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Some People are Crazy: The John Martyn Story Paperback – 1 Jun 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited; Revised edition edition (1 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846971659
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846971655
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.3 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 428,501 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

About the Author

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

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Neil Munro has delivered an excellent biography on the life of John Martyn. I've read 'Grace & Danger' by Lee Barry, and 'Solid Air' by Chris Nickson, but this is the pick of the bunch. It's more comprehensive.
He was my musical hero, having owned all of his albums and seeing him in concert over 20 times. Certainly the sublime and emotional music contrasted with the turbulent life of the man making it, and John Neil Munro certainly does a fine job of unraveling the possible reasons for this. The book is particularly strong when covering his classic years up to 1980. Thereafter I felt that the chapters were a little too compressed, with the period around fine albums such as Sapphire, Piece by Piece & Glorious Fool given quite small amounts of print space.
The writer finds the right balance between respect for the quality of his work, and John's dysfunctional private life. The contributions of those who knew him best (with the exception of his first wife, Beverley) at all the points in his life, are quoted in significant chunks, giving the book credibility and insight. The John Martyn I see in these pages is a man who knew happiness and sadness in extreme proportions. Possibly the drink and drugs entering his early life in London thwarted his efforts to hold together marriages and develop stable relationships, and set in motion a destructive chain of events.
John Martyn may one day be revered as a true musical genius - he certainly deserves to be - but this book also offers a more complete picture of the man behind that legend. They say 'never meet your heroes' - I think I know why.
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By Graeme Wright VINE VOICE on 11 April 2013
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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Format: Paperback
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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