Meeting John Martyn -never mind going to his local pub with him, then retiring to his house for rum and orange juice- was one of the great pleasures -honours even- of my life. John was a heroic person in every sense, not all of them good. He drank and drugged and fought and swore to the limits of anyone's capabilities, but, Jesus Christ, he could really play. And really sing. And really write. He was as alive as it's possible to be when the weight of illness and the discomfort is upon you. He didn't slow up - he still, as I said in WORD's cover feature - stared people out in the pub, and he could still roar with anger when needs be. But he was excellent, hilarious company and his partner Teresa clearly adored him (and he her).
His home was quiet - is quiet - and warm and cluttered. There were dogs and ashtrays and tellies just like everywhere else. But there were also keyboards and guitars and pictures of friends like Pharoah Sanders and stories of other friends like Nick Drake ("so beautiful") and Lee Perry ("no man has ever had more fun than us"). To have been friends with characters as diverse as those three seems like tribute enough to me. "There's stuff I can't remember," John said, "but some things are so close." I will never forget walking out of his house and seeing him sat there, taking delivery of a fresh drink, nodding slightly to the ticking of his huge grandfather clock. "I love playing," he told me. "I love seeing the whites of their eyes. I can see them loving it. I can see their joy and I get a huge wave of pleasure from that." Rest in peace John.
The Word got the news of John's passing five hours before deadline, says editor Mark Ellen:
Here's the front of the next issue. We heard the sad news about John Martyn five hours before we went to press and immediately changed the cover and compiled a substantial tribute. There’s some magnificent recollections from Andy Gill, Richard Williams, David Hepworth and Rob Fitzpatrick (who conducted the last big interview, for WORD in July 2008). And some extraordinary and moving memories of the man who "lived three lifetimes" from Chris Blackwell, Danny Thompson, Danny Baker, Robin Williamson, Robert Smith, Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell, Phil Collins and many more.