Adelaide-born Mark Holden came from a family who owned the Holden and Sloggetts Travelling Circus, although neither of his parents actively participated in the running of the family business. He attended Westminister School in Adelaide and studied law at the University of Adelaide for three years before embarking on a singing career, and appearing on then-current TV shows Adelaide Tonight, The Ernie Sigley Show and Showcase ’74.
Holden was originally a folk-based, MOR singer/songwriter who was signed to EMI Music, his debut album, Dawn In Darkness, was all darkness and no dawn, and flopped, but it was with his next album, Let Me Love You, produced by Richard Lush who had worked with the Beatles, that he really hit his stride.
His cover of the Eric Carmen hit, Never Gonna Fall In Love Again, charted #13 nationally and after numerous Countdown performances, the good-looking, personable, young Holden aspired to a fervent, though brief, teenage heartthrob status, characterized by white tie regalia, and a propensity to bombard his audiences with carnations.
He was an uncomfortable fit within the glam rock era where performers embraced sex and drugs in their music and private lives, traded in lurid stage costumes that revealed chest hair and wore flamboyant codpieces that accentuated the contours of their groin and the “armadillo within” as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel so eloquently described it. As the very antithesis of everything that was rude, crude and distasteful about pop music at the time, he cleverly inserted himself into a market niche that proved to be briefly rewarding.
Skyhooks guitarist Red Symons expressed a grudging admiration for Holden “He used to appall people, but I thought he was interesting. He was a return to the very old-fashioned ideas about being an entertainer like Pat Boone and Frankie Avalon. He wasn’t stupid… although I found his performance a bit too businesslike… too cynical for me. After the Skyhooks, if you turned up on Countdown with funny costumes and make-up, it wasn’t like you were going out on a limb. He was in much more dangerous territory than we were.” (The Countdown Years 1974-1987 Glad All Over – Peter Wilmoth 1993)
Holden’s album was a curious mix of covers of Marty Robbins, Neil Sedaka and Randy Edelman songs sprinkled amongst original compositions by Beeb Birtles and Holden. But it was his English language cover of a Swedish pop song by Ted and Kenny Gardestadt, with English lyrics by Gary Osborne, originally titled Jag Ska Fanga en Angel, which loosely translated became I Wanna Make You My Lady, that confirmed his popularity and at #11 became his biggest hit to date. It was fairly standard soft pop but Mark knew how to imbue even this most trite of songs with a sincerity and wholesomeness that impressed the Countdown audience, but he did stray too close to the baying mob, and was yanked off the stage before he finished his performance.
Last Romance became the third hit single taken from the album in December 1976 and it too was a #11 hit. Holden continued to record the MOR saccharine pop that had made him a teenybopper favorite, and despite a #17 charter with Reach Out For The One Who Loves You in 1977, Holden’s career trajectory was on the wane. In the early 80’s he relocated to the States to pursue a career in songwriting, record production and artist management.
His compositions were recorded mostly as album tracks by Belinda Carlisle, Kathy Sledge, The Manhattans, Donny Osmond, Jose Feliciano, and others and in 1996, he relocated back to Australia with his family.
He is credited with discovering, and managing Vanessa Amorosi, as well as co-writing her hit songs Shine and Absolutely Everybody which formed part of her #1 debut album The Power.
Holden was also instrumental in launching the careers of Delta Goodrem, Nikki Webster, and Sophie Monk, he was a ubiquitous presence as resident judge on Australia Idol for five years and an original judge on the X Factor series.
Holden ultimately completed his legal studies and currently works in the field of copyright and intellectual property rights litigation.