Title:Live From London Label: The Store For Music Ltd Cat. No.: SFMDVD151
I Don't Wanna Know
Sweet Little Mystery
Could've Been Me
When John Martyn performed at the Camden Palace in 1984 as part of the “Live From London” series, he was already considered a great – a musician’s musician capable of playing soul-searching guitar and a hugely talented singer-songwriter.
Accompanied by Foss Paterson (keyboards), Jeff Allen (drums) and Danny Cummings (percussion) this 60 minute concert goes to highlight the remarkable skills of a man who left us all too soon. Tracks include Root Love, Sapphire and Sweet Little Mystery. The only son of English parents, both of who were opera singers, the young John Martyn (born Iain David McGeachy) spent his early years living in Glasgow with his grandmother following his parents divorce. By most musician’s standards, Martyn was somewhat of a late starter, not learning the guitar until he was 15 but a mere two years later he was playing in local folk clubs and became a key figure in the British folk scene. With his growing reputation, Martyn moved to London where he continued to tour the club scene, finally landing a recording contract with Island Records in 1967. This debut album London Conversation was released the following year and featured folk orientated tracks, many written by Martyn himself.
The Tumbler, his second album, gave fans a taste of what was to come as Martyn began to move away from his folk roots towards a more jazz-based sound.
His next two albums (Stormbringer! and The Road To Ruin both released in 1970) were collaboration with his then wife Beverley Kutner but his record company felt Martyn would be more effectively marketed as a solo artist.
The release of Solid Air in 1973 was a defining moment in Martyn’s career, bringing huge commercial success and introducing audiences to his new vocal style – a laidback, slurred resonance that proved popular. By the end of the ‘70s, Martyn had released three more albums with varied reception - Inside Out, Sunday’s Child and One World, the latter being inspired by time he spent in Jamaica with reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Following the breakup of his marriage, compounded by what many saw as Martyn’s drink and drug addiction, he released Grace and Danger, an album Martyn described as “probably the most specific piece of autobiography I’ve ever written”.
Featuring Phil Collins on drums and backing vocals, the album reflected Martyn’s dark emotional state, so much so that Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, only agreed to release it after persistent badgering from Martyn.
In 1981 Martyn left Island Records, releasing Glorious Fool and Well Kept Secret for WEA. Whilst the partnership achieved Martyn’s first Top 30 album (Glorious Fool), his new more commercial sound didn’t go down well with his core fans, and he moved back to Island Records releasing Sapphire (1984), Piece By Piece (1986) and Foundations, a live album in 1987.
The dawn of the new decade saw Martyn move music stables once again, this time to the ironically named Permanent Records, where he recorded The Apprentice and Cooltide and rerecorded several of his early tracks before joining Go!Discs in 1996 for the album And.
The Church With One Bell was a much-anticipated cover-album released in 1998 and allowed Martyn to add his own twist to many well-known tracks, in particular Portishead’s Glory Box which became an instant fan favourite.
Martyn continued to record, tour and play with various artists up to his untimely death due to double pneumonia in January 2009.