Mark Levins – An Appreciation
Guitar and amp wizard who gave Irish bands their authentic rock sound
Mark Levins: a key player in the Irish music scene
Mark Levins, who died on Christmas Day, was a key player in the Irish music scene, not only as a well-respected guitarist, but also as a technical wizard who helped Irish bands maintain their authentic rock sound. He was renowned in music circles as Ireland’s leading expert on vintage guitar amplifiers, and was the go-to guy for repairing and restoring classic and rare amps. Through his company Aladdin’s Amps, he worked his magic on many a 1960s Fender Twin or Vox AC-30, and among his clients were The Frames, Delorentos, Mundy and The Riptide Movement. When some of The Edge’s vintage amps were damaged by flooding after the Liffey burst its banks one year, Mark was the man to restore them back to pristine working order.
Mark shared an origin story with the U2 guitarist – his band Lyndon Shunt played the Dandelion Market in 1979, the same year U2 were regularly rocking the Stephen’s Green venue.
Inspired by his guitar heroes Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and Alex Lifeson from Rush, Mark quickly became a local guitar hero on the Dublin scene, and by the late 1980s, he was playing with Dublin band North of 49, who were hoping to impress the A&R execs descending on the Capital in search of the next U2.
At the time, this writer was a young rock critic with The Irish Times, and wrote this about their Baggot Inn gig in November 1989: “North of 49 tackle big issues with a big sound. Some new Irish bands (I won’t name names) try to be grandiose and end up being merely pompous, but North of 49’s stadium-friendly sound comes naturally to them.”
Despite the rave review, and the patronage of U2, North of 49 never made it to the big venues their sound seemed tailored towards. That didn’t stop Levins from happily plying his guitar-playing trade with numerous other bands over the next two decades, including The Rainflowers, Daymaker and Tribe of Ben.
This writer became good friends with Mark, and we often got together to play impromptu gigs in Whelans and other local venues, railroading local musicians to join in. He was a generous soul, always willing to commit 100 per cent to a musical idea, however hare-brained, and always eager to teach young musicians how to play a tricky Zep riff or Hendrix solo.
In 2001, we formed a “Madchester” tribute band called Hacienda That, performing hits by The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, Primal Scream to party crowds at The Sugar Club, the Olympia, the Gaiety and the Witnness and Oxegen festivals. We would close our shows with the Stone Roses classic I Am The Resurrection, and when Mark ripped into the song’s climactic extended solo, it invariably brought the house down.
In 2005, Mark co-founded rock-pop-soul combo The Moogs, who are one of Ireland’s most sought-after wedding bands.
Mark’s eldest son, David, also an accomplished musician, plays with hotly tipped electro three-piece Dreaming of Jupiter, who are playing The Button Factory in Dublin on January 18th and the O2 Academy in London on February 2nd.
On Christmas Day, Mark was taken ill suddenly and unexpectedly, and died at Tallaght hospital.
He is predeceased by his first wife Frances, and survived by his wife Alice McGlynn Levins, children David, Adam, Ethan and Ava-Lily, father Tom, mother Beth, sister Joy and brother Damian.