MORE ON MARTYN
Lovely review-cum-obit to John Martyn over at Blissblog. Love Simon's (complimentary, I think) description of the latterday Martyn's voice as "blubbering". I saw him about three years ago, playing Solid Air and (God bless 'im) a gorgeous "Glorious Fool" as part of Don't Look Back. His between-song patter was as incomprehensible ("joke as pure form" - I like) as when Simon saw him in NYC, but a colleague said he had been no less heroically shambolic when she had seen him in the mid 70s. Unlike his old pal Nick Drake, his music and persona didn't fit the easy cliche of the doomed romantic - his come-ons were more irresistable than Drake's, but he was obviously hell-bent on pushing others away (the references to his "long-suffering" ex-wife Beverley, similar to those applied to Linda Thompson, are tiresome because they perpetuate the guy-as-wilful-genius / woman-as-earthbound-wife stereotypes, but still, John was obviously quite impossible. The vibe I got from him was one of bafflement that such shimmering songs could spring from such a beached, boozy body.
All of which reminds me of a Talmudic legend which Walter Benjamin quotes in his essay on Kafka:
It tells of a princess who, in exile, far from her compatriots, living in a village where she does not understand the language, finds herself languishing. One day the princess receives a letter: her betrothed has not forgotten her, he has set out, he is on his way to find her. The betrothed, explains the rabbi, is the Messiah, the princess is the soul, but the village to which she has been exiled is the body. And being unable to tell the village (which does not know her language) of her joy in any other way, she prepares a meal for it.
That's tremendous innit? I think so anyway. Here is John Martyn doing "Couldn't love you more" with Danny Thompson (who made a lovely leftie record with Richard Thompson - no relation - in the mid 90s, who played on Five leaves left and Bryter Layter respectively - the 70s Britfolk scene was a karmic world alright) on the Old Grey Whistle Test - for give the soppy shoutout, but it goes out to my lovely fiance, who is back in Winter Wonderland (aka Brixton) and who I miss horribly: