A JM Experience!

My story concerns an acoustic rendition of May You Never at Leeds Irish Centre in the mid 80’s. It was sometime between 1984 – 1988. This was the first time I had seen John, having missed his performance at Milton Keynes in 1982 for the “Six of the Best” Genesis with Peter Gabriel WOMAD benefit. I arrived at the turnstiles, to hear the MC John And Danny announce “once again, thanks to John Martyn!”. Back in Leeds, John opened the show with an acoustic set which lasted about 30 – 40 minutes. He stepped onto the stage and light a joint which would have wasted a bull elephant. Something in the joint popped and flared, John glared at the joint as it should have known better. He then proceeded to blast through several blinding acoustic numbers – those with better knowledge, appreciation, recall and anoraks than mine will be able to catalogue exactly what numbers he played. At one point during, “Jelly Roll Blues”, or a blues by Jelly Roll Morton – yes I know it’s an awful admission – after he’d pulled off a particularly complex run, he took a large drag of the spliff, shrugged his shoulders, and threw an impressed look at the guitar in appreciation of its’ skill, as if it was entirely responsible for the manoeuvre.

This being my ‘first’ gig, I was determined to get a good view of the man. Together with my mate Andy, we’d queue early and managed to get a spot sat on the floor almost touching the stage. If you haven’t been to Leeds Irish Centre, it’s a great venue, if you get in early. The stage is low, only about 18 inches high, so a floor spot is essential. Pretty soon after the doors opened, the place was full, including the floor. Obviously, an early entry implies not much to do other than drink until Johns appears. Drinking wasn’t a problem, getting to the bar was. It entailed stepping over and between people, but at least it had the advantage of being a closer less tortuous route than to the toilet.

About half way through the number that followed the one above, a sense of dread began to fill me. I’d been putting off the thought of the effects of the two / three pints I’d consumed, but they began to make themselves known. That’s when the dilemma started. Do I go to the toilet know, or at the end of the song? What if the next song is May You Never?! Better go know I thought, jumping up and threading my way to the toilet. I got there. Fortunately the stalls were empty, but for one bloke. Piiissssssss!!!! I turned to the bloke next to me and said “I needed that”, just as the intro to May You Never started. “B*****d!” I said as I furiously finished and zipped up. “I knew he’d play this while I was in the toilet.” From behind us a quiet, depressed voice emerged from the toilet booth. “He always does it to me”.

Tony Walker