Pack of Talent on Dollar Hunt

Leslie Falkiner
The Age

Show scene – Leslie Falkiner

AUSTRALIA has been blessed with a flood of overseas talent this year… a deluge of artists and the money seeps away.

If there had been just a few top drawcards one might have believed that the artists toured for the love of it. But after ELO, Bob Dylan, Boz Scaggs, The Beach Boys, Chick Corea, James Brown, Leo Sayer, Billy Joel, Leo Kottke, Ry Cooder, Joan Armatrading, with Meat Loaf and The Byrds now playing and Chuck Berry and Weather Report on the near horizon, one gets a little cynical about their motives.

The prime reason is, of course, money. Overexposure in other countries and the lure of the pretty Australian notes has enticed artists to drop down-under for a few sell-out concerts with ridiculously priced tickets. If they are not names of mythical proportions suddenly appearing on the doorstep then the artists are playing rubbermen and bouncing back twice in one year. Dr. Hook and Status Quo have been the stars of that trick. Now they are joined by John Martyn.

Last August Martyn toured with Bert Jansch, treating audiences to flambuoyant performances of witty satire and his slurred, lazy vocals over innovative guitar work. On July 15 at Dallas Brooks Hall he will again appear with guest Australian Margret Roadknight.

Glasgow-born Martyn had a haphazard career, first playing as stand-in for absent group members and then trekking around the London folk-clubs. He was support act for The Incredible String Band before landing a gig-venue at the Cousins folk-club.

"Cousins is really the only London Club that stands out In my mind - not because it had a reputation but because it was a good club where you could totally relax," says Martyn in his biography. "It was also in Soho and that was very romantic to me when I was young… strippers, concerts and stuff… a very wide-eyed thing." Martyn was aged about 17 at the time.

He received his contract for the first album, London Conversation, after meeting Theo Johnston at the Kingston Folk Barge. "Theo took me up to Island (Records) with a song called Fairy Tale Lullaby, which everyone was very impressed with, and I've been there ever since."

London Conversation, with eight tracks written by Martyn, conformed fairly rigidly to the standard folk formula of the time. It was followed by The Tumbler, which reflected his exploits through the folk scene… people like Bert Jansch, Davey Graham.
Then he met his wife. Beverley, with whom he recorded Stormbringer and his jazz-instrumented The Road to Ruin. There were three more albums before he made Sunday's Child, a touching, acoustic sound with many traditional love songs. One World, released late last year, has three songs that tell of Martyn's work to Jamaica with reggae producers Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Jack Ruby. It also launches into a very esoteric song, Small Hours. One World consolidates all the diverse strands that have influenced Martyn during the last decade. It is hoped that variety will come through in his Melbourne performance.

Support act Margret Roadknight is, on first hearing, a weird lady. But after closer listening 'weird' turns to 'unusual' and 'very interesting'. Her haven was in Melbourne jazz and folk-dubs and coffee lounges of the sixties, where she played with performers like Glen Tomasetti, Trevor Lucas and Martin Wyndham-Reade, and this shows in her music.

Her voice ranges from gutsy jazz vocals to soft ballads and passionate gospel singing (learnt from a visiting Black Nativity Company in 1964). In 1974 a grant from the Australian Council for the Arts launched Margret on an American study tour, during which she appeared on stage with Odetta.

You might remember her from the 1975 single of Girls in Our Town, which charted quite well in Melbourne. She has made three albums, People Get Ready, Margret Roadknight and lce which was released this year. Her style will probably rate her as much more than merely a support for Martyn's concert. Tickets are $8.40.

The Age is a Melbourne based newspaper. This article appeared on page 26.