01 Nov 1970
FOLK singers John and Beverley Martyn have had enough of London. They just don't like city life.
Their present home is a basement flat in Hampstead, where they live with their young son, Wozzle.1 At least, that's what they like to call him! His real name is Wesley.
"But that's just the name on his birth certificate," says John. "We didn't want to give him a name straightaway - but we had to. That's the law. It seems silly. We just like to call him whatever name seems nice at the time." So it's Wozzle most of the time, and Wesley only when he's very, very naughty.
Although their flat is comfortable enough, with books and records scattered about, a chair on the floor without any legs, and a divan propped against the wall, they're not really happy there. It costs them £15 a week in rent, but by the time everything else is paid for, the flat is costing £25. "And that's crazy," says John, in his broad Glasgow accent. "I'm paying £25 a week to live somewhere that I don't really want to live in any case. That's real crazy!"
They were both solo singers on the folk circuit before they met two years ago at a gig in Chelsea.2 John was singing there, and Beverley went along to see him with a friend, songwriter Jackson Frank. "I was up there singing, and I saw Beverley in the audience - so I invited her up on stage," says John. "And then we sang a couple of spots, together. It was all very simple, really. A very simple way of meeting."
Now they still work together; their recent LP Stormbringer3 was very successful, and so was their solo concert together at the Royal Festival Hall.4 "But many nights I have to go out alone, playing a date out of town, and travelling back on the milk train - that's when I write most of my songs," says John. "I wrote John The Baptist (one of the best songs on the LP) on the train back from a gig in Bristol."
He doesn't like working alone; he and Beverley would prefer to be singing together - but someone has to look after Wozzle. "If we earned lots of money and I could afford a nanny, that would be fine," says John. "But we can't - and there's too much hustle in town, anyway. I want to get right away and base myself in the country."
Although he went to school in Glasgow, John spent much of his childhood in the Wiltshire countryside around Bradford on Avon; his parents had a hotel there, and another at Lechlade. "My three months' holiday a year was always spent in the country," he says. "There was some very good trout fishing down there."
And it's because he still has his rods, and wants to get back fishing again, that he and Bev are looking for a cottage near a river bank, about 70 or 80 miles from London.
"It will be just as handy a base as living in London," he says. "And when I'm not performing, it will be a much more relaxed atmosphere for writing songs."
"I prefer country people - I have never seen so many debauched, fat people in my life as I have in London; with gold, jewels and watches dripping from their wrists. I went to the doctor's today, and there were lots in the surgery; going to the doctors once a year to go on a diet to lose the effects of last year's blow-out."
As you can see, John is an observant, but sharp-tongued critic, and this is revealed in his songs; he is lithe and mentally restless, frequently outraged by something he has read in the daily papers; and yet he has a gentle and sentimental side - and that also comes out in his songs. But he's honest enough, and so is Bev, to realise that what they are looking for is Utopia - and they may never find it.
"We've seen enough of London to know that we'll never find it there, though," says John. "Life in London is wholly deranged. It's all one great hoax. All these clerks, secretaries and typists flood into London from the provinces thinking they'll find a swinging city - and they spend their lives in bedsitters, being hopelessly miserable. And the pace, the bustle and the price of everything has gone quite crazy. We want to get our sanity back. That's why we're going to the country."
1 Wozzle: probably misheard. Other articles mention Wesley's nickname Wezzles.
2 I only have one concert listed in Chelsea in the sixties: 29 August 1968, London, Chelsea, La Fiesta (168 Fulham Road).
3 Stormbringer was released 1 February 1970.
4 Probably this is referring to the Queen Elizabeth Hall show of 21 February 1970, where Stormbringer was launched.
I don't know where and when this article was printed. Yet.