John Martyn and Danny Thompson in conversation with John Hillarby
Of all the musical relationships John Martyn has enjoyed over the years, it is his partnership with ex-Pentangle bass maverick Danny Thomspon -whose bass graces several of One World's standout moments- that he will forver be mist associated with. They have a unique take on each other... here are just a few of their thoughts. 1
"Aye, those were wild times, all part of the Jazzy thing. I was determined to live that lifestyle, look sharp, be sharp, be on the ball non-stop, smoke all the dope, drink all the juice, just get to it and be Jack the Lad, and Danny Thompson, forgive us all, was just the same." - John
"John isn't a genius, he's a very naughty boy." - Danny
"We used to drink a great deal together. I got really drunk one night and woke up and he had nailed me under the carpet. I couldn't move my hands or feet. I was very dry and had a hangover and I said Danny, please... get me, get me a drink. So he stepped over my helpless body, went to the phone and in a very loud voice said, can I have a glass of orange juice for one, please. Breakfast for one, please. I was screaming blue murder by this time. I was furious! He met the guy in the hall, so the guy couldn't get into the room and see what was happening. He sat in front and downed the orange juice and had the breakfast." - John
"We had a fight in Hull, a real fight in a hotel and he had two black eyes and his thumb was in a bandage because I got hold of his thumb to get him because he does all these dirty tricks. He was shouting and screaming about doing the gig and so on. I had some superficial damage. So we came out on to the stage and he sat down with his Martin and we hadn't said a word because we really had the needle with each other. I went up to the mic and said, 'Old Black Eyes is back!' And he just cracked up!" - Danny
"We were always having bets with each other. We bet either one of us wouldn't have the nerve to take off an article of clothing between each song. So we just did and needless to say we ended up naked. The audience loved it; there were about 700 people. It was good because Danny could hide behind his double bass and I could hide behind the guitar... It was alright!" - John
"To earn a living in music playing stuff which is not commercially acceptable is tough." - Danny
"I really love the geezer." - Danny
"We used to fight and everything. It was terrible. Great fun though. We'd order an alarm call at 6.30 am and then take thoe phone of the wall. And Danny would pretend to be my manager -he was a flash dresser- and he'd say 'Do you realize my boy's supposed to be in Paris by now? I demand a refund!' We'd only be going to Bolton. And in America of course we were unstoppable - I was Sir John Martyn." - John
"A soft plumy teddy bear!" - Danny
"You can't pretend with something that you love that much." - Danny
"I love him a lot, I love him as much as I hate him. We're more like brothers than anything else." - Danny
"We were driving from Exeter to Bristol, just the two of us on the road, and he said, 'I fancy doing a bit of fishing'. So we pulled into this village and we found this fishing shop. Now I know nothing about fishing. And there was this unbelievable rod, which means nothing to me, a rod's a rod. So we both go into this shop, and he starts saying to this bloke, 'I want that rod, and this, and that'. And the bloke says, 'Sorry it's not for sale'.
He took an immediate dislike to us because he thought we were 'oiks'. So John says, 'You think I'm not a genuine fisherman or something! That is a so and so rod. If you like I'll tie you a Spring Mayfly!' And there and then he picks some dust up off the floor and makes this fly for the bloke in the shop, and then starts talking about stuff that means absolutely nothing to me. And the bloke is absolutely stunned. He ended up getting the rod out of the window, flogging it to him, cash. John bought the gear and said 'Where's the nearest bit of fishing round here?' The bloke says, 'There's this lake, go and see the Bailiff, his name's so and so'.
So we went up to this place and I thought, right I'll just sit here and watch him do this pathetic activity. So John started fishing, doing all this fly stuff. So I sat on the riverbank and said, 'That's so easy', John turned round and said 'You what!' 'It's so easy, all it is is timing, all it is is rhythm. It's so easy'. He said, 'Do you think you could do it?' I went charging down the riverbank and said 'give us it here', he said 'careful son, you don't know what you're doing'. I said, 'Just give me the rod!' I dragged it off him and he said, 'now be careful' and I said 'just go away!' I cast and the fly went rip, and it got stuck right in my cheek.
So there I am, standing there holding this rod with this fishing line stuck in my cheek. Now I thought nothing much about it and said 'John, get it out of me' and he said 'I can't! Because what you're supposed to do is to push the hook through, cut the barb off and then take it out, and I haven't got any tools with me.' So I said 'just pull it out', and he said 'It'll take half your face off.' So I said 'I can't drive with it sticking out of me face like this.' He said 'You'll have to do it.' So I thought right, and I went like that, but I knew I couldn't, as I knew when it was going to happen; but if John did it, then I wouldn't.
So I said 'I'll just look at that blackbird sitting up in that tree, and you do it when I'm not thinking about it.' So of course I didn't have to say anymore to John, he went 'alright'. BANG! And I went 'there you go, brilliant'. He said 'No, the hook's still in your face'. He broke the line and broke the top of the hook off. Then he said 'you'll be alright, it'll just get into your blood stream, go round your body, get to your heart and you'll die in about two years and you won't know anything about it'. The hook's still in there, when it gets cold you can see a blue hook in my cheek!" - Danny
This piece of text also featured in the Sunshine Boys Tour program and in the booklet accompanying the vinyl Live At Leeds de Luxe release.