Martyn soothed the soul with his folk blues
The early 70s were a golden time for new music albums. In 1973 singer songwriter and expert guitarist, John Martyn, released a defining British album of the 1970s Solid Air. The title song was a tribute to Nick Drake. He developed a new sound of acoustic guitar through a fuzz box, phase shifts and Echoplayer first shown on the album Stormbringer.Martyn’s music exhibited feelings of serenity, freedom and rapture that he craved in his life. In 1967 he recorded his experimental album London Conversation outside, which gave the record a free, unconstructed feel. .
I was going to write this blog about John, but when I started reading about him I discovered he gained much from his wife Beverly Kuter (which then led to my blog on woman and art).
I read recently about Beverly Martyn (or Bev Kutner) who had worked with Paul Simon, Nick Drake and Jimmy Page before she met John. I was surprised to hear of their song writing collaborations, her being a partnership with John and then her being left at home with the children, a home on top of a hill. A home she didn't even choose.
Apparently John Martyn wrote his best songs with Beverly Kutner, his wife, which she gets little credit for. Bev played piano while they wrote songs together for the album Solid Air and John would say that he would ‘credit her on the next song!’
Beverly and Martyn recorded three albums together - Stormbringer, Road to Ruin and Bless the Weather - before John was persuaded by his record label to go solo. Beverly was then left on the house on the hill to raise their children while John toured. When John turned to drink he became abusive towards her and after one threatening scene Bev decided to leave him after ten years of marriage.
....and yet John wrote the song May You Never with Bev, all very poignant really.May You Never has to be one of the all time greatest songs yet when the song was released as a single in 1971 it didn’t chart. The end of his marriage to Bev signalled the end of their classic songwriting decade.
Martyn was born Iain McGreachy and he gew up with an unsettled childhood. John spent his childhood between his grandmother in Glasgow and his mother in London. On tour Martyn was accompanied by jazz double bass player Danny Thompson for most of his music career. His blend of stand out bluesy folk and slurry style of singing gave Martyn a stand out sound on the 1960s folk circuit. Over his 40 year career John released 21 studio albums.
Times quote – ‘an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the lines between the boundaries of folk, jazz, rock and blues.’