This sixteen page booklet contains a short biography of John Martyn and Danny Thompson, stories about the dynamic duo and came with a five track CD.
The Sunshine Boys CD
2. Outside In
3. Blue Monk
4. Johnny Too Bad
5. One World
In a world that lacks compassion, John Martyn and his music, is a breath of fresh air. John is an incurable romantic who sings from his heart; no other artist sings with such commitment and emotion. People have fallen in and out of love listening to the most enduring and magical songs of deep sensitivity that have been sung over his thirty five year plus career. A truly progressive artist, John has never been one to stay with a tried and trusted sound, preferring to explore, experiment and break new ground. His trade mark melodies and lyrics are in a class of their own and his voice which is steeped in pleasure and pain, joy and fear and love and hate, expresses emotion like no other and can reduce even the strongest of men to tears.
John Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy on 11th September 1948 in New Malden, Surrey, the only son of two light opera singers. John’s parents separated and his early childhood was spent in Glasgow, John recalls, “you went out and kicked a few heads or you were looked on as a pansy.” John learnt to play the guitar at fifteen and on leaving school at seventeen he started playing in some of the local folk dubs under the wing of Hamish Imlach, who encouraged John to play the guitar. John was influenced by many different music genres including Debussy and soon began to explore music on his guitar. Davey Graham was one of John’s first heroes, as was Clive Palmer who founded the Incredible String Band and became a good friend. John and Clive lived together for a while in a shed near Alston in Cumbria. “Those were wild times, and Clive was a remarkable man, a great musician and down to earth, absolutely no bullshit, taught me lots of things to play.” With a growing reputation on the club circuit in the North, John decided it was time to move on and he started playing in the clubs around London such as Les Cousins and the Kingston Folk Barge, and was soon signed by Chris Blackwell’s Island Records.
John’s debut album, London Conversation, was recorded in mono and released in October 1967. An album of innocent songs that won praise from the music press and launched a career that has spanned five decades!
July 1968 saw John playing live for the BBC’s Night Ride radio programme and he was soon to be featured again on the same programme with the release of his next album The Tumbler in December 1968. The jazz flautist Harold McNair, who played on The Tumbler, joined John and he performed a number of songs including Dusty, Hello Train, Flying On Home, Seven Black Roses and The Easy Blues, which was to appear 5 years later on Solid Air. The Tumbler was produced by Al Stewart and like London Conversation, was again in the folk tradition but early jazz influences were evident, as were beautifully simple and touching lyrics in love songs such as The River and Dusty that was inspired by John’s happy memories of Hampton Court (where he stayed with his aunt) and the annual Fair.
In 1969 John married Beverley Kutner, a singer from Coventry, who was recording at the time with producer Joe Boyd of Witchseason. John was originally hired to be Beverley’s backing guitarist for recording sessions but they were soon to record together and in summer 1969, Stormbringer was recorded at A&R Studios in New York and was released in February 1970. The album featured the Band’s Levon Helm on drums and other session men including the Mothers of Invention’s Billy Mundi. Would You Believe Me featured the introduction of the echoplex guitar technique that John pioneered, and which became a key part of his solo concert performances in the 1970s. John was inspired by the saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders and in particular his album Karma. “The only reason I bought the echoplex was to try and imitate Sanders’ sustain on my guitar.”
Woodstock was a great experience for John, “Hendrix lived virtually next door. He used to arrive every Thursday in a purple helicopter, stay the weekend, and leave on the Monday. He was amazing… a good lad.” John felt that Stormbringer was just a little bit ahead of its time, saying “… a whole lot came from that record… like people started using drum ideas and stuff, and nobody had really thought of using drums with acoustic instruments before. But ifs difficult to say that sort of thing without being conceited.”
John and Beverley’s last album together was The Road To Ruin, which was released in November 1970. John had disagreements with Joe Boyd over the production of this album and, because of the numerous overdubs, John felt that the recording lacked spontaneity. The album featured the introduction of the other Sunshine Boy, Danny Thompson, on double bass.
The Road to Ruin, John explained “is really an adolescent’s view of mortality, you know the idea, isn’t all fun, we’re all doomed but we may as well enjoy it: we’re all going one way, but we may as well get down to it while we’re here.” The album was well received, “The Road To Ruin stands apart from other John Martyn albums… it enjoys distinctly jazz instrumentation in what is basically a rock format,” wrote Zig Zag Magazine.
John and Beverley moved from London to Old Town in Hastings, a seaside town “where you just can’t get away from the weather”, and John adopted two year old Wesley, Beverley’s son by a previous relationship and soon became the father of My Baby Girl, Mhairi in February 1971.
Island Records decided that John should revert to recording solo and with a young family to look after this was a forced career break for Beverley. John was unhappy with the situation, “they didn’t want to hear Beverley sing, which is a terrible thing, I still think they’re extremely wrong.” Bless The Weather was released in November 1971; an album which John felt was “very innocent, very beautiful and a pleasure to make.” “Most of the songs on Bless The Weather were very quick. I’d been writing songs in the studio on the day they were recorded. It’s much nicer like that… to be spontaneous. There was no re-writing, it just came out very naturally. I much prefer that approach,” said John, “People kind of sat up and took notice of me after that album, I don’t know why…”
The instrumental Glistening Glyndebourne showcased John’s technique of playing acoustic guitar through the echoplex to stunning effect. “Without elaborating on Bless The Weather too much, let me say that it is a fabulous album, quite definitely one of the very best of 1971, and one which you should spare no amount of trouble over to possess. Every song is a gem…” wrote Zig Zag.
John and Danny were now inseparable both in the studio and on the stage, with inspired and legendary performances punctuated by their own brand of humour. John was producing the most extraordinary sounds from his acoustic guitar with the echoplex and the pair had an almost telepathic understanding. “I think I’ll always use Danny Thompson because he’s got real feel for my music and I’ve got real feel for his.”
Recorded in 1972, Solid Air was released in February 1973 and was regarded by many as John’s best album to date. The album received tremendous reviews, “once in a while you hear a song that finds its way deep into your memory, and you find yourself humming along. This album has more than its share of fine songs like that, but noticeably Go Down Easy and May You Never.” Twenty six years later, in 1999 Solid Air was voted as one of the best chill-out albums of all time in Q Magazine, “With mellow jazzy flourishes and warm acoustic sounds, Solid Air is the musical equivalent of a reassuring hug… the man Beth Orton calls The Guv’nor achieved the impossible: he made a quiveringly sexy folk record.” The beautifully simple May You Never was written for Wesley and Don’t Want To Know was John’s comment on greed, ugliness and the noxious world he saw developing. In 1998 five of the songs from Solid Air were used for the soundtrack to a new BBC film Titanic Town. The film is set in Belfast in 1972 and stars Julie Walters as the politically naive Bernie who is trying to bring up a family against a background of IRA shootings and homes, which are constantly raided by the army. John’s emotive voice and lyrics make a telling contribution to a very disturbing and moving film. Over The Hill was also used in the film soundtrack to Scrapple in 1999. Solid Air was well received and has recently been remastered and re-released by Island Records. John’s popularity and reputation was growing fast and he toured America supporting Free and Traffic.
