John Martyn – Big Muff

14th November 2023 · 1970s, 1977, Music

A Carry On-style collaboration between John Martyn and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Muff came into being at the breakfast table of Island boss Chris Blackwell.

Since then what began as a smutty joke has been acclaimed as one of the building blocks of trip-hop, along with the album – One World – from which it is taken.

Martyn and Perry had met in Jamaica in 1976, where the Englishman had gone with his family to take a break from music and recharge his batteries after punk changed the landscape of music in the UK.

The following year Scratch was in London working with Bob Marley on Punky Reggae Party when they ran into each other again at Blackwell’s home, an old Tudor farmhouse in Berkshire.

The cups on the breakfast table were all modelled on farmyard animals, prompting the eccentric Jamaican to start freestyling about the mating possibilities of the pig and the cow; rambling on in his own inimitable nonsense-verse style about a big muff and a powder puff.

Next day the pair of them got back together to write and record the song in the studio at Woolwich Green Farm, where Martyn was recording with his band, including ex-members of Traffic, Gong, Fairport Convention and Pentangle
One World is the only John Martyn album I have and it’s unlike anything else he’d done before, with a dubby widescreen sound enhanced by his Echoplex guitar effects and Blackwell’s atmospheric production.

Some tracks were recorded outdoors, with Blackwell running a live feed across the farm’s surrounding lake so microphones could pick up on the natural reverb – and even the occasional goose and train.