John Martyn, 1948–2009


John Martyn on stage in 1975 with ubiquitous spliff.

Given a choice, I’d probably pick his 1977 opus, One World, as a favourite although everything he did in the 1970s is worth hearing. Great songs and great collaborators, especially bassist Danny Thompson. His use of echo and volume pedal to extend the range of his guitar gave him a unique sound, closer to Manuel Göttsching’s Inventions for Electric Guitar than anything in the folk world where he started out. The last song on One World is the marvellous nocturnal ballad Small Hours which features a muted drum machine, a Steve Winwood keyboard solo, and flock of Canadian geese. There’s a great live performance of that here.

2 thoughts on “John Martyn, 1948–2009”

  1. I saw him live many years ago and took a dislike to him, so didn’t even stay for the whole of his performance. He struck me as very arrogant that time.

    However, I always was fond of his Road To Ruin record – with his then wife Beverley

  2. Hi Anne. Yes, he could be very fractious so that doesn’t surprise me. That line in May You Never—”May you never lose your temper / And get in a bar-room fight”—wouldn’t apply to many people but it did to him. Hard-nosed but with a very sweet voice.

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