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While running a folk and blues music club in London I booked John in 1971. He was mesmerizing with a great personality. His records are wonderful-but you really had to see him live. His personality and playing skills just demanded live performances. I have listed a sample, mainly from the 1970’s, but a few more recent as well. Enjoy.

Here he is playing the wonderful ‘May you never‘ in live 1973

From his website

“Every record I’ve made – bad, good, or indifferent – is totally autobiographical. I can look back when I hear a record and recall exactly what was going on. That’s how I write. That’s the only way I can write ! Some people keep diaries, I make records.”

Iain David McGeachy was born on the 11th September 1948, the son of two opera singers who divorced when he was five years old. John, as he would later call himself, moved to Glasgow and was brought up by his grandmother. John started to learn how to play the guitar at the age of fifteen being tutored by Hamish Imlach.

In 1973 with Danny Thompson – Make no mistake

His uniqueness comes from both his slurred singing style  , the timbre of which has been said to ‘ resemble a tenor saxophone’  and his guitar style which when amplified though fuzzbox and echoplex provides a dreamy backdrop to his own distinctive lyrics.

In 1973 and again with Danny Thompson, his good friend –   Couldn’t love you more

On Whistle Test  1975 – Discover the Lover

As Davy Graham was an important influence on John, it is understandable why he was described (in The Times) as “an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues”.

In 1977 on whistle test with Danny Thompson again and Gaspar Lawal –“One World”

 

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and it is worth comparing a later version with David Gilmour live at the Shaw theatre

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Also in 1977 –Spencer the Rover

 

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And in 1978 –I’d rather be the devil

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1978 –Small Hours -live from Reading Unversity

 

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One of my (many) favourites –Bless the Weather  -live at Collegiate Theatre London (1978)

 

John+Martyn+Martyn

**1978  – One day without you

 

 

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Quite a year 1978 -this is John showing off the echoplex again – Outside In

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a great summary of his electrifying live performance magic – live from Dublin – again with Danny Thompson:

 

 

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Still going strong in 2007 and with new collaborators  –May you never with Danny Thompson and Kathy Mattea

John died at the age of 60 in January 2009.

For much of his career, Martyn enjoyed a lifestyle of typical rock’n’roll excess and later struggled with alcoholism. He once told Q Magazine: “If I could control myself more, I think the music would be much less interesting. I’d probably be a great deal richer but I’d have had far less fun and I’d be making really dull music.” In 2003 his right leg was partially amputated after a large cyst under his knee burst, leading him to spend his latter years in a wheelchair.

John Martyn was awarded an OBE in the 2009 New Year honours list.

Throughout his life he kept searching for new musical forms in which to express essential themes: love, loneliness, and what it means to be alive.

He is much missed.

biographical tributes:

 

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When I was wondering who to book for the university blues club I was sent this record……enough said…I booked him.

 

At www.johnmartyn.com you can find many of John’s lyrics -such as Stormbringer:

Stormbringer

Time’s gone by
Calendar leaves and snows fly
I might write a poem
If I could think of the words to try
What is there to remember
The winter was December
Just one more year left behind.

She never looked around to see me
She never looked around at all
All I saw was shadows on the wall
She never looked around to see me
She never looked around at all
All I heard was snow that had to fall.

She left in the morning
Quietly that was her way
And on returning
To find I had nothing to say
What is there to remember
The winter was December
Just one more year left behind.

She never looked around to see me
She never looked around at all
All I saw was shadows on the wall
She never looked around to see me
She never looked around at all
All I heard was snow that had to fall…

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