Marty Kristian (real name Martin Vanags) was born in Leipzig, Germany on 27th May 1947. His father, Paul, died at the time of his birth, leaving his mother Ruth with an only son and a hard life ahead of her. When Marty was three his mother packed their bags and emigrated to Australia. "She had to get a job" Marty later recalled "In fact she had two jobs at a time sometimes. But as she was Latvian her English wasn't very good and she found it hard. By the time I was seven it got to be so difficult for her to find accommodation ... that she had to put me in a children's home for a year-and-a-half. Landlords just didn't want children on the premises."
After leaving school Marty trained to be an architect at Melbourne University, but abandoned his studies for a job in an architect's office when his mother became ill. "I'd always liked painting and drawing" he told journalist Gay Search "and architecture seemed to me to be a good idea because it was both creative and socially useful, but I didn't really enjoy the course so that when, at the end of my first year, my mother was taken ill and the bills started piling up, it wasn't a very hard decision to pack it in and take a job."
Marty played with local bands in his spare time, then turned semi-professional as a solo singer. His big break came when he was offered a contract to appear on The Go!! Show. Between April 1966 and July 1967 Marty appeared on the show 22 times, performing alongside other Australian stars of the day such as the Bee Gees, Colin Cook, The Easybeats. Buddy England, Python Lee Jackson, Marcie Jones, Normie Rowe, Tony Worsley and future New Seeker Peter Doyle.
In 1967 Marty had a local hit with I'll Give You Love, a song written and produced by Crispian St. Peters, who had already had two hits of his own - You Were On My Mind (which had reached number 2 in the UK in February 1966) and Pied Piper (a Top 5 hit in the UK three months later). Both of these songs had been released in the US by other artists (We Five and the Changin' Times), so there was an element of irony in Marty's having a hit by a songwriter who himself only had Top 5 hits with other people's songs.
Marty realised that to make it big he would have to head for the UK or the USA. "I was feeling pretty depressed," he told Popswop magazine, "nothing seemed to be happening in general in Australia." He gained free passage to England on the SS Fairstar, sister ship to the SS Fairsky which The Seekers had travelled on when they first came to the UK in 1964. As Marty told Brian Matthew in a 1974 radio interview, he didn't come over with a particular plan: "I didn't really have anything in mind. I wanted to see the world, as it were... I was sort of open to all kind of suggestions."
Marty was about to join the cast of the musical Hair when he was offered the opportunity of becoming a founder member of the New Seekers. As Marty revealed, it all came about when he received a telephone call from David Joseph: "I knew David, who's our manager, in Australia. He had some TV programmes over there that I used to perform on as a solo act. He phoned me up in London - don't know how he knew that I was in London, but he phoned me up. He outlined the idea of the New Seekers and I went to a subsequent meeting with Keith [Potger]. And we just got it together."
Copyright © Chris Walter. Photo used with permission.
See more of Chris Walters' photographs at the Photofeatures website.
At their inception the New Seekers were intended for a family audience. As Marty put it: "When we started out, the New Seekers were a mum and dad type group playing cabaret clubs." The decision to take part in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest changed all that. The group developed a teenage fan-base and Marty, with his blonde hair and blue eyes, became a teen idol. "All that only really started with the Song For Europe on the Cliff Richard show ... we suddenly found that we had to be hustled out of halls after a concert, through side entrances, disguised as workmen, with decoy cars and all that! I must say, I quite enjoyed it - at that stage it was still fun!"
Although the adulation of the fans and the extra press attention was flattering, Marty never let fame go to his head. "I've been through all the big star bit" he once told a journalist "When I was a solo singer in Australia, I went out on the ego trip and almost never came back! These days,  I'm very careful about reading too much of my own publicity. I know how easy it is to start believing you're a big star. The next thing you know, you've started to act like you think a big star should act, and the next thing you know is, there's no publicity to read anymore."
For Marty, the downside of being a pin-up was not being taken seriously as a musician and songwriter. "But of course it is true" he told Fan magazine, "the pop stars who are in the fan magazines often get a lot of criticism ... It's as if the knockers are resentful of other people looking good and selling records at the same time. It's not quite reached the stage with me where I wish I had wrinkles and was going bald but I have to admit, I'd hate to be thought of as a pin-up on a wall and nothing else."
Marty wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on the New Seekers' albums, including two tracks on the group's début album - Hello Again and One More Sunny Day. Subsequent albums often included one or two of Marty's songs:
Talking about his songs in an interview for Jackie magazine, Marty said: "Sometimes they'll take about ten minutes to get down and other times from between three and six months. It depends which bit comes first - if I get a melody or something like that in my head I might store it until I get the right words. But I definitely reflect the life I live in my songs." The song A Woman Grows was, as he put it, "about some of my past girlfriends and relationships I've had"; Midnight Woman, as the song-title suggests, was about an encounter with a prostitute, with lyrics that were not what you would normally expect to find on a New Seekers' album.
