Folder containing a descriptive biography by Island in English, an original Island press photograph and also a concert announcement in French.
For John Martyn, making it in the music business is of little relevance. But making music is of utmost importance. He is interested in his potential for widespread popularity only insofar as any communicator wishes to communicate, through his chosen medium, to the maximum number of people.
With no particular interest in the standard promotional avenues of press interviews and radio station visits, it is in the combined cauldron of concert stage and recording studio that John talks best. His music and his approach share a common characteristic: no frills and no bullshit.
Which is not to say that he is an inarticulate introvert. Far from it. On those occasions that he does accede to the interview situation he is positively manic, showing an acute awareness of the current state and progression of his work and its position in the wider framework of contemporary music.
In performance he interplays a cockney brashness in conversation with his audience against an emotive warmth in his singing and fiery virtuosity in his playing. And while his technique displays peerless sophistication and an awareness of developments in the jazz avant-garde, his content is of bare-bones simplicity and directness. Thematically his lyrics are almost always centered on aspects of love and inter-relationships -but in doing so avoid the studied, laboured declarations of latter-day flower children.
John's performances weld traditional folk/blues sources to the frontiers of jazz and improvisation in general and in his hands his guitars (coupled with foot pedal devices) are singularly expressive and spellbinding. So much so that he more than held his own against the headlining act Yes while touring America with them on a recent tour -filling such cavernous arenas as Madison Square Garden with his music, and doing it all by his lonesome. His audiences everywhere are dazzled with the truly remarkable melange of melody, percussive accents, and textures which he reels off from a single instrument.
With a healthy confidence in his own ability, John declares: "I'm fed up with geezers who go on stage and can't play. Musicians should always be trying to open up the mind -progress, progress, progress. Not keep churning out formula singles which all sound the same."
It is this kind of intensity which John applies to everything he does. When he turned his attention to music and began playing guitar at age 19 (in 1967), he progressed so rapidly that three months later he started recording his first album for Island.
It was called "London Conversation," and was a most impressive debut which clearly showed his potential. After that there followed "The Tumbler" which employed saxophonist Harold McNair -a bold stroke which defied all the rules of the insular folk atmosphere of the time. John credits McNair as the man who introduced him to jazz. "There's a song on that album called "The Gardeners" which I listened to again quite recently," John recalls, "and I was quite amazed. I don't think I've achieved the looseness of that song since."
John then met Beverley, who became his wife and prime collaborator on the two subsequent albums. She had been listening to a host of jazz artists, not least to whom was the inimicable King Pleasure, and expanded John's jazz consciousness even further. This was to become manifest not only in his approach to performance, but in his selection of musicians who were to assist him on albums since.
"Stormbringer," the first album with Beverly, was a Woodstock session supported by such musicians as Paul Harris, John Simon, Harvey Brooks, Billy Mundi and Levon Helm. The subsequent opus, "Road To Ruin" was a collaboration with British jazzmen Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Ray Warleigh and Danny Thompson. Thompson, a remarkably erudite acoustic bassist who was also a member of Pentangle, has been involved in all of John's album sessions since and is a regular companion on Martyn's British tours.
In addition to an annual British tour, Martyn has toured the United States three times since 1973, when he joined the bill with Free and Traffic, and also did a stint with Traffic on their last European tour.
With neither the aptitude nor the patience to be a pop star in the traditional "Top of the Pops" sense of the term, John is nevertheless a star in his own terms, which embody a dedication to craft and cutting through all potential obstacles which may threaten clear and direct dialogue with his audience.
John Martyn's music refuses to be typecast; it is an amalgam of several constituents which lose some of their defining characteristics as they merge together to form a whole greater than the sum of parts. There is no concern for bogus proprieties which dictate which people are allowed to perform certain forms of music.
"Blues inflections, Celtic inflections, it's all the same thing," John proposes. "My ancestors painted themselves blue. You just get up off your ass and wail."
London Conversation (ILP 952) - February 1968
The Tumbler (ILPS 9091) - December 1968
Stormbringer! (ILPS 9113) - February 1970
Road To Ruin (ILPS 9133) - November 1970
Bless The Weather (ILPS 9167) - November 1971
Solid Air (ILPS 9226) - February 1973
Inside Out (ILPS 9253) - October 1973
Sunday's Child (ILPS 9296) - January 1975
The folder also contains a press release in French, issued by Fulgur Promotions for a concert organised L'Oreille d'Or (The Golden Ear). The typing is horrible so I cleaned it up a little for the text below.
FULGUR / PROMOTION communique:
700 38 43
aura lieu le 6 novembre 1975, à 18h.30, au Bataclan (50, Boulevard Voltaire Paris XIème)
Prix des places : 20 F.
Location: Music - Action (14, Rond-Point de l'Odéon 6ème); Zéro-Plus (41, rue Saint-Honoré Paris-1er); magasins FNAC (Châtelet - Montparnasse Etoile)
Le 14 août dernier, 20.000 personnes entassées sur les gradins du théâtre antique d'Orange faisaient un triomphe à un homme, seul avec une guitare, sur le gigantesque podium: JOHN MARTYN venait de faire la conquête du public français. Lui qui était jusque là, dans l'ombre, l'objet d'un véritable culte héros pour un petit cercle d'amateurs fervents, ne sera plus désormais un inconnu.
La réussite, le succès, voilà qui n'a jamais été la préoccupation de John Martyn; pour lui, seule compte sa musique. Et, si l'on peut y retrouver l'influence de la tradition celtique ou du blues, celle-ci, extrêmement élaborée mais qui laisse pourtant la place à l'improvisation, ne ressemble à rien: une musique sans règle, qui refuse de se laisser classer, baroque et personnelle.
John Martyn a vingt-sept ans et déjà huit albums derrière lui. I1 s'est toujours entouré des meilleurs musiciens, capables d'interprèter sa musique à la perfection: le saxophoniste Harold McNair auquel il doit une forme d'initiation au jazz, Chris McGregor, le bassiste Danny Thompson qui sera auprès de lui à Paris le 6 novembre... Il retravaille les sons en studio pour tenter de leur donner la pureté absolue, celle qu'il chante constamment.
Ses disques couvrent une vaste étendue musicale. S'il y eut, avec le "London Conversation", "The Tumbler", le respect et la célébration d'une tradition folk, "Stormbringer", enregistré avec sa femme Beverley, était une "Woodstock session" avec des musiciens aussi différents que Paul Harris, Harvey Brooks, Billy Mundi. Le folkman découvrait l'électricité, les déchirures et les brisures du rythme, comme dans "Road to Ruin". John Martyn prenait conscience de sa force intérieure et allait libérer ce baroque flamboyant qui rencontre parfois un lyrisme pathétique. Il en naîtra deux chefs d'oeuvre: "Solid Air" et "Inside Out"; son dernier album, "Sunday's Child", paraissant un peu comme le bilan de toutes les expériences, de tous les climats visités.
En 1973, John Martyn a tourné aux Etats Unis, avec Free et Traffic; mais il refuse de devenir une pop star, au sens traditionnel. Sa formation préférée est finalement la solitude. Seul avec sa guitare, il vibre et fait vibrer son public, entamant parfois avec lui de curieux dialogues. La poésie et la folie sont là, sur scène, incarnées dans la personne d'un homme solitaire et désarmé qui crie sa détresse entre deux explosions de joie vite avortée.
Un poète fou qui rappelle parfois Tim Buckley dans ses meilleurs morceaux, vous frappe, vous agresse de ses tourments, vous transmet l'image parfaite du sublime déchirement.