27 Apr 2004
FANS will be seeing a lot more of John Martyn when he plays Bournemouth Pavilion on Friday April 30.
"Since the incident with the leg, I've not been able to get about too well, so I've put on quite a bit of weight," he says. "Still, I've had a couple of suits made, so I should look the part."
It's almost exactly a year since 'the incident with the leg', when an electric shock from a speaker burst a cyst on the back of his right leg, which became so badly infected it eventually had to be amputated below the knee.
He's able joke about it now -sort of- after months of painful recuperation, getting around with the use of a wheelchair and, just recently, a prosthetic leg ("I'm still getting used to it") - but it was certainly no laughing matter.
"Yeah, it was a hard time, that's for sure. It felt really odd for the first two or three months especially, but I've written an awful lot of songs in the past eight months. Music's great therapy, man, the very best painkiller there is."
Many of the new songs feature on On The Cobbles, his first studio album since Glasgow Walker four years ago. It's a fine collection, at times reminiscent of Martyn's mid-'70s classics Solid Air and Inside Out, heavy on that distinctive blend of acoustic guitar and echoplex, jazzy sax and growling, slurring vocals and featuring a great sing-along version of an old live favourite, One For The Road.
I say it sounds as though he had a good time making the album. He claims he can hardly remember. "I make a record then walk away from it, move on as fast as I can."
So does he listen to his own stuff, new or old?
"Not really, although sometimes I might go somewhere and one of my songs will be playing and I'll think, 'Hey, that's not too bad'."
While he may not enjoy listening to his work once it has been recorded, he says he loves writing and being in the studio.
"But most of all I love gigging. Playing in front of people - wow, it's such a gas, man. What I like about it is seeing the audience react."
"I used to get terrible stage fright, I'd come out in blotches and stuff, but it has got a lot easier with time. Now, by comparison, it's a bit of a doddle, although I still get nervous before I go on, but in a good way. As you get older you realise that music is all about emotion. It might take a while for the audience to get warmed up, but as soon as I know it's swinging then I can relax. How do I know? By the look in their eyes, man, by the way they're tapping their toes... when couples put their arms round each other when I play a love song."
While long-time collaborator and close friend Phil Collins used to pack stadiums the size of aircraft hangars, Martyn, a stalwart of the campus circuit (I first saw him at Lancaster University way back in 1974),1 has gigged steadily at more intimate venues.
For example, he played a blinding set a few years back at The Brook in Southampton,2 including a blistering version of another live hit, the raucous John Wayne. I wonder if he'll be playing that song again when he's in Bournemouth?
"I dunno about that, man," he chuckles. "I really need to be standing up for that one."
1 This show took place 8 March 1974.
2 Concert date 15 Feb 2001
This interview was published in the Dorset Echo of 27 April 2004. It was probably conducted by Kevin Nash.