Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Beverley Martyn Story

The Beverley Martyn Story
Pete Clemons

But first a little Intro...
Beverley Martyn (born Beverley Kutner on 24 March 1947), singer, songwriter and
guitarist. Beverley was born near Coventry and fronted The Levee Breakers, a jug band who played the folk circuit in south east England. At the age of 16 she recorded her first single. "Babe I'm Leaving You", released on Parlophone 1965. Martyn was then signed as a solo artist to Deram. In 1966 she released a single, "Happy New Year" (b-side "Where The Good Times Are"), written by Randy Newman, on which she was accompanied by Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and Andy White. "Happy New Year" was chosen, together with "I Love My Dog" by Cat Stevens, to launch Deram as the progressive branch of Decca Records. She also recorded an unreleased single in the same year, "Picking Up The Sunshine" / "Gin House Blues". These last two tracks also featured John Renbourn and Mike Lease. During this period she was taught the guitar by the folk guitarist Bert Jansch who also encouraged her songwriting. Her follow-up single "Museum", written by Donovan was released in 1967, produced by Denny Cordell.

Closely involved with the folk scene, she met Paul Simon who invited her to New York where she contributed to the track "Fakin' It" on the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends on which she says in the middle of the song: "Good morning, Mr Leitch, have you had a busy day." She later appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival on 16 June 1967, as did Simon & Garfunkel.

Of course, by 1971 she was the wife and musical collaborator of John Martyn....The Beverley Martyn Story - by Pete Clemons

When you read a book, and I am referring more to bio’s and autobio’s, your mind tends to form opinions about those involved. And those opinions can go in a number of directions depending on, I guess, any preconceived notions you had in your mind, about those involved, in the first place.

You need to keep in mind that you don’t actually know the people involved and, as such, so you don’t get totally skewed by any preconceptions. It can be, understandably very difficult, to keep an open mind. So try your best to take these things at face value.

And this little ramble came about as I began to write a few words about a book I recently read, ‘Sweet Honesty’ - The Beverley Martyn Story ... as told to Jaki da Costa.

The first full chapter covers Beverley’s recollections of her early life up until she leaves Coventry, for London, in 1962 to begin a new life.

Beverley’s musical career in London began promisingly enough. She initially fronted the three piece band called The Levee Breakers. She would then sign to Deram Records as a solo artist - in fact her single ‘Happy New Year’ has the distinction of being the first single release on that label. 

Then, in 1967, Beverley would perform at the Monterey Pop Festival. During this period Beverley became associated with some of the greatest singer songwriters of that era. And all of this is covered in the book.

1968 saw Beverley meet, and less than a year later, marry John Martyn. They went to America, rented a house in Woodstock and even met Bob Dylan. Together the pair made some wonderful music. But then John’s solo career took over. 

It is quite sad, and at times rather shocking, to read Beverley’s revelations as to how, after such a romantic beginning, things quickly began to turn sour. I think it is fair to say that it was a tempestuous relationship. Their 10 years or so together certainly scarred Beverley for years to come. ‘It stripped me of everything, from my self-confidence to my career’.

Beverley does however acknowledge that it was a two way thing and that drink and drugs were at the heart of it all. But, as much as you don’t want to read it, the book does arouse suspicions that John was envious of Beverley’s early success and that he possibly used her as a springboard to launch his own career. With a divorce that dragged on for a further 10 years life, even after John, appears to be a continued struggle for Beverley.

Trying to get find some kind of balance, I looked up a reputable John Martyn autobiography. All those who knew John during those early years were quoted, all apart from Beverley.

However an alleged close family member disputes some parts of the story. In particular, the area that covers Beverley’s early years while still in Coventry. That person goes on to say that maybe the book should be retitled ‘Bitter Sweet Delusional Lies and Fantasies’.

As such Beverley’s life has been indeed contentious. It is full of emotion and, at times, pulls no punches. So it could also be that Beverley was simply lashing out. After all she is, largely, an unfulfilled talent. Having said that though, 2014 did see Beverley return to the music scene, with her excellent release titled ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’.

