We Meet The Man Behind The Lens

Brian Cooke – we meet the man behind the lens of some of music’s most iconic images…

Brian CookeHe’s snapped them all, from The Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton. Matt Clark meets York’s top music photographer.

Thirty something years ago four men went to a London pizza parlour to chew over ideas for their client’s new emblem. By the time lunch was over they were in agreement, the scribbling on a paper napkin would be offered to Richard Branson. He loved it’s ‘in your face’ simplicity, attitude and energy. The famous Virgin logo was born.

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Gift

‘Gift’ is a poem inspried by John and written by Jill Harris.

To John Martyn

You who knew
the voice of water
who heard the moon rise
from a winter lake

could pluck from air
a sound so pure
it gathered into one
the lapping waves
the cries of geese
their wings beating the dawn –

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Caught On The Hop

Incredibly it is 20 years since John released his album And. In this article Mark Cooper reviews the album and briefly interviews John.

Caught On The Hop

John Martyn, now label mate with Portishead, has been checking out the Chicago house scene, and revising his wardrobe. Mark Cooper salutes his return to eccentricity.

JOHN MARTYN – AND on Go! Discs
Martyn’s debut for Go! Discs home of Paul Weller, Portishead and Gabrielle.

AndOne of the great maverick stylists of  British music, John Martyn has been out on a limb in recent years, marooned first by some increasingly safe albums for Island in the mid ’80s and then by a deal with Permanent, who appeared to hide everything he recorded. Latterly, he seemed doomed to play out his middle age on an endless circuit of Britain’s town halls and arts centres, raging at his long suffering fans and churning out increasingly perfunctory readings of the likes of May You Never. Fortunately, Martyn’s finally been picked up by a label which fosters home grown talent, and promptly returned his best work in many a moon.

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Vintage Trouble

Vintage Trouble.

1973 was a remarkable year for music, but few had a greater annus mirabilis than folk alchemist JOHN MARTYN who devoted the year to the crafting of two strange masterpieces. On the 40th anniversary of Solid Air, MAT SNOW speaks to friends, fellow travellers and bruised survivors to discover the pain, power, joy and sadness behind a master musician’s quest for freedom.

Vintage TroubleQUADROPHENIA AND CATCH A Fire. Innovations and A Wizard, A True Star. Tubular Bells and Raw Power. Dixie Chicken and Dark Side Of The Moon. Band On The Run and Berlin. For Your Pleasure, Let’s Get It On, Countdown To Ecstasy.

Just off the top of your head, 1973 was a vintage year for the album. And then there’s Solid Air by John Martyn.

Released exactly 40 years ago, here was a platter to warm the cockles of the college circuit cognoscenti, a dope-head’s delight which bottled a moment; a moment which then faded with its generation to become a period piece with only the faintest afterlife beyond its particular time and place. Or so it seemed. Then, in the 1990s, Solid Air found fresh followers. Paul Weller and Beth Orton were among those to praise it as not only an ancestral voice of the chill-out/trip-hop thang but also as compelling a constellation of songs as ever to coruscate head and heart. Nor has Solid Air ceased to resonate since, not least its title track, a mirror held to the troubled soul who inspired it, Nick Drake, whose rediscovery by new generations paralleled that of his friend John Martyn. But where the stage-shy Nick Drake hid from view, condemning his three

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The Making Of Solid Air By John Martyn

The Making Of Solid Air By John Martyn

A poignant epistle to Nick Drake, the delicate folk jazz title track on Martyn’s third solo LP emerged from a session “almost like a big jam.”

It was done for a friend of mine, and it was done right, with very clear motives,” John Martyn later recalled of the title track from his 1973 classic, Solid Air. The album’s best-known song might be the gently swinging “May You Never” – covered by everyone from Eric Clapton to Wet Wet Wet – but it’s the smoked-out six-minute opener that truly maps Martyn’s evolution from talented Scottish folkie to genre-busting maverick.

Written in the summer of 1972, “Solid Air” is a mesmerising murmur of empathy, frustration and foreboding aimed at Martyn’s friend and Island label mate, Nick Drake. Drake would babysit for Martyn and his wife Beverley when they were living in Hampstead, and when the family moved to Hastings he would still visit occasionally. The song divines not only Drake’s quietly devastating emptiness, but the impossibility of reaching him.

“I don’t know what’s going on in your mind/But I know you don’t like what you find/When you’re moving through solid air,” sings Martyn. “I know you, I love you/I will be your friend/I will follow you anywhere.” After Drake’s death in November 1974, it became a kind of requiem.

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Will The Real John Martyn Please Stand Up?

Off The Beaten Track: Will The Real John Martyn Please Stand Up?

HERE were many embarrassing moments in my journalistic career, and some still have the capacity to make me cringe. One such came on a Sunday in 1976, at the July Wakes Festival. It was held at a site named Park Hall, adjacent to Charnock Richard services on the M6, which in the 1980s would become the Camelot theme park before being abandoned in 2012.

I was there to see Bert Jansch and John Martyn, the latter being top of the bill. Surveying the crowd basking in the sunshine (it was one of the hottest summers on record), I saw to my amazement that the bearded Martyn was actually sitting in the crowd on the grass watching whoever was then on stage (possibly Five Hand Reel). I wasted no time in approaching him, identifying myself and asking if he was up for an interview.

He looked a bit reluctant but said OK, so I engaged in an anodyne conversation to loosen him up before coming in with some killer questions. I was surprised how boring he seemed, but was nevertheless excited to be speaking to a living legend. After a few difficult minutes, I said: ‘And what time are you on, John?’

‘On what?’ came the reply. ‘And why are you calling me John? My name is Clive.’

He wasn’t John Martyn, of course, just a bloke with a beard. And when the real JM took to the stage, I realised they didn’t look like each other at all.

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