John says “It felt natural” at the beginning of Fine Lines, on the album Inside Out, which was released in October 1973. It was recorded over a few days in the early hours of the morning satisfying John’s need for spontaneity, this echoplex extravaganza and very experimental album is a celebration of love which John described as “everything I ever wanted to do in music… it’s my inside coming out.”
Sunday’s Child released in January 1975 was described by John as, “the family album, very happy, purely romantic.” An album of contrasts from Root Love to the traditional Spencer The Rover (later dedicated to John’s son Spenser who was born in May) and My Baby Girl which was written for John’s daughter Mhairi. Lay It All Down and You Can Discover ooze emotion; unfortunately, there was no room for Ellie Rae, a delightful song John performed on tour during 1974. John toured extensively to promote Sunday’s Child and was joined by Danny Thompson and John Stevens on drums, with Paul Kossoff making a guest appearance for the last few songs of some gigs. Kossoff was struggling with drug addiction and John tried hard to help him, inviting him to stay in the family home in Hastings in an attempt to try to keep him dry. The gig at Leeds University, on 13th February 1975 was recorded with a view to releasing a live album, but Island Records weren’t keen and so John produced, designed and marketed his own album Live At Leeds. John sold the limited edition of 10,000 by mail order and from his own front door in Hastings! It’s now a collector’s item. Even John doesn’t have a copy of the original. “I sold them all.. I was the first of the record independents.” The album epitomises a typical concert charged with atmosphere, incredible music and of course, banter! Kossoff did not feature on the original release and fans had to wait until 1998 for the album to be released on CD with 5 additional tracks featuring Kossoff.
September and November 1975 saw John touring again and by the end of the year he was totally exhausted. He decided to take a sabbatical and using all his savings he visited Jamaica where he met Lee Scratch Perry. Encouraged by Perry he soon started playing again in sessions and appeared on Burning Spear’s Man in The Hills. The sabbatical continued through most of 1976, “I honestly believe I would have gone completely round the bend had I not gone and done that.” Paul Kossoff died in March 1976, and John wrote Dead On Arrival about the loss of his friend, a song that he performed later that year, but as yet remains unreleased, as does One For The Road, which John performed on the same tour. 1976 also saw John record a single with John Stevens Away called Anni on which John took lead vocal and guitar.
Island then released a compilation of earlier, more acoustic material, So Far So Good, which featured a live version of I’d Rather Be The Devil. The album won John a gold disc at Montreux.
John’s time in Jamaica clearly influenced his next album, One World, which sold well charting at number 54 and became a true favourite with the critics and fans alike. In the summer of 1977, Chris Blackwell asked producer Phil Brown to work with John, and the Island Records mobile studio was set up on Saturday the 16th of July 1977 and One World was recorded in three weeks in the courtyard of a house in Theale, Berkshire. The house was in the middle of a lake and equipment was set up on each side of the lake so that it picked up the sound of water lapping, and a distant “strangled” sound on the guitar which was perfect for lead solos. Most of the recording was carried out between 3am and 6am and these quiet hours before dawn created the most magical atmosphere for recording, resulting in two of John’s most popular songs, One World and Small Hours.
An album of contrasting music from Big Muff, which was co-written by dub master Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, to the enchanting Couldn’t Love You More and the echoplex extravaganza Small Hours. “Guaranteed to chill your spine” – said Melody Maker.
“Some people keep diaries, I make records”
1978 saw the release of In Search of Anna, a film produced by Esben Storm which tells the story of a newly released convict trying to pull his life together, who returns home to find that his girlfriend, Anna, has vanished. John wrote the theme tune Anna (which was 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!
John played rhythm and lead guitar on Neil Ardley’s Harmony of the Spheres in 1979 and played on television in a South Bank Show special about the album, but it was October 1980 before John’s next album Grace And Danger was released. John’s marriage with Beverley had finally broken down and the album is a collection of very powerful, personal and painful songs. John Giblin played bass with Phil Collins on drums and backing vocals, John and Phil were both going through divorces at the same time and this strengthened their friendship. The album was delayed for a year by Chris Blackwell, who was a close friend of John and Beverley’s, and who found it too openly disturbing to release. John later said that it was “probably the most specific piece of autobiography I’ve written. Some people keep diaries, I make records.”
Two of the songs were also used in films. Save Some (For Me) in The Morning After in 1986 about a woman who wakes up with a hangover and no memory of how she ended up in bed with a dead man! Sweet Little Mystery in Mad Dogs and Englishmen in 1995, a thriller about an aristocratic Englishwoman who is addicted to heroin. By this time John had become bored with the limitations of the acoustic guitar and solo performances and started to concentrate on electric guitar with a full band setting for his music.
John was now living in Moscow, a hamlet in Scotland and was looking after his ill father. He left Island to sign up with Warner Brothers. John and Phil Collins had become close friends and he produced John’s next album Glorious Fool. Released in September 1981 with its satirical title track dedicated to Ronald Reagan, the album charted for seven weeks, reaching No.25. Amsterdam was written for a friend who had fallen in love with a hooker, Don’t You Go is an anti-war song and a new version of Couldn’t Love You More saw Eric Clapton on guitar. Melody Maker reviewed the album “The accolade genius doesn’t often apply in popular music.” And, “Only Tim Buckley ever dumped this much sex on to vinyl.” John embarked on a massive tour and Alan Thomson joined the band on bass guitar.
Well Kept Secret was released in September 1982 and reached the top 20 in the album chart. During the recording John accidentally impaled himself on a fence near his home in Scotland and punctured a lung. “The songs are warm and intelligent and a majority of Well Kept Secret is pacier and louder than he’s ever been on one album before… it’s a good record, a class record,” said New Musical Express. John’s trade marks of sensuality and emotion are present particularly on Never Let Me Go, with Ronnie Scott on tenor sax, Could’ve Been Me and Hung Up. John and his band embarked on a thirty-date UK tour.
To coincide with the release of Well Kept Secret, Island released The Electric John Martyn on 12th October 1982. The tracks included the US mixes of Dancing, Certain Surprise and Dealer (from the American version of One World), the single version of Sweet Little Mystery and the 12 inch dub version of Johnny Too Bad.
In 1982 the BBC released a video John Martyn In Vision containing live performances from their archives from 1973 to 1981. John then left Warner Brothers and was without a recording contract. In November 1983, John who had recently married Annie Furlong, released Philentropy. “I had some tapes of a Brighton Dome gig and a Bristol gig and I just thought I’d make a live album out of it.” Philentropy is considered by many to be one of John’s best live albums. “A faithful memento of Martyn at his live best – jazzy, sharply recorded, Philentropy stretches Martyn’s voice from poisonous howl to besotted slur – low key but ever so seductive.” – Melody Maker.
