me on Twitter. We had a few back and forths, and he said some really nice things about heat press. He got along wonderfully with the late, great resume writer Bill Graham, so we swapped stories about Bill and thought we’d hopefully meet up someday for a pint. Sadly, that won’t happen now, but I’m glad I got to tell him how the 13-year-old junior punk rocker, me, devoured the NME at the time.”
Renowned Northern Irish music promoter, manager and writer Paul Charles also paid tribute to Martin, calling him “one of the good guys”.
“He was close to a lot of musicians, but wasn’t afraid to set the tone when he felt some of their work was below par,” Charles said. heat press. “The funny thing is that the majority of artists really liked him for his honesty.
“His own spoken word art was amazing, very moving and…that word again, honest,” he continues. “The great thing about a Belfast audience is that if you’re the real deal, they’ll support you to the nth degree. On the other hand, if you can’t cut it, especially live, they can’t. never feign their lack of enthusiasm.
“The ever-young Gavin Martin embodied the Belfast crowd. He was a good guy – with a heart of pure gold.”
Broadcaster and music producer Mike Edgar – who was honored for outstanding contribution to music at the 2021 NI Music Prize – says heat press that Martin’s passing is a “huge loss, and one that came too soon”.
“He grew up a stone’s throw from my home here, near County Bangor Down,” says Edgar. “I will remember him first as the man who can truly lay claim to the phrase ‘Alternative Ulster’, the title of his punk fanzine and of course the classic SLF anthem. Alternate Ulster was the best 20p a music fan could spend as Gavin introduced you to Rudi and his ilk!
“Our paths crossed many times and I remember my excitement at the idea of my group being mentioned in one of his columns in the early 80s,” he continues. “If you were mentioned by Gavin, you were noticed. He often invited me to the BBC radio show Across The Line, especially during our early years. Gavin was thoughtful, fearless, not to short of opinion and on more than a few crazy endearing occasions!
“If you loved music, you soon realized that Gavin really lived music – I always had a lot of respect for him because I realized very quickly that he knew a lot more about the genre than I did! Gavin could be great fun and extremely fun, but he could also be incredibly straight, honest, and uncompromising if he felt it was warranted.
“He was in no way afraid to take on some of the biggest names in music if he felt they were getting too big for their boots – He took no prisoners, nor was he afraid to stand up for those who deserved a head start! groups from Northern Ireland Gavin was a true journalist legend, respected alongside his local colleagues Stuart Bailie, also from NMEand the late Bill Graham of heat press.
“Gavin’s contribution to the cultural fabric of these islands is immeasurable, he was truly unique, the world of music will be a much different place without his talent, wit and insight. As a family of musicians we owe him so much – Gavin we salute you!”
Belfast-based music writer and broadcaster Stuart Bailie shared an in-depth tribute to Martin on Facebook, describing him as a “music writer, NME pillar, poet, expletive, proclaimer, natural mystic.”
“Author of many amazing features,” resumes Bailie. “Interviewed by Marvin Gaye just before the singer died. Sat down with Youth on a Killing Joke Hell Tour and they wrote letters to their mothers. Sobbed with Strummer about dead relatives. Took phone calls Strangers in Terence Trent D’Arby’s office. I’ve written about Dexys, Ice T, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis…”
“He was no one’s pet journalist,” he wrote. “His account of the U2 Lovetown tour in 1989 was light writing as he traveled through Japan and communed with BB King. Gavin’s father fought in World War II and helped liberate Belsen. He later became a union leader. Gavin absorbed some of that sense of mission and righteousness.
Taking to Twitter, the Pogues shared an image of their NME interview with Martin – remembering him as a “brilliant writer, great company and a true friend”.
We are so, so sad to hear that Gavin Martin has passed away. A brilliant writer, great company and a good friend. RIP 🖤 pic.twitter.com/CktmRQBhEs
— The Pogues (@poguesofficial) March 11, 2022
See more tributes to Gavin Martin below:
I am disgusted to learn of the passing of music writer Gavin Martin. He wasn’t just a fantastic writer, he was a fantastic person. I loved this man. Have a nice trip my friend. We meet on the other side.
— Mike Scott (@MickPuck) March 11, 2022
Sorry to learn of the sudden passing of Gavin Martin. From that generation of music journalists who began by creating fanzines in 1977, he never lost the righteous and opinionated attitude that animated these publications and his writing was only better for it. TO TEAR APART.
—Billy Bragg (@billybragg) March 11, 2022
So sad to hear of Gavin Martin’s passing. A brilliant writer, a hilarious, lively, generous, eccentric and sometimes fierce man. Unique. I once found it at the gentlemen of the NME circling the bogeys of the wall in ink, writing “you’re a farm animal” next to it.
“Someone has to do it!” he told me.
—Ted Kessler (@TedKessler1) March 11, 2022
Gavin Martin was a brilliant writer, a charming and fascinating man…gave many of us our first non-music writing experience when he ran the NME’s Films, Television and Books section.. .and provided endless inspiration in what he wrote. So sad and shocked to hear he died. pic.twitter.com/rdnrecn7St
—John Harris (@johnharris1969) March 11, 2022
God bless Gavin Martin who wrote for the NME. Never an enemy, his writings championed and celebrated the magic of music. Gavin may you shine forever
— BP Fallon (@bpfallon) March 11, 2022
Sad to hear of the sudden passing of Gavin Martin, the creator of Alternative Ulster and top journalist with NME and numerous publications.
A poet and always very kind and generous with his time, wit and vast lyrical knowledge. I will spin his beloved Bob Dylan today in his honor.
— Paul Connolly (@pb_connolly) March 11, 2022
How sad to learn of Gavin Martin’s passing. He was an intrepid writer and an avid music lover. I have very hazy happy memories of my first album launch, my second album, a pub and lots of fuschia lipstick. Bon voyage Gavin, we will miss you so much.
— Thea Gilmore (@theagilmore) March 11, 2022