The News Of John Martyn’s…

The news of John Martyn’s death this afternoon left Laban staring blankly at his workstation for rather longer than the client would appreciate. I knew he’d not been well, but all the same … how fleeting is the life of a man ! The clear-eyed youth among the chimney-pots on the cover of his first album, where is he ? And where’s the clear-eyed youth who bought his music ? I grow old …

Ever since hearing ‘Dusty’ on the Island sampler “You Can All Join In” a very long time ago I’ve loved his voice and guitar. Then he became the soundtrack to one strand of the alternative 70s lifestyle after ‘Solid Air’, playing accoustic through a range of effects boxes and developing a slurred, blurred, stretched way with lyrics which matched his slurred, blurred, splintered audience beautifully (can anyone remember his show around 1977 in the heart of Northern hippiedom, Hebden Bridge ?). By the time of ‘One World’ his accoustic didn’t sound much like an accoustic any more.

When he split up with his wife Beverley he produced three beautiful, aching songs of loss on ‘Grace and Danger’ – Sweet Little Mystery, Hurt In Your Heart and Baby Please Come Home. Why none of these – especially Hurt In Your Heart – ever got covered and turned into a million-selling smash I’ll never know. Some boy band really ought to take a crack at it – if the singer can sing he just can’t lose with a song like that.

I suppose I should be drawing morals about the lifestyle of my youth and the evils of drink and the other accoutrements thereof. But I haven’t the heart. Fly on home, John.

Climbed on the train
The window rolled down
So did a tear
And seeing you cry
Was like the very first time, when we parted
In the dews and dusty streets.

There alone I felt the station on my feet
Fly on home
And away on down the line
You’ll put your face into the wind
Let your tears fly home.

I trod on my way
Past the silly girlie who looked at my shoes
Climbing the street
The evening shuddered in my coat
And I looked where I had been.

The train, a snake,
A chain of people on the rails
Fly on home
Like a nothing breath of sunshine
The twinkle of the houses
Let your tears fly home
Put your face into the wind
Little girlie, let your tears fly home
Let your tears fly home.

29 January 2009