John returned to Island Records and recorded Sapphire at Compass Point studios in the Bahamas. The recording did not go well “… 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 Guardian newspaper said, “… John Martyn strikes the perfect balance between virtuosity and modernism. Put simply he is in a league of his own.”
Synthesizers were strongly in evidence for the first time and John’s guitar was down in the mix. Rope Soul’d, a song about nothing more simple than beach shoes and Fisherman’s Dream became instant favourites along with John’s heart on sleeve rendition of Arlen and Harburg’s Over The Rainbow.
John has always been concerned with environmental issues and wrote the theme tune to a major series on the environment called Turning The Tide. The series was shown on Tyne Tees Television in the Autumn of 1986 and featured the environmentalist David Bellamy. The theme tune was loosely based on Don’t Want To Know with a new musical arrangement and adapted lyrics. The series ran over budget and plans to release a soundtrack were scrapped.
Piece By Piece was released in February 1986 and to celebrate John’s 20th Anniversary as a performer Island released Classic John Martyn, the worlds first commercially available CD single which featured the tracks Angeline, May You Never, Solid Air, Glistening Glyndebourne and a cover of Bob Dylan’s Tight Connection To My Heart.
“Martyn endows the music with all the benefits of a crystalline production technique and Piece By Piece showcases Martyn’s ability to blend his personality and voice with the rigours of jazz instrumentation,” wrote New Hifi Sounds.
The apocalyptic John Wayne was written about an ex-manager, guitar riffs, power chords and crashing synthesisers whip this song into a frenzy. In contrast the haunting Angeline was written for John’s wife, Annie, and was later used in the film soundtrack to Vital Signs in 1990. John was becoming something of a celebrity appearing on television’s Pop Quiz with Mike Read and other guests.
Live from London, a recording of a gig at the Camden Palace Theatre on 23rd November 1984 was released on video on 27th March 1986 and contains an early version of John Wayne. This has now been released on DVD.
John’s last new material with Island Records appeared on the live album Foundations recorded on 13th November 1986 at London’s Town and Country Club and released in October 1987. The album contained three new songs, The Apprentice, Send Me One Line and Deny This Love. John was moved to write The Apprentice having met a particularly ill looking man in a pub near the Sellafield nuclear recycling plant in Cumbria, and Send Me One Line was written for a film called 84 Charing Cross Road, John told me, “Jo Lustig rang me and asked me to write a song for the film so I read the book and wrote the song, I think it’s a nice little tune. I wrote the song and then forgot about it so it was too late to be used in the film!” “Musically excellent” wrote Q Magazine. A Foundations video was also released.
The Apprentice was released in March 1990 and saw John signed to Permanent Records but unfortunately this proved to be a far from happy and permanent arrangement. A video filmed during the Apprentice Tour was released in August 1990 and for the first time one of John’s songs, Small Hours, was used for a contemporary dance called Shock Absorber by The Phoenix Dance Company.
John’s second album with Permanent Records Cooltide was released on 9th September 1991. This album was more characteristic of John’s style and the synthesizers were less evident. Tremendous bass lines featured through Jack The Lad, The Cure and the atmospheric title track, which was originally known as Running Up The Harbour.
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert contains material taken from the BBC archives featuring 9 tracks recorded at Glastonbury in 1986 along with some earlier material. An impassioned and very powerful performance and John’s guitar playing is a feature of the album along with Alan Thomson’s superb bass rhythms. There is an incredible extended version of Outside In, a real classic echoplex extravaganza that I never tire of listening to. “These archive recordings find him at his most mesmerising..” – Q Magazine.
“I’m an incurable romantic…but I’m proud of it, and I’m not going to change now.”
Released in 1992, Couldn’t Love You More consisted of re-recorded versions of classic tracks with guest appearances including Phil Collins, David Gilmour and Gerry Conway. John was working on the No Little Boy album and Couldn’t Love You More is in fact the session tapes for No Little Boy. Permanent released the album without John’s knowledge and John was furious, “I had no idea they were going to release that. They had the tapes and I was in America and when I came back the next thing I knew it was out!” Review Magazine said, “Hopefully this will get a whole new audience to check out one of the most impressive back catalogues around; and for those who have most of that back catalogue, here’s an indispensable addition from a man who can do no wrong – trust him!”
No Little Boy was released in July 1993 and Levon Helm, Phil Collins and Andy Sheppard all featured. Some of the songs from Couldn’t Love You More were remixed, but most songs were completely overhauled. Some of the songs were deleted and four songs were entirely re-recorded, Don’t Want Know, Sunday’s Child and Bless The Weather featuring John Giblin on bass, and an excellent new version of Just Now featuring Levon Helm on harmony vocals. The end result was a vastly superior album, much more balanced. “The music is beautiful and Martyn is in fine voice throughout…” – Q Review.
Whilst working on No Little Boy, John was approached by The London Contemporary Dance Theatre to write the music for a new dance, which was choreographed by the highly acclaimed Darshan Singh Bhuller. The dance tells the story of the monsoon season in India, the pre monsoon human frustration and tension, and then the joy and celebration of rainfall. The dance, Fall Like Rain, toured the UK in 1993 and was a major production with thousands of gallons of water crashing on to the stage during the performance!
Island Records released Sweet Little Mysteries: The Island Anthology on 6th June 1994. An excellent overview of John’s music with Island, which spans the greater part of his career. Noticeable by their absence are any songs from John’s first four albums – a little strange! Nonetheless, A well put together package and an excellent introduction to John’s music.
In 1995 Permanent Records released a Live album recorded at the Shaw Theatre, London, on 31st March 1990. To support the release of The Apprentice John had toured for three months in the UK and Europe, including eleven dates at London’s Shaw Theatre, which featured guest artist David Gilmour. In November 1999 Live was re-released as Dirty, Down and Live on the Griffin label.
And was John’s first new material for four years and was released on 29th July 1996. And is an excellent album, which showed clearly that John’s music was still progressing with the use of samples and trip-hop beats. John worked with Stefon Taylor who became a good friend and was clearly an inspiration. John was now signed to the Go Discs label along with bands like Portishead. Unfortunately, this was a short term relationship as Polygram soon bought the Go Discs label. Phil Collins and John Giblin both played on the album, which was received well particularly by fans. John improvised most of the lyrics in the studio! A hidden acid remix of Sunshine’s Better with a superb bass-line brings the album to a close on the CD version. Four of the tracks, albeit different mixes, had featured on the Snooo… CD EP which had been given away free with a T-shirt during John’s 1995 tour. Snooo… was subsequently re-released by Voiceprint.
The dance/remix artist Talvin Singh remixed Sunshine’s Better and this 12 minute remix secured John regular radio air play especially on Radio I and was widely played in the dance clubs bringing John’s music to a new audience.
John was struggling with his health and whilst seriously ill in hospital he was distraught to learn of the death of his wife Annie, from whom he was separated.
