Never Gonna Fall In Love Again (E Carmen/S Rachmaninoff) and I Wanna Make You My Lady (G Osborne/E Gardestadt/K Gardestadt) – Mark Holden 1976
Adelaide-born Mark Holden (1954) 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 toured the east coast with his girlfriend Sheree Goldsworthy and their baby son Cane (born 1974), in a Mini Minor panel van, it was a spartan, unglamorous, nomadic life, and Sheree returned to Adelaide with their son, who Holden supported throughout their lives. Below Mark and Sheree.
He was subsequently signed to EMI Music, and his debut album, Dawn In Darkness, was unfortunately all darkness and no dawn, and it flopped. But the long-haired hippie folk singer with the dubious taste in plaid jackets would soon emerge as a well-groomed, pop balladeer, in bespoke suits and stylish shirts, the epitome of a clean-cut pop idol.
It would be with his next album, Let Me Love You, produced by Richard Lush, where he really hit his stride. Former Bee Gees drummer Colin Petersen had suggested that he should try a cover version of the Eric Carmen song, Never Gonna Fall In Love Again, and Petersen produced the single which provided his breakthrough hit when it charted #13 nationally and earned him a regular spot on Countdown.
It was previously a hit for the former Raspberries front man Carmen in 1976, who had blended the melody from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony, Opus 27, Third Movement, with his own melody, to create a melancholy song which shifted back and forth between minor and major keys to evoke the feelings of unrequited love, and melancholy loneliness. Eric Carmen had previously hit the charts in Australia with All By Myself in 1976, this too was another melancholy ode to loneliness and isolation, but Never Gonna Fall I Love did not chart here, and gave Mark Holden the opportunity to cover it, without having to compete with an Eric Carmen original version.
The good-looking, personable, young, Holden aspired to a fervent, teenage heartthrob status, characterized at times by white tie regalia, and a propensity to bombard his audiences with carnations. He also decked himself out in white cricket creams, grandpa shirts, braces, a Scotch College blazer, handmade Hardie Amies double-breasted suits, and shirts with Edwardian collars, and his new persona emerged – “The Carnation Kid”.
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 had once so eloquently described. As the very antithesis of everything that was rude, crude and distasteful about pop music at the time, although privately he experimented with LSD and was a dedicated pot smoker; he cleverly inserted himself into a market niche that proved to be briefly rewarding. He did not work the pub circuit like his contemporaries but cultivated a fanbase via TV appearances on such shows as Countdown, Blankety Blanks, The Young Doctors, Paul Hogan Show, Mike Walsh, Target, Bandstand and others. Below L-R – Holden in The Young Doctors “examining” the resident No. 96 sex symbol Abigail, hosting The Love Game, guesting on Blankety Blanks with Graham Kennedy.
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 1976 debut album Let Me Love You 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 romanticism, sincerity and wholesomeness that impressed his fans and the Countdown audience. But at times he did stray too close to the baying mob and was occasionally yanked off the stage before he finished his performance, John Paul Young and Darryl Braithwaite were similarly the target of these surprisingly determined young fans.
Last Romance became the third hit single taken from the album in December 1976 and it too was a #11 hit, and confirmed his position within the saccharine pop genre, and he would briefly remain a teenybopper favorite. But all teen idols have a use-by date, 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 late 70’s he starred in a Sydney production of Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and appeared in the movie Blue Fire Lady, but in the early 80’s he relocated to Los Angeles to ultimately pursue a career in songwriting, record production and artist management, after abandoning attempts to revive his pop star ambitions there. Below L-R 45 Record, Scene from Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Movie Poster for Blue Fire Lady.
He met his future wife Anna in Los Angeles in 1983 and they would marry and have a daughter Katie in 1995, and although he was no longer recording songs, his songwriting was progressing. In addition to some album tracks for Belinda Carlisle, Kathy Sledge, The Manhattans, Donny Osmond, Jose Feliciano and others, he also wrote several hits for the legendary Motown group The Temptations. They recorded several of his songs including Lady Soul and Look What You Started in 1986/87, both were top ten hits on the R&B charts, and appeared on several Greatest Hit compilations by Motown and The Temptations. Below Anna and Mark with daughter Katie.
In 1996, he relocated back to Australia with his family, and teamed up with Jack Strom, and their company Marjac was instrumental in discovering and recording new talent here. Below Jack Strom with Olivia Newton-John.
Mark 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. Below L-R – Mark with Vanessa Amorosi, Nicki Webster, Sophie Monk.
Holden was also instrumental in launching the careers of Delta Goodrem, Nikki Webster, and Sophie Monk, and he was a ubiquitous presence as resident judge on Australia Idol for five years and an original judge on the X Factor series. Below L-R – Australian Idol judges Holden, Hines, and Dickson, Mark in Dancing With the Stars as Bobo the Clown, and Vladimir Putin.
In 2014 Holden appeared as a celebrity partner on Channel Seven’s Dancing With the Stars, and despite being a terrible dancer, and not really committing to his hard-working partner Jess Prince, he insisted on appearing in consecutive weeks as firstly Bobo the Clown, and then a paso doble-strutting, bare-chested Vladimir Putin. The performances were bizarre, creepy, embarrassing and basically train wreck TV, he scored the lowest points in the history of the competition when the judges ejected him in Week 5 with a score of 4 out of 40. Holden ultimately completed his legal studies and currently works in the field of copyright and intellectual property rights litigation.