Johnny Too Bad

John Martyn
Tonight, BBC4 screens two programmes to commemorate the late John Martyn, who died on January 29th this year at the age of 60. First up at 10.00pm is a 1994 documentary that follows the events surrounding the amputation of one of his legs. It also includes a look back at his career as well as snippets from some of his live performances. The show is followed at 11.00pm by a live performance in London in 1978

I was fortunate enough to see this wonderful singer, songwriter & musician in concert, not once, but twice. On both occasions I saw him perform at Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick along with my friend John, who’s also a big fan. The first time was definitely the best and ranks as one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

Recently, I found a load of floppy disks from about ten years ago. Half of them wouldn’t open, but I found some interesting stuff on a few of them. On one of them I came across a review of that first John Martyn gig that I had done for the college magazine in 1999. While it’s a bit heavy on the alliteration, it captures the atmosphere of the gig quite well. I must admit that I don’t recall his Chris de Burgh impression, but I do remember miaowing along with the rest of the audience. Purr-fect!


The Celtic atmosphere in Dolan’s this Wednesday night did not come from Ireland, it originated in Scotland. In the bar, their football team was playing the Auld Enemy. In The Warehouse, John Martyn took on the Irish. The Tartan Terrors beat the Wembley Wizards 1-0. Although they won the battle, they lost the war. However, this did not worry one of their favourite sons as the Big Scot easily won the audience’s approval.
He began with a solo performance that included a remarkable rendition of May You Never, a song covered by Eric Clapton. When the band arrived, one of the highlights was Solid Air, written for his late friend, Nick Drake. Another treat was the reggae tune, Johnny Too Bad. Near the end he played Sweet Little Mystery, one of his more famous songs.
In between, the audience was treated to his uncannily accurate Chris de Burgh impression and some jokes delivered in his impenetrable Scottish brogue. At one point, he even managed to get everybody to miaow. He was so good that he reduced the Celtic Tigers to kittens. For the encore, he sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The Scot’s jovial manner suggested that he was already there

This post goes out to my friend John who’s just started his namesake’s biography. Here are a couple of songs that were mentioned above plus links to his site and BBC links to the shows:

May You Never

Over the Rainbow (live)

John Martyn’s Official Site
Johhny Too Bad on the BBC site

Johnny Too Bad schedule on BBC 4

John Martyn in Concert schedule on BBC 4