The eagerly awaited cover-album The Church With One Bell was released on 23rd March 1998. A whole generation of blues classics from Portishead’s Glory Box to Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit, The Church With One Bell, which was recorded in one week in Glasgow, reverberates with John’s vast musical talent. The track selection was quite simple, when John and the band laughed, they chose that track – hard to imagine, as many of the songs are not happy! John’s rendition of Glory Box stands out and has become a great favourite with fans at live gigs, and other songs such as Small Town Talk, Strange Fruit, God’s Song, Excuse Me Mister and The Sky Is Crying are highlights. A challenging selection of songs for John to sing but he took the songs and made them all his own as only he can. “There’s a place between words and music and my voice lives right there,” John says. The album enabled John to purchase the Church next door to his cottage in Scotland where he now lives.
On the 30th October 1998 Live at Bristol 1991 was released a limited edition ‘Official Bootleg’ of 5,000 featuring the line-up of Alan Thomson (bass), John Henderson (drums), Andy Sheppard (saxophone) and Spencer Cozens (keyboards) performing nine tracks in concert. This was closely followed by Serendipity – An Introduction to John Martyn, another compilation from Island, presumably trying to entice those people who didn’t buy the Anthology.
May 1999 saw the release of Another World, made from the One World session tapes, a gem providing an insight into the making of One World and featuring instrumentals and the unreleased Black Man At Your Shoulder. A limited edition of 1,000 copies with a bonus disc, was soon deleted, due to a disagreement between record companies.
John started the new millennium with Glasgow Walker and a tour of Italy and the United Kingdom. Glasgow Walker marks a departure for John in that it is the first album he has written on a keyboard instead of his trusty guitar. “Phil Collins suggested I should buy this certain type of keyboard (Korg Trinity) which he uses and that’s why it’s taken me three years to make the album. I had to spend eighteen months learning how to get a reasonable sound out of it. I still can’t really play it.” The Mercury Prize Winner Kathryn Williams sings backing vocals on Can’t Live Without and Fields of Play. John’s favourite song on the album is Wildflower, “That’s real heart on the sleeve stuff. You can’t mistake the emotion in that one.” John prefers writing love songs and says “They come easily to me. I don’t know why, it’s not as if I am an abnormally loving person. I’m an incurable romantic and that can be uncomfortable in these troubled and cynical times. But I am proud of it and I am not going to change now.”
So Sweet is about a friend of John’s who finished her relationship with her boyfriend, and said how sweet it was to be free. John asked her if she found it painful, and she replied “Yeah, but sweet.” The funky Mama T is a song dedicated to John’s partner Theresa, or Mama T Razor, as she becomes known in the song. The Sunday Times wrote, “He’s writing now as well as he did in his 1970’s heyday when albums like Stormbringer, Bless The Weather and Solid Air established his reputation as one of the most distinctive talents to emerge from the late 1960’s electric-folk scene.” Perhaps John’s best vocal performance on the album comes last with You Don’t Know What Love Is, which John performs with the Guy Barker Quintet. “Mostly I give my singing seven and a half out of ten,” John says modestly. “But about once every three years or so you hit nine and a half. And when it happens you never really know why it happens.”
This song was recorded by John at the request of Anthony Minghella, a long time fan, for his film The Talented Mr Ripley and also appeared on the soundtrack album to the film. Set in late-1950s Italy, an expert in forgery, Tom Ripley, decides to assume the identity of the son of a millionaire by killing him. Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow starred in the film, which received widespread acclaim.
The New York Session was released on 23rd November 2000 and is an unusual and fun recording of a radio broadcast in 1998. John and the band had been touring the USA promoting The Church With One Bell album. They were very short on sleep and exhausted with all the travelling when they arrived in New York at Radio WFUV. The studio resembled a broom cupboard! Arran Ahmun, Spencer Cozens, Jim Lampi and John were squeezed into the room. John went on air with his back pressed up against the wall in the tiny studio and an amplifier that didn’t want to behave. John was in playful mood and the presenter got more than he bargained for!
There has been a plethora of compilations in recent years such as The Hidden Years, The Very Best Of, The Rest of the Best, Classics and Patterns In The Rain, which are of little added value to fans and have not been included in this short biography.
John has a knack of always being at the centre of the “what’s happening scene” and in 2000 Don’t Want To Know was used as the theme tune for the comedy television series Human Remains directed by Steve Coogan and starring Julia Davis and Bob Brydon.
Such was the success of the series of spoof documentaries on dysfunctional couples that an update is planned for later in 2001 and the BBC filmed one couple, Fonte and Bunde, as they are known, at the Civic Hall, Guildford during John’s recent tour. John introduced The Fonte Bunde Band to an unsuspecting audience describing them as new musicians “beyond the pale who take musical entertainment to a new high!”
A new video film Tell Them I’m Somebody Else… was released on 24th January 2001 and not only contains some stunning live music but also John as we have never seen him before, just chilling out, joking, talking, in the dressing room and behind the scenes rehearsing before the Glasgow Walker Tour. 104 minutes of John Martyn and the best film to date, an essential addition for all John’s fans. John will also feature on a new BBC DVD release to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of The Old Grey Whistle Test. Presenters of the programme were asked to nominate their favourite moments from the series and Richard Williams chose an early performance of May You Never.
On 12th March 2001 John’s collaboration single with dance artist Sister Bliss went straight into the Official UK Singles Chart at number 31. The song, a cover of The Beloved’s Deliver Me, once again demonstrated John’s versatility as a singer. “John’s brilliant to work with and very approachable. He’s not an ego megastar in any sort of way. He’s just a commensurate musician with a beautiful voice” said Sister Bliss, “He did about 50 vocal takes that were all brilliant. He was just singing it to get the vibe of it and even those vocals were brilliant.”
When John isn’t working he enjoys the simple things in life like fishing, swimming and cooking. With his partner, Theresa, John now spends his time in Scotland and Kilkenny in Ireland. John and Theresa met in Dublin in 1998 and have been inseparable ever since with Theresa accompanying John on his recent tours. John is renowned as a live artist not to be missed and loves playing live, “I was born to play, I love to write, that’s me!”
2001 sees John and good friend, Danny Thompson, making a long awaited return as a duo. The ‘Sunshine Boys’ Tour is so called after the film starring Walter Matthau and George Burns as a feuding comedy partnership reuniting to do a television special. Despite the many years apart the rivalry and desire to be best is still there and soon surfaces. A good humoured desire to outshine each other will no doubt see John and Danny playing their ‘socks off’ on this tour to the delight of audiences.
John is currently working on a new album and has already completed some new songs. John is also looking forward to contributing to a tribute album to Davey Graham, one of his all time music heroes. Folk? Blues? Jazz? Rock? Trip Hop? Funk? John refuses to conform to any particular music genre whilst simultaneously embracing them all. Without fail he always takes the less travelled road in search of new experiences and inspirations. The diversity and quality of John’s music is undeniably stunning. A virtuoso musician with a voice to melt the coldest of hearts. Put simply John Martyn is unique.
