Martin Belmont first came into my listening orbit as the fire and whisky guitarist in Graham Parker’s classic 70s line of The Rumour. 30 years ago, in my guise as Alternative Ulster writer/editor /founder I travelled the short distance from The Rumour’s hotel to The Whitla Hall in Belfast in the band’s tour coach. GP sat upfront studied intense cool as fuck and I chatted with the band , clubbable pubbable good guys all.
Then onstage, transformed , without a horn section for the first time, they played an absolutely blistering set focussed on the songs from the new album, still my fave Parker album, Squeezing Out Sparks.
30 years later Martin has his album The Guest List out, higlighting his sterling guitar work, useful vibrato vocal and a string of associates including such family tree folk as Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe, Carlene Carter, Graham Parker, Sean Tyla, Geraint Watkins, Hank Wangford, Johnny Nicky, Barbara Marsh & Reg Meuross.
There’s a some great clips on Martin’s myspace site one in particular is simply fucking aces, totally stalwart stuff, Belmont the towering soul rock in Johnny Nicky’s Band at The Falcon NW6 on 130908 . IT was the night of the Proms but there was no more real raw musical action in all of London town or anywhere else that night. Unfortunately it doesnt seem to be possible to link it here so you’ll have to shoot over to martinbelmont’s myspace to have a look.
Meanwhile spot him here in the video for the great Graham Parker tune Protection.
Tonight Martin plays live in Elephant and Castle and its an honour to have him here to answer a few questions. Take it away MB.
How might people have heard of you without meeting you
As a professional guitar player for around 45 years
What’s your earliest musical memory
Jailhouse Rock – Elvis
When did you first play an instrument
What was the first instrument you owned
A £6 acoustic guitar
What and where was your first public appearance
At art school around 66/67
How did it go
Ok I think
What was the specific appeal of the music you were into and/or the music you played then
Tell me about your musical education
Nothing formal. I learnt how to play chords from a book. Then just learnt by watching people and listening. In 1994 I learnt to read and write music.
Who was the first musician you met who you had admired from afar
I don’t know who was the first but I have met a few. Just this year I met Ry Cooder
I met George Harrison. I knew and worked with Johnny Cash a little.
What was it like meeting them
Its always been a mixture of the surreal with the pleasingly expected. No one who I really admired was a disappointment. Meeting a Beatle IS weird.
What advice would you give to any young folk going on the musical path
Try to listen to the source and don’t work with drum machines
Music has the same root as magic tell us a few, as many as you like, magical music experiences you’ve had
Graham Parker and The Rumour should have sold millions of records!
What music would you like played at your birthday party
Beatles/Dylan/Blues/Gospel/ Country etc
On Thanksgiving Day
Means nothing to me
At your funeral
Beethoven Ode to Joy
Your favourite vocal performances
Lowell George ‘What do you Want the Girl to do’ Paul McCartney ‘Golden Slumbers’ John Lennon ‘A Day in the Life’ Bob Dylan ‘Desolation Row’ Ray Charles ‘Drown in my own Tears Mavis Staples With my own eyes Levon Helm ‘ Golden Bird’ Howlin Wolf almost everything Johnny Cash ‘Spiritual’ Graham Parker ‘Just like Herman Hesse’ Elvis Presley ‘Hound Dog’
Favourite guitar breaks
George Harrison almost everything Scotty Moore ‘Hound Dog’, Ry Cooder almost every thing, Keith Richards Gimme Shelter, Hubert Sumlin ‘Youre so Fine’
Fave gigs or recording sessions you have been involved in
Graham Parker at Rockpalast 1980 – Recording with Carlene Carter for my ‘Guest List’ album in 2007