Saturday, 31 January 2009

Thoughts on John Martyn 1948-2009

The Scene: The Apollo Victoria, 2 November 1980.
The time: 11 pm.

I’m standing offstage having just photographed two hours of the John Martyn Band in concert.
Martyn walks triumphantly off stage, nods perfunctorily at me and walks backstage.
The rest of the band follow him off.
The final member, drummer Phil Collins, bounds off and beams a smile at me and stops to talk.
COLLINS: Whaddya think then?
ME: Bloody amazing!
COLLINS: Get any good shots?
ME: Hope so.
COLLINS: D’ya wanna join us for a drink?
ME: Umm......I have to get these rolls to Melody Maker.
COLLINS: Beats standing on a street corner.
MARTYN: ‘Ere, Phil.
And Collins walks away to join Martyn , leaving me feeling...... (missed opportunity) bloody stupid!

I photographed many concerts, over a four-year period – some concerts I worked for the money; some concerts I worked, because I liked the artists; and this concert was one of those most rare concerts where I would’ve crawled to it. In fact, I recall that I did something I rarely did whilst snapping....I stopped numerous times during the gig just to look at/listen to Martyn’s extraordinary guitar work.

Fast forward to sometime in 1987.
The Scene: Chelsea Arts Club.

I walk in with my friend Charlie to meet our mutual mate Laurie, an Arts Club member.
I walk over to the bar to order drinks – standing there is John Martyn.
We get chatting and I recall the Apollo gig and how I missed the opportunity to have a post-gig evening with him and Phil Collins. He roars that fag-and-drink laden laugh of his and buys me a drink. And the same again on the next couple of occasions that I visit as well. A delight to know.

There are certain artists who mesmerise you with their brilliance – Richard Thompson, Jimi Hendrix, Nick Drake and Sandy Denny – and Martyn, from that first time I saw him in 1970 in Brighton with erstwhile wife Beverley, is in that hallowed band.
He was totally unique, a true visionary and the music resonates with amazing power.

(As I don’t have any prints of that show available I’ve had to use my contact strips to 'blow up' a couple of prints - apologies for the poor quality)

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