Cooltide

Date: 
27 Aug 2007
Written by: 
John Hillarby

Predictably unpredictable John Martyn's music is dynamic and full of life. Every album is a collection of songs that encapsulate his life at the time it was recorded; a musical diary. Released on 9th September 1991 Cooltide was recorded and mixed in less than 3 weeks. John articulates his personal anti-war beliefs in the title track Cooltide, which condemns politically and religiously fuelled confrontation, in the same year that Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm to liberate
Kuwait when Iraq failed to comply with United Nations Resolution 678. The 200,000 strong allied forces led by US General Norman Schwarzkopf lost 250 lives whilst an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 Iraqi troops never saw their families again.

John's lyrics express contempt and disbelief mixing venom with a helpless vulnerability. "The words 'time' and 'tide' are equivalent, ambivalent and juxtapositional for the purpose of this song," John advises.

Cooltide
So cool, what a cool time
It's so cool, what a cool time
That's what you're having.
I'm having one too.

It's a cool cool time, running up the river
It's a cool cool time, for running down the stream
It's a cool cool time, for cutting up the profits
It's a cool cool time, for a cool cool dream.

Some say the world is full of fools
Other people agree
Some say the world is full of fools
Fools will always agree.

Such a cool cool time, running up the river
It's a cool cool time, to be running down to the sea
A cool cool time, running up the river
It's a cool cool time, for a cool dream.

That's what you're having
It's a cool cool dream.

It's a cool time, out in Arabia
It's a cool time, when all the boys come home
It's a cool cool time, out in South America
A cool cool time, when all the money rolls in.

Cool time for running up the harbour
It's a cool cool time, for running to the sea
It's a cool cool time, running down the river
It's a cool cool time, for a cool dream.

Meddling fools, give them a medal
Don't let them meddle with me
Meddling fools, meddling fools
Don't you meddle with me, I don't like them.

It's a cool cool time, way out there in Africa
It's a cool cool time, such a cultural edge
A cool cool time, out with the brothers there
A cool cool time, driving in the wedge.

Give them a medal.
give them another precious medal
And put a price on it
Give that boy a medal
Ask him to put a price on it, precious medal.

It's a cool time, out in Arabia
This cool time
It's a cool cool time.
Out in the Gulf of Arabia
It's a cool cool time,
When all your sons come home.

It's such a cool time.
Turn your television on
It's a cool time
It's a cool time
It's just a cool cool time
Such a cool cool time
Such a cool cool time
It's just a cool cool time
Just a cool cool time.

It's a chilling time
Quite cool for killing
Just a killing time
Such a cool killing time.

It's a cool cool time
It's a cool cool time
It's a cool cool time
Such a cool cool time
Cool time
Such a cool cool time, turn your television on
Cool tide, such a cool cool time
Such a cool time for running up the harbour
Cool cool time for a cool dream.
 
 
Hey, that's enough now, good groover.
 

With its hypnotic pagan bass line Cooltide began its life during the Grace and Danger sessions in 1979, under the working title Running Up The Harbour, although the song developed considerably from its inception. Another tremendous bass line underpins Jack The Lad, a remix was released as a CD single along with the funky Jack Sez and both songs are included on this remastered and expanded release. John toured the UK and Europe accompanied by Spencer Cozens (keyboards), Dave Lewis (sax), Alan Thomson (bass) and Gerry Conway (drums). Powerful live performances of Hole In The Rain and Jack me Lad recorded on tour in November 1991, are available here for the first time.1

The album was recorded and mixed in 18 days during the Summer of 1991 at Ca Va Sound Workshops, situated in a former church built in 1872 on the banks of the River Kelvin in the west end of Glasgow. A few of the songs like Hole In The Rain and Annie Says were already written but Jack The Lad, Cooltide, Father Time and the others came out of John and keyboard player Spencer Cozens jamming, with John improvising the lyrics. "We just walked in and plonk!" John recalls nonchalantly with self deprecating humour. "To a certain extent we knew what we were going to put down when we went into Ca Va, but there's still a lot of improvisation [that] goes on, I mean the lyrics on Jack The Lad, Father Time and Cooltide were improvised in the studio, which is actually something that I really like doing. The thing is that you have to get kind of wasted to do it. You have to have an awful lot of confidence in yourself to catch a mood and fly away."

The album is furiously eclectic in a way that is bracing one moment and heartbreakingly draining the next. Call Me; the heartache of loneliness, an anthem of hope and hopelessness.

Call Me

Call me baby, make sure I'm home.
I did not hear that call last night
I didn't hear that call you might have made.

Every time you go away,
I think you've gone away to stay
And I sit down
And I commit myself to a deepest despair
Every time you move around,
I think about moving
Running away, making running repairs.

Every time you run around,
I think about another time
I think about moving
But then again just where
Every time I go away,
I think you've gone away to stay
I think about it, and I cry baby,
Cry baby, I cry baby.

The album's instrumental palette is only matched by John's eloquently expressive voice at times; wild with anger and then filled with love and heartfelt longing. There's an overwhelming sense of sadness in Same Difference, a derisive yearning in Number Nine and visceral excitement in The Cure.

John's lyrical directness, evocative instrumentation and poignant voice drives deep inside, wrenching and demanding emotional responses from the most seemingly introvert and extrovert amongst us all. Personal and intimate without exclusivity. The paradoxical genius; John Martyn.

John Hillarby

1 muffnote:
The tracks were in fact recorded in the Vara studio for presenter Jan Douwe Kroeske's 2 Meter Sessies program. The session was recorded on a Sunday afternoon; afterwards John's band went to Utrecht to play a gig at the Tivoli. The total performance also included Never Let Me Go and lasted 15 minutes. It was broadcast 3rd November 1991.