Guess Who?

You are not the only one with Big John's disease...

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I can lay claim to uploading the rare videos to YouTube of Martyn performing at SWF3 Festival from Ludwigshafen 1983. Originally from Forfar Scotland, I knew his music since 1977 and saw him perform many times in both Scotland and Hamburg (my new home away from home). Through a mutual Glaswegian friend of Johns in Hamburg I was backstage several times during the 80s and 90s when he played at the Fabrik and Markthalle in Hamburg and also shared a few beers before and after those gigs.
I was fortunate on one such occasion to enjoy a long and delightful blether with Annie Furlong RIP. In his company I found him a larger than life personality, made me laugh and smile at his quick fire wit and on each and every occasion in good spirits and in a happy place. That he could be very different I am well aware of from others comments, but we can or should only make comments on the persons that stand before us and how they conducted themselves in our presence. This is why I have nothing negative to say about John as mines were all positive encounters.
Last time I saw John play live was when he played with a broken little toe at a venue in Sauchiehall Street Glasgow. Love the music he made and although he himself appears to have accepted what befell him in later years (and in no small part to his chosen lifestyle) I found it hard but thank him for the unique and original music that he gave us.

Hamburg
Germany

Hello fellow Lovers
I am preparing a little John Martyn inspired journey.
I was thinking to make my way to Thomastown in Ireland to visit his grave but I just found out the good man was cremated...
So now I'd like to visit something else.. his favorite pub, an old friend, a JM cover band, I am up for it all.

Do you have any leads? Please contact me (: this is my email; evalunajansen1 [at] gmail.com
I am planning to go around 22 Nov 2022.

Amsterdam
Netherlands

I was at the JM gig at Edinburgh Uni on 4/11/77 (in the Potterrow centre). He was fairly stoned (as were many of the audience) but played a great relaxed set, just him and the echoplex. At the end he said "Can't be bothered with all that walking off and coming back on shit, so do you want another one". Obviously we all cheered and he said "How about Solid Air?" (more cheering) and he played a great version of it, the highlight of the night.

High Peak, Derbyshire
United Kingdom

Hi, I was sure I remembered seeing JM at the Theatre Royal, Bath but could find no date in the concerts section. I remember that the concert was with Foster Paterson on keyboards... I now believe that this was on June 3rd 1988 as part of the Bath Fringe Festival.

UK

There is a reference on a web page indicating Wednesday 1st June, so I guess this is it

I am researching/ producing a documentary about folk musician Clive Palmer. I am aware that Clive was a big influence on John, and they even lived together. I also recently found out that Clive made the waistcoat that John wears on the cover of The Tumbler!
I wonder if you have any other information, photos, recordings, stories, vintage gig clippings featuring Clive, etc that you might be prepared to share?

Best Wishes, Ben Kingsbury

UK

It doesn't appear on your tour pages, but Martyn played a show at a hotel, the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire. All these years later I'm not sure of the exact date, but I'm guessing it has to be in 1985 when he was doing a small number of shows in New York, Boston and Montreal. Sometime in between those shows he must have made the detour to New Hampshsire.
No idea how or why he played there, other than what I heard at the time, that the hotel owner at the time was a huge fan, he had some connections in the industry as he had managed one or two folk-ish musicians for a time, and somehow booked John to play the show.
I was a latecomer as a fan, my introduction being Glorious Fool, but I wasn't gonna miss this show. He played as a trio, Alan Thomson and I assume Spencer Cozens, and a drum machine. I have no memory of what songs he played, but remember him as being very funny and outgoing, with that sort of dry English humor. There were maybe about 100 people who showed up for the show in the hotel's ballroom.

USA

Had the good fortune to see John pretty much every time he played the Baltimore/Washington corridor. My first time was seeing him blow away Traffic at the Baltimore Civic center. Lots of feedback and he got frustrated and went to echoplex for much of the night, wonderful. Favorite show June 8, 1977 at The Cellar Door. Stayed for both sets and had a drink and sort of conversation (couldn't understand him at all) with John during the break.

