BACK in 1977, when everyone who had any musical nous was pledging their allegiance to punk and ska bands, I used to spend days on end staring at the smoke-stained walls of a shabby one-bedroom flat in Lyne Street, Edinburgh, with a few close friends. The soundtrack for those long sessions was invariably John Martyn's gentle, beguiling music. Young and naïve, we thought that any man who wrote classic dope-fuelled anthems like Solid Air, One World and Bless The Weather must be a "really, really nice guy".
John Martyn may have to be wheeled on since the removal of the lower part of one leg, but he remains as animated as he ever.
Like several Island acts of the early 70s (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, etc), Martyn was given a fairly loose roaming brief.
John Martyn: BBC Live In Concert
(Island) * * * *
FANS will know that the only predictable thing about John Martyn is his unpredictability. His live performances can touch the heights, and sometimes just bumble along.
Although his voice occasionally isn't at its best on a couple of songs in these sessions, recorded in Paris and London over a 10-year period 1, there are plenty of good (and now and then great) moments that more than compensate.
Turning the Air blue
When Solid Air came out, to huge critical acclaim and the delight of fans, John Martyn was a slim, softly-spoken man in his mid-20s, with a halo of curls and bumfluffy beard. He was a folky-hippie with a jazzy-reggae bent and ardent fan base.
John Martyn, Roundhouse, London
John Martyn's singing style and innovations with echo-effects and fuzz-box guitar pedals in the early 1970s were influenced by the free-jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. On the albums Bless The Weather, Solid Air and Inside Out, he set out to replicate Sanders's incredibly long sustains with his voice and guitar playing.
Riffs & Legends
HE comes on stage in his wheelchair, his arms held out like a plane. By his own admission, John Martyn is often flying.
The collapse of a marriage (or two) has proven to be creatively satisfying for the likes of Abba, Fleetwood Mac and Marvin Gaye, but few accounts of love-gone-wrong come anywhere close to the emotional impact of Martyn's 1980 release
John Martyn has mortality on his mind. "I spent last night praying for death," he told the crowd at this most eagerly awaited of Celtic Connections shows, before speculating that he might just expire on stage right in front of them.
John Martyn: Solid Air,
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
JOHN MARTYN: gallows humour
For those who remember John Martyn in his acoustic troubadour days -and there were plenty of them here- listening to him eulogising the best jelly-roll in town to an urgent clawhammer guitar was a sobering experience.