John Martyn, R.I.P.

Jan 29th, 2009 // 9 Comments

Chameleonlike English folk singer John Martyn, perhaps most known for his work with echoplex guitar delays, has passed away. Born Iain David McGeachy, he was a member of the vibrant late-’60s/early-’70s English folk scene that spawned Nick Drake (a friend of Martyn’s), Jackson C. Frank, and Fairport Convention, among others. Though Martyn enjoyed acclaim, his career, like many of his peers, burbled just under the surface of the mainstream, even though his influence shows up in the work of guitar players like The Edge and Michael Brook, as well as a whole generation of self-loopers like Andrew Bird and Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett.

At the same time that Robert Fripp was working with tape machines to create his guitar-delayed “Frippertronics,” Martyn experimented with running his acoustic guitars through Echoplex analog delay machines, in which signals are recorded on tape loops and spit back out delayed. This experimentation showed up on his seminal albums Bless The Weather, Stormbringer, One World, Solid Air and Inside Out, which were a break from his earlier, more traditional folk material. This relentless need to experiment traveled with him throughout his life; he dabbled in electronic music, reggae, and even trip-hop, with varying degrees of success. I am mostly familiar with his early-’70s work, as I found it more interesting than the early Joe Boyd/Nick Drake-y stuff like London Conversation. Now’s as good a time to delve further into the guy’s catalog.

This jazzy number was a fan-favorite and showcases his great vocal range and emotional delivery.

Eric Clapton covered this, but the original’s superior.

Martyn was 60.

John Martyn dies [Guardian]

  1. iantenna

    simply the best. tripped out downer folk genius. bless the weather that brought you to us, curse the storm that takes you away.

  2. Lucas Jensen

    Here is a lovely story from Tracey Thorn re: John Martyn: []

  3. sXenester

    Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy


  4. Lucas Jensen

    @sXenester: Haha. OOOPS

  5. Maura Johnston

    @sXenester: we ran that last bit of the graf through a delay pedal during the editing process for fun.

  6. baconfat

    Martyn’s cover of Portishead’s “Glory Box” has long been a favorite of mine:

    (pay no attention to the picture aspect of this video)

  7. djmedi4

    I always felt that much cooler being a John Martyn fan. 9/10 times I’d play it for someone and they’d freak out.

    Beautiful stuff. He will be missed.

  8. Lucas Jensen

    Based on that pic above, if someone made a John Martyn movie, what about Jeremy Davies playing him?

  9. KikoJones

    Ah, “Bless the Weather”… RIP, sir.

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