John Hillarby, April 2001
Danny Thompson is possibly the finest acoustic bass player the world has known. A bold statement, especially when you consider some of the greats such as the late Charles Mingus and others including Charlie Haden and Dave Holland. But such a statement can genuinely be made. Danny would be touched to read this, although his modesty would not allow him to take it too seriously or indeed consider it for too long, he would no doubt respond, “You’re ‘aving a laaaaarf!”
Danny was born in Teignmouth, Devon on 4th April 1939 the son of a miner. His father was one of twelve children, six sisters and six brothers and many of Danny’s uncles were Geordie miners. At the outbreak of war, Danny’s father left the pit and volunteered for the Navy where he worked crewing submarines. The ravages of war soon hit home to the Thompson family as Danny’s father was declared missing in action. Although very young Danny can still remember the cold and heartless letter his mother received from the War Office. Unbelievably, the Thompson family was soon to suffer another tragedy with the death of Danny’s sister. Times were hard and at six years old Danny moved with his Mum to Battersea in London in the hope that employment may prove easier to find. The social and economic aftermath of war was biting hard and like many children Danny did not have the easiest childhood especially without his father.
Danny attended Salesian College in Battersea and was both a gifted footballer, playing as a Chelsea junior, and also a boxer. Danny would also have been London swimming champion but was robbed of victory when his trunks fell off as he dived in! So Danny had to make do with second place. As a youngster Danny tried playing guitar, mandolin, trumpet and trombone before settling on double bass. Unable to afford a bass, Danny built his own out of a tea chest, with piano wire for strings and hinges so that it was collapsible and he could carry it around on the bus. I asked Danny why the double bass? “I tried everything else but when I got hold of it that was it.”
From the age of eleven Danny recalls many hours entranced listening to black blues on the radio. The Voice of America and the Alan Lomax Blues Programme, which saw Lomax visiting Penitentiaries and talking to inmates, were particularly influential. “The main influence when I was a kid was the blues and especially Big Bill Broonzy,” says Danny. “Like all fourteen year old kids we got a band together, my mate Paddy on mandolin and guitar, and me on tea-chest bass.” At fifteen Danny left home and rented a room in a house. Little did he know that in the years to come, he would not only go on to play with many of his musical heroes but that he would come to be admired by those very musicians as an outstanding musician himself. “We used to play the Skiffle Cellar and the King’s Head pub in London’s Gerrard Street. I remember my mate Paddy saying, ‘We’re having Danny on this because no one gets his sound.’ On a tea chest! I often think I was destined for this ‘sound’ business.”
Danny was soon to graduate from tea chest bass to the double bass, so called because it is two full octaves lower than the Viol. Danny heard that an old man in Battersea had an acoustic bass for sale. “I went running round and sure enough there was a bass, a great big black thing. The owner was an old boy, he must have been about eighty-five years old. I asked him how much he wanted and he said five pounds, which was a lot of money to me. So I asked him whether I could pay it off at five shillings a week and he agreed. I took it away with me and that night I was working with a jazz group and I tied the bass on the top of the car with no cover. It then started to rain and when I got to the gig I had to wipe off the water. The black paint also came off to reveal a beautiful varnish underneath.”
Danny took the bass to be valued and was astonished to learn that it was worth £ 150. “I went back to the old boy and told him it was worth much more than a fiver. He said, ‘I know that son, but if you want it and you’re really going to do it then just give me the five bob a week like we said.'”
That bass has remained with Danny ever since. ‘Victoria’ as Danny affectionately calls her was made by the French maker Gand in 1865 and is now worth nearly £ 30,000. Over the last forty years Danny and Victoria have grown ever closer and to Danny no amount of money could ever replace her. “Yeah, my absolute beloved. I’ve tried other instruments, but I’ve felt worse than unfaithful. It’s been like a betrayal. We come as a pair, a partnership. I know every crack, every splinter on her body.”
Above the door in Danny’s room he pinned a big sign that read ‘PRACTICE!’ And practice he did, getting up at 7am to start practising for ten hours most days. Such was Danny’s determination and ambition that when he walked to the door to go out, he would see the sign, change his mind and start to practice again!
Danny then started to play in a Glenn Miller-type youth orchestra and was staggering home one night with his double bass when a large Studebaker screeched up behind him and out leapt an American asking if he played double bass. The question didn’t really require an answer! Danny recalls, “I auditioned at my own flat, and ended up doing Brize Norton as my first professional gig.” In between touring the circuit of US Air Force bases as part of a band, the now sixteen year old Danny was to start playing in Soho at a strip club called The Spiders Web in Meard Street. “I was so embarrassed, bright red in the face, but it was a really good gig to do, because the strippers used to finish about eleven and then because it was a quartet, we used to back the strippers, the strippers would leave at eleven and then all the musicians from all the clubs and restaurants used to come down because we had a resident rhythm section and we used to jam until five in the morning.” Danny went on to meet Tubby Hayes, Phil Seaman and Pete King in those early morning jamming sessions, “I got to play with some phenomenal musicians… I was only young and my harmonic sense wasn’t developed, but I could drive things along. I was always being encouraged; the others gave me heaps of friendly advice, but were never patronising.”
Danny’s first regular gig was with the Nat Allen Orchestra who played at the Locarno Ballroom in Streatham, South London. The Orchestra toured to Belfast and then Nottingham. Danny was earning good money for the first time and it came as quite a shock when he was arrested at The Palais in Nottingham!
Danny had been on the road for some months and was unaware that he had been called up for National Service. Three days before Danny joined the army he married Daphne Davis in Paddington, London and at eighteen years old Danny was now facing assault courses and machine gun practice at Winchester Barracks rather than pursuing his chosen career. Danny joined the band and served three years in the army. “It was weird they’d never had a professional musician in the band before! But I was told to forget the bass; I needed something I could march with.” Danny tried bassoon and trumpet before finally deciding on the trombone which he took to straight away and he was soon playing lead trombone in the regimental band. Some years later Danny was to discover that his uncles were all brass band players and had played trombone in the world famous Bessie’s o’ the Barn, the Morris Cowley Works Band and the Manchester CWS Band. Although he wasn’t best suited to Army life Danny knuckled down to become the best recruit of the intake, regimental boxing champion and an accomplished soldier with the sniper rifle.
Danny was then posted to exotic Penang in Malaysia for two years and his interest in music took him out-of-bounds on every available occasion to visit the music clubs and absorb the local music and culture. “You weren’t allowed anywhere near clubs, of course that’s where I went because that’s where the bands were, and because I had my hair shorn with the nuts and bolts sticking out, people didn’t want to know me because they knew that I was a squaddie… and I said ‘well I only want to have a play’ and so this Tamil Indian bloke said ‘go on let him play’ and as soon as I started playing they accepted me!”
Danny won many friends through his playing and as he approached the end of his service he was offered a job playing and producing for Radio Malaya. Danny just wanted to get home and returned to England without a job. Danny found that the dance hall scene was changing and a music revolution was taking place. 1963 saw the birth of Danny’s son, Danny junior, who was also destined to be a musician becoming the drummer in Hawkwind. With a young family and no work Danny drove a lorry for a while to make ends meet before being asked to play bass for Roy Orbison. Danny went on to play electric bass on three tours involving Freddie and the Dreamers, The Searchers, Brian Poole and The Beatles, who were just starting to make a name for themselves. This was the first and last time that Danny and his double bass were parted on stage. “I had just come out of the army and I was totally broke. I couldn’t get a gig and I saw there was an opening with Roy Orbison. I said who is he? I don’t know him? Someone said he did rock ‘n’ roll and I said I didn’t know his music. I was told you don’t have to, just play. So I did and he was a wonderful man; a great person. I did three tours with him and haven’t played bass guitar since.”
In 1964 Danny joined Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated replacing Jack Bruce who went on to form Cream and Danny was to become the longest serving member of Blues Incorporated. At the same time he was also working with jazz musicians such as Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey, John Stevens and Harold McNair as well as from America, Little Walter, Josh White, Joe Williams, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Tom Paxton, John Lee Hooker and Tim Buckley. Danny was quickly making a name for himself and Melody Maker fuelled the fire by running a front page article declaring him as the most promising new bass player – how right they were!
“There was an opening with Roy Orbison. I said who is he? I don’t know him? Someone said he did rock ‘n’ roll and I said I didn’t know his music. I was told you don’t have to, just play. So I did…”
Regular television appearances were now the norm including a residency with Blues Incorporated on the children’s programmed ‘5 o’clock Club’. The work with Blues Incorporated provided some financial stability to Danny and allowed him to buy his first house in Montague Road, Wimbledon. The work came thick and fast as Danny’s reputation grew and he was now playing in the Johnny Burch Octet which featured Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, The Poetry Band with Pete Brown as well as his own trio ‘The Danny Thompson Trio’ with Tony Roberts on saxophone and John McLaughlin on guitar. Danny also played with the innovative folk guitarist Davey Graham on Folk Blues and Beyond, Large As Life and Twice As Natural and Hat, to this day Danny recalls the many different influences of Davey’s music and his unique advanced technical ability of the time. In contrast to the television appearances Danny recorded a tune in a front room that would prove to be timeless, the theme to the television series Thunderbirds by Gerry Anderson. “We recorded in a small front room, Barry Gray lived at Edgware in a row of houses and in this room he had a crude recording set up where he did all the music for Thunderbirds…”
During the coffee break of a television show Danny met and got talking to folk guitarist John Renbourn. “We got chatting about the folk gigs John did with Bert Jansch, things I’d never heard of, so I later went to one of these gigs and we ended up doing a couple of numbers together.” These sessions at the Three Horseshoes pub in London’s Tottenham Court Road became a regular event and soon Jacqui McShee joined them. Before long they decided to add a drummer to the line up and Danny recommended Terry Cox who he had played with in Blues Incorporated. The result was the formation of Pentangle in 1967, a landmark band in the development of British folk-rock and one of the first super groups.
Pentangle enjoyed great success producing some acclaimed albums particularly 1969s Basket Of Light. The jazz folk fusion was all new, as was the band’s use of amplifiers, which Danny recalls resulted in death threats!
Pentangle had a hit single with Light Flight, which was used as the theme tune to the television series Take Three Girls and saw the band appearing on Top Of The Pops with Jimmy Saville as compere. In 1972, Danny decided to leave the group to spend more time with his young family by which time he had pushed back the contemporary boundaries of folk music with innovative solos, notably with Pentangling and then Haitian Fight Song on Sweet Child, and on other Pentangle songs at a time when it was unheard of for a double bass player to play a solo especially within a folk group. Danny separated from his first wife in the mid 1970s and later they divorced remaining as friends.
Throughout the 60s and 70s Danny continued to play at Ronnie Scott’s with many visiting stars such as Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks and Brook Benton. In 1969 Danny played on Congratulations with Sir Cliff Richard and in the early 70s Reason To Believe with Rod Stewart. Strangely enough it is often said that Danny played on Maggie May but he didn’t! Danny went on to play with Nick Drake on Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter as well as a host of other artists in the 1970s including Harold McNair, Tim Buckley, Rod Stewart, Donovan, Mary Hopkin, Ralph McTell, Sandy Denny, Tom Paxton, Marc Bolan and Magna Carta.
Having met John Martyn at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island USA, Danny started to work with John; an alliance that was to last through the 1970s. The pair built enviable reputations as live performers in the 1970s and stories of their antics both on and off the stage abound. This partnership was more a collision than collaboration and produced some wild and legendary performances with the pair trading licks, riffs and good humoured insults on stage. John was to say of Danny, “Of all the musicians I’ve come into contact with Danny has taught me the most… particularly about style and jazz technique.” Off the stage they became great friends, and today they are still in contact with each other on a weekly basis.
Towards the end of the decade Danny became disillusioned with music and was not in the best of health. “I could drink for England. I used to drink on a regular basis eight whiskeys or vodkas in a glass, a quadruple duple, people used to laugh but that was my drink!” Danny gave up alcohol in 1978 and taking a break from music, set up a film company called Hero Productions with offices in London’s Soho. Through Danny’s love of wildlife he was to meet the late John Aspinall, an entrepreneur who shared Danny’s passion and who owned two wildlife parks in the south of England. Hero Productions became well known for making wildlife documentary films such as Passion to Protect, which won Danny a Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival and Echo of the Wild, both of which were subsequently broadcast by the BBC. Danny’s enthusiasm and professionalism often took him into the enclosures with the animals and before long he was nicknamed “Tiger Thompson” by a keeper called Jim Cronin. Jim is now well known for rescuing monkeys and is the owner of Monkey World in Dorset. Many years later Jim was surprised to see Danny playing bass on the television show Later with Jools Holland. Danny recalls Jim telephoning him and saying, “Hey Tiger Thompson, I saw you on the TV, you’re a famous bass player!”
Danny returned to music in the 1980s and toured Australia and New Zealand with Donovan as well as contributing to albums by Kate Bush (The Dreaming and Hounds of Love), David Sylvian, Talk Talk, The The and Everything But The Girl. In 1987 Danny finally achieved a long-held ambition and made a record of his own. “I’ve always been on the fringe of the jazz world and I had an idea to incorporate elements of jazz and folk music, to make a melodic instrumental album with a distinct English flavour.”
The title Whatever was chosen to anticipate the usual question, “do you play blues, jazz or folk?” Whatever won praise from the critics as a seamless fusion of jazz, blues, rock and folk, and as an unclassifiable masterpiece. In the critic’s poll the album was voted fifteenth in the years top 50 jazz albums. Guitarist Bernie Holland joined Danny, and Danny was also reunited with Tony Roberts (tenor, alto, flute and Northumberland Pipes) who had played in the Danny Thompson Trio in the mid 1960s.
