John Martyn

As I write this, I am listening to John Martyn‘s wonderful 1971 album Bless The Weather.

I love the music he recorded from 1970 onwards until the end of the decade. Bless The Weather is really a transitional album, the one where he really starts to use the echoplex and delay to create the fantastic soundscapes that he was to release on albums like Solid Air, Inside Out, Sunday’s Child and Small World.

His echoey, drifting but driven free music approach can best be heard on the live album Live At Leeds, which he released himself after some kind of argument with Island, his record label. I saw John live quite a few times in this period and his touring band in 1975 with Danny Thompson on double bass, John Stevens on drums and Paul Kossoff on occasional guitar was absolutely stunning.

Any musician would be satisfied with his 1970s output, it is a body of work that puts most people to shame.

I will admit that I am not a fan of his later stuff, but these albums are all masterpieces, The albums he recorded with his first wife Beverley are also enjoyable, but they are not really the fully fledged John Martyn of the albums I’ve mentioned here.

John, who died in 2009, was a difficult man by all accounts, he struggled with drug and alcohol problems and could be violent and aggressive at times, all of these things contributing to the break-up of his marriage to Beverley (née Kutner).

I prefer not to think too much of the bloated, drug and booze damaged Martyn of later years, I prefer to remember him when he was one of the greatest live performers I have ever seen.

No one has really ever picked up from where John left off in the 1970s, apart maybe from some of the ambient music people.


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