This Album Changed My Life: John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

Cathy McGuinness of Dublin four-piece Pillow Queens on a revelatory record

Solid Air: “It was almost uncomfortable to listen to as it felt so personal,” says Cathy McGuiness (left) of Pillow Queens

Solid Air: “It was almost uncomfortable to listen to as it felt so personal,” says Cathy McGuiness (left) of Pillow Queens

 

It’s a really vivid memory. It was the end of a party in Arklow, with the old reliables still flying the flag. We were reluctant, struggling musicians falling out of love with the idea. We put down our instruments. My friend Chris said nothing and walked over to his record player, not knowing the gravity of his action. My understanding and appreciation of music were just about to be turned on their head. And so began Solid Air.

John Martyn’s record was so deeply emotional. Both the lyrics and the music sounded so effortless. Like the most natural songwriting session you might have on your own in your bedroom at 3am and have absolutely no intention of ever sharing it with anyone because it’s so close to you. It was almost uncomfortable to listen to because it felt so personal.

John Martyn plays May You Never, from Solid Air

The album opened my eyes to the complexities of music and the layers of sound that you can achieve just by feeling it. It was no longer important to me to be able to play the most technical and impressive pieces of music. Now I wanted to know when to not play. It taught me subtleties and it taught me to be (or try to be) thoughtful.

It was like a door had opened and possibilities flooded in. I still feel that every time I listen to it. You know when you put your head under water and everything slows down and goes quiet and loud all at once? That’s Solid Air.

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