John Martyn-Bless the Weather

January 20, 2012

John Martyn

Bless the Weather(Island 1971)

As I garner more rings around my stump, it becomes more difficult to find myself immersed in those magical moments where you sit dumbfounded by the genius of an album throughout your maiden voyage in its presence. Thankfully, the advent of the internet has unlocked new universes of sounds and genres my teenage mind couldn’t have even imagined when I pined away for unattainable love in my bedroom and idolized Morrissey as if he was the bee’s knees. However, I possess a near photographic memory of the first time I rushed home to my hovel to hear such classics as the Holy Modal Rounders’ Have Moicy, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Fairport Covention’s Unhalfbricking and just oozed and melted into the moment as if it were a landmark in my life imbued with a near ecstatic, religious fervor for what was just imprinted upon my very soul. These moments are rare and magical and I hope they pass before my eyes when I shed this mortal coil.

I discovered John Martyn via an article in the Wire where I was drawn to his quote  “For a while I had the reputation of a real bad boy: this man was going to punch you out, shoot you or fuck you. I deliberately cultivated it, because it kept people away from me. I want people away from me, basically… Obviously one loses one’s innocence as one gets older; it becomes more difficult to speak. But I think innocence really is permanent.” The combination of sensitivity, difficult behavior, self-destructive tendencies and eloquence inspired me to order Bless the Weather from the local record store chain in my podunk college town and thought nothing of it until it arrived weeks later. I was fresh out of college and living in self-imposed poverty as a line cook at the kind of Italian joint where they’d passive aggressively place a handle of whiskey out for the staff after we survived an onslaught of meal tickets as if they wanted to exterminate us like a coven of cockroaches. Who cared? I was passing time until an escape to Savannah, Georgia came to fruition. It was a light-hearted time where friends were plentiful, excess was welcomed and the moment was all that mattered for now. Anyhow, the call eventually came and I walked a crooked mile to retrieve my album and I sat down in a tattered living room littered with pretentious tomes, soiled dishes and mountains of music and placed the cd into the tray as my roommates gathered around this figurative campfire of detritus and the opening strains of John Martyn’s “Go Easy” washed over us and made us feel new again then tossed us onto the rocks below with one of the most haunting, battered sentiments our uncalloused ears had yet heard in our young lives.

Looking at me you never find out what a working man’s about
Raving all night, sleeping away the day
Something to ask
Something to say
Something to keep the pain away
Something I’d like to see if it’s alright.

Life, go easy on me
Love, don’t pass me by.

Spending my time, making it shine, gotta throw away the rest
Look at the ways to vent and amaze my mind
Something I need
Something I plead for
Something I have to say
Something to keep me safe while I’m away.

Life, go easy on me
Love, don’t pass me by
Life, go easy on me
Love, don’t pass me by.

One way for me, one way for you, one way for all of us
To get back home, do whatever we want to do
Nothing to tell you
Nothing to show
Nothing that you don’t know
Something to play
Something to say for now.

Life, go easy on me
Love, don’t pass me by
Life, go easy on me
Love, don’t pass me by
Love, don’t pass me by

It was one of those inconceivable instances where the music matched the unfair expectations I had built up in my mind. “Go Easy” plastered a seemingly endless grin on our faces as we simultaneously basked in the beauty of the song while being rendered dumbstruck by the eloquence of how he painted a tragic, romantic and troubled worldview in a simple song. It was a transcendent prayer to the faceless gods above to allow him enough moments of joy to keep trudging along in a life where he alternated between suffering and inspiration. He hopes for more of the latter while accepting that his personal flaws invited a horde of the former. It’s submissive and defiant all at once which kind of sums up his existence at that moment in his life.

The ironic thing about the gush of hyperbole that precedes this sentence is that the rest of the album fails to match the heights of its life affirming introduction. Don’t get me wrong. Bless the Weather is one of my favorite albums, but is not perfect by any means. However, I would tout this as one of the best half albums ever recorded. It doesn’t hurt that the second song on the album “Bless the Weather” nearly captures the same conflicted sentiments of its predecessor.

Time after time I held it just to watch it die
Line after line I loved it just to watch it cry
Bless the weather that brought you to me
Curse the storm that takes you away
Bless the weather that brought you to me
Curse the storm that takes you home
Wave after wave I washed it just to watch it turn
Day after day I cooled it just to watch it burn
Pain after pain I stood it just to see how it feels
Rain after rain I stood it just to make it real
Bless the weather that brought you to me
Curse the day you go away
Bless the weather that brought you to me
Curse the storm that takes you away

It’s yet another ode to embracing the warm glow of love and a wallowing in the inevitable decay of it due to his own failings and flaws. Martyn was never quite so proud and powerful, yet so frail and pummeled by life as on this album and these two tracks are so alive, yet injured and torn that they break your heart while inspiring you because he comes across as a prizefighter who never goes down in sheer spite of those who jab at his soul.

There are other highlights like “Just Now” which champions transience as a way of life where friends shift and shuffle like a deck of cards and happiness is a state of mind if you can just get your mind right amidst the distractions of life. Judging from its title “Let the Good Things Come” should be joyous, but Martyn delivers a meditation on the paths taken and those ignored and wishes his trajectory could have been steeper and his valleys not so deep. “Head and Heart” is an acceptance of his imperfections and a ballad devoted to anyone who will embrace him as he is. It is a devotion to a love that is logical, yet elemental and passionate. I’ve found it in my life and pray he had as well during the course of his life. Hell, I even love his take on “Singing in the Rain”, but there are a few missteps that relegate it to the middle ground of most John Martyn fans, but its highs outweigh its lows by such a large margin. Ultimately, Bless the Weather is just as flawed and inspirational as the man who recorded it.

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