Friday, 2 March 2012

Number fifteen . . . 

15 Happy New Year Beverley

More Jews. It’s written by Randy Newman and sung by a 19-year-old woman from Coventry who was born Beverley Kutner and who later played the Monterey Pop Festival, invited over by her long-term friend, Paul Simon — she has a speaking role on the Bookends album.

Ralph McTell talked about her in an interview — they played together in a folk outfit called the Levee Breakers (oh, dem cotton fields of Mitcham and Merton). ‘Beverley at that time was very strikingly beautiful in the kind of Mediterranean-looking way. The boys all loved her. She was only about nineteen. She sang with such maturity and expression. She was absolutely fantastic.’

Then, in 1969, she met John Martyn, with whom she had two children and made a series of albums. Despite her contribution, as singer and writer, her name only appeared on the first two. Her career never recovered. Martyn hit her, too. (I met him a little later, at a show in south London. He didn’t hit me but he wasn’t nice, either.) One of her songs was Primrose Hill — later sampled by Fat Boy Slim, for North West Three, the London postal district which borders the hill.
Cut in 1966, this was her debut single, the first release on Decca’s ‘hip’ label, Deram. This was an attempt to turn her into a Ready Steady Go! girl, like Lulu, Dusty, Cilla, Sandie, that kind of thing. It didn’t work. Well, it wasn’t a hit, of even the smallest kind. Like so many records from that period, the band includes Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (bass), Nicky Hopkins (keyboards) and Andy White (drums).

I happened to meet Beverley’s sister a few years ago, not far from the location of Beverley’s most famous song, Primrose Hill. She was still bitter about what John Martyn had done to her sister’s career and life. Really bitter. Really really bitter. Though, still, can it really be called bitter when it’s so rooted in truth?

Next Tom Waits, me  . . . and his wife


Mat said...

Back in 2006 I interviewed John Martyn, and he had this to say about Beverley:

Q: That album One World is an oasis of reflection, yet your marriage with Beverley was deteriorating at that very same time into violent confrontation. One would never be able to detect that back story on listening to it.

A: You’re not supposed to. When I was playing, the more I’d be out of the house. When I recorded One World, Beverley couldn’t come to the sessions. We recorded it at yer man Chris Blackwell’s house. Vast grounds, lovely lake, a fine environment. It was my way of saying, it’s not all rock’n’roll and mirrors; I think she thought I was throwing televisions out of the window and banging hookers all night, none of which was the truth.

Q: Did she resent the ending of her career while yours blossomed, leaving her stuck at home with the kids?

A: It was awful. I didn’t do any of that by design. I was shocked when Muff Winwood said, ‘We’ll have you, but we can’t have Bev.’ I said, What’s the matter with her? ‘She sings flat.’ I thought, so do I from time. Whatever. That destroyed her somewhat and might have contributed to the deleterious relationship between us. I think she still believes I stole her career from her.

Q: She implied on the BBC4 documentary about you, Johnny Too Bad, that you hijacked the sessions for her solo album Stormbringer.

A: She was short a lot of songs. I wrote them. Somebody had to do it. Not for the life of me would I make a cold, calculated move to do that kind of thing. Joe Boyd produced Road To Ruin, and you’d see him at the mixing desk reading the Financial Times while we were singing. He resented me. I was far too working class for him, and had too much of a life going, whereas Joe’s a prosaic character. He’d have been far happier being a banker or owning a baseball team.

Peter Silverton said...

well . . . personal experience is all i have to go by . . .

the only time i met martyn he was obnoxious - this was before i was a professional pop writer

joe boyd i've met, too - not as a professional pop writer, either, but semi-socially - the idea that he had or has any class attitude is completely risible - as is the suggestion that he could have run a bank - as his own finances can attest - he is a delightful man, slightly naive if anything . . .

i'd be interested to know what muff winwood has to say . . .