Biography Part 2
Island Records decided that John should revert to recording solo and with a young family to look after this was a forced career break for Beverley. John was unhappy with the situation, “they didn’t want to hear Beverley sing, which is a terrible thing, I still think they’re extremely wrong.” Bless The Weather was released in November 1971 an album which John felt was “very innocent, very beautiful and a pleasure to make.” “Most of the songs on Bless The Weather were very quick. I’d been writing songs in the studio on the day they were recorded. It’s much nicer like that…to be spontaneous. There was no re-writing, it just came out very naturally. I much prefer that approach,” said John, “People kind of sat up and took notice of me after that album, I don’t know why…”
The instrumental Glistening Glyndebourne showcased John’s technique of playing acoustic guitar through the echoplex to stunning effect. “Without elaborating on Bless The Weather too much, let me say that it is a fabulous album, quite definitely one of the very best of 1971, and one which you should spare no amount of trouble over to possess. Every song is a gem…” wrote Zig Zag.
John was producing the most extraordinary sounds from his acoustic guitar with the echoplex and was regularly accompanied by Danny Thompson; the pair had an almost telepathic understanding. “I think I’ll always use Danny Thompson because he’s got real feel for my music and I’ve got real feel for his.”Recorded in 1972, Solid Air was released in February 1973 and was regarded by many as John’s best album to date. The album received tremendous reviews, “once in a while you hear a song that finds its way deep into your memory, and you find yourself humming along. This album has more than its share of fine songs like that, but noticeably Go Down Easy and May You Never.” Twenty Six years later in 1999 Solid Air was voted as one of the best chill-out albums of all time in Q Magazine, “With mellow jazzy flourishes and warm acoustic sounds, Solid Air is the musical equivalent of a reassuring hug…the man Beth Orton calls The Guv’nor achieved the impossible: he made a quiveringly sexy folk record.” The beautifully simple May You Never was written for Wesley and Don’t Want To Know was John’s comment on greed, ugliness and the noxious world he saw developing. In 1998 five of the songs from Solid Air were used for the soundtrack to a new BBC film Titanic Town. The film is set in Belfast in 1972 and stars Julie Walters as the politically naive Bernie who is trying to bring up a family against a background of IRA shootings and homes, which are constantly raided by the army. John’s emotive voice and lyrics make a telling contribution to a very disturbing and moving film. Over The Hill was also used in the film soundtrack to Scrapple in 1999. Solid Air was well received and has recently been remastered and re-released by Island Records. John’s popularity and reputation was growing fast and he toured America supporting Free and Traffic.
John says “It felt natural” at the beginning of Fine Lines, on the album Inside Out, which was released in October 1973. It was recorded over a few days in the early hours of the morning satisfying John’s need for spontaneity, this echoplex extravaganza and very experimental album is a celebration of love which John described as “everything I ever wanted to do in music… it’s my inside coming out.”
Sunday’s Child released in January 1975 was described by John as, “the family album, very happy, purely romantic.” An album of contrasts from Root Love to the traditional Spencer The Rover (later dedicated to John’s son Spenser who was born in May) and My Baby Girl which was written for John’s daughter Mhairi. Lay It All Down and You Can Discover ooze emotion; unfortunately, there was no room for Ellie Rae a delightful song John performed on tour during 1974. John toured extensively to promote Sunday’s Child and was joined by Danny Thompson and John Stevens on drums, with Paul Kossoff making a guest appearance for the last few songs of some gigs. Kossoff was struggling with drug addiction and John tried hard to help him, inviting him to stay in the family home in Hastings in an attempt to try to keep him dry. The gig at Leeds University, on 13th February 1975 was recorded with a view to releasing a live album, but Island Records weren’t keen and so John produced, designed and marketed his own album Live At Leeds. John sold the limited edition of 10,000 by mail order and from his own front door in Hastings! It’s now a collector’s item. Even John doesn’t have a copy of the original. ‘I sold them all… I was the first of the record independents.’ The album epitomises a typical concert charged with atmosphere, incredible music and of course, banter! Kossoff did not feature on the original release and fans had to wait until 1998 for the album to be released on CD with 5 additional tracks featuring Kossoff.
September and November 1975 saw John touring again and by the end of the year he was totally exhausted. He decided to take a sabbatical and using all his savings he visited Jamaica where he met Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Encouraged by Perry he soon started playing again in sessions and appeared on Burning Spears’ Man In The Hills. The sabbatical continued through most of 1976, “I honestly believe I would have gone completely round the bend had I not gone and done that.” Paul Kossoff died in March 1976 and John wrote Dead On Arrival about the loss of his friend, a song that he performed later that year, but as yet remains unreleased, as does One For The Road, which John performed on the same tour. 1976 also saw John record a single with John Stevens Away called Anni on which John took lead vocal and guitar.
Island then released a compilation of earlier, more acoustic material, So Far So Good, which featured a live version of I’d Rather Be The Devil. The album won John a gold disc at Montreux.