"Midnight woman make you feel so fine
Ease your senses
Then possess your mind
Drain you dry
Then set you free
Like she did to me
Did to me."
Mystic Queen and I've Got Your Number reflected his interest in astrology, while the autobiographical People Put Me Down revealed the frustrations of a songwriter, who also happened to be a pin-up.
"Left my college books became a traveller
I got my education on the road
You might say I learned it all the hard way
People put me down, say I'm a right on
Ain't nobody listening to my song
So I never could please everybody
But that don't mean my politic is wrong."
Marty sang the lead vocal on the New Seekers' hit Come Softly To Me and shared the lead vocal with Peter Doyle on the follow up, Pinball Wizard / See Me, Feel Me. The two songs couldn't have been more different - the former a dreamy cover version of an old The Fleetwoods hit, the latter a brass blasting medley of two songs from the rock opera Tommy. Marty was equally at home with either style, though dreamy ballads were more in tune with his image as a teenage heart-throb. Accordingly, he was given another song to make the girls swoon - The Everly Brothers' Crying In The Rain. Although it had been recorded with the New Seekers, the song was released as a solo single. It was also featured on the album Peter, Paul & Marty.
(New Seekers' fan club photo).
During the two years between the break up of the New Seekers in May 1974 and their reunion in April 1976, Marty continued to write and record his own songs. Working with Paul Layton and Danny Finn as Marty, Paul and Danny, he had a hand in writing all three of the trio's singles for RCA. He also wrote or co-wrote most of the material for their stage act - songs such as The Father, The Son And The Undermined Magician, I Believed You Blind and Love Of My Life. Although these were never released on record by Marty, Paul and Danny, some of them appeared on later recordings by the New Seekers.
Together with Paul Layton, Marty arranged and produced many of the New Seekers' later recordings, including all three of the group's singles for EMI. He also produced records for other artists. In 1978 he produced a single for Linda Fletcher, Hush / Fadin' Away (Ariola Hansa AHA 532) and in 1983 he worked with Audio, Face to Face and Kadis. Audio's single, Love On Your Mind, was one of the entries in the Song For Europe contest. It was co-written by Marty and Trevor Spencer and featured New Seeker Kathy Ann Rae on lead vocal. In 1983 Marty also produced an album for Australian singer Sandi McMenamin, which included a song entitled Adelaide, You're A Lady. In 1986 the song was used to raise money for the Spastic Centres of Australia and in 1990 it was chosen as the official song to celebrate Adelaide City Council's 150th birthday.
Marty continued to perform with the New Seekers throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In April 2002, however, after 33 years with the group, he decided to call it a day. His last stage appearance with the group was on 2nd March at the Warners Bembridge Coast Hotel, Isle of Wight.
In 2011 Marty came out of retirement to promote a CD of his songs, titled Echoes. The CD featured demo recordings from the 1970s and 1980s, three of which had been recorded by the New Seekers: A Woman Grows (from the album Peter, Paul & Marty); It Won't Be The Same (the B-side a 1985 single Let The Bells Ring Out Forever); and Just Another Lesson (released for the first time in 2009 on the album It's Been Too Long: Greatest Hits & More). Marty was interviewed on a long list of radio shows, including Johnnie Walker's Sounds Of The Seventies (BBC Radio 2), when he took the opportunity to pay tribute to former New Seeker Kathy Ann Rae, who had died in January. A second album of demo recordings, Echoes 2: Beginner At Love, followed in May 2012; a third, Saints & Sinners, was released in December the following year.
In 2018 Marty
published a book - a children's story aimed at the 4+ age group titled The Adventures Of Walt ‘n Matilda - The Black Stump. Written and illustrated by Marty, the book tells the tale of Walt and Matilda, two koalas whose adventures start in the outback of Australia but eventually lead them to discover the world at large. Following the publication of their book both Walt and Matilda continued to make regular appearances on Marty's Facebook page.
In July 2019 one of Marty's songs became a minor hit for the Scottish singer Arlene. Right Time, Right Place made it to number 9 on the European Hotdisc Chart (18th August 2019) and spent five weeks at number 2 on the British & Irish Hotdisc Chart (11th August - 8th September 2019). A follow-up single recorded by Arlene in Nashville, Bring The Curtain Down, was released on 1st July 2020. This one was not only written by Marty but featured him singing harmony vocals.
2020 also saw the publication of Marty's second book,
The Puss Who Lost His Purr. A couple of days after its publication Marty wrote on Facebook: "I’d just like to clear up the misconception that this book is for the 4+ age group.
My mother-in-law is 96 and she thinks that this illustrated poem ranks with anything Shakespeare produced. She is a very wise woman and who am I to contradict her? Take a look and you be the judge." (Facebook, 6th May 2020)
Marty married his wife Carol in 1975. They have two sons - Jamie, who was born on 29th March 1981, and Oliver, born just over 14 months later on 5th June 1982.
Jamie made his TV acting début in an episode of In Deep (BBC1) on 4th March 2003.
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