John Martyn Performs “Solid Air”

Listen to this track by Scottish folk-jazz figurehead John Martyn. It’s “Solid Air”, the title track of his 1973 album of the same name, Solid Air. The record is arguably his most high-profile, employing a successful fusion of jazz and folk, connecting lyrically on an emotional level too.

Martyn’s delivery here is slurred and¬†languorous, a new style for him at the time. The song’s themes of course have to do with his friend Nick Drake, a person of prodigious talent and sensitivity in the same measure. He suffered from debilitating depression, coupled with and perhaps exacerbated by the pressures of being a recording artist dealing with the demand of record sales and live appearances in close succession. Nick Drake didn’t enjoy success with either at the time.

Nick Drake would die of an accidental overdose of antidepressant medication, November 25, 1974. It happened 18 months after Martyn’s album came out, and 37 years and less one day ago today.

This song is written by Martyn to Nick Drake, a sentiment of one friend to another in song, maybe because, as Drake said in one of his own songs, “if songs were lines in the conversation, the situation would be fine.” The song is looked upon as a tribute. But, to me it is less that, and more a song to express worry, concern.¬† Read more