Write on in Hastings: Gavin Martin – Talking Musical Revolutions
Pete Donohue introduces:
Hastings & St Leonards based music critic and performance poet, Gavin Martin, has interviewed or reviewed just about any artiste worth knowing about in the music industry over a distinguished career spanning almost four decades. 2016 now sees the imminent release of Gavin’s first album Talking Musical Revolutions – a collection of spoken word tributes to musical greats that have shaped his journey, along with some personal and social commentaries, all recorded by a local producer featuring top musicians. Here Gavin explains to HIP Literature how this has all come to be:
I can’t quite believe it – I’ll be 55 on December 14 and by then my debut album should have just been released. As a music (and film) critic I’ve been hacking away at the efforts of my peers, betters – and Bono – for years. And now it’s my turn to take the heat and there’s no punch line. Well maybe a few – on the rhymes included on the tracks I’ve put together with producer Kelly Munro.
A team of talented musicians gathered from Mr K’s End Of The Trail Record label provide the accompaniment to words variously reimagining Liam Fox as a gangster rapper, tracing the musical revolutions and tragedies of The Sex Pistols, Wilko Johnson, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye and unearthing England’s scary past in the sick love sage Jimmy And Maggie (that’s Savile and Thatcher to you).
How did I end up making a record? I’ve been a professional music journalist since I was first published in NME aged 16 in the spring of 1978. I never wanted to be a musician, I was happy being a writer in the glory days of paid for journalism. 30 years of all expenses global travel – talking to Madonna in her upper east side bedroom, sharing a spliff with Willie Nelson in his Farm Aid trailer in Des Moines, Iowa, going to church with Al Green, meeting Marvin Gaye in the LA home where his father murdered him 9 months later, walking the streets of NYC with James Brown, interviewing Nina Simone while she breakfasted in bed on chicken consommé and strong lager, listening to Willie Dixon’s blues wisdom of the ages as he sat strapped up at home in Silverlake following major heart surgery. Well you would, wouldn’t you?
I’ve lived a charmed and privileged life and it’s been full of surprises. When I left NME in 1998 I’d no idea about working for the Daily Mirror, but I’ve been the music critic there since the start of the century.
2007 in Hayle, Cornwall, I started writing the words that ended up forming the Talking Musical Revolutions on my album. Something about being by the coast set me back to my early childhood – spent in an idyllic seaside hamlet in N Ireland before the war (aka the troubles) started there in 1968. I was 4 when Rory Gallagher’s became the first electric guitar I heard – he was practising with his band Taste in Sheridan Drive, just down from Windmill Rd where we lived in Ballyholme.
I used to gig then too, often, myself – solely in the front garden of our house though –perfectly positioned for kids returning home from primary school. One day I had to join them and put performing aside. By 1976 the war was raging but when I saw Rory playing The Ulster Hall Belfast I knew that were the feeling in that venue to be captured and put in a bottle, it was all you could ever want, or ask for, from music, really. Now I have a poem about Rory. It’s called The Revolutionary and his brother Donal tells me I have put ‘the Rory Genie in the bottle’ which he says is ‘not an easy thing to do’. And yes, Veronica, it’s on the album.
Like sick dogs that you can’t simply kick out of the house these poems have come to me, simpered and stuck around. Some have even grown. Jenny Barrett and her world famous (and brilliant) director husband Declan Lowney are partly to blame. Jenny asked me to write a piece about Marvin Gaye for their wedding after Declan filmed me performing my first Cornwall written piece at Jenny’s birthday. The Marvin piece became a song called Long Hard Road (To Be Free) after I met Peter Cattermoul playing piano at a Xmas party. Later Eugenie Arrowsmith added a breathtakingly beautiful vocal chorus.
Kelly came to see me perform a TMR set at The Stables Theatre last year for Hastings Fringe and suggested making a whole album. It’s been great fun and thus far I’ve had many compliments but I look forward to some of my number tearing me a new one for having the temerity to journey from critic to creative. It’s only fair and proper if they do, I’ve certainly dished it out in my time.
Talking Musical Revolutions is also the name of the Live event I’ve hosted and curated since 2009 – themed evening spoken word events featuring writers, musicians, poets, Djs and even hula hoopers. Writer percussionist Extraordinaire Zoe Howe was an inaugural Talking Musical Revolutionary at The Secret Garden Party in 2009. Her definitive books on revolutionary female punks The Slits, Wilko Johnson, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Stevie Nicks have seen Zoe become the foremost rock biographer of her generation.
Now with the brilliantly observed, refreshingly angled view of rock band life presented in her just published debut novel Shine On, Marquee Moon the time to stage St Leonards’ first Talking Musical Revolutions at the Kino – me onstage with Zoe on November 24 – has arrived. And while we talk through her magnificent career, inspirations and fascinations I promise not to try to sell too many copies of my album…too often.