Eleven years ago today, the English singer and guitarist John Martyn and his band performed a live set in the studios of KCRW, the influential public radio station in Santa Monica, California, for Nic Harcourt's legendary show Morning Becomes Eclectic. Martyn, who died earlier this year at the age of 60, was described in his London Times obit as "an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues," but I really can't say I'm familiar with his body of work.
In fact, the only reason I know about him is that one song he recorded that day in 1998, a cover of Portishead's "Glory Box," made it onto a live-in-studio compilation KCRW issued the next year. The CD found its way into my hands sometime during college, probably through my stint as a student-radio DJ at Dartmouth, and the track somehow quickly became etched into my consciousness. At the time I had no more than a passing familiarity with Portishead's original recording, and Martyn's soulful (I hate that word, but there really is no other word) rendition of a heartrendingly written song ("I'm so tired of playing with this bow and arrow...") became the soundtrack to every breakup I've endured since.
Here it is:
John Martyn - Glory Box
And here is the equally stunning Portishead original, in case you've never heard it:
Portishead - Glory Box