May You Never, The Very Best Of John Martyn
“I’ve tried to get out the way of putting too much shit on people. I can’t think of anything I’m really ashamed of. I say that with a degree of incredulity. I got drunk a couple of times. Apart from that, no. It’s fairly cool.”
“I never really considered much, that’s the truth, I didn’t. I’ve never been a great calculator, I’ve never been that way inclined. I don’t think anything I’ve done has been by design, quite sincerely. The whole affair has really been about fun and will continue to be.” John Martyn, April 2008.
Of all pop’s riddles wrapped in enigmas, few came more enigmatic than the former Iain David McGeachy. Over the years, he played many roles: husband, father, writer, poet, lover, fighter, guru, drinker, tastemaker; what is indisputable, adore him or abhor him, he was a larger than life figure who could not fail to inspire often heated opinion and wrote some very beautiful songs.
The body of work that is scattered in his turbulent wake has been, at times, simply perfect. At its ultimate, it remains three dimensional, cut glass; blurred and mazy, one great rumination on the wonder of it all, baby. Even in the shallows navigated throughout a five decade career, there was always something precious to salvage.
For many, Martyn will forever be crystallised as ‘late night John’, playing his sweet mystical jelly roll blues with his youthful shock of curly hair. His music remained unknown to the masses but it takes its position just below the radar, a warm stranger keening to be befriended.
His spirit on record at the peak of his game was a force of nature. His preoccupations, that of the power of love and the fear of being alone are written large, and with their message comes the essential dichotomy a man often difficult to get near, who has on so many occasions pushed people away while still yearning for love and acceptance. This music is never less than a raga like rapture, something that flows through this collection. “I’ve been lucky,” Martyn said in 2008. “When your heart is as soft and warm as wool, then you know you are a true Sufi. That’s one of the things I’ve always tried to keep in mind. Now I’m no Sufi, but nonetheless, we admire all that they have attained.”
Adapted from Daryl Easlea’s sleeve notes for Ain’t No Saint