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Small Hours Reviews

Small Hours by Graeme Thomson

Small Hours

The Long Night of John Martyn

Graeme Thomson

4.40 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Omnibus Press
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Publication date: 9 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9781787600195

Small Hours is an intimate, unflinching biography of one of the great maverick artists.

4 stars out of 5
Richard Williams
12 Sep 2020

"It is the job of Graeme Thomson, the author of this excellent and necessary biography, to make sense of a tangled and often distressing story"

An encounter with Martyn in his final years gives the book a dramatic opening sequence. As well as displaying a love and understanding of his subject’s finest music, the author is clear-eyed about the regular bouts of “loud, stupid behaviour, intimidating and graceless”, the chaotic tours, the vast amounts of drink and drugs, the selfishness and the emotional cowardice. Yet amid the despairing shrugs of the surviving witnesses, including his abandoned partners and children, a love of the roaring boy shines through.


4 stars out of 5
10 Jul 2020

"Graeme Thomson’s unsettling biography paints a picture of a damaged man"

After reading Graeme Thomson’s comprehensive, thoughtful and often unsettling biography of the man, there is little wonder the singer rarely, if ever, reached a place of contentment. This is a person, writes Thomson, who “displayed classic patterns of coercive behaviour – controlling, manipulative, mercurial. Quick to emotional and sometimes physical violence when drunk, drugged or simply enraged, he fostered paranoia and panic even when he was being nice”.

5 stars out of 5
Kitty Empire
30 Jun 2020

"...Martyn, the difficult musical visionary, thoroughly deserves this painstaking and eloquent biography"

And yet Martyn, the difficult musical visionary, thoroughly deserves this painstaking and eloquent biography. It is not the first, but balances the fan’s assiduousness with a critic’s sieving action. Thomson does the legwork: the leading lights of the folk-rock scene, Martyn’s teenage girlfriend, Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, an early and loyal benefactor, Martyn’s children, umpteen band members, session musicians, producers and former managers are interviewed. One anonymous friend of Martyn’s is still too scared to go on the record about the musician’s underworld connections.

It would no doubt incense the scathing, unclubbable Martyn to learn how many of his peers-cum-rivals (Richard Thompson, for one) come to pass judgment on his abilities and frailties. What emerges is a picture of a one-man band musician whose virtuoso playing and jigsaw of effects units could, legend has it, upstage superstars; a charming boor with quicksilver in his fingers.