Did not know about the Cellar Door show! But the Washington Post ran a review I discovered.

Canterbury concert, University of Kent.
I remember John Martyn performing solo at Keynes College dining room. We sat on the floor and I was amazed. I think it was my first year which was 1972-73? I don’t see it listed on your concert tally..

UK

Hi - I was at this gig and photographed John and the support - one Tracy Chapman. She played her debut album basically form what I can remember.

1988-10-01 UK, Manchester, International 2. Saturday. Greenpeace benefit as part of the Manchester Festival.

Keep up the great work,
Best, Will

UK

I was at that gig William and photographed it myself... Be good to see your photos

Southport
United Kingdom

Regarding the 30 November 1977 Newcastle Polytechnic show: This was a tiny, totally informal gig. John Martyn sat on the floor and we sat around him in a circle. There was almost no light at all except from the city behind through the huge glass panes. He seemed very relaxed and the first thing he said was "Anybody got a spliff?" - to which request we (the small audience) rapidly responded with conspiratorial laughter. It was just like being in a front room or a bar, with friends, but with the most enthralling and original music, ever.
Thanks for your site and all the interesting information and for reminding me of the date.

UK

I definitely remember seeing the man perform (solo) at The New University of Ulster (Coleraine) in the early 1970s in one of the lecture halls. Given that he played in November of 1971 at Queen's University in Belfast, it was quite probably a day or so either side of that date. Great gig, great memories: does anyone else remember it? It was the first but not the last time I saw him live.

Christy Moore also has a recollection of this concert in Phase 1 (the Students Union Building) at what was then the NEW University Of Ulster in Coleraine in the early seventies:
"I recall that gig in Coleraine, either ’72 or ’73... Planxty played that night with a youthful John Martyn who mesmerised us with his beautiful music... Later we were stopped at a road block manned by the Ulster Defence Regiment (1970-1992). At least one of them was a drunken uniformed lout who was most unhappy at the sight of our 'fenian' licence plates... We were very relieved to get through... John was very unsettled by the experience as were the rest of us..."

About Neil Ardley's Harmony of the Spheres. I'm surprised and disappointed that JM's contribution to this gets so overlooked. Neither John Neil Munro nor Graeme Thomson give it much attention. The music sounds very challenging to play and the band are all top-notch Brit-Jazz players, none of them with a reputation for putting up with time-wasters.
JM must have made a significant effort to do it. I can't think of another guitar-player with John's background who would even think of attempting it. Richard Thompson maybe. According to Graeme Thomson, JM was in one of his booze and drug binges at this time, wandering around in a dressing gown, with a walkman strapped to his head. Doesn't sound like it to me! Another small point. Pepi Lemer was singer on the jazz scene back in the 70's. I saw her perform a couple of times, a very clear pure voice I remember... No human being in the history of humanity has ever been called "Pepsi Iemer". Keep up the good work! Cheers! George

Must have been a typo.. I stand corrected :o)

I was looking at your list of 1973 shows and noticed that May 3, 1974 is missing. That was John and Danny at London Polytechnic with a band called Unicorn as support. Lovely evening. I can send you a picture of the ticket if you like.
Cheers!

USA

Wonderful addition after all these years, thank you

Hi, I am trying to date a gig at St Andrews Hall in Norwich for the Green Deserts Charity. It was either 88, 89 or 90. I have photos of John from the gig which was with just a keyboard player. We were there as a support act and I am trying to date the gig for a project about our band I am doing.

Thanks Mark

UK

Saw John perform Ophelia with The Band at The Apollo Hammersmith in the 90s..

Desborough
United Kingdom

This case is documented in the giglist: 1996-06-20 UK, London, Forum. Guest appearance at The Band concert. "Mysteriously, John Martyn wandered onto the stage and richly intoned the chorus of Ophelia, then just as mysteriously vanished again. [...] Levon Helm from behind the safety of his drumkit called for 'Bobby O' to come back on. Then added 'He's called Bobby O in the States. He's just shy.' That was just the first of the euphemisms that seemed to be circling the stage that night."

