Arts & Culture Music

A Tribute to NME’s Gavin Martin 1961-2022

  • May 3, 2022
  • 4 min read
A Tribute to NME’s Gavin Martin 1961-2022

Gavin Martin passed in his sleep on a beach in Barbados while on holiday on March 10th aged 60. A huge tribute to his life took place in St Leonard’s, Sussex, on April 23rd.

Gavin Martin lived and breathed music every single day of his life. Growing up in Bangor in County Down, Northern Ireland, he formed the fanzine Alternative Ulster during his early teens. It was Ulster’s first Punk fanzine, the title of which was later coined by Jake Burns’ Stiff Little Fingers via their biggest hit. This led to his joining NME in late 1979 where Julie Burchill happily offered to type up his reviews, recognising an eager talent. Soon a prominent NME feature writer, he became nationally renown. NME Special Projects Editor, the late Roy Carr, confided to me wryly in 2011, “The thing with Gavin was – when he joked with you – you never knew if he really meant it!” This particular spirit of mischief, and his insight into what made the music special, combined to define his unique writing style. He’d happily wind people up, both in situ and in print. His ongoing sparring with Bono was legendary.

One of NME’s longest standing scribes, he was later invited to become The Daily Mirror’s ‘Music Critic’ by former music journalist Tony Stewart, this side of the Millennium, working there right up until 2021. Here Gavin’s brand of music journalism was no less barbed when needed. He’d often give Van Morrison a pertinent jibe, which earned him the mutual respect of this fellow Ulster man. A fact that Gavin was immensely proud of and even touched by. In Gavin’s eyes – as with millions globally – Van was ‘The Man’, even at his most prickly.

In 2009 Gavin Martin and Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore acquired the rights to Pete Frame’s ‘Rock Family Trees’. This led to a radio special I made with Gavin in November that year, when we discussed Pete’s great art work anthologies of Rock’s roots, and routes. Later a Poet himself, Gavin utilised his unique brand of lyrical poetics in that radio show, which I recorded on location at his home near London’s Flower Market. With ‘Rock’s Family Trees’ never quite making it into a third BBC TV series, Gavin described getting such gems back onto TV as a “busted flush”, recognising the fact that the taste makers in TV’s commissioning process are actually often just full of shit.

On the 11th of January 2010 Gavin and I reconvened once more to discuss his admiration for the life and work of the late Jimi Hendrix. All in the wake of Gavin’s ‘gatherings’ of music journalists who were corralled once a month into a basement venue in London’s Shoreditch in order to read, perform, and discuss – in this particular instance – Jimi Hendrix. Gavin later took these events known as Talking Musical Revolutions to his new home in St Leonards by Hastings where he resided from 2015.

Back in 2013 Gavin and I sat in a box together at Camden’s Koko to watch what we both thought might be Wilko Johnson’s final concert. All courtesy of one Chris Carr. Having had some daft disagreement over something silly, Chris metaphorically banged our heads together and the differences evaporated. A few years later Gavin very kindly described me as an “enabler” through my campaign work, trying to save what we could of London’s Tin Pan Alley. Gavin himself, however, was far more than just “an enabler”, he brought talent into the limelight and allowed it to shine.

Gavin Martin -1961-2022

Henry Scott-Irvine 

Henry Scottt-irvine Presents NME’s Gavin Martin Remembered for Portobello Radio London. Now available as a Mixcloud & Portobello Radio Podcast 


About Author

Henry Scott Irvine

The published author of Procol Harum's hardback Omnibus Press biography, Henry Scott-Irvine's writing began in the script departments of the British film industry. He continued as a Film & TV 'Music & Arts' researcher. He has a long background in published journalism. A radio producer-presenter since 2009 as well as a producer of the award winning documentary film Tales From Tin Pan Alley. He's a successful campaigner for securing listings and preservation for London's music & film heritage sites.

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