John Martyn in Hastings


It was a hot summers day in the 90’s and John Martyn was back from touring in the US. He was staying at the Nelson in the Old Town. I believe he was sleeping on the pool table in the room above the pub. He was walking everywhere wearing slippers because his feet were too swollen for shoes. He was meant to rest, but I don’t think he did, much.
This particular day he was in a good mood and decided he fancied treating everyone in the pub to an impromptu concert on the beach.


His guitar was plugged into one of the winch huts, somebody went home to fetch their drums and Pat, the land lady,  lit the BBQ.


This is the kind of magic one sometimes encounters in Hastings – especially in the Old Town. There is an irreverent anarchic sense of fun here, a generosity of spirit that no big business – like the Jerwood – can ever acquire however much money they throw at our corrupt politicians. Creativity is not a commodity that can be bought and sold. It has to be given freely, from a full heart, however much the men in suits try to harness it, re-package it and then sell it back to us.  John Martyn walked his own way, and I for one am truly grateful to have met him.



About Anna

I am a ceramic sculptor living on the South coast near London, England. My work is influenced by my experience of the earth as a living being and seeing how we are all connected with eachother and with the things that surround us. I create ceramic torsos using molochite clay which I often smokefire in galvanised dustbins. I also make House Gods to protect and amuse, and Fat Birds - little smokefired sculptures that tell the story about what it is like to be a fat bird at peace with its surroundings.
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18 Responses to John Martyn in Hastings

  1. rachel spring says:

    This is true and beautifully expressed.


  2. James says:

    Thanks for recalling this wonderful event. Nice to see a mug shot of my pal Sax. Those were the days!


  3. James says:

    I think he is known as Ming! Sometimes he would bring his saxophone and improvise. I often saw him making his zany contribution at gigs in Hastings although I havn’t seen him for years. When did John Martyn headline the free beach concert?


  4. annakeiller says:

    I can not remember what year! Must have been during the early 90’s.


  5. joel says:

    What happened to his eye? Looks like a shiner to me…..


  6. Liono says:

    Great post! I love DIY shows like that. More people of his stature should do that sort of thing. Wish I could have seen JM in any setting though…


  7. Luke says:

    Great read Anna – I could read posts like this about Hastings all day.

    You are right that this place has a habit of creating amazing things very suddenly and spontaneously. It’s got such strong character, I hope it never changes in that respect.


  8. John Winch says:

    I missed this one, but in the very early days often saw John and Danny (Thomson´) playing together. John lived in a house in the Croft in the Old Town for a while together with Beverley and the kids. The house was owned by Island Records. They, J & D, were often in the Nelly in a somewhat sorry state, and the lads wheeled him home once in an old wheelbarrow – legs gone! The guy somebody mentioned here in one of the pics was called MIN, he died sometime in the late nineties from the ‘Hastings Disease’ – O-Dosed like Electric Ray who was also a good mate. Unfortunately, but not altogether a surprise, John died this year in January – went to join Nick (Drake) and Davy (Graham) who, all three, were exceptional influences on the 60s singer/guitarist/progressive-folk scene. Danny played bass with, amongst many other people, Pentangle and Richard Thomson as well as J M. Me, I lived for years in Brighton and Hastings, and seeing these photos, brought many memories back of the music scene, falling over in pubs, and the great friends.


    • Anna says:

      So lovely to read your message, John, thanks for getting in touch! Here’s to many more good times for you and for me and for all the mad, creative, generous souls that nourish our lives.


  9. John Winch says:

    Sitting in a pub in Nuremberg, GERMANY (where I live) last night, October 17, 2010, and they played a John Martyn track – Solid Air, and afterwards, surprise-surprise, a Nick Drake track. These amongst a load of other dubious ‘pop’ stuff like R.Williams etc:.
    John M wrote Solid Air especially for Nick Drake, funnily enough, after Nick came to visit him at The Croft in Hastings, and sat all day without saying a word. Apparently John was so upset my Nick’s depressed state that it inspired Solid Air. I think Nick sadly killed himself before the album was actually released


  10. robin hayter says:

    Hi thanks for posting this.


  11. Pingback: John Martyn in Hastings from Anna Keiller » SMART

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