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Some People are Crazy: The John Martyn Story [Hardcover]

John Neil Munro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Oct 2007
John Martyn is one of rock music's last real mavericks. Despite long-term addiction to alcohol and drugs, he produced a string of matchless albums. Loved by fans and critics, loathed by ex-managers, he has survived the music business he despises for forty years. With contributions by Martyn, many of his lovers and over twenty musicians who know him well, this book documents his upbringing in Glasgow and rise through the Scottish and London folk scene of the 1960s, recalling his many subsequent highs and lows, and his friendships with the lost great souls of British rock music - Nick Drake and Paul Kossoff. This title includes rare, previously unseen photographs, gig list and discography.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon, An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (25 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846970369
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846970368
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 616,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Diligently researched ... a myth-buster and debate starter. ***' Mojo 'Wacky tales of misadventure. ***' Q 'Worth checking out' The Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Neil Munro lives in Laxdale, Isle of Lewis. He studied Modern and Economic History at Glasgow University and then completed a postgraduate journalism course in Cardiff. His previous publication is The Sensational Alex Harvey (Firefly Publishing, 2002). He has a great affection for unfashionable 1970s rock music.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading between the lines 16 Jun 2009
By Bill
This isn't the definitive biography of Martyn, but it will have to do until one comes along.

I picked it up knowing that Martyn was an exceptionally gifted guitarist and songwriter, an alcoholic who consumed industrial quantities of booze and drugs, and (often as a result) an aggressive and perhaps unpleasant person to be around. And when I'd finished the book, I still didn't know much more than that.

This isn't necessarily Munro's fault; he's pretty open about saying who would (and wouldn't) be interviewed for the biography. But sometimes the lack of background personal detail is surprising. For instance, Martyn's five-year relationship with (Julianne) Daisy Flowers is dealt with in just two paragraphs (in which Flowers describes Martyn as 'unbearable', 'vicious' and 'violent'). Similarly, his marriage to Annie Furlong, which lasted nearly seven years, is again scarcely mentioned, except for a quote from Martyn in which she is summed up as 'permanently drunk' (Furlong's family maintain she only became an alcoholic after suffering years of abuse from Martyn).

And so we end up with a lopsided view of the man, in which his drunken antics on tour and on stage are the stuff of frequent and lengthy anecdotes, but the years of abuse which he meted out to his wives and partners is skated over or (sometimes) ignored altogether.

I would have liked to know more about his relationship with his children, too. Son Spenser is mentioned on page 96 (as a baby) and then again not until page 164, when he's 16 and playing with his father on stage! Presumably in the intervening years the two had some contact, and maybe Martyn was an adoring and supportive (absent) parent, but we're not told one way or the other.

Stylistically, the book is no great shakes.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Munro has set the bar high 28 Oct 2007
By Albion
A declaration of interest first of all: John Neil Munro is an old friend and colleague, so I was in any case disposed to like this book. That said, he didn't disappoint me.

Writing for "Scotland on Sunday" (Sept. 30, 2007), Munro explains that he decided to write the book after hearing conflicting reports about one of his musical heroes. The man responsible for some of the most romantic and mellow acoustic ballads, for classic albums such as "Solid Air" and "One World", apparently also had a darker side. So he set out to see "whether John Martyn was really a peace-loving good guy or was indeed something of a bampot."

The answer of course is he's a bit of both: Munro does a good of job of weaving together the twin threads of Martyn's remarkable musical career and the old rock-and-roll cliché of his self-destructive personal life. The book's great strength is that he has access to many of the key sources: not just Martyn himself but musical collaborators - and great musicians in their own right - such as Ralph McTell, Dave Pegg and the incomparable Danny Thompson.

Munro has also done his homework on key influences in Martyn's life and work, such as fellow musical prodigy and friend Nick Drake, who inspired "Solid Air". (The chapters on "lost souls" Drake and Paul Kossoff are sensitively handled.) And where he hasn't been able to interview important sources such as Beverley Martyn, thorough research ensures that her voice is heard.

