John Martyn joins the great gig in the sky

So, he went. One legged and alcoholic and miserable. Once he was the best looking and sounding of the 60’s Britpack, and Solid Air was life changing if you heard it at the right moment.

Back in the day I knew a guy (Dave Moran) who had been a fanzine writer and sometime club promoter at the Troubadour, in Earls Court, London, in the early 60’s, when Paul Simon, John Martyn, Pentangle (Jansch et al), Sandy Denny etc had all been playing there. He told me Martyn was the most miserable of all of them, and was always sitting in a corner moaning. He said to me at the time that I (who was just about to sign my first proper record contract) should think carefully about my probable imminent music career, that it wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. He asked me ‘what will you do when it’s over?’, and told me that many musicians he had known in the 60’s had become inward and seriously depressed since then. He told me that Sandy Denny was one of them. He knew I was serious and he knew how much I cared about it. He kept telling me that the price was very high.

Later, I had the good fortune of playing a support gig with Roy Harper, another of the Britpack acoustic geniuses of the time. He was also an alcoholic, drinking a whole bottle of whiskey before he played his first set. He watched my set from the wings, and was very encouraging to me about what I was doing. But I could see he was finished as a man, shaking and empty and just dead in the eyes.

These were the successes, so god knows what happens to the failures, (of which I am one). My career imploded a few years later without really ever coming to anything, after much promise in the early days. But somehow, hearing how John Martyn ended up makes me feel a little more relieved that I didn’t succeed, that I somehow escaped a terrible future, which is weird.

Anyway, I feel sorry for what happened to him. God bless, and thanks for all the tunes.



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