No Little Boy [remastered]

Date: 
3 Mar 2008
Written by: 
John Hillarby

"I don't like B string," 1 John chuckles at the beginning of a delightful rendition of Solid Air. No Little Boy was released in July 1993 with contributions from Levon Helm of The Band, Phil Collins, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Andy Sheppard amongst others. The journey to produce No Little Boy was fraught with difficulties. John and producer Jim Tullio were working on the album in Chicago when Permanent Records released the session tapes as the album Couldn't Love You More (One World Records OW126CD) without John's knowledge! Naturally he was furious, "I had no idea they were going to release that. They had the tapes and I was in America and when I came back the next thing I knew it was out!" Some of the songs from Couldn't Love You More were omitted, new ones recorded and others remixed! Those that remain were completely overhauled and the end result is an evocatively beautiful, atmospheric and exuberant album, much more recognisable as John Martyn work than Couldn't Love You More.

Although seven of the sixteen songs did not appear on Couldn't Love You More it was a lot to expect from fans to buy an album with such similar content but many did and most prefer this 'real' album to the session tapes. I asked Jim about the song selection, "We picked the ones that we felt could be salvaged and reworked from the Couldn't Love You More sessions and decided to record some new ones from scratch, I Don't Want To Know, Bless The Weather, Sunday's Child, Pascanel and Rock, Salt and Nails, to make a more balanced record. Incidentally Pascanel and Rock, Salt and Nails weren't quite finished and they didn't flow with everything else, so we left them off. Permanent Records put them on their version anyway to make more of a difference between Couldn't Love You More and No Little Boy!"

Rock Salt and Nails is the only non John Martyn composition having been written by the folk artist and singer/story teller Utah Phillips, a man apparently married more times than he cares to remember! The song was recorded at the Chicago Recording Company. Levon Helm was sitting on a stool tapping his foot and singing between long drags from his cigarette! John stood with his eyes closed delivering his soulful indistinct ethereal vocals...

On the banks of the river
Where the willow hangs down
On the wild washing waters
Low mourning sound
Down in the hollow
Where the water runs cold
It was there I first listened
To the lies that you told.

Now I lie on my bed
And I see your sweet face
The past I remember
Time can't erase
The letter you wrote me
Was written in shame
And I know that your conscience
Still echoes my name.

Now the nights are so alone
And my sorrow runs deep
And nothing is worse for you and me
One more night without sleep
I woke up alone
I take a look at my sky
Too empty to sing
Too lonely to cry.

If you ladies were blackbirds
And you ladies were thrushes
I'd lie there for hours
In them cold chilly marshes
But if ladies were squirrels
With them high bushy tails
I'd fill up my shotgun
With rock, salt and nails.

If you ladies were squirrels
With them high bushy tails
I would load up my shotgun
With rock, salt and nails
If you ladies were squirrels
With high bushy tails
I'd fill up my shotgun
With rock, salt and nails...
I'd fill up my shotgun
With rock, salt and nails
Fill up my shotgun
With rock, salt and nails!

The album took its name from a lyric in the song Ways To Cry and was well received. "The music is beautiful and Martyn is in fine voice throughout," wrote Q Magazine. Phil Collins considers it to be one of his favourite albums: "It's difficult to play songs with only two or three chords as you rely entirely on the atmosphere you create within them, but he manages it. He's totally unique, and he makes an almost lazy sound while knowing exactly what is needed." However John felt his credibility and integrity had been challenged by the actions of his record company and it was the end of their working relationship. I'd fill up my...

No Little Boy? Couldn't Love You More?
Let the music speak for itself.

John Hillarby

1 muffnote: Apparently misheard. Jim Tullio was there and recorded the track. John is replying to his comment, as Jim confirms: "I asked John to play the guitar part pretty straight and not get too outside. His response was 'I don't like being straight'." Which makes perfect sense.

Personnel listings
Solid Air
John Martyn: vocal, Gulf string guitar & electric guitar
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Andy Sheppard: saxophone
Miles Bould & Jim Tullio: percussion
Cheryl Wilson & Rene Stewart: background vocals

Ways To Cry
John Martyn & Phil Collins: vocal
David Gilmour & Alan Darby: guitars
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Andy Sheppard: saxophone

Could've Been Me
John Martyn & Phil Collins: vocal
John Martyn & David Gilmour: guitars
Gerry Conway: drums
Spencer Cozens & Bob Rans: keyboards
Gerry Underwood: saxophone
Miles Bould: percussion
Cheryl Wilson,
Shaun Christopher & Rene Stewart: background vocals

Don't Want To Know
John Martyn: vocal
Pete Erskine: drums
John Giblin: bass
Pat Leonard: piano & synth
Gerry Underwood: saxophone
Jo Pusateri: percussion

Just Now
John Martyn: vocal & Mutron guitar
Leven Helm: harmony vocal
Wayne Stewart: drums
Tony Brown: bass
Bill Rupert: guitar
Chris Cameron: B-3 & clavinet
Fred Nelson: synth
Mark Walker: percussion

One Day Without You
John Martyn: vocal
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens & Bob Rans: keyboards
Gerry Underwood: saxophone
Jordan Bailey, Samantha Smith &
Bazil Meade: background vocals

Sweet Little Mystery
John Martyn & Phil Collins: vocal
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Tomson: bass
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Miles Bould: percussion
Alan Darby: guitar
Cheryl Wilson,
Shaun Christopher & Rene Stewart: background vocals

Pascanel
John Martyn: vocal & guitar
Wayne Stewart: drums
Tony Brown: bass
Bill Rupert: guitar
Fred Nelson: piano
Chris Cameron: synth
Mark Walker: percussion

Sunday's Child
John Martyn: vocal & Mutron guitar
Pete Erskine: drums
John Giblin: bass and Mutron bass
Pat Leonard & Chris Cameron: keyboards
Andy Sheppard: saxophone
Mark Ohlsen: trumpet

Head And Heart
John Martyn: vocal
Jim Tullio: acoustic guitar
Bill Rupert: electric guitar
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens & Bob Rans: keyboards
Miles Bould & Paul Lani: percussion
Cheryl Wilson,
Shaun Christopher & Rene Stewart: background vocals

Fine Lines
John Martyn: vocal & acoustic guitar
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Miles Bould: percussion
Bobby Lewis: flugelhorn

Bless The Weather
John Martyn: vocal & acoustic guitar
Wayne Stewart: drums
John Giblin: bass
Bill Rupert: guitar
Bob Rans: piano
Fred Nelson: piano soli
Mark Walker: percussion
Cheryl Wilson: viola

Man In The Station
John Martyn: vocal
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Bill Rupert & Alan Darby: guitars
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Miles Bould: percussion
Cheryl Wilson,
Shaun Christopher & Rene Stewart: background vocals

One World
John Martyn: vocal & guitar
David Gilmour: guitar
Gerry Conway: drums
Alan Thomson: bass
Spencer Cozens: keyboards
Miles Bould: percussion
Andy Sheppard: saxophone

Rock, Salt And Nails
John Martyn: vocal
Levon Helm: vocal & drums
John Giblin: bass
Bill Rupert: guitar
Chris Cameron: keyboards

Hole In The Rain
John Martyn: vocal & guitar
John Henderson: drums
Miles Bould: percussion
Spencer Cozens: keyboards