The Apprentice Tour
John’s Band for The Apprentice Tour;
Miles Bould (Percussion/Drums)
Due to his father’s involvement and love of jazz, the first music Miles listened to was jazz. Later influences developed more specifically in bands and players, like Miles Davis, Weather Report, Egberto Gismonti, Al Jarreau, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny and the late Jaco Pastorius.
As a child he started with the clarinet, but soon changed to percussion. “My path as a percussionist was set when I was given three congas from close family friend Dizzy Gillespie, together with strong words ‘Go for it’ from the wonderful and greatly missed Gil Evans. I went for it.”
From the age of sixteen through to nineteen he played his first gigs with jazz funk bands including Marie Murphy’s Latin Jazz Quartet. Also in this period he met Spencer Cozens and Dominic Miller who became lifelong friends. From 1986 he began playing on sessions with Dominic Miller including a tune he had written on the Nigel Kennedy album “Let Loose”, also sessions with Mike McEvory (producer/composer).
In 1987 he met Julia Fordham at the launch of her solo career, and the following year began touring Julia Fordham’s first album in Europe and America, his first major tour. Julia’s songs and friendship have played an important part in the way things have developed since. Such as meeting people like Grant Mitchell (producer/composer), Alan Thomson, singer Angie Gilles and John of late. More frequently however he has appeared in two videos for Robert Palmer, played for singer Ray Simpson and recorded three tracks on the new Mike Lindup album.
“At the moment I am having lots of fun writing music with Spencer and friends and am looking forward to this tour with John.”
Spencer Cozens (Keyboards)
Left technical college in Newark in July 1983 and spent a year self-employed building flight cases and speakers. Moved to London in 1984 and joined guitarist’s Dominic Miller’s band ‘Iguaza’. Played on his album ‘Iguaza’ and did the Edinburgh Festival with the band which included playing on BBC Radio 2, Brian Mathew’s ‘Round Midnight’.
In 1985 worked again with Dominic Miller in a trio with flautist Dave Heath. The trio did several concerts in the Purcell Room on the South Bank and at the Edinburgh Festival as well as appearing on TV AM and recording for BBC’s ‘Pebble Mill At One’.
During this time in London he played in several bands doing clubs such as ‘The Wag’ and ‘Bass Cleff’, and worked as a session musician up until late 1986 when he went to Boston in order to study at the Berklee College of Music.
Moved back to London in late 1987 and became involved in the alternative comedy scene, playing for comedian Johnny International in the group ‘Los Propertos’. Gigged extensively around the country including the Amnesty International’s show ‘The Famous Compare’s Police Dog’ at the Duke of York Theatre. Following on he then did several radio and TV appearances on GLR and 01 for London with the act.
In Autumn 1989, he joined Julia Fordham’s band for the Porcelain Tour and recently did the U.S. launch of her album. Recent work also included working for Thames TV on theme tunes and recording for his own project.
Alan Thomson (Bassist)
Born and bred in Glasgow, bassist Alan Thomson was plucked from his school/college band The Arthur Trout Band by John Martyn in 1980.
At the time Alan was a guitarist playing and writing instrumental music, influenced by bands and artists like Herbie Hancock, Gong, Brand X, Weather Report, and George Benson to name but a few.
Introduced to John Martyn by The Trout Band’s saxist, David Ray, he switched to fretless bass somewhere along the line and has never looked back.
His first recording with John was the album “Glorious Fool” on which he worked with Phil Collins, Max Middleton, and Eric Clapton. He then went on to play on the albums “Well Kept Secret”, “Sapphire”, “Piece By Piece”, “Philentropy” and the early stages of “The Apprentice.”
Whilst rapidly approaching his 10th year of touring with John Martyn, he has also worked with Robert Palmer, Manfred Man, Andy Summers, The Mighty Wah, Chris Rea, Gerry Donahue, Eric Clapton, Julia Fordham, and as keyboard player with Geezer Butler (from Black Sabbath) and Scottish rock band ‘Strangeways’.
