One World (Deluxe Edition)

The layered folk of a hi-tech rag ‘n’ bone man enters the orbit of planet Jupitus.

A spacey ‘n’ smooth classic from the prolific UK folk fusionist. Martyn is the subject of the documentary John Martyn: Johnny Too Bad (Friday BBC2).

For me, the post-punk years were a confusing time in terms of my musical taste. Much as peer pressure dragged you toward the hip bands of the day, there’s no accounting for free will, so I found myself listening to John Martyn. Fans will be aware that 1973’s Solid Air was one of the must have albums of the mid 1970s, with its sophisticated, folky brilliance, but my introduction to Martyn came in 1977, at the height of punk. While we were having our ears hammered by the Clash, the Jam and the Pistols, in solitary moments I found myself drawn towards the hippyesque, ambient sounds of Martyn’s wonderful One World.

Obviously I couldn’t tell any of my punk rockin’ amigos of this transgression, as the songs were anything up to eight minutes long, layered in synthesisers and possessing a great deal more than three chords. So John Martyn was consumed only behind the locked door of my tiny bedroom. Another guilty teenage secret, then, like dog eared copies of Mayfair and six packs of Club biscuits.

I was drawn towards the hippyesque sounds produced by Island boss Chris Blackwell, One World features legendary collaborators. Bassists Dave Pegg and Danny Thompson, Traffic’s Steve Winwood and trombonist Rico all appear. At certain points, the album has loose, almost dub feel; indeed, the album’s bouncy centrepiece Big Muff was co-written with Jamaican legend Lee Perry. To wonderful effect, Martyn made great use of tape loops to layer his incredible guitar playing over itself, as evident on Dancing.

A few years after One World’s release, I went to see him in concert at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion. At the time, I was a skinhead and wearing a leather jacket and Doc Martens. Keen to hear something from my favourite album, I shouted out “One World!” and Mr Martyn looked in my direction and replied, “You’re so right… you to**er!” Maybe that’s why I stopped buying his records.

Did you know…

Martyn did a wonderful cover of Glory Box by Portishead.
Three to listen out for…
Dealer, Certain Surprise, Small Hours.

In a similar vein…

Nick Drake, Richard Thompson, Roy Harper.

John Martyn’s layered ambience countered the late-70s frenzy.

Phill Jupitus
Radio Times
26 June 2004