Live at Leeds - 2 Disc Deluxe Edition
To promote Sunday's Child, John Martyn commenced a 21 date tour of the UK on Saturday 18th January with a blistering two and a half hour concert at Lancaster University. John was joined for the eagerly awaited tour by Danny Thompson on acoustic bass and John Stevens on drums, with ex-Free guitarist Paul Kossoff making a guest appearance for the last few songs at a handful of gigs, including the penultimate gig of the tour at Leeds University on 13th February 1975. For the first time this Deluxe Edition of Live at Leeds allows us to enjoy the full concert in its entirety including Kossoff's contribution plus the afternoon rehearsals, never previously released on either vinyl or CD. The superb music and magical vibe of Live at Leeds is considered by many to be the epitome of a 1970s John Martyn concert.
John starts the concert to a full house with May You Never; beautiful in its time defying simplicity, May You Never is a touching song of compassion, later dedicated to John's adopted son Wesley but originally written in 1971 for "a fat Greek friend of mine called Andy who's a good geezer." Andy Matheou ran Les Cousins in the basement at 49 Greek Street in London's Soho. We are then treated to the most sublime and uncompromising rendition of Outside In. As if to demonstrate the dichotomy of John's music in just two songs, Outside In is followed by Spencer the Rover, John's reworking of the traditional folk ballad.
We then move fluidly through the next three songs. A stunning vocal outpouring of loss and desolation on Make No Mistake is accompanied by Stevens' superb musicianship driving purposefully forward before the short instrumental Beverley with some formidable bowing by Thompson. John's voice is again filled with torment in Bless The Weather as he sings about the very things that most of us spend so much time in denial about; the things that have hurt us.
My Baby Girl is Johns' achingly tender and beautiful song of unequivocal parental love and hope for his daughter Mhairi who was born in February 1971. John's outstanding abilities as a musician and lyricist successfully capture excitement, hope and youthful vibrancy in You Can Discover, and a beautiful sadness then returns as John performs the anthemic Solid Air. The tumultuous and rousing I'd Rather Be The Devil is both hair raising and breathtaking in its sheer power and energy, coupled with superlative playing by the band and aggressive vocals from John.
Rock guitarist Paul Kossoff joins John for the last three songs of the concert; So Much In Love With You, Clutches and the encore, Mailman. When John listened to the concert tapes he felt that Kossoffs playing was erratic and not to his usual high standard so he decided to cut the songs that Kossoff played on from the original album release which only featured six of the above songs.
The concert had been recorded at John's request by Island Records on their state of the art mobile unit in 16 track stereo yet, despite recording the concert, Island Records didn't think the time was right for a live album and expressed no interest in releasing it. John disagreed and so, with Island's blessing, he produced, designed and marketed Live At Leeds on his own.
The album was marketed on a shoe string budget and in John's apparently inimitable style the advert in Melody Maker on 13th September 1975 read "Look 'ere, I've made this album. Now keep schtum and don't tell de uvver mob. Just send free quid as soon as you like to my gaff and my latest live waxing can be yours!" John sold the limited edition of 10,000 by mail order for the princely sum of £2.50p plus 50p postage and packing, and from his own front door in Cobourg Place, Old Town, Hastings.
The album cover was plain white with the words John Martyn Live At Leeds in the style of a Post Office franking mark in black on the top left. The rear of the sleeve was even less informative! No track listing, no information whatsoever with the exception of "LIMITED EDITION NUMBER:" at the very bottom. The centre labels were again plain white with the track listing in black print. No photographs, no artistic composition and no narrative. John wanted his music to be the sole focus, to speak for itself without distractions. The simplicity of the sleeve was in stark contrast to John's recent releases and indicative of his wish to have control of his music; his rebellious statement against the control that many record companies wielded over his peers.
John Hillarby's full notes to this deluxe edition (from which the above press release is pillaged) are quite superb but, in researching and compiling this new edition, came the revelation: "After extensive research of the tape archive and records I was startled to discover that only three of the six songs are in fact from the original concert! One of those, The Man In The Station, is taken from the rehearsal and overdubbed with an alternative vocal from John! Only Make No Mistake (that also includes Beverley) and Bless The Weather are from the Leeds concert itself. Solid Air, I'd Rather Be The Devil and Outside In were all recorded at different venues! In disbelief and with the aid of a glass of 'Daddy's Little Medicine' I checked again and confirmed my findings. So thirty five years later we now know that the original Live At Leeds was half Leeds and half London! But why were the original concert performances of Solid Air, I'd Rather Be The Devil and Outside In substituted? Perhaps John wasn't happy with them and thought the other performances better? Perhaps John didn't know that different performances of the same songs were used? Why was The Man In The Station from the rehearsal included when there are other songs from the concert that could have been used? After all these years I suspect we may never know."
John Hillarby's notes available on request.
Mick Houghton, Brassneck [at] xxx.xxx
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