In 1988 Danny made an album with Toumani Diabate and members of the Spanish flamenco group Ketama. Toumani is renowned for playing the Kora, a 21-string cross between a lute and a harp. Collectively they were called Songhai and they proceeded to be very successful in the World Music charts with an exquisite blend of African, Spanish and English musical ingredients.
Danny first met them in Madrid, “I walked in and they were all there playing this amazing music, unbelievably fast. They looked at me and it was like, play really, really good… or you’re dead. But we got along fantastically, both the Kora and Spanish guitar are a lot of wood and strings and I have a lot of wood and strings, so it worked… because we like each other. Again music from the heart.”
May 1989 saw the release of Danny’s next album Whatever Next, free flowing, improvisational and with strong emotional currents, featuring Tony Roberts, Bernie Holland and Paul Dunmall (tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones). Danny toured the United Kingdom to appreciative audiences and packed houses. The song Wildfinger is dedicated to John Martyn and Beanpole to Sylvia. In 1990 Danny and Sylvia got married in Las Vegas after a courtship of some sixteen years. About time! was the response from Danny’s stepsons, Simon who is a keeper at London Zoo and Ian who breeds Angus Beef in Hertfordshire.
Danny discovered Islam and became a Muslim before the release of his third album Elemental which was released on September 3rd 1990 and which again featured Tony Roberts, who was also joined by a host of other first class musicians. Women In War and Beirut are forceful performances and Musing Mingus is one of Danny’s outstanding compositions on the album.
“I didn’t take up music to be in a studio, it’s to be on stage, like going on stage is where I’m at
and it shows in the music…it’s different every night.”
In 1992 Danny was approached to make a teaching video about playing acoustic bass. Not being a teacher he declined but agreed to make a video talking about playing bass and the things that inspired him. The video Bassically Speaking was released and has inspired many young people to become musicians.
Danny then embarked on a 10 month course to become a tutor in Community Music. “My main desire is to help perfectly able-bodied kids who feel that the world is ignoring them – the socially orphaned.” He went on to run a workshop for 6 months for the Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied (PHAB) in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Danny was committed to the project which not only resulted in new musicians but also provided enjoyment, new life skills and confidence to the young people that took part. The 1990s also saw the start of Danny’s partnership with Richard Thompson, ex-Fairport Convention and once a deadly rival (as Danny would say jokingly) of Pentangle.
Danny has since toured extensively with Richard Thompson in band and duo format including two tours of the USA in 1994 and also Australia, Japan and Europe.
In 1993 Danny performed with Richard Thompson at Crawley. The gig was recorded and released in 1995 featuring Richard’s son Jack who is also Danny’s godson on the front cover. 1995 also saw the release of Songhai 2, a follow up to the very successful first album on which Danny again played bass.
A compilation of music from Whatever’s Next and Elemental entitled Whatever’s Best was released in the same year. Danny is still passionately enthusiastic about music and has never been one to go with the stream, he constantly seeks new experiences and challenges, he is always seeking to learn from music. “Music is like a religion, if you want to do something you have to work at it, you have to practice.”
During 1995 Danny recorded an album with Peter Knight, the well respected violinist known for his outstanding musicianship with Steeleye Span. The album consists of two separate pieces of work, the thirty minute epic Number One and nineteen minute Number Two both of which are entirely improvised.
Danny’s next album Singing The Storm saw him collaborating with the Scottish Harpist Savourna Stevenson and the well known traditional folk singer June Tabor. The album won critical acclaim and with harp, bass and June Tabor’s voice there is plenty of space which allowed Danny’s rhythmic and harmonic strengths to shine. Singing The Storm again demonstrated Danny’s open minded approach and his love and enthusiasm of different music genres.
1997 saw the release of the collaboration album Industry with Richard Thompson. The album is both a requiem and a celebration of British industry.
Danny and Richard Thompson are close friends of the football manager Mick Wadsworth who is now head coach at Newcastle. His father had worked all his life at Grimethorpe Colliery and his descriptions of the devastation caused to the local community caused by the pit closure inspired the album. “It’s not intended as a political album. We’re not flag-waving. It tells a story. The album comes from a deep love of the people affected by the change, good people I can identify with. Seeing it happen has touched my heart. Industry is our tribute…” said Danny. Danny wrote five instrumentals for the album, which reflect his love of Englishness. Danny’s uncles play trombone on the album and the other musicians are from Whatever including Peter Knight, Dylan Fowler and Paul Dunmall. Perhaps the saddest song on the album is Drifting Through The Days, a song about having nothing to do but wishing your life away. Danny followed Industry by working on Richard Thompson’s latest album Mock Tudor.
Danny appeared with John Martyn on the Transatlantic Sessions which were later shown by BBC Television. During these recordings Danny remembered the magical times that he and John had enjoyed, both musically and recreationally, and it was then that the seed was sown for a possible rematch with John on The Sunshine Boys Tour! The Transatlantic Sessions were released on CD by Iona Records in 1998 and also featured Danny playing with Nancy Wilson, Paul Brady, Maura O’Connell, and Roseanne Cash the daughter of Johnny Cash.
Danny underwent major heart surgery in July 1998 surviving a twelve hour operation to have a new valve fitted at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. During the operation Danny suffered a stroke that made him blind and caused a right-sided weakness. It was doubtful that Danny would ever be able to see or play again. Fortunately, the blindness proved to be temporary and with determination, enthusiasm and his love of music Danny is now playing as well as ever despite his right sided weakness. Danny recalls 18,000 fans at the Cropredy Festival singing Danny Boy down the telephone to him as he lay in hospital, “very touching, a bit special for an old plonker bass player.” It was the messages of good will and the gifts that made a real impact on Danny and helped provide him with the strength and inspiration to resume his career as a virtuoso musician. Despite his serious operation, three months later in November, Danny flew out to Sarajevo and helped to organise a concert to celebrate freedom in Bosnia, which saw 10,000 people witness Yusef Islam’s (Cat Stevens) first public performance in over twenty years. Danny recalls that this was “a truly wondrous evening of celebration.”
In 1999 Danny was interviewed for the BBC TV series Faces of Islam in which he discussed becoming a Muslim and his realisation of the fact that whilst he had only converted to Islam in 1990, within himself he had always been a Muslim. Some one and a half million viewers watched the programme which was one of a series of four broadcast during Ramadahn. Following on from this Danny was invited to present a programme called The Furthest Mosque which was broadcast in 2000. The programme traced Danny’s tour of Jerusalem and Danny was staggered to learn that over 2 million viewers had tuned in to watch the programme which won acclaim from many quarters, “a remarkably optimistic and positive film… Danny Thompson expressed some inspiring final thoughts… I had just witnessed the most refreshing twenty minutes of BBC broadcasting I’d seen in a very long time.” Wrote Shagufta Yaqub.
