Posted by Kevin Boyd, 29 January 2018.
In the first of what I hope may develop into a series, I’m posting this infographic telling the story of Martin Carthy’s first solo album. Click on the image to view in full size.
For the past couple of months I’ve been working on a new Martin Carthy website which is now live.
The Martin Carthy Broadcast Archive is an attempt to catalogue six decades of radio and TV appearances and to preserve the available recordings if they are not currently available commercially or otherwise in the public domain. It’s very much a work in progress and there’s lots still to be done (so be gentle with me) but this launch video should give you an idea of what it will include.
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 16 October 2017
In a slight departure from my usual photo gallery posts, I hope you’ll forgive my indulgence as I post a few shots from the first time I saw Martin sing live exactly 30 years ago today. This lineup of The Watersons – Mike, Lal, Norma, Rachel and Martin – operated briefly and only sporadically towards the end of the 1980s. I’ve seen several variations of the ‘Waterson Family’ in subsequent years and I’m closing in on 80 Martin Carthy gigs of various lineups and ensembles in total (I’d like to say I wasn’t counting, but I’d be lying!) but this gig remains a special memory. I happened to have a camera with me that night and although these are not my best shots I’m happy that I still have a record of the gig. The Rockingham Arms advert appeared in the Sept-Nov 1987 issue of Sheffield-based folk listings magazine Stirrings.
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 30 May 2017
This isn’t a post about bootleg or pirate releases – that may provide an interesting subject for a future post but this is something altogether different. This concerns the kind of fake single I recently posted about on this site’s Facebook page. I speculated as to what, in an imaginary parallel universe where 7-inch singles were part of Martin’s standard output in the pre-CD era, would have been the perfect single from his 1960s to 1980s output. To illustrate my post, and just for a bit of fun, I mocked up some artwork to show what my initial choice – Three Jolly Sneaksmen – might have looked like on 7-inch vinyl.
Having thought a little more I concluded that it would also have been totally remiss to have not released Scarborough Fair in 1965 had singles rather than albums been the common currency in folk music. I mocked up another illustration before it occurred to me that it might have been interesting if all five labels that issued solo albums by Martin during this period had also released accompanying singles. It was a short step from there to me attempting to put together a further three illustrations to complete the set.
This project – if you can call it that – has just been a bit of fun so below are my five fake Martin Carthy singles with some brief thoughts on why I think they would have made great releases and notes on the sources used to replicate the period label and cover artworks. Production and publishing credits would have all been correct at the time of original release and where catalogue number prefixes are used they are true to the various labels (although the actual catalogue numbers are invented).
‘Scarborough Fair’ (1965) Fontana Records
Taken from the album ‘Martin Carthy’ TL5269
The archetypal 60s Carthy track from his first album would surely have been an obvious choice as a single. It might have also provided the perfect foil for Simon & Garfunkel’s version that Simon famously learned/borrowed/stole (delete as applicable) directly from Martin. Simon’s version may be much better known now but in 1965 it wouldn’t appear on record for another year and took three years to emerge as a single.
The label is based on existing Fontana labels from the period. The sleeve is fairly closely based on an existing Fontana sleeve from around this time (or possibly slightly earlier) with a change of colour to match the label and a couple of additions to heighten the period feel. The ‘sample record’ sticker is standard for promo/non-sale Fontana and Philips items from this period.
Cold Haily Windy Night (1971) Philips Records
Taken from the album ‘Landfall’ 6308 048There are several unaccompanied songs amongst the 10 tracks on ‘Landfall’, which is perhaps not the most appropriate material for single release. Of the guitar-based songs this is a strong standout that Martin would also perform at around the same time during his first period with Steeleye Span. This has always been a favourite and was an obvious choice from this album for me.
The label is the standard Philips Records promo type and based on the ‘PHILIPS’ typography is from around this period but could also be a little earlier. The sleeve is not based on any known design although the ‘PHILIPS’ logo is about the same size and placed in roughly the same place as it appears on a number of known sleeves. The text ‘The Records of the Century’ and ‘PRODUCTS OF PHILIPS RECORDS LIMITED’ appear on some existing sleeves, in the case of ‘The Records of the Century’ in a slightly different typeface.
Famous Flower of Serving Men (1972) Peg Records
Taken from the album ‘Shearwater’ PEG 12This iconic track from the underrated (and currently unavailable) ‘Shearwater’ album would have been well deserving of the single treatment, if only to test the patience of DJs across the country! When this track appeared on Peg Records’ 8-track tape version of the album it was so long it had to be split across two of the available tracks. On my imaginary version I’ve avoided this by making it play at 33⅓ rpm.
The label is based on existing contemporaneous Peg singles. The sleeve is designed from scratch using a simple inverted repeat of the ‘PEG’ logo to give a period effect.
