Profile/ John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad

Alison Graham
Radio Times (London)

[Announcement with colour pic on page 7, ...the week's best TV and radio]

John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad 11.35pm BBC2 The world stops when Martyn sings, says one contributor. In this affecting profile, you can hear why. Pure magic.

[Byline with colour pic on page 108, Friday 2 July listings]

John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad 11.35pm
After a lifetime of misadventure, the singer faces a new challenge when he has a leg amputated.

[Actual 'CHOICE' announcement in the listing, page 108]

11.35 BBC4 on BBC2: John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad
An intimate portrait of the distinctive and influential British musician as he recovers from a near-fatal encounter with "a dark cow on a dark night", records a new album in his front room, undergoes an operation to have his right leg amputated below the knee and makes painful progress towards getting back on the road.
Director Serena Cross (S) (AD)
Phill Jupitus on John Martyn: page 24 [see Reviews section, ed.]

[PROFILE in TODAY'S CHOICES, page 106, with 1983 colour pic]

John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad 11.35pm BBC2

When one of the contributors to this absorbing profile, first shown on BBC4 1, says of John Martyn's music that "it stops the world" 2, you know just what he means. There's something about a John Martyn song that takes the listener to a rather lovely place...
But, in stark contract, Martyn's life has been blighted by difficulty and tragedy. His first marriage ended badly, his second wife was killed in a car crash 3, he's been dogged by ill health, and last year surgeons removed part of his right leg below the knee.

This affecting and revealing documentary follows Martyn at home in Ireland as he prepares for surgery, and afterwards during his recovery towards a comeback gig and another tour. Despite his surgery, he's determined to get back on the road.
He's an engagingly straightforward man who talks candidly about his extraordinary life and its various struggles and successes. After decades of hard living, he's now living peacefully as a Zen Buddhist with his girlfriend.

Many of the people interviewed here -band members past and present, and those whom Martyn has influenced, including Phil Collins, Ralph McTell and Beth Orton- have fond things to say about this complicated man. But his first wife, Beverley Martyn, herself a singer, saw his dark side when his excessive drinking put paid to their marriage. She comes up with perhaps the most revealing comment of the program: "Lots of people love John Martyn, but hate him as well."

If you'd prefer to concentrate on the music rather than the man (though it's hard to see how you can separate the two), there are vintage clips here from the Old Grey Whistle Test and footage of concert appearances.
It's a well-rounded and affectionate portrait, full of those gorgeous, bittersweet songs that wrap themselves around your heart.

Alison Graham

As you can see the publisher made quite an effort to promote both the (excellent) film and the artist. It should be noted that both the film and the magazine are BBC enterprises...
1 The première took place Friday May 28 2004 and the broadcast was repeated the following Saturday.
2 It was said by Mike Heneghan, the man who signed John to Go! Discs in 1996.
3 Wrong. Annie Furlong was born 27 December 1954 and passed away in 1996, her cause of death being cerebral malaria. 'Although there are erroneous rumours that her cause of death was a car accident.' After separating from John Martyn, she moved to Kenya with her new partner and she was also buried in Kenya.
Clippings kindly provided by Martin Claridge