Sapphire (1984)

Released in November 1984. John had rejoined Island in 1984 and Chris Blackwell sent him to Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to record. The sessions were going badly as John had a number of disagreements with the producer until John asked Robert Palmer to help.

“Actually it almost didn’t happen, the production team had all fallen out, no-one was taking responsibility for anything, too much rum was being consumed all over the place, so I got Robert Palmer in who brought in some other excellent musicians, and that was it…it was all down to Robert in the end.”

The playing is light, relaxed, subtle and dreamlike quality of the production was present on every track. John’s expressive and soulful vocals ensure the album doesn’t become too smooth and bland with its overall synthesised sound. There is little guitar on the album and what there is was apparently electronically treated so as to be indistinguishable from the synthesisers around it, the exception to this rule being the solo on Fisherman’s Dream. Before Sapphire, Sundays Child had been the only other self produced album and this one contained just enough high points to convince critics that, whilst no new ground had been broken, it was still a contemporary album with above-average charms.

“Sapphire comes close to grade A form.” – Rolling Stone

“In an era when empty gestures of style proliferate in music, Martyn’s music speaks with an uncommon candour, intelligence and intensity. At times, the combination of guitar and synthesiser creates a sound which appears to come rolling across the stalls like a tsunami wave, pinning you to your seat…John Martyn strikes the perfect balance between virtuosity and modernism. Put simply he is in a league of his own.” – The Guardian

Fisherman’s Dream was originally recorded with the Scottish National Choir singing on it! John said, “it sounded awful…as soon as they opened their mouths I went aargh…I’ve made a mistake, I don’t want these people on my record.”

Sapphire contains some gems; Rope Soul’d, the title track itself, the ever popular Fisherman’s Dream and Over The Rainbow which is the encore to many of John’s gigs.


  1. Sapphire (J. Martyn)
  2. Over The Rainbow (H. Arlen, C. Harburg)
  3. You Know (J. Martyn)
  4. Watching Her Eyes (J. Martyn)
  5. Fisherman’s Dream (J. Martyn)
  6. Acid Rain (J. Martyn, A. Thomson)
  7. Mad Dog Days (J. Martyn, A. Thomson)
  8. Climb The Walls (J. Martyn)
  9. Coming On Time (J. Martyn)
  10. Rope-Soul’d (J. Martyn, A. Thomson, B. Reynolds)