Three Jolly Sneaksmen (1974) Deram Records
Taken from the album ‘Sweet Wivelsfield’ SML1111Taken from what is perhaps another underrated album – certainly Martin has been less than complimentary about it at various times – this is one of several standout tracks for me and one that would remain lurking in Martin’s live repertoire for at least the next two decades. The rhythmic, percussive guitar and incessant chorus would have made a striking single if released at the time.
The label and sleeve are both based closely on known Deram Records examples from around the period, with just a couple of embellishments to the sleeve for the sake of detail. The Gama Records logo appears for the first time on one of these labels.
The Devil and the Feathery Wife (1982) Topic Records
Taken from the album ‘Out Of The Cut’ 12TS426There is an actual Martin Carthy solo single between the last example and this. ‘The Bonny Lass of Anglesey’ was released in limited numbers in 1976 to promote his first album for Topic Records so there’s a bit of a gap before we get to this final ‘fake’ example from Martin’s final solo album of the pre-CD era. This is a song that’s light-hearted yet hides a sobering maxim and there’s rarely a solo gig to this day that doesn’t end with it still.
The label is very closely based on the existing Topic label used for ‘The Bonny Lass of Anglesey’ in 1976 at least one other single release by Topic in the mid-70s. The sleeve is created from scratch and is loosely based on the colours, layout and typeface used on the rear cover of the original vinyl issue of the ‘Out Of The Cut’ album.
I hope you have as much fun scrutinising these as I had making them. I’ve tried to remain true to known releases from the relevant times on the respective labels but where this has not been feasibly I wanted to at least retain some of the period feel. As I said earlier in this post, this has just been a bit of fun so please don’t waste too much time trawling through eBay for copies of these or scouring YouTube for those elusive Top Of The Pops performances. Having said that, if anyone knows where I can pick up a copy of the fake singles box set will you give me the nod…? 😀
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 21 May 2017
Here are three new audio clips from a live recording of Martin’s solo Roots Music Club gig at the Doncaster Deaf School on 29 November 2013. I’m posting them here on the occasion of Martin’s 76th birthday.
Two of the clips (My Son John and the interview) were previously unavailable whilst When I Was A Little Boy was included on a podcast from Jonti’s Roots & Acoustic Music Show on SineFM in December 2013. Jonti Willis conducts the interview and asked me to contribute to the Q&A so if you listen carefully you’ll hear my question to Martin at around 16:45 (there were no mics on the audience so the audio for these questions has been boosted and is audible but not always very clear).
The full podcast including most of this gig (minus the interview) is here:
Oh, and Happy Birthday Martin!
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 7 May 2017
Mini album CDs are scaled-down reproductions of albums that were originally issued as 12” LPs and are perhaps most popular in Japan. Packaging reproduces that of the original vinyl LP rather than any later CD reissues and will often include any inserts or inner sleeves that may not be included in the standard CD. A paper insert with additional information in both English and Japanese may also be included and an ‘obi strip’ – a small strip of paper or card wrapped around the cover – is a standard feature.
This is an August 2015 release of Martin’s 1967 Byker Hill album from Media Arte Records and rather than being from Japan this was issued in South Korea. It’s something I picked up around a year ago but have been reluctant to post here as I wasn’t sure if it was a legitimate release or one of the many available pirate/bootleg issues. I was recently reassured by David Suff of Topic Records that this was indeed a legitimate issue so I’m happy to post some detailed pictures here.
As you’ll see, reproduction of the original Topic LP sleeve and label are of a high quality and while the mastering on some Japanese albums gives a notoriously ‘brittle’ sound, the sound quality here is at least as good as the standard issue Topic CD of the same album.
There are now a number of Japanese mini album CDs of Martin’s solo and duo albums available – just last week a pirate version of his first album was released – but this is the only issue I can confirm as a legitimately licenced product. As it’s also the only one I actually own I can’t vouch for the quality of any other releases in terms of the overall packaging or sound quality so I guess a general ‘buyer beware’ warning should go along with any of these items. And of course, it goes without saying that neither Martin nor Topic Records (or any of the other relevant artists or labels) will receive the necessary royalties from pirate releases.
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 27 April 2017
Here are a few shots from when I caught up with Martin in Stockport a couple of days ago. The Midway is a regular venue that probably seats less than a hundred and has a classic folk club feel. This was a re-arranged gig after Martin had been too ill to perform two weeks earlier.
He again made a comment about “leaving things behind”, this time when introducing High Germany. The set was very similar to recent gigs but with the unusual addition of Bows Of London, played on guitar for apparently only the third time in public (as an attempt to ‘challenge himself’).
There were noticeable cracks in both his Martin and Fylde guitars which he reported were made at the hands of airport baggage handlers. I’ve tried to highlight the damage on these cropped images but they’re not very clear. All but one of these are of the Martin guitar:
Her Servant Man
The Trees They Do Grow High
The Downfall Of Paris
When I Was A Little Boy
Sir Patrick Spens
A Stitch In Time
The Heroes of St Valery
Bows of London
The Devil and the Feathery Wife
Harry Lime Theme (encore)