Dear Big Muff, I saw John Martyn many times both in New Zealand and England and interviewed him once for The University of Auckland student newspaper Craccum. The first time I saw him was at The University of Victoria (Wellington, New Zealand) Union Hall, on Friday 26 August 1977. I wish to add some information to your comprehensive gig history and correct elements of the review by Raymond Jones. It was after he had toured Australia and not before. He drank a bottle of Coruba rum (not Bourbon) straight followed by the Coca-Cola. I sent you the review for your pages separately. Thank you for a great website and keeping the spirit of a great musician alive.

New Zealand

Thanks for the review and for providing the exact New Zealand gigdate. I made the necessary adjustments. And found three new Australian dates in the process!

Hi. I was intrigued to find your site. The exhaustive list of gigs particularly interested me because as a 19 year old lad living in Leeds, I caught a JM gig in Leeds Town Hall the night before I went to live in Spain for six months. It was in the last few days on January 1985. I remember it clearly because I was nervous about the move to Spain the following day and therefore the gig is clearly fixed in my mind, with JM on stage in front of the iconic Leeds Town Hall organ. So I was perturbed to see no listing in your site. You have him playing dates in Ireland at that time. Am I wrong or are you? Let me know please.

UK

The gig list is exhaustive but also not complete. It is quite possible that John played the Leeds Town Hall somewhere between Friday January 25th and Monday January 28th. We'll see what comes up.

I loved seeing John play and saw him several times in the eighties, it's funny I saw him at the gig at Zeffirellis in Ambleside in October 1984. Everyone has different experiences of gigs but I thought it was a fabulous intimate performance, just him hanging really loose and jamming. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste. Great project.

Worcester
UK

I met John Martyn unintentially on the 11th December 1978. My local pub named The Augustus John, near Liverpool University (popular with students) was often a meeting place for people attending concerts at the university's Mountford Hall venue. I and my friends had seen many concerts there ourselves - Ian Gillan Band, Climax Blues Band, Nutz, Roy Wood (yes!) and many local or lesser known bands. We normally had a few beers and played pool all night, the pub was busy, come 7.30pm it emptied out (people off to the concert nearby no doubt). Around 8pm two guys came in and put money down on the pool table. I was playing against one of these guys (winner stays on pool rules) and I asked him if he knew who was playing at the university? Me! came his reply, and who's me? John Martyn he said, my support act is on first. We were none the wiser, sorry we had never heard of him, I was 21 years old and into rock music at that time. According to your site info his support would have been Steve Tilston.
Anyway just a little story I just had to share with his followers and what better site to post it on.
John Martyn RIP.

Formerly Liverpool now Granada
Spain

Looking through the gig guide, I note you have Durrutti Column as support act for the October 1982 show at Hammersmith Odeon. However, I was at this show and I believe that Any Trouble were the support. I think DC had been due to support but were unable to due to Vini Reilly’s ill health.

Also, I saw JM at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in June 1985 but this is missing from your list. I was hoping to find out the date but it seems to be a ghost gig as unable to find it listed on the internet so far!

Best wishes, Martin

UK

Tim Hyder produced an advert of the Coventry Festival 1985: John Martyn performed the Belgrade Theatre on Saturday the 10th August..

The Leeds festival JM played at in 1983 was over the weekend of 9, 10 & 11 September. I think John was on Saturday's programme (so the 10th). John did indeed play a superb solo set, one of the best I ever saw him do. Despite it pissing down all weekend and the site becoming a swamp, it was a great festival. Runrig headlined on the Friday night (and were ace) and Stockton's Wing and (if I recall correctly through a haze of Guinness and snakebite) Moving Hearts were the other two headliners. There were also excellent sets from Dick Gaughan (another highlight), Martin Simpson and the Battlefield Band. The latter had to play an extra long stint because the electrics failed due to the deluge and they could carry on acoustically, which whoever was supposed to follow them couldn't. A fantastic weekend.

