Don't call it folk! John Martyn is 46, but he's not too old to kick up a stink if you dare lump him in with the finger-in-ear brigade. Paul Tingen dons his profanity-proof sou'ester to meet Britain's most eccentric and unique guitar stylist.
IF there is such a thing as a cult figure in popular music, John Martyn is probably it. He has all the required credentials. Twenty-five years in the business, a catalogue of critically acclaimed albums and a small coterie of dedicated fans.
One of the great lines of the year tumbled out of the film Glengarry Glen Ross as Ricky Roma was peddling real estate. Played by Al Pacino, the spidery Roma looked deep into the eyes of a diffident client and said that everyone worries about the past and the future. But no one lives for the moment. You can't say that about John Martyn, whose mysterious career is full of passionate moments.
The voice on the other end of the telephone line is most certainly John Martyn's. The soft Glaswegian accent and the dark timbre which is Martyn's trademark is there, yet he seemed strangely disconnected. Oh no, I immediately thought. It is well known that Martyn struggled with alcohol and many other substances for years, but I thought those days were behind him. So why the strange distance in his hello, I mean it was four in the afternoon, after all!
John Martyn charts the depths of an ever-flowing creative tide
A large contingent of the audience at tonight's secret gig in a north London student hall are clearly less than familiar with JOHN MARTYN - both the music and the man.
Jonathan Futrell meets John Martyn, a folk troubadour who is still one of Britain's best-kept secrets
Something strangely prophetic happened to the much younger John Martyn when he opened for Charles Mingus and Weather Report at The Bijou Club.
[Before interviewing JM, Nicky Campbell played a Prince track (Graffiti Bridge) and then reported that John had said that he would really like to hear Prince and Miles Davis working together. He then played a B52s record and started the interview...]
NC: John Martyn, you're here!
JM: Yes indeed I am (very Scottish accent).
NC: That was a long flight, wasn't it?
..they don't write 'em like that anymore
It's been over two years since his last record, but JOHN MARTYN has returned to the fray with a critically acclaimed album. He talks to Simon Jones, explains his absence, and is evidently still recovering from post punk depression.
"I am John Wayne.."
The figure centre-stage flails around in the spotlight, the music building to an almost deafening crescendo. The head rolls back, the face contorts into an almost pained expression as the microphone comes close.
Jazz, blues, funk, soul, rock - or none of the above? As always, the music of John Martyn denies simple categorisation... Interview by Rick Batey.
John Martyn is looking positively perky. This is probably not unconnected with the fact that a three-year struggle to get his twentieth album off the ground has finally come to an end. The Apprentice is released in April*) on a brand-new label, Permanent Records...
Sober, wiser, more than a little weather-beaten, John Martyn has survived 20 turbulent booze-fuelled years pursuing a romantic image of the lone folk troubadour. But the 'rebel stand' is still firmly intact, as Mark Cooper discovers.