Few musicians have been held in such high esteem by critics and fans alike since the late 60’s without converting their cult status into commercial success, but John Martyn is one such example.
The only child of two singers who separated shortly after his birth in 1948, Martyn was raised by his grandmother and his father in urban Glasgow, spending his annual holidays touring the waterways of Southern England with his mother. Striving to be ‘different and Bohemian’, the adolescent Martyn took up the guitar, and was noticed by Hamish Imlach, who taught him much and showed him the possibilities of combining traditional and modern approaches to music whilst sounding contemporary.
Having exhausted local opportunities Martyn moved to London and became the first white artist to sign to Chris Blackwell’s hitherto reggae-orientated Island label. His debut album “London Conversation” was released in February 1968 in glorious mono. Recorded when Martyn was 18, the album reflected the standard folk song formula of the time. However the release of “The Tumbler” in December 1968, with its healthy disregard for folk conventions, pointed the way ahead. Produced by Al Stewart it featured the influential jazz flautist Harold McNair who played to greatest effect on the languidly romantic ‘Dusty’, although at this time Martyn ‘Got bored with the Folk/Acoustic thing’ believing it limited the potential for creativity. “Technique for techniques sake is just a waste of time.” Change was not a long in coming.
In 1969 Martyn met and married Coventry based singer Beverley Kutner, contracted to Joe Boyd’s publishing company, Witchseason. Originally hired to be Beverley’s back-up guitarist for recording sessions in America, the pair were signed up by Warner Brothers who sent them to Woodstock in 1969 to rehearse with the Doors and Crosby Stills and Nash producer Paul Harris. The result was “Stormbringer!”, released in February 1970. The combination of ‘folk’ guitars with a strong bass, drums and piano backing broke new ground and set a precedent for countless bands to follow. Martyn was inspired by the sound of the band to experiment to find a distinctive guitar sound. “I want to get away from common guitar phrasing as much as possible, otherwise you can’t express your uniqueness” he said at the time.
The second and last album recorded with Beverly, “The Road To Ruin” was released in November 1970. The album, which continued the subtle improvisations from “Stormbringer!” and employed a noticeably jazz-based instrumentation in what was basically a rock format, was strong and also marks the beginning of Martyn’s infamous partnership with Pentangle’s bassist, Danny Thompson, who was to influence Martyn’s style and jazz technique enormously. “He really taught me a great deal.”
Expecting a second child effectively brought Beverley’s career to an end so Island Records put John into the studio to see what he could come up with. Released in November 1971 “Bless The Weather” was an album of pure, simple but mature songs which Martyn says was “very innocent, very beautiful and a pleasure to make.” Some songs were written in the studio on the day that they were recorded with no re-writing, satisfying Martyn’s desire to be spontaneous. Danny Thompson provided perfect bass accompaniment with additional help from the likes of Richard Thompson (ex Fairport Convention). Generally acknowledged as one of Martyn’s best albums, the relaxed and bluesy title track still featured in his 1989 live concerts and ‘Glistening Glyndebourne’ showcased Martyn’s technique for playing acoustic guitar through an echoplex to stunning effect.
Island released ‘May You Never’ a song for his own son, as a single and this early version of the 1973 “Solid Air” track album featured drums, and back-up guitar by Free’s Paul Kossoff. Martyn didn’t like the way the track was turning out and left the producer (“Robin somebody or other” to overdub and piece it all together. According to Martyn “It sold four copies,” but joking apart, it is rare and collectable.
Many regard “Solid Air,” released in 1973, as THE John Martyn album. The hypnotic title track, written for friend and peer, Nick Drake, concerned Drake’s mental strife at the time (he was to die the following year, a great loss to Martyn personally and professionally, and to music generally). Adventurous, dynamic, with a rare depth and power, the album demonstrated Martyn’s slurred vocal style reaching the stage where it became fully integrated into the overall sounds as an improvisational instrument used for its colours and tone, something Martyn had always aimed for.