UK

Great, I edited the giglist accordingly.

12 Feb 1975 - I attended this Liverpool University gig also and Paul Kossoff was supposed to play there too but was 'ill' supposedly. We only went to see Paul Kossoff being mad Free fans, but John Martyn was so good that we all became fans. Also I was at Zeffirellis Ambleside and my wife and had a pizza on the table next to John and the boss of Zeffirellis I presume. The gig was good but yes he was pretty drunk!

UK

On the Live In Milan 1979 page, the word 'stronzo' is translated as bullshit! Not quite, it is one of the worst Italian insults going, meaning tiny little piece of shit. Much worse than va f'anciulo (go fuck yourself) which is said in a playful way by comparison, see Lenny Bruce on the same subject. You'll soon get an Italian's attention using stronzo/stronzi!!

UK

I corrected the note.

I can confirm the Nottingham University gig was on the 11th of February [1975], not the 18th - I still have my diary from that year and (how sad is this) the student newspapers... John was joined by Danny Thompson on bass and John Stevens on drums. Apparently Paul Kossoff was supposed to be there, but was apparently chemically inconvenienced. Cheers, Bob Meyrick

Nottingham
UK

I saw John play live about six times, some good, some not so. Our local venue Alnwick Playhouse were casting around for suggestions of who to put on in the late 90's? I said try JM. They booked him but made the mistake of paying him before he played. Town painted tartan… He only just made the stage an hour late. Amazingly he could still stand and make beautiful music but only for about half an hour. We'll never see his like again, songwriting of a god…

Scotland

Hi. I have been looking on your site to check some dates of old concerts I went to see John Martyn - Leeds University and Putney Half Moon. I found them which was great.
I thought you may want to include another performance that is missing from the list. I went to Cecil Sharp House in Camden to see something called 'Concert for Perform' on Saturday 28 February 1981. To be honest I don’t remember what the 'Perform' bit referred to - I imagine it was a musicians charity but don’t know. Anyhow, Cecil Sharp House is -as I’m sure you know- the HQ of the English Folk Song and Dance Society. I remember a small hall with a number of bands/ musicians through the day. I know this as I recorded bits of it on my old portable Philips cassette recorder on a TDK C90 which I came across the other day. I wrote on it the name of the groups performing as well as the date and I would have done that on the day pretty much. Other bands I recorded were in order - The Arizona Smoke Revue, John Martyn, The English Country Blues Band, The Watersons, Martin Simpson and June Tabor, Happy Traum. I can’t remember who else if any were there. It was a one day thing and a good real ale bar is all I remember.
The recording of John Martyn has Jelly Roll Baker and May You Never as well as a typical bit of JM comedy in between. I remember he wasn’t on long but don’t remember if he played anything else.
Cheers, Andrew

UK

I remember being at a John Martyn concert [unaccompanied, no backing musicians/ singers]. Think it was at the university but possibly the NOTTINGHAM Polytech. He was a bit nervy but in between drinking his beer, breaking a guitar string and talking in a nervously fidgety manner, he played and sang quite beautifully. I remember everyone was sat on the wooden floor, in not a very big venue/ room. Do you have anything on this gig at all?
Saw him many years later at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil in May 97. Said he was just getting over a bout of cold/ flu but was absolutely brilliant, vocals wonderful. Anyone else there that night would testify the same. Hope to hear from you.

UK

Hi, saw John at 1994-12-02 UK, Ashburton (Devon), Lanterns. Jason Feddy was the support act, and he played a few more gigs on that tour with John. Jason was successful in his own right and is now a Cantor, radio presenter and musician in California.

UK

Thanks, I made a note.

