Live At The Bottom Line, New York 1983

Live At The Bottom Line, New York 1983.

Faced with two different paths, one well travelled and the other leading to uncharted territory John Martyn always takes the path into the unknown. Renowned as a solo acoustic performer in the 1970s, the 1980s saw John take a new direction.

Live At The Bottom Line, New York 1983“I decided I was bored with playing solo and I wanted to put a band together. They [Island Records] saw me very much as a solo artist and they felt that my career lay in that direction. And I was at the point where I really just did not want to play solo any more. You know, I was interested in playing with other guys full time.” After the release of Grace and Danger in 1980 John parted company with Island Records, signed to WEA and released Glorious Fool in 1981 and Well Kept Secret in 1982. John was now concentrating on electric guitar and playing it in his own unique style, ” My electric playing is mostly left-hand stuff, and it can result in a very confusing sound because it’s not very clean. But I don’t like it clean. I like to make it as rich as harmonically possible, creating lots of overtones and undertones. You do have to be really careful, though, because it’s so easy to get fucked up with feedback and all that!” Glorious Fool was well received by the music press, “The accolade genius doesn’t often apply in popular music…only Tim Buckley ever dumped this much sex on to vinyl,” raved Melody Maker.

This change in direction was a surprise to many fans. John now played his Gibson almost exclusively and the more familiar Martin acoustic guitar took a back seat. John asked fretless bass player Alan Thomson, who had been playing with John’s cousin in The Arthur Trout Band, to join his new band with Jeffrey Allen on drums completing the line up. They became regulars on tour and both accompany John for this gig recorded at The Bottom Line in New York on 13th May 1983. The Bottom Line is an intimate venue holding 400 or so fans and such was the demand to see John that he would often play two sets in one evening. Not only had John changed guitar and formed his own band but he was now wearing a suit! Alan Thomson was something of a snappy dresser as well and often appeared on stage wearing white trousers, a red shirt and white tie or alternatively a red jump suit – sorry to remind you about that Alan! The early 80s band sound was very different and Alan Thomson’s distinctive bass playing is a feature of this recording on which he also plays keyboards.

Eight of the eleven songs are taken from John’s last three albums, Grace and Danger (1980), Glorious Fool (1981) and Well Kept Secret (1982). Couldn’t Love You More first appeared on One World (1977) but a reworked version featuring Eric Clapton on guitar also appeared on Glorious Fool. The satirical title track to the album is dedicated to the then US President Ronald Reagan, “You know that half the lies he tells you are not true.” Root Love and I’d Rather Be The Devil are the only other 1970s songs and these are reworked illustrating John’s determination to move on to a fresh new sound in concert as well as in the studio.

In 1978 the film In Search of Anna was released. The film, produced by Esben Storm, tells the story of a newly released convict called Tony, trying to pull his life together. Tony returns home to find that his girlfriend, Anna, has vanished and members of his former gang are pursuing him for money that they think he has stashed away. Tony is obsessed by finding Anna and begins his search travelling North across Australia. The film stars Richard Moir and Judy Morris and John wrote the theme tune Anna (which is based on Small Hours) and some of the incidental music. Dealer and Certain Surprise also featured in the film along with other music by AC/DC of all people! Although Anna was released as a single in Australia it has never appeared on an album or been released elsewhere. A film soundtrack was never released and this is a rare recording of a live performance of the song. John sings-

Oh Anna, Anna, sweet little Anna.

Lost you somewhere down the road.
And I hear you sing when I’m alone.
You’re the only one, make me feel this way;
Keep on searching for you every day.

Sweet Anna, Anna, Anna.

You cried when I pulled a gun.
Never was one to turn and run;
To stay on your feet in this human race,
Think about a lover or a special place.

If they cannot chain or buy you,
Lord, they tried to crucify you.
Now we’re out here on the road,
Thinking about the way back home.

Sweet Anna, Anna, sweet little Anna.

I lost you somewhere down the road.
Now I hear you sing when I’m alone.
You’re the only one, make me feel this way;
I Keep on searching for you every day.

Anna, Anna, my sweet little Anna.

John is a truly progressive artist for whom credibility is more important than commercial success. Always the incurable romantic John’s music moves in all directions and breaks all the rules. …expect the unexpected…

John Hillarby

Lyrics for Anna from the film In Search Of Anna

Remember how you cried when I pulled a gun.
Never been one to turn and run;
Everybody has got to have a dream
To help them make it down the stream.
If they cannot chain or buy you,
Lord, they tried to crucify you.
Now I’m out here on the road,
Thinking about the way back home.

Oh Anna, oh Anna, oh Anna
We had a dream that didn’t last, like a
Flying ember, took too fast.
Stay on your feet in this human race,
Think about a lover or a special place.

Lost you somewhere down the road.
I can hear you singing when I’m alone.
You’re the only one, make me feel this way;
Keep on searching for you every day.

Oh Anna, Oh Anna, Oh Anna
She came to me so young and free,
Put her arms around me,
She said that she would always stay
With me until my dying day.

Oh Anna, Oh Anna, Oh Anna

Grew up in a dirty town, where they
Like to kick you when you’re down, and
If you show an easy side, they
Twist the knife and open you wide.

Oh Anna, Oh Anna, Oh Anna