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on 2 April 2012
Chris Nickson preaches the gospel of John Martyn and in my case he's preaching to the converted. His love for the big man is evident and he writes from the heart with a simple, direct and conversational approach. I'm dead envious...this is the book I would love to have written about one of my heroes.

Nickson's analysis of each track on every album is both insightful and unflinchingly honest; he certainly doesn't pull his punches when it comes to assessing some of John's shortcomings, musically or otherwise. But overall I think the Guv'nor would probably have agreed with some of the sentiments (assuming that he had been feeling suitably amenable).

John's forty-two year recording career spanned sixty-nine albums if you include all of the many compilations and live albums, and his career had more trajectory curves than a test-match bowler. However Nickson manages to get beneath the skin of the man and paint a comprehensive portrait that goes far beyond the usual lazy canon of stories and reminiscences.

I have a couple of other biographies of John (Lee Barry and John Neil Monroe) but I feel that this version is better than either of those because it feels more personal, more heart-felt. However the fact that Nickson seems to love the songs that I do (Just Now, Hurt in your Heart, Spencer the Rover and the obvious Solid Air) probably helps the connection.

In his acknowledgements Nickson says that "this is a book I'd always imagined writing, but I never believed anyone would want to publish". Well from my perspective this is a book I'd always imagined reading but couldn't believe anyone would ever write. From the bottom of my heart my thanks go out to Chris Nickson.
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on 28 February 2014
First, what this book is not. It's not the definitive John Martyn biography. There's too little new insight, and very few new interviews; for one, ex-wife Beverley (an extremely talented - as much as underrated - singer/songwriter in her own right) who lived with John Martyn throughout the 70s and shared his most creative years, doesn't seem to have been contacted or involved.
In its scanty 250 pages the complex John Martyn persona in not really delved into.
This is not always a bad thing, as the author is thankfully not interested in lingering over the excesses and the alcoholism and the sordid parts, which could have easily turned this book into a wretched tale of misery and sorrow.

What this book is, it's a rather competent analysis of his records (the Island years in particular), offering interesting info about the creative and recording process and the musicians involved.
So if you're looking for an informative compendium to read along, while listening to the records, I think this book could be well recommended - I'd give it 3 ½ stars.
It's obviously the work of a passionate, knowledgeable fan.

But the book could have used some good editing to get rid of the occasional repetition, typo, or blunder (album "Inside Out" on occasion becomes "Outside In")
And there's no excuse for the discography at the end (the lousiest I've ever seen, just title&year for each album - not even the label...)
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on 29 July 2011
I freely admit to being one of those John Martyn fans who'd forgive him almost anything for those moments of utterly sublime music, so you could say that I was already set to enjoy this biography. However, there are music biographies that are simply a dry catalogue of work and others that reveal their subjects in such an off-putting light it stains the music, so I was a little apprehensive about what I would read.

What I found was a beautifully-written, lucid account of the man and the musician - not always, as Nickson reminds us, a comfortable mix. Far from detracting from the music, Nickson's analysis made me revisit the albums with renewed interest and enjoyment. John Martyn was just sixty when he died, but reading this biography made me keenly aware of how very young he was, just seventeen, when his professional career began and how much music he packed into his life.
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on 7 November 2013
Like the other reviewers, I'm a very long time John Martyn fan. I can't imagine the book's appeal would be terribly mainstream, like the man's music, but if you've an interest, then this is recommended. The reader gets a great insight into the effort of the recordings, the personalities that revolved in JM's orbit and something of the man himself, although as the author admits, he wasn't exactly forthcoming at times, and was a confirmed contrarian. To be honest, some of the prose is a bit clonky, but I'm glad I read it.
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on 19 May 2014
Not sure what the man would have thought of this , but I have been a long time fan , but knew very little about his life other than music. read it in couple of days and wished it could have been a little longer, as there some gaps in the story .
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on 13 May 2015
I really enjoyed this biography of the great man. It filled a few gaps in my knowedge and was packed with info about the incredible music John Martyn created. I had the luck to meet him and chat on a few occasions and saw him play many times. The loss of the man was sad indeed but his music has, and will, touched many lives.
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on 26 June 2014
Discovered John martyn quite late in his career, enjoyed learning about his early life. Regret I never heard him play live. Listen to his music every day,
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on 27 April 2016
if you like john martyn you ll enjoy this book
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on 22 October 2014
Great!
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on 6 April 2014
A good biography of a much underestimated man. Very well written and doesn't pull any punches. Probably needs a few key photo's though.
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