John Martyn is too tough to be the folk singer you remember from the '60s. Enduring several storied decades of music making, his legacy continues with a new set of modern classics.
[intro Excuse Me Mister playing]
CL: You have been doing this for... for all of my life really. [laughs] How differently do you see the music business now, compared to when you started?
John Martyn can fall asleep on a razor blade.
Is there no end to this man's talents?
Chris Barnes finds out
NH: It's Morning Becomes Eclectic, it's 27 minutes after eleven and a very good morning to John Martyn and band.
JM: Good morning all...
NH: Thanks so much for coming in
JM: Well I'm hoping so, partly dull they all may be...
After rising to prominence with the late 60's electric folk renaissance, John Martyn uprooted songform and subjected it to a serious sonic makeover on a series of albums which rank alongside the best of Tim Buckley and Van Morrison for their radical fusions of folk, soul, jazz and dub. In spite of that, his best music, he says, is yet to come.
'I'm pontificating,' booms John Martyn. 'Well, of course, in a church you've got to pontificate, ain'tcha? Pon, pon, tiddly-pon. And the pontiff .... what? What's the pont of it all?'
... with John Martyn.
Caspar Llewellyn Smith: Why The Church With One Bell?
John Martyn: Over the road from our house in the village is an old church with one bell. The record company said they'd buy it for me and turn it into a studio if I did an album of cover versions.
On top of his game
Not all that long ago, you wouldn't have reasonably expected to be talking to John Martyn at the unearthly hour of 10:00am. Unless perhaps you had chanced upon him on the way home the morning after the night before, as it were. These days, however, he is not only up and about at the dawning of the day but sounding more chipper than ever. The legendary hoarse whisper booms with unexpected clarity.
About the Church With One Bell album, in which Martyn tackles blues, jazz, rock and trip-hop covers, including songs by Randy Newman, Sonny Boy Williamson and Dead Can Dance.
John Martyn, now label-mate with Portishead, has been checking out the Chicago house scene, and revising his wardrobe. Mark Cooper salutes his return to eccentricity.
AND Go! Discs
• Martyn's debut for Go! Discs, home of Paul Weller, Portishead and Gabrielle.
Rambunctious loons, Soave-swilling romantics, tireless anarchists, people who fill baths with dead fish, all detect in him some sort of kindred spirit. John Martyn by Nick Coleman.
John Martyn tells a good story about Ben Webster.