Picture Courtesy of Peter Sanders.
Martin Stone passed away at 2am on the 8th November 2016 in Paris where he lived. Before joining the seminal rock group Mighty Baby in 1968 he had ventured into the world of the occult, after having begun more prosaically playing in blues bands in south London. I have many stories to relate about him although for thirty years I had no contact at all. Others have many more stories I’m sure. Read on.
After Brian Jones was sacked, the Rolling Stones considered Martin as a replacement and somehow the news leaked and the press descended on his parents house in Sandersted, South London, where they all lived. His mother was shocked. Martin had known Brian and had played informally with him previously. In the London music scene if you were vaguely talented you were known about as it was a small world, and certainly much smaller than it is now. He told me he once had to back Rufus Thomas, a black blues legend, back in the 1960s on a UK tour. He thought of inviting his parents who came to see him in a dance hall in South London. Much to his embarrassment Thomas came out with obscene jokes in between his songs. That’s what the music business could be like and probably still is.
Martin’s occult interests were not unconnected to his love of psychotropic drugs but led him book by book to works by Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, the Upanishads, Buddhism, the I Ching etc. and so on all the way to books on Celtic Christianity, geomancy, and finally Rumi and Sufism. Watkins bookshop in Cecil Court, and Probsteins in Museum Street in London’s west end were some of his favourite haunts at the time as they were for Richard Thompson and later Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Books for him contained all the secrets he longed for. When I first met him at his audition he had a guitar case in one hand and a large book of oriental wisdom in the other.
He first connected with Ian Dallas (aka Abdal Qadir), a Scottish one time actor and writer, at a time when Dallas was given a guest editorship of the International Times, an anarchic rag, published in the late 1960s in swinging London. He interviewed Martin and Roger, the Mighty Baby drummer, for the paper, and this led to another meeting with just Martin in the old Cranks vegetarian restaurant just behind Oxford street. Soon after that Martin was invited to Dallas’ cottage in Devon. This led to a secret trip with Ian Dallas to Morocco in late 1970 and no one in Mighty Baby knew anything about it! In Meknes, Martin was introduced to the famous, venerable and saintly teacher Muhammad Ibn Al Habib with whom he accepted Islam and was given the name Abdal Malik. This fits with a vivid memory I have of a tour in Germany where I first encountered Martin praying, although I didn’t know at the time it was prayer. I thought he was looking under his bed in the hotel. On the same journey Martin’s two heavy Yusuf Ali Qur’ans fell on my head in an incident on an autobahn in Germany on the way back to England.
Incidentally, on our first trip to Morocco in 1971, I found myself in a small room in the old Zawiyya in Meknes with the late poet Abdal Hayy Moore (who I wrote about recently and who died earlier this year) when Muhammad Ibn al Habib, may God be pleased with him, then around 100, came into the room and sat with Abdal Hayy for about 15 minutes with his hand on his forehead to assuage his high fever. Martin and I were both stunned into silence as if a large ship had steamed into a tiny harbour. Now they are all together in the afterworld ….
Martin also remembered better than me the encounter Mighty Baby had with Mick Jagger in our dressing room at a Drury Lane gig in 1968 with the Rolling Stones. Apparently I had some harsh words for Jagger but I have no memory of it at all. I think we all thought that, rightly or wrongly, we were the counterbalance to their demonic presence.
After he parted with the nascent Sufi community early in 1972 due to a terminal clash of personalities with its leader Ian Dallas/Abdal Qadir, Martin toyed with other music groups but became best known as a book scout, tracking down rare books for high paying clients. He was featured in various novels….. in one book A Pound Of Paper by John Baxter I was erroneously blamed for having ended Mighty Baby by embarking on the spiritual journey we had all embarked on. Without any shadow of a doubt, Martin was the one, to his credit, who took us all into it.
Martin, aka Abdal Malik, passed away after a long battle with a rare kind of cancer. I last spoke with him a few months ago and he was as ever, cheerful. We even discussed doing some recording down here in Spain. After being disconnected for so long, we began corresponding with each other up to the time of his death. He was fascinated with what had happened after he departed the Sufis in 1972 and I filled in the history for him. Although he had reversed out of practical Islam, I know he still had respect for those with sincere spiritual intent. He always addressed me as Abdallateef not Ian, not that it mattered to me. But it mattered to him. Whatever happened between him and Abdal Qadir/Ian Dallas was so traumatic that it drove him away. His loss? Most probably. Our loss? Definitely.
Below is a recording I made in memory of him which is revisiting an old Mighty Baby track from the ultimate album. Martin wrote the lyrics though the band always shared writing credits equally. Feel free to distribute it. Somehow it captures the bitter sweet nature of the time it was written.