Saturday, 20 July 2019

Wonderful Remark (1969)

The Song Facts site has facts about hundreds of Van songs.  It’s well worth a look and hopefully someone will contribute more to that site. Here’s what Song Facts had about the little-discussed Wonderful Remark which was written in 1969 and first appeared on The King of Comedy soundtrack album in 1983.

Wonderful Remark (1969)

Van Morrison recorded this song in 1969, which was a transitional time for the singer, as he had recently gotten married and moved to Woodstock, New York.

Morrison has said that his Woodstock experience was an influence on this song - he moved there for the creative ambiance (Bob Dylan lived there), but grew weary of the town after meeting folks he felt were disingenuous.

What is the "wonderful remark" that Morrison sings about here? In his book Small Town Talk, Barney Hoskyns explores the possibility that it came out of an incident that happened between Morrison and Albert Grossman. In 1969, word went out that Grossman wanted to manage Morrison, so the Irishman went to his house to demo some songs. After listening to the tunes, Grossman simply replied, "Burn it" - that's the "wonderful remark."

At that time, Grossman was the major moving force of the town Woodstock and the music scene that had developed there. The story certainly seems to fit with lyrics such as:

How can your empty laughter
Fill a room like our with joy?
When you're only playing with us
Like a child does a toy?

Morrison's first effort to record the song came at his Moondance session in 1969. Nothing came of it, so he recorded it again in 1972 during sessions for Saint Dominic's Preview. This 8-minute version also went unreleased, and the song remained unheard until Robbie Robertson (of The Band) asked Morrison to contribute a song to the movie The King of Comedy, for which Robertson was working on the soundtrack. The film stars Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis, and was directed by Martin Scorsese, a huge Van Morrison fan.

Robertson wanted Morrison to do a poignant track for the end of the film, but they had trouble finding one. After a while, Morrison sang some lines from the unreleased Wonderful Remark and that's what they decided to use. They started recording a new version of the song with Robertson on guitar and a group of session men including Jim Keltner on drums and Nicky Hopkins on organ. They couldn't get the right mood and had to stop when a storm knocked out power to the studio. The next day, Morrison had a clear direction in mind, and they got the sound they were looking for.

Wonderful Remark was featured in the film and included on the soundtrack. Scorsese was thrilled with it; Robertson explained in an interview with BAM, "Marty loved how the song worked in the end, how it embraced the DeNiro character and how it also put him down at the same time. It comes down on violence and it comes down on insanity."

The King of Comedy version was included on Morrison's 1990 compilation The Best of Van Morrison. The 1972 recording didn't surface until 1998, when it made the tracklist to The Philosopher's Stone, a collection of Morrison