News December 1, 2019

Martin Armiger, Sports guitarist turned screen composer, dies at 70

Martin Armiger, Sports guitarist turned screen composer, dies at 70

Martin Armiger, who emerged in 1970s Melbourne band Sports before a multi-award winning screen composing, has died.

He “passed away peacefully in France” his brother Keith, also a musician, announced on Facebook. He turned 70 in June.

Stephen Cummings, his bandmate in The Sports paid tribute to him as a “generous friend…great musician…he was a beauty!”

He is survived by his wife Maureen and daughters Kelly and Claudia.

John Martin Armiger was born to two musicians in Hertfordshire, England.

He was 16 when the family moved to Adelaide, South Australia, where he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Flinders University in Adelaide.

Even as his career began in his early 20, it was on a dual path, as a guitarist and a film composer, composing the score for short film Drac when still at college.

Armiger moved to Melbourne in the id-70s just as the city’s Carlton scene was flourishing, with a mix of rock, theatre, film and poetry.

The great bands to emerge from this scene included Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Sports, Paul Kelly & The Dots and The Pelaco Brothers.

Armiger played in a number of Carlton bands as Toads, Bleeding Hearts and High Rise Bombers.

At the same time, he was also composing music for inner-city stage musicals as A Night in Rio and movies as Pure Shit.

In mid-1978, Cummings invited Armiger into the Sports ranks, because he had a more pop sensibility than his predecessor, Ed Bates, who had strong roots in rockabilly and R&B.

Cummings’ instinct proved correct. Armiger’s songwriting and arrangement skill gave them a radio-friendly pop veneer which gave them hits as ’Don’t Throw Stones’, ‘Strangers On A Train’ (which Armiger wrote) and ‘How Come’.

They picked up acclaim in UK and US magazines (even made record of the week by the NME) and went on a global tour.

The first show in New York, to an audience which included Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, was a disaster from the first song.

A sulky Cummings played the rest of the set with his back to the crowd.

After constant touring over three years, they were tired and run-down, and the overseas tour broke their back.

After The Sports split in 1981, Armiger moved on to guesting on albums for Marc Hunter and producing records by Cummings (Senso), Paul Kelly (Talk), Kate Ceberano & Wendy Matthews (You’ve Always Got the Blues) and The Kevins.

His multi-award-winning screen and stage work included the hit movie Young Einstein by Yahoo Serious, ABC-TV’s Sweet and Sour and Come In Spinner, and stage productions as Illusion for the 1986 Adelaide Festival and Seven’s Seven Deadly Sins and Cody.

His publisher Mushroom Music lists 14 movies, TV themes, documentaries and short films he was involved in.

Armiger is said to have initiated the Screen Music Awards in 1992 and was president of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC) for seven years.

From 2004 Armiger was head of screen composition at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

Armiger also served as the Head of Screen Music at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) for 14 years.

Its director of curriculum and student registrar, Nell Greenwood, issued a statement: “It is hard to put into words the extraordinary contribution that Martin made to the school and to the industry,

“His skill and generosity shaped the careers of so many students.

“His incredible intelligence, his musical genius, his kindness, his wit and his daring, disrupting mind influenced so many of us and will be so missed.

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