Friday, April 8, 2016

Weekend Mix: I'd Rather Be The Devil

I approach singer/songwriters with caution. It can be a rabbit hole of disfunction with boring musical accompaniment. Mix that with Jazz and I really worry.
Maybe because John Martyn's "Solid Air" is both, and works so beautifully is why it's been one of my very favorite albums for over 40 years.
It was the first record I played on my first real stereo system, which I bought by working as a busboy at a Marie Callender's in 1974.
When I was putting this together, I couldn't bring myself to interupt it's flow, so tracks 7-15 are 1973's "Solid Air". The first six come from "The Tumbler" (1968), "Stormbringer!"(1970)*, "The Road To Ruin"(1970)*, "Bless The Weather"(1971), and the last eight are mostly from "Sunday's Child"(1975), with the final song taken from "One World"(1977).
He was an incredible guitar player, fantastic singer, and songwriter.

But he had no shortage of demons. I hear many of his love songs as heartfelt apologies for bad behavior.
That's why they ring so true.

In the '80's he morphed from underground folk artist into adult contemporary soft jazz blandness.
And then proceeded to gain about 300 lbs.

I had grandiose ideas about writing a long piece here, but I ran out of time and talent.



I'd Rather be The Devil

*with Beverly Martyn


Anonymous said...

I didn't become familiar with Martyn until the 80's when his electric (with synthesizers!) albums showed up regularly in resale shops. Those albums don't get much credit anymore, but at the time there was nothing else like them. I appreciated getting to know the voice that seemed only mythical before, like a unicorn that was a cross between Roy Harper and Richard Thompson.


Thanks BBJ,

I knew nothing about John Martyn until today.

The depths of my musical ignorance never ceases to surprise me!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this. I can hear that Eric Clapton heard Martyn's version for "May You Never." Interesting stuff. My John Martyn education starts today.

Michael D.

Ken D. said...

Looks like I'm not alone in my Martyn ignorance. An artist I just never got around to for no particular reason. So I'm eager to check this out. Thanks.

snakeboy said...

Wonderful collection. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

kodak ghost said...

Now that is a great compilation. Been a fan since early days of folk clubs in UK - pre Tumbler! I still rate Bless the Weather as his best album, but I can see why everyone goes for Solid Air. Also check out old clips from the Old Grey Whistle test. There is still no one who plays guitar like that.

daudder said...

Full of demons, but a great voice and giant talent. His late '80's work (Glorious Fool, Grace and Danger) was really good...and On the Cobbles is a fave. There is a doc on YouTube that captures John near the end of his life...well worth a viewing.

buzzbabyjesus said...

A song or two from "Grace And Danger" almost made the cut.

kodak ghost said...

and you forgot to say after the "gained 300 pounds" that he lost a leg!
I have now listened to your collection twice, excellent to revisit some of these. Seems you rate Sundays Child, which I always thought a bit slushy. Listen again to the cut Bless the Weather... it ain't half bad.

And somewhere you need to mention his compatriot in many things musical, chemical and alcohol....Danny Thompson.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I intended to write something longer, which definitely would have mentioned his leg, that "Solid Air" was written for his friend Nick Drake, and that that I found him because America covered "Head And Heart" on their second album, "Homecoming".
He and Danny Thompson had a special musical relationship.

Interesting that according to producer John Wood, Martyn wanted to use a different bass player on "Solid Air", but he broke his arm the night before the sessions were scheduled so they rang up Danny Thompson. It was almost a very different album.

"Live At Leed's" from 1972 is a fine document. Not included on my copy is Paul Kossoff, of Free sitting in at the end, so fucked up that Danny punched him out back stage afterwards.
But I ran out of time and just wanted to post it before noon EST.

"Bless The Weather" is definitely one of his finest. I included nothing from "Inside Out"(1974) as it's pretty rough going. Sounds like all the stuff they rightfully edited out of "Solid Air".

The songs I included from "Sunday's Child" have aged really well, and fit the vibe I was going for.

I'm glad this has gone over so well. Thanks.

William Repsher said...

I'd like to see you put out a 70s British folk compilation. If you recall that time period, "punk saved us" from what was pretty much the golden era of modern-day British folk. We both know better. How any critic could put out a line like that (which dozens, if not hundreds, have), knowing that artists like Martyn and more than a few others were in their folk prime ... you tell me!

buzzbabyjesus said...

William Repsher, I almost put that together this time. I got turned onto the British Folk scene early. I saw Steeleye Span open for Jethro Tull in 1974.

kodak ghost said...

Final comment... a) didn't realise that America recorded one of his and b) why were you listening to America anyway? No don't answer that, my prejudices showing through! I just can't listen to Horse with no name without screaming, and (perhaps unfortunately) all that they did was tarnished with the same brush. And please lets not start a discussion thread on the wonders of America (the band that is)...!


buzzbabyjesus said...

Full disclosure:

I've never listened to or owned an album by America, but my middle school friend who originally turned me onto "Solid Air" and the whole British folk scene did.
We got our start with the Beatles, of course, and then he veered into Dylan and folk music, and since we were in southern California, CSNY, Neil Young and others, like Seals and Crofts, hence the America connection. He probably got into them because we all Thought "Horse With No Name" was Neil Young the first time we heard it. That is how he found John Martyn. And that is what caught my ear. From there it was straight into Fairport Convention and that whole scene.

Eric Clapton is only a little less loathesome than America in my book, and I confess I didn't know he covered "May You Never"(In 1977) until doing a little research for this post.

Michael Giltz said...

V nice though of course you cheat by including the entire Solid Air in the middle :)
It's a great album I only paid attention because the Brits were so crazy about it. Of course it's grown and grown over the years in my estimation so now I wonder why I wasn't just blown away the very first time. As for finding John Martyn, I started with Richard and Linda Thompson, then Richard solo, then Fairport and Nick Drake and pretty much anything on the Hannibal label or anyone connected with them. Sometimes it pays to be obsessive (not to mention patient). If an entire country considers an album beloved, well, surely it's worth checking out and not dismissing after just one listen.

dogbreath said...

First heard got a taste of Martyn four decades ago because the girl in my local record shop was a big fan & kept playing "Solid Air" on the shop's turntable. Always felt he was criminally undervalued & underappreciated so it's pleasing to see the interest raised by your fine compilation. Nice one!

kodak ghost said...

Ok final final comment from me

You don't need anything else!

I note that Sal also has a penchant for English "prog folk", given his notes on Michael Chapman some time ago.

Dr Wu said...

Really enjoyed your mix. Knew John Martyn only by reputation and a song or two that I believe Sal shared previously. Thank you for this. I've attached the link to the aforementioned BBC documentary, which I watched solely because of your compilation.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I watched it too. I've included two John Martyn songs on previous Weekend mixes.

A walk in the woods said...

Been wanting to find out more about John Martyn for years... for some reason, I never had really heard of him until recently. He seemed like more of "an English thing." Thanks for this mix!