John Martyn | Sunday’s Child – 1975

‘Monday’s child is full of grace’

I’ve never seen this album on a top album list,

It’s one of my favourites

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

It was the year that I was discovering females, but from an annoying distance. But that was alright, because females would not be discovering me for many more years.

In 1975 I was in Year 11 at school – Barker College in Hornsby. It was a watershed year for the school.

There were girls at Barker now. This was the first year
that girls attended this old, expensive college.

It was a shock to an old school system. Even the male teachers were far from immune from this change, but it was the ’70’s, and they were crazy times:

It was the year of the dismissal of Whitlam.

It was the year of Watergate

It was the year of the fall of Saigon.

It was the year of colour TV in Australia.

It was the year that 2JJ started broadcasting in Sydney.

It was the year that Microsoft is first mooted as a company.

In 1975 everything was vibrant, even our bedsheets were brightly coloured.

For ongoing affect on me, longest and strongest, it was that one radio station. 2JJ, 1540 on the AM band, ‘it’s nice but it’s naughty’. It was the place in my youth that would play music to hold my attention. The first two songs played set the radio station apart; ‘You just like me ’cause I’m good in bed’ by Skyhooks, followed by ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones’. ‘Sympathy’ was a track that was 6 minutes long and released 7 years earlier in 1968. It had never been played on Sydney radio, and probably never would without 2JJ. A few years later I found myself living around the corner of 2JJJ’s studios in Darlinghurst.

2JJ and later 2JJJ gave me easy access to music that wasn’t being played anywhere else. The station wasn’t constrained by commercial interest, so could play anything wild and wacky, ambient, folk, blues – whatever took the announcers fancy. As a listener, you could pick up what ever interested you. One of the interests for me was John Martyn.

I’ve looked at a lot of reviews of John Martyn albums. ‘Sunday’s Child’ is marked as ‘ok’ with so many other albums recommended above it. For me, this is the John Martyn I return to more than ‘Solid Air’, Grace and Danger or One World. For me, it is about the memories of time and place.

I bought this at the end of 1976, and I have listened to it regularly since then. I played it to my son, Liam this week, he enjoyed the guitar work.

This whole album is a showcase of much I enjoy of John Martyn ; the rough and rasping voice, the stunning guitar work (both acoustic and electric), the emotional song writing, and the enticing double bass playing of Danny Thompson.

Sunday’s Child doesn’t have John Martyn’s later love of dub and trip hop, but also avoids the middle period of 80’s bland.

It was written and recorded over a 3 day period and feels live, living and relaxed.

The tracks that stay in my memory are :

  • ‘Spencer the Rover’, which tells the story of a man who had been much reducéd and caused such confusion.
  • ‘The Message’ which is a mash up of an old Gaelic song that Karen B told me she danced to in kindergarten.

‘S i mo ghaol-sa Màiri BhànMàiri bhòidheach sgeul mo dhàin,Gaol mo chridh’-sa Màiri Bhàn,’S tha mi ‘dol ‘ga pòsadh.

The album shows John Martyn using subtle tape loops on his guitar, and less subtle but more powerful effects on tracks such as ‘Root Love’, a song about being away from a lover and just drinking.

I remember Karen B and I seeing him perform a heavy electric set in Sydney in 1983 @ Her Majesty’s Theatre. [Redgum was the support act] There was a drunk Scot yelling to him throughout the performance. Seemed to fit in nicely.

Drinking and drugs played a very large part of John Martyn’s life and a larger part in his death. He died one bit at a time, losing a leg here, a liver there. Final death was at the age of 60 in 2009 shortly after receiving an O.B.E.

If this isn’t the best John Martyn album, I’m looking forward to the ones I still haven’t heard.

Track listing
All tracks composed by John Martyn; except where indicated
  1. “One Day Without You”
  2. “Lay It All Down”
  3. “Root Love”
  4. “My Baby Girl”
  5. “Sunday’s Child”
  6. “Spencer the Rover” (Traditional, arr. John Martyn)
  7. “Clutches”
  8. “The Message”
  9. “A Satisfied Mind” (Red Hayes, Jack Rhodes; falsely credited as Traditional, arr. John Martyn)
  10. “You Can Discover”
  11. “Call Me Crazy”
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One Response to John Martyn | Sunday’s Child – 1975

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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