“Solid Air” sold well in the U.K. and America and keen for another “Solid Air,” Island ‘Let me loose in the studio, a totally free hand… They must have been mad!’ The result was “Inside Out” released in October 1973, which Martyn said at the time “Was everything I ever wanted to do in music… It’s my inside coming out.” The experimental, skilfully free form jazz orientated album features extraordinary guitar work from Martyn, superbly varied bass playing from Danny Thompson and effective backup from notables like Traffic’s Steve Winwood. Produced by Martyn and recorded in July 1973, the intensive sessions were largely late at night with no cutting, editing or splicing. It was ‘live’ and tracks were faded out where necessary. “It felt natural” says Martyn at the beginning of the opening track ‘Fine Lines’, and it still does.
After the iconoclasm of “Inside Out” which critics referred to as ‘A cosmic foray’ and ‘Music from inner space’ and which won Martyn a golden disc from Montreux, “Sunday’s Child”, released in January 1975, marked a return to the conventional song format, producing songs of considerable contrasts from the down home boogie of ‘Clutches,’ (owing more than a passing nod to Little Feat’s Lowell George), to the traditional folk of ‘Spencer The Rover.’ The overall feel of the album is one of contentment and Martyn called it “The Family Album, very happy, purely romantic… A nice period,” an impression borne out by ‘My Baby Girl’, which featured Beverley on vocals for the last time.
Martyn toured extensively in 1975, beginning in February and featuring Danny Thompson, John Stevens on drums and Paul Kossoff on guitar. A full blooded and uncompromising concert at Leeds University was recorded later in 1975 (without Kossoff) with a view to releasing a live album, but Island weren’t keen so Martyn produced, designed and sold “Live At Leeds” by mail-order from his Hastings home. Each of the 10,000 albums was numbered and personally signed making this a real collectors album. Even Martyn has no copy: “I sold them all… I was the first of the record independents!” The album confirmed his reputation as a witty and an original stage performer, with a wicked line in banter and repartee, and this coupled with the excellent album reviews was bringing Martyn an audience that was to stay with him for years to come.
Dealing with “Live At Leeds” and excessive touring drove Martyn to take a sabbatical for most of 1976, spending 4 fruitful months in Jamaica (“Like Glasgow transported to paradise!”) where the Island Records connection was utilised and Martyn recorded with Burning Spear’s Max Romeo and dub master Lee ‘Scratch Perry.’
With Chris Blackwell as producer, recording sessions began in London in March 1977, the same month that Island released “So Far So Good,” a compilation album. The inclusion of a live version of Skip James’ ‘I’d Rather Be The Devil’ makes the album of interest. Martyn disagreed with the choice of tracks but was too busy to get involved, however the album sold well, earning Martyn a gold disc, which he tried to smash on more than one occasion, in disgust!
The critically acclaimed “One World,” released in November 1977, was commercially accessible and sold well, charting at number 54. Again it contained a variety of styles and moods from the dub-with-a difference ‘Big Muff’ (co-written with Lee Perry) to the acoustic romance of ‘Couldn’t Love You More.’ The album closes with the mesmerising ‘Small Hours’, a ‘live’ echoplex excursion featuring Steve Winwood and a flock of Canada Geese!
During this time the Martyns’ marriage, which had been under great strain, finally broke down, “It was a dark period in my life.” The music from this period which made up the “Grace And Danger” album features Phil Collins and John Giblin. Giblin’s loping harmonic bass playing owed much to the style of Weather Report’s late great Jaco Pastorius, (a band and style Martyn had long admired), and Collins’ immaculate drumming and backing vocals fitted superbly, as did the keyboard work by Tommy Eyre (Grease Band) and Dave Lawson (late of Greenslade and Stackbridge).