Munro does a fair job sketching out Martyn's formative years in Scotland, though a few local references may escape some readers. He really gets into its stride when the young Martyn arrives in London. Munro does not pull his punches when it comes to assessing the limitations of some of Martyn's earlier work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual and without embellishment 4 Sep 2011
I liked the way the book was written - yes the author does quote from many previously published items but contrary to what others have said, I quite like this approach as it is factual and without embellishment.

I saw John Martyn live in 2000 and 2001 the last was in a small venue with him playing acoustic with Danny Thomson. It was an amazing evening - the chemistry between the two was very much obvious - as described in some detail in the book.

I enjoyed it very much and learned a quite a lot from it. The mystery of John's changing accent was solved as well. Small 'technical' matter of where John was brought up in Glasgow. Author has Tantallon road in Queens Park - I would have thought it more Shawlands, or at a push perhaps Langside.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He aint no saint! 23 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This man's music has moved me for over 20 years and I was looking forward to this biography. It is a warts and all look at his career. It is well written and the author hits the nail right on the head when he concludes that the world would be a far better place if more people listened to John's music. Since reading it I have listened to loads of his old (and new) stuff again and again, and you can not fail but be moved by his majesty.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Glorious Fool 11 April 2013
By Graeme Wright VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Effortlessly bridging musical gaps and challenging preconceptions throughout his life John Martyn could amaze and frustrate in equal measure. From his early acoustic folk albums right through to the drum machine fuelled freestyle jazz of his more obscure works it became increasingly dangerous to pigeonhole him both as a musician and as a person. While John Neil Munro's biography is not totally comprehensive regarding Martyn's considerable output it does shed valuable light and insight on John Martyn the person. From his childhood in Glasgow to seeking fame and fortune in London through to his Irish sojourn and eventual return to Scotland Martyn's complex character, relationships and musical attachments are examined in fine detail with generous quotes from acquaintances associated with every stage of the guitarist's colourful but preciously too short life. I would have liked to have seen more detail in the appendices about Martyn's live shows and albums (recommending just one DVD of John Martyn in concert is akin to just recommending one Beatles song) but on the whole Munro has researched and written a warm and eminently readable memoir of one of Britain's most underrated songwriters of the past half century.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius song writer
Admired the big man's work for years since discovering solid air in1973 - good biography and insight into a complex man
Published 1 month ago by P. A. Spenceley
5.0 out of 5 stars Another must read .....
If you like, love or even loathe him, you have to read it, what an exciting life he had. His music is inspirational.
Published 6 months ago by GM
5.0 out of 5 stars John Martyn Story Well told.
Once you realise this contains so many quotes from other than the so very talented Author you can really feel part of a group of interested folk making it more personal. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Irene Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Here he is... the man !
Great and insightful biog of one of my favourite musicians of all time. I had the joy of playing support act in 76 and sharing dressing room etc, which left as strong impression. Read more
Published 17 months ago by David C. Eastoe
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
A really insightful book with lots of stories that will amuse, upset and entertain. Great artist and is sadly missed.
Published on 15 July 2012 by Dougie
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Title
I picked up this book attracted by the title, hoping that I'll get a string of stories about Martyn his brilliance, his music, and how he ended up to be an overweight amputee on a... Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2010 by Charles Wahab
3.0 out of 5 stars should of loved you more
I came to John Martyn very late via the BBc documentry Johnny to bad and was hooked from the first time I heard don,t want to know. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2010 by stoveboy78
3.0 out of 5 stars Too little, too late...
I hesitated before writing this...I would firstly like to thank John Munro for writing the biography of one of my very favourite needed doing..

But.... Read more
Published on 5 Mar 2010 by T. D. DICK
5.0 out of 5 stars John Martyn Book
This is an amazing book with a great insight of the troubled and 'interesting' lifestyle of one of the world's greatest guitarists/song writers. Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2010 by T. Howson
5.0 out of 5 stars Some people are a genius.
excellent well researched book, I received as a xmas gift, before JM passed away, became more poignent as I read over the period around his death. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2010 by B Johnson
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