Fine Lines (Song by John Martyn)

Clip, lyrics and my thoughts on my all-time favourite song by the late British singer-songwriter/guitarist follow:

Lyrics:
Here a fine line, there a fine line
Oh what a time we had
Here a strange place, and there a strange face
Doesn’t it make you sad
I will call up my friends and say
Come on over, make my night or my day
And talk about who’s the finest folk in town
There a day’s grace, here a night’s space
Oh what a lovely rhyme
Take it from me, there is no disgrace
In having yourself a time
I will call up my friends and say
Come on over and make my day
And talk about the love that I know is in us all
Making the bread, going mad in the head
I know when I’m going too far
I want to get back, want to take up the slack
Get where the good times are
But I will call up all my friends and will say
I will say: Come on over make my night or my day
And we’ll talk about who’s the finest folk in town
Here a fine line, there a fine wine
Oh what a time we had
Here a strange place, there a strange face
Didn’t it make me sad
I will call up my friends and say
Now come on over and make my day
And tell me about the love that’s in us all
That’s in us all
Songwriter: John Martyn
Fine Lines lyrics © WARLOCK MUSIC LTD., Warlock Music, Ltd., INDEPENDENT MUSIC LTD

 

You can discover (that is the name of another of his songs, by the way) a great deal about John Martyn elsewhere on the internet – his official site is great as a starting place. You’ll find he was a leading light of progressive folk/rock, refusing to be pigeonholed by musical genres. Also, a distinctive and idiosyncratic  vocalist, astonishing acoustic/electric guitarist and the creator of brilliant , heartfelt songs . I want to give a little fan love to this jewel of his expansive canon of work. Actually, when something has become so ingrained in you, as this song is to me,it’s difficult to articulate exactly why that is the case.

So, blow by blow: Martyn is heard at the start of the song telling his producer that it ” felt natural”… he got that right. The warm analog mix on this is something unique, likes it’s coming from inside your head, not outside of it. The vocal rolls in and envelopes you like sea fog ;Martyn’s trademark slightly slurred delivery is often around the beat, almost jazzy in that respect, and grows more fervent over the piece’s course. He converses intimately with the listener of love ,regret and what the good life looks like to him. The  song is righteously anchored by  Danny Thompson’s singing, monster double bass , up there in the mix with the vocals. The simple electric guitar solo ,commencing at 1:39 on the tape ,sounds like it has been recorded underwater or something, muffled and moaning like  a cemetery ghost;the elegant ,chiming piano on the other hand is crystalline as spring rain. The magic of the song is also in the space between things, notes are left suspended in the air. The whole piece has an elusiveness, a touch of mystery about it – no matter how many times I have listened to it , it seems to slip my grasp, melting away, and never quite resolving….and so it  draws me back again …..

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