John Martyn: Just Now


John Martyn’s dexterity on the fretboard: up there with the greatest ever. His innovative use of delay and volume swell pedals? Groundbreaking – especially considering his folk roots.

Just Now from the tremendous 1971 album Bless The Weather, exhibits none of those features. It’s just John: his voice, a simple strummed acoustic, accompanied by a lonesome piano.

A song so good with a melody so obvious, so true, so right, that it’s almost like it has existed for time immemorial. In fact, I’m rather inclined to think that this is Martyn’s answer to his good friend Nick Drake’s song Northern Sky; released a year earlier on his own seminal album, Bryter Layter.

And lyrically on Just Now, Martyn’s on exceptional form. Despite being only 23 at the time of release, with great maturity he reflects on the friends he’s known, his moving on and life’s ever turning wheel; Martyn is recounting all that made him the man he was at the very point of the song’s creation. His relaxed delivery hints at a contentment – not so much as finding a place in life, but rather an acceptance of the ways of the world: an understanding of life’s ever-fleeting moments.

So there’s hope in the song, almost as if Martyn’s come through the dark times and out the other side in one piece. His simple verse and chorus structure simple rolls and meanders through its pastoral musical valleys, nothing extravagant is added like a middle section, he simply rolls round the changes again and again, each verse a different stage in his mindset.

In verse one he reflects, in the second he moves on, the third he finds happiness – but it’s not the end of the story as in the final verse, he again reflects. And that’s just how the human mind works. No matter how far you move on and no matter how circumstances change or improve, if the memory is there, it will – at some point – come back to you. But that’s no bad thing, it’s just what makes us human.

So why Just Now? I guess I just found an understanding of what this song means to me…  and the song has found a place for me, just now.


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