Biography Part 4
Johns love of the countryside and the environment saw him write the theme tune and incidental music to a major series on the environment called Turning The Tide. The series was shown on Tyne Tees Television in the Autumn of 1986 and featured the environmentalist David Bellamy. The theme tune was loosely based on Don’t Want To Know with a new musical arrangement and adapted lyrics. The series ran over budget and plans to release a soundtrack were scrapped.
Piece By Piece was released in February 1986 and to celebrate John’s 20th Anniversary as a performer Island released Classic John Martyn the world’s first commercially available CD single which featured the tracks Angeline, May You Never, Solid Air, Glistening Glyndebourne and a cover of Bob Dylan’s Tight Connection To My Heart. “Martyn endows the music with all the benefits of a crystalline production technique and Piece By Piece showcases Martyn’s ability to blend his personality and voice with the rigours of jazz instrumentation.” Wrote New Hifi Sounds. The apocalyptic John Wayne was written about an ex-manager, guitar riffs, power chords and crashing synthesisers whip this song into a frenzy. In contrast the haunting Angeline was written for John’s wife, Annie, and was later used in the film soundtrack to Vital Signs in 1990. John was becoming something of a celebrity appearing on television’s Pop Quiz with Mike Read and other guests.
Live from London a recording of a gig at the Camden Palace Theatre on 23rd November 1984 was released on video on 27th March 1986 and contains an early version of John Wayne. This has now been released on DVD.
John’s last new material with Island Records appeared on the live album Foundations recorded on 13th November 1986 at London’s Town and Country Club and released in October 1987. The album contained three new songs, The Apprentice, Send Me One Line and Deny This Love. John was moved to write The Apprentice having met a particularly ill looking man in a pub near the Sellafield nuclear recycling plant in Cumbria and Send Me One Line was written for a film called 84 Charing Cross Road, John told me, “Jo Lustig rang me and asked me to write a song for the film so I read the book and wrote the song, I think it’s a nice little tune. I wrote the song and then forgot about it so it was too late to be used in the film!” “Musically excellent.” – wrote Q Magazine. A Foundations video was also released.
The Apprentice was released in March 1990 and saw John signed to Permanent Records but unfortunately this proved to be a far from happy and permanent arrangement. A video filmed during the Apprentice Tour was released in August 1990 and for the first time one of John’s songs Small Hours was used for a contemporary dance called Shock Absorber by The Phoenix Dance Company.
John’s second album with Permanent Records was released on 9th September 1991. This album was more characteristic of John’s style and the synthesizers were less evident. Tremendous bass lines featured through Jack The Lad, The Cure and the atmospheric title track, which was originally known as Running Up The Harbour.
BBC Radio1 Live In Concert was released in 1992 and contains material taken from the BBC archives featuring 9 tracks recorded at Glastonbury in 1986 along with some earlier material. An impassioned and very powerful performance and John’s guitar playing is a feature of the album along with Alan Thomson’s superb bass rhythms. There is an incredible extended version of Outside In, a real classic echoplex extravaganza that I never tire of listening to. “These archive recordings find him at his most mesmerising…” Q Magazine.
Released in 1992 Couldn’t Love You More consisted of re-recorded versions of classic tracks with guest appearances including Phil Collins, David Gilmour and Gerry Conway. John was working on the No Little Boy album and Couldn’t Love You More is in fact the session tapes for No Little Boy. Permanent released the album without John’s knowledge and John was furious, “I had no idea they were going to release that. They had the tapes and I was in America and when I came back the next thing I knew it was out!” Review Magazine said, “Hopefully this will get a whole new audience to check out one of the most impressive back catalogues around; and for those who have most of that back catalogue, here’s an indispensable addition from a man who can do no wrong – trust him!” No Little Boy was released in July 1993 and Levon Helm, Phil Collins and Andy Sheppard all featured. Some of the songs from Couldn’t Love You More were remixed, but most songs were completely overhauled. Some of the songs were deleted and four songs were entirely re-recorded, Don’t Want Know, Sunday’s Child and Bless The Weather featuring John Giblin on bass, and an excellent new version of Just Now featuring Levon Helm on harmony vocals. The end result was a vastly superior album, much more balanced. “The music is beautiful and Martyn is in fine voice throughout…” Q Review.
Whilst working on No Little Boy John was approached by The London Contemporary Dance Theatre to write the music for a new dance, which was choreographed by the highly acclaimed Darshan Singh Bhuller. The dance tells the story of the monsoon season in India, the pre monsoon human frustration and tension, and then the joy and celebration of rainfall. Fall Like Rain, toured the UK in October 1993 and was a major production with thousands of gallons of water crashing on to the stage during the performance!
Island Records released Sweet Little Mysteries: The Island Anthology on 6th June 1994. An excellent overview of John’s music with Island, which spans the greater part of his career. Noticeable by their absence are any songs from John’s first four albums – a little strange! Nonetheless, A well put together package and an excellent introduction to John’s music.