From her book Sweet Honesty "I remember one  day I was playing around with a song about the ocean when Paul came into the room. Shortly after he wrote ‘Bridge Over troubled Water’. Did I inspire him? I hope so."

"Oh let the sea my troubles mend Let the sea
Let the sea
Let the sea my troubles mend.

More about Beverley Martyn on the Hobo Coventry Folk Club Scene website here -

Article by the Pete Chambers below....

Martyn Connection Comes full Circle at Arts Centre.

IT'S not a well-documented fact but Beverley Martyn, the folksinging former wife of the legendary John Martyn, was actually from Coventry.

She was born Beverley Kutner and she attended Broad Heath School. She went on to the Corona Academy of Theatre, where she became the front person for the jug band The Levee Breakers. At the age of 16 she released her first single on Parlophone, Babe I'm Leaving You. But eventually signed for Decca's progressive label Deram in 1966.

Known then simply as Beverley, her first Decca single was Happy New Year, followed in 1967 by a cover version of the Donovan song Museum; both are now very collectable.

She was taught to play guitar by the guitar supremo Bert Jansch. She would go on to perform at the famous Monterey Pop festival, being introduced by none other than Paul Simon.

She was a good friend of the shorter half of Simon and Garfunkel, indeed her voice can be heard saying "Good morning Mr Leitch, have you had a busy day?" on the track Fakin' It from Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends LP, (the comment incidentally is reputedly a diatribe aimed at folk singer Donovan Leitch). 

Beverley had been working for Joe Boyd's Witchseason production company, as had John Martyn. She met hubby-to-be John when he became her backing guitarist. John and Beverley married in 1969.

They signed to Warner Brothers in America, and Island Records in the UK, releasing the album Stormbringer in November 1970. It featured the drumming of Levon Helm from The Band and it was recorded in Woodstock.

The opening track, Go Out and Get, it featured on the legendary Island compilation LP Bumpers. Beverley wrote three of the 10 original songs including Sweet Honesty, a track that in 1970 a jobbing Elton John sang as a publishers' demo for the DJM catalogue. Many years later it was released as a bootleg as part of the Elton John CD, Songs of Nick Drake, the DJM Sessions Album.

The couple recorded one more album together, the jazz-influenced Road to Ruin in 1970. From then on Beverly gave up music to spend time to bring up the couple's children, although she did make the occasional appearance on John's albums. The couple separated in 1978. She toured Europe with the quirky Loudon Wainwright III, but it wasn't until 2001 that Beverley released her first solo album No Frills.

Despite a lack of commercial success it was well received, showcasing her pure and distinctive voice, (her son Spencer also features on it). Meanwhile the quite brilliant John Martyn continues to knock out classic records despite the setbacks of drink and drug dependency, marriage breakdowns and recently losing a leg.

That leads me to the concert at Warwick Arts Centre on May 19, of the man himself. John may be wheelchair-bound these days, and look nothing like his 1980s version. But he can still light up the stage with his presence. His voice remains unmistakable. Full of raw emotion, like tortured velvet, his unique voice and introspective songs combine to make a musical intensity like no other.

We were treated to many of his classic songs, handpicked from a body of work that stems back some 30 years. May You Never, Over the Hill, Bless the Weather and of course Solid Air were all present and correct.

John Smith, the support act, should also be mentioned, Devon-born John has a voice not unlike John Martyn, his guitar (and banjo) playing is of the maestro level. Playing the instrument at one point (during the song Winter) on his lap, tapping out a percussive beat on the body, while playing the strings dulcimer style.

He's certainly one to watch. Can I also say a big thank you to Arly Grove and to the crew at the Warwick Arts Centre who looked after me so well.


ON the song Happy New Year she was accompanied by half of what would become Led Zeppelin - Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones - and Stones part-time keyboardist Nicky Hopkins.

SHE appeared on the album cover of Bert Jansch's 1965 album It Don't Bother Me where she can be seen lounging in the background.

BEVERLEY has worked with names including Levon Helm, Dave Pegg, Davy Graham, Nick Drake, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson.

Pete Chambers 2007 from the Coventry Telegraph

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