Although my memory of the seventies is patchy (for various reasons!) I remember seeing John at Leeds University in November 1979 - I remember it was snowing and the buses went off! It was a solo performance - and jolly splendid it was too! The Leeds University website has it recorded under Autumn term 1979/80 https://alumni.leeds.ac.uk/Live-at-Leeds

UK

Nice tip, this was 21 Nov 1979.. Will make a note and take a closer look at the archive page, too. They made one mistake, 13 Mar 1975 must be February.

John Martyn and Hamish Imlach both performed in The Glen [Carradale] at The Antares Memorial Concert, an evening that will take quite some beating. [The fishing boat Antares sank in the night of 21 November 1990 after it’s nets came in contact with a nuclear submarine, ed.] Gerry Singal who owned the Glen Bar and Restaurant got Hamish Imlach (a friend of his) and John Martyn to Carradale where they did a fantastic gig in the packed Glen, all in aid of the 'Antares Fund'. John broke off his tour to Spain to do this benefit gig.
Apart from the music, there was a surreal moment where a dead sheep wrapped in binliners was raffled while JM cradled it in his arms. Then Hamish crooned an impromptu blues about the sheep which had a call and response, which John then joined in with!

Kintyre Forum
Scotland

Iain McGeachy, alias John Martyn is from Dalintober fishing stock and if I remember correctly there is some background info on this in Angus Martin's book about Kilkerran Graveyard.
Back in the day, he used to come to Carradale for his holidays every year, sometimes with legendary double bassist Danny Thompson who featured on many of his classic albums and live shows. Strangely, they came on the service bus to go fishing, and one time famously, were getting a lift from Lochgilphead as some of the Crofters were up at a Dick Gaughan concert, so they ended up doing a floor-spot in Lochgilphead Folk Club. Apparently Dick was only too glad to lend JM his guitar and the Janny from the school was summoned to get a double bass for DT. When they were announced by the organiser, who still couldn't believe what was happening, Danny got up and said something like "The ******'s away for a fish supper" and proceeded to terrorise the audience with a performance of the legendary Haitian War Dance [Haitian Fight Song by Charles Mingus, ed] he used to perform with the Pentangle!

Kintyre Forum
Scotland

You have missed out a gig at Battersea Town Hall, somewhere in the Summer of 76/77. Definitely around the release of One World. Opening act was Stan Tracey, doing Under Milk Wood. John was doing a benefit for Danny Thompson, who apparently had had a heart attack (although rumour has it he was compering the Cambridge Folk Festival at the time). The concert was called F.M.O.B. Fond Memories of Battersea, where Danny was in a Dr Barnardos Home. John renamed it Fuck My Old Boots.

Now I come to think of it, this was the first time I heard Small Hours and One World and Big Muff, so I guess it must have been before the release. It was the upstairs of Battersea Town Hall. Can't have been more than a hundred people.

Naturally the amplifier screwed up. Is there an engineer in the audience? After much cursing from John, one was found. While John was provided with various 'gifts' from the audience, playing resumed and we were treated to an amazing, chest reverberating, One World.

I think this has to be my fave concert. I reminded John about it when he was over here in New York in 1998. I think he remembered!

Brooklyn, New York
USA

The concert was 30 July 1977. This comment was e-mailed July 1999 but somehow missed to be included here.

In 1971/ 1972 I was Social Secretary at Brighton Poly. John did a solo gig at the Friday Night Club. If memory serves me it was during February 1972. He was outstanding and everyone had an excellent time.

UK

[When Live At Leeds was sold by mailorder] I worked with Beverley. Packaging and mailing records, visits to the post office 3 times a day. For anyone that is interested, I sat in on the Inside Out recordings where I did the album art which was used in the gatefold cover. A real honour and extraordinary pleasure hanging out with such legendary artists.
I was his roadie for those dates and then went to Europe with him. It was an eye opener and great fun. We know what an original John was and to see him recording with Steve Winwood, Chris Wood (Traffic), Bobby Keyes, Remi Kebaka (Traffic) and Danny Thompson was a dream come true to me. I will never forget it.

Hastings
UK

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