Relying increasingly on his Gibson S.G. electric guitar Martyn’s playing was highly inventive and beguilingly controlled style reminiscent of Thelonious Monk’s revolutionary musical phrasing, and his distinctive vocal delivery and painfully honest lyrics, “Grace And Danger” became a stunning exposition of confusion, heartache, love and remorse.
Martyn later said that it was “Probably the most specific piece of autobiography I’ve written. Some people keep diaries, I make records.” However, only after extreme pressure from Martyn did it finally achieve a release in October 1980, and give him the exorcism he needed. In the late 1980’s Martyn would cite this album as his favourite even though it had been difficult to make.
In 1981 John moved to WEA. and “Glorious Fool” released in 1981, was produced by Phil Collins who again played drums. “Glorious Fool” with its satirical title track dedicated to Ronald Reagan, was a serious bid for the mainstream big time and it charted for 7 weeks, reaching number 25. Martyn and Collins produced some new sounds particularly on the strikingly sparse anti-war anthem ‘Don’t You Go.’ Around this time, Eric Clapton who had played guitar on an up-tempo version of ‘Couldn’t Love You More’ on “Glorious Fool” recorded a version of ‘May You Never’ for his “Slow Hand” album.
Martyn now played electric guitar almost exclusively and his acoustic guitar and echoplex only featured in a small selection of his stage show, something a lot of fans took some getting used to. It was a conscious decision: “I didn’t want to be just another geezer playing with a repeat echo, so I had to change.”
“Well Kept Secret” released in September 1982 showed Phil Collins’ rhythmic legacy much in evidence. The album hardly paused for breath. Although recognizable Martyn trademarks were present in the oozing sensuality of ‘Could’ve Been Me’ and ‘Hung Up’ and the album again charted for 7 weeks, this time reaching the elusive top 20. Meanwhile Island released another compilation, “The Electric John Martyn” which included mixes of the ‘Dancing’, ‘Certain Surprise’ and ‘Dealer’ (from the American version of “One World”). In November 1983, without any announcement, the recently remarried Martyn released “Philentropy” a live album recorded in London, Brighton and Oxford between 1982 and spring 1983. The touring line-up was Martyn, Alan Thomson (bass), Jeffrey Allen (drums), Danny Cummings (percussion) and Ronnie Leahy (keyboards), with Thomson and Cummings having played on the last two albums and Allen on “Well Kept Secret.” “Philentropy” was, and is, the epitome of a Martyn concert, charged with atmosphere and excitement. Classic tracks were unearthed and remoulded, particularly ‘Sunday’s Child’ and ‘Don’t Want To Know’.
Martyn rejoined Island in 1984 and Chris Blackwell sent him to Compass Point studios in the Bahamas to record with Robert Palmer to help out. The resultant album “Sapphire” released in November 1984, was light and relaxed, and the subtle and dreamlike quality of the production permeated every track, with Martyn’s peerless vocals just steering the album clear of becoming too smooth and soulless. What little guitar Martyn played on the album was electronically treated so as to be indistinguishable from the synthesizers around it. The first self produced album since “Sunday’s Child”, it contained enough high points to convince critics that while no new ground had been broken, it was still a contemporary album with “Above average charms.”
To celebrate Martyn’s 20th anniversary as a performer Island began 1986 with the release of “Classic John Martyn,” hailed as the first commercially available Compact Disc single. It featured a new ballad ‘Angeline’. Sadly the single failed to give Martyn the hit that Island were looking for.
With Foster Paterson (keyboards), Alan Thomson (bass) and Colin Tully (saxophone), “Piece By Piece”, released in February 1986, featured the powerful ‘John Wayne’, complete with typically ambiguous lyrics and what Martyn describes as his ‘Strangled duck’ vocal. To achieve the effect Martyn indulged in large quantities of liquid refreshment and then did the track in a single take. The track pushed his vocal style to new limits and it’s a song that he likes to perform live.
