Mark Williams was the face of NZ pop in the late 1970s with the runaway success of two No.1 singles ‘Yesterday Was Just The Beginning of My Life’ (1975) and ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ (1977).
These radio-friendly singles came from three albums produced by Lower Hutt-based HMV in-house producer Alan Galbraith – Mark Williams (1975), Sweet Trials (1976) and Taking It All In Stride (1977). They charted No.2, No.14 and No.14 respectively. Tracks from these pop-soul albums are now viewed as rare groove classics by soul music fans.
In music magazine Hot Licks (#19, 1975) Mark Williams explained his easy-going, working relationship with Alan Galbraith:
“Alan sent up a whole lot of material and I had a listen through them and picked out which ones I wanted to do and which ones I didn’t. And the ones I didn’t want to do we did.”
Williams was commenting on the least successful of his three albums, the rockier Sweet Trials.
Already, at the age of 21, Williams was intent on leaving the country. “I don’t want to stay in New Zealand much longer, basically because I want to learn a lot.”
Williams had found that being a “star” in his homeland was not all fun. His version of “glam” – he has since called “drag” – “The reaction was either absolute adoration or total disgust. Complete opposites. I was very scared of what it created. That’s one of the reasons I left New Zealand, because it was just too scary.”
When Rip It Up spoke to Williams in 1977, Alan Galbraith had taken on the role of manager and reiterated the need to move on – “If we’re going to stay in these pubs much longer, we’re all going to die.”
“The reaction was either absolute adoration or total disgust. Complete opposites.”
By the end of 1977, Williams and Galbraith were both in Sydney. The singer would soon be enjoying working as a recording session backing vocalist and Galbraith joined CBS to work in A&R.Galbraith was critical of NZ talent managers, “All they are is booking agents.” The producer is probably referring to old school managers like Lew Pryme who discovered Williams playing in Dargaville band Face. After booking Face, Pryme encouraged Williams to leave the band and appear as a resident singer on the 1974 TV pop show Free Ride.
Williams did not record another album until Life After Dark in 1981. The CBS album made no impact on either side of the Tasman.
In 1990 Williams returned to the charts on both sides of the Tasman with ‘Show No Mercy’ for Albert Productions. The single was released under both his band’s name Boy Rocking and his own name, reaching the chart position of No.9 in both countries.
During the 1990s Williams would combine trips home to see family with a booking at Auckland’s Sky City Casino bar, fronting a band that included funky bass player Max Stowers. The singer would perform his hits but also excelled on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster (Jammin')’, Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love?’ and Aretha Franklin’s live arrangement of ‘Love The One You’re With’.
Since 2005 Williams has been the lead singer for Todd Hunter’s reformed Dragon, touring both Australia and New Zealand.
Mark Williams and Karen Boddington recorded the theme song for TV soap Home And Away in 1989.
Mark Williams and Tara Morice sang Time After Time on the Strictly Ballroom movie soundtrack (1992).