Danny is a keen sportsman and follows Watford Football Club. He enjoys playing tennis and has recently taken up sailing. Danny also enjoyed paragliding by jumping off volcanoes in Hawaii and in his spare time loves dabbling in the kitchen! Above all he is a musician of extraordinary skills and equally important, he is an artist of rare taste and imagination. 2001 finds Danny in demand and as busy as ever having just recorded an album with The Blind Boys of Alabama with whom he also appeared on the David Letterman Show. Danny has recently finished working with Japanese singer Ayako and will shortly be working with Gomez on their next album.
Looking forward to a tour with his old sparring partner John Martyn, Danny confesses to still feeling nervous before he goes on stage, and after all these years he still craves the buzz that he gets from performing live, “I didn’t take up music to be in a studio, it’s to be on stage, like going on stage is where I’m at and it shows in the music… it’s different every night.”
After 43 years as a professional Danny is regarded as a genius by musicians and music fans alike. His creativity, enthusiasm and passion for music are only matched by his infectious enthusiasm and love of life. His music has given so much pleasure to so many and long may it continue. Despite all the accolades bestowed upon him over the years, Danny’s feet remain on the ground. There are no airs and graces, there is no pretentiousness. Whenever I spend time with Danny I am infected by his enthusiasm and his unequivocal passion for music and life. I always leave with a warm glow inside and think to myself “What a great bloke!”
John Hillarby, April 2001
The Lore of John & Danny
“You can’t pretend with something that you love that much…”
“Aye, those were wild times, all part of the Jazzy thing. I was determined to live that lifestyle, look sharp, be sharp, be on the ball non-stop, smoke all the dope, drink all the juice, just get to it and be Jack the Lad, and Danny Thompson, forgive us all, was just the same.”
“John isn’t a genius, he’s a very naughty boy.”
“We used to drink a great deal together. I got really drunk one night and woke up and he had nailed me under the carpet. I couldn’t move my hands or feet. I was very dry and had a hangover and I said Danny, please… get me, get me a drink. So he stepped over my helpless body, went to the phone and in a very loud voice said, can I have a glass of orange juice for one, please. Breakfast for one, please. I was screaming blue murder by this time. I was furious! He met the guy in the hall, so the guy couldn’t get into the room and see what was happening. He sat in front and downed the orange juice and had the breakfast.”
“We had a fight in Hull, a real fight in a hotel and he had two black eyes and his thumb was in a bandage because I got hold of his thumb to get him because he does all these dirty tricks. He was shouting and screaming about doing the gig and so on. I had some superficial damage. So we came out on to the stage and he sat down with his Martin and we hadn’t said a word because we really had the needle with each other. I went up to the mic and said, ‘Old Black Eyes is back!’ And he just cracked up!”
“We were always having bets with each other. We bet either one of us wouldn’t have the nerve to take off an article of clothing between each song. So we just did and needless to say we ended up naked. The audience loved it; there were about 700 people. It was good because Danny could hide behind his double bass and I could hide behind the guitar… It was alright!”
“To earn a living in music playing stuff which is not commercially acceptable is tough.”
“I really love the geezer.”
“A soft plumy teddy bear!”
“You can’t pretend with something that you love that much.”
“I love him a lot, I love him as much as I hate him. We’re more like brothers than anything else.”
“We were driving from Exeter to Bristol, just the two of us on the road, and he said, ‘I fancy doing a bit of fishing’. So we pulled into this village and we found this fishing shop. Now I know nothing about fishing. And there was this unbelievable rod, which means nothing to me, a rod’s a rod. So we both go into this shop, and he starts saying to this bloke, ‘I want that rod, and this, and that’. And the bloke says, ‘Sorry it’s not for sale’.
He took an immediate dislike to us because he thought we were ‘oiks’. So John says, ‘You think I’m not a genuine fisherman or something! That is a so and so rod. If you like I’ll tie you a Spring Mayfly!’ And there and then he picks some dust up off the floor and makes this fly for the bloke in the shop, and then starts talking about stuff that means absolutely nothing to me. And the bloke is absolutely stunned. He ended up getting the rod out of the window, flogging it to him, cash. John bought the gear and said ‘Where’s the nearest bit of fishing round here?’ The bloke says, ‘There’s this lake, go and see the Bailiff, his name’s so and so’.
So we went up to this place and I thought, right I’ll just sit here and watch him do this pathetic activity. So John started fishing, doing all this fly stuff. So I sat on the riverbank and said, ‘That’s so easy’, John turned round and said ‘You what!’ ‘It’s so easy, all it is is timing, all it is is rhythm. It’s so easy’. He said, ‘Do you think you could do it?’ I went charging down the riverbank and said ‘give us it here’, he said ‘careful son, you don’t know what you’re doing’. I said, ‘Just give me the rod!’ I dragged it off him and he said, ‘now be careful’ and I said ‘just go away!’ I cast and the fly went rip, and it got stuck right in my cheek.
So there I am, standing there holding this rod with this fishing line stuck in my cheek. Now I thought nothing much about it and said ‘John, get it out of me’ and he said ‘I can’t! Because what you’re supposed to do is to push the hook through, cut the barb off and then take it out, and I haven’t got any tools with me.’ So I said ‘just pull it out’, and he said ‘It’ll take half your face off.’ So I said ‘I can’t drive with it sticking out of me face like this.’ He said ‘You’ll have to do it.’ So I thought right, and I went like that, but I knew I couldn’t, as I knew when it was going to happen; but if John did it, then I wouldn’t.
So I said ‘I’ll just look at that blackbird sitting up in that tree, and you do it when I’m not thinking about it.’ So of course I didn’t have to say anymore to John, he went ‘alright’. BANG! And I went ‘there you go, brilliant’. He said ‘No, the hook’s still in your face’. He broke the line and broke the top of the hook off. Then he said ‘you’ll be alright, it’ll just get into your blood stream, go round your body, get to your heart and you’ll die in about two years and you won’t know anything about it’. The hook’s still in there, when it gets cold you can see a blue hook in my cheek!”
“I was working with Danny Thompson years ago and we were doing a studio gig at the BBC where there was this poor little apprentice engineer, and he said, ‘Mr Thompson. We’re getting this strange buzz on the bass.’ Danny put down the bass and went into the control booth. ‘That’, he said to this bloke, ‘is tone and it’s taken me 20 years to get it!…”
John & Danny; A Mutual Discography
The Road To Ruin (1970)
Bless The Weather (1971)
Solid Air (1973)
Inside Out (1973)
Live At Leeds (1975)
Over The Rainbow (1975)
So Far So Good (1977)
One World (1977)
The Electric John Martyn (1982)
Sweet Little Mysteries (1994)
Georgia On Our Mind (1997)
Transatlantic Sessions 2, Volume 1 & 2 (1998)
Serendipity An Introduction to John Martyn (1998)
Another World (1999)
Best of Live ’91 (2000)
Patterns In The Rain (2001)
Live In Kendal 1986 (2001)
Live In Germany 1986 (2001)