Having provided the title song and soundtrack for the 1978 Australian film “In Search Of Anna”, Martyn provided the soundtrack for Tyne Tees Television’s major series on the environment, “Turning The Tide”, networked in the autumn 1986. Unfortunately plans to release a single and the soundtrack album had to be shelved when the series ran over budget.
Martyn toured America, Europe and Britain in 1986 and Island released “Foundations”, a live album recorded at the Town and Country Club on 13th November 1986, in October 1987. The album contained interesting reworkings of old favourites and produced three fine new songs, ‘Deny This Love’, ‘Send Me One Line’ and the highlight, ‘The Apprentice’.
By February 1988 ten new tracks had been completed ostensibly for a new album, but Martyn and Island Records parted company. He continued to tour, with a solo tour in late 1988 and another tour in the spring of 1989, augmented by Foster Paterson.
Finally with supportive management and a small, but committed, record label behind him, “The Apprentice” was released in March 1990 on the new Permanent Records label. The album features superior versions of the 3 new tracks which appeared on “Foundations” plus ‘Look At That Girl’, a song about Martyn’s now grown up baby girl, Mhairi, which was previewed in his 1989 tour. Featuring Martyn’s acoustic guitar playing for the first time in ten years, the album is his strongest work since “Grace And Danger” with the downright funky ‘Deny This Love’, the deeply romantic ‘Send Me One Line’ and ‘Live On Love’ among the highlights.
Martyn once said that he wanted to stop working at 35 because, “I don’t see myself staggering about ’till I drop,” but as he approaches 42 with an intensive 3 month tour ahead he shows no signs of letting up and “The Apprentice” indicates that he has lost none of his ability to lift the heart and touch the mind, believing as he does that “Music is an emotional communication and should be used as such.” The most concise summary remains that written by The Guardian’s music critic: “John Martyn strikes the perfect balance between virtuosity and simplicity, romance and realism, nostalgia and modernism. Put simply, he is in a league of his own.”
FEBRUARY 1968 LONDON CONVERSATION* ISLAND RECORDS
DECEMBER 1968 THE TUMBLER* ISLAND RECORDS
FEBRUARY 1970 STORMBRINGER* (John & Beverley) ISLAND RECORDS
NOVEMBER 1970 THE ROAD TO RUIN (John & Beverley) ISLAND RECORDS
NOVEMBER 1971 BLESS THE WEATHER ISLAND RECORDS
FEBRUARY 1973 SOLID AIR* ISLAND RECORDS
OCTOBER 1973 INSIDE OUT ISLAND RECORDS
JANUARY 1975 SUNDAY’S CHILD ISLAND RECORDS
SEPTEMBER 1975 LIVE AT LEEDS* (Mail Order only) ISLAND RECORDS
MARCH 1977 SO FAR, SO GOOD ISLAND RECORDS
NOVEMBER 1977 ONE WORLD* ISLAND RECORDS
OCTOBER 1980 GRACE AND DANGER ISLAND RECORDS
SEPTEMBER 1981 GLORIOUS FOOL* W.E.A. RECORDS
SEPTEMBER 1982 WELL KEPT SECRET* W.E.A. RECORDS
OCTOBER 1982 THE ELECTRIC JOHN MARTYN ISLAND RECORDS
NOVEMBER 1983 PHILENTROPY* BODY SWERVE
NOVEMBER 1984 SAPPHIRE ISLAND RECORDS
FEBRUARY 1986 PIECE BY PIECE ISLAND RECORDS
MARCH 1986 PHILENTROPY* (Re-Issue) CASTLE COMMUNICATIONS
SEPTEMBER 1986 ONE WORLD (Re-Issue) ISLAND RECORDS
NOVEMBER 1986 SOLID AIR (Re-Issue) ISLAND RECORDS
JUNE 1987 LIVE AT LEEDS (Re-Issue) CACOPHONY
OCTOBER 1987 FOUNDATIONS ISLAND RECORDS
MARCH 1990 THE APPRENTICE PERMANENT RECORDS
*DELETED AS OF JANUARY 1990