Trying To Send Me Around The Twist
I am a professional folk/blues guitarist and Mr Martyn’s authentic brand of ‘Celtic Soul’, replete with sensuous, back-slapped guitar picking, was a big influence on me when I was starting out. So much so that certain ‘stylings’ on some of my stuff was very JM in terms of feel.
Now, I lived in Chester in the 1990’s and did a fair few local gigs. One such gig was at a venue called Telford’s Warehouse – a former grain store converted into a modern pub/bar/music venue located on the Shropshire Union canal. I’d heard from a friend of mine that, after a Telford’s gig (where I did support) John had bought a narrow boat and had it moored more or less outside the venue. I never got to meet him properly that night but apparently he used to frequent Telford’s at lunchtime and make quick work of several bacardi and cokes! One afternoon he was worse for wear to the degree that some of the bar staff had to ‘help’ him back to his boat. After helping John into a seat and being fixed a coffee, one of my mates put on my latest CD. One track ‘Song Of Delusion’ came on:
‘It’s not you John, it’s a bloke called Phil Hare who did a short support for you when you played here’.
‘Phil what? I tell you that is me’, John insisted.
He carried on:
‘Are trying to send me round the twist?’
‘Don’t you think I know my own fuckin’ voice?’
My mate came back:
‘Listen John, it’s a guy called Phil Hare. He only lives at the bottom of the road. Would you like me to get hold of him?’
‘I’ll fuckin’ get hold of ‘I’m for nickin’ my fuckin’ idea’, came the reply.
Anyway, this ‘call and response’ went on for about an hour and remained unresolved. However, the CD was left on his boat.
The following day, I got a phone call.
‘Hey Phil, this is John Martyn. I heard some of your stuff yesterday. Really nice my man. I thought it was me. I was clearly wrong’.
‘Do you remember the short support spot I did when you first played the warehouse’, I asked, feeling a wee bit apprehensive – as well as gobsmacked.
‘I’m sorry old man. Brain has gone. But listen, you get out there and bloody play. You’re OK!’
My home phone number was listed on the sleeve of the CD and he had obviously got his head together and checked the whole thing out.
There are many conflicting stories about John, but apart from being a monstrous talent, he was largely a great bloke who would do anything for you etc – in spite of being able to consume industrial levels of drink! I get similar stories from friends of mine who knew John, namely Steve Tilston and Terry Lees, both renowned guitarists/performers.
I still miss not being able to see John play again, but I’ll remember that tale for a good while.