31 December 2008

John Martyn OBE

Picture of John Martyn
Oh, blimmin eck! Quite as surprising as the fact that he's still alive, is the award to John Martyn of an OBE. You could understand the Colombian govt giving it for services to that country's economy, but he's got it for services to music. Which is quite right - at his peak he trod a quite extraordinary path, never quite sounding like anyone else, and never quite influencing anyone else, but showing that you could do something different. I was a huge fan of his at the time of albums like Bless the Weather and Inside Out where he blended together an angry passion and a painful tenderness. And the music was a bizarre but compelling mixture of hard rock, folk, a bit of jazz, and an early form of trip-hop. It culminated (and fell apart I suppose) in the bitter and tearful Grace and Danger an album where the pain (of his broken marriage) is so unremitting you feel helpless. But that album also brought the element of Phil Collins into his music, and it was never quite the same, always after that a little too tidy.

Meanwhile, he was taking the rocknroll lifestyle to new levels of madness, but somehow survived. Somewhere along the way he lost half a leg, but still managed to keep going. Not just for music, then, but for proving the capacity of the human body to withstand all excess, it's a well deserved honour. Odd to think, though, that Rebecca Adlington got the same award, and she's (presumably) never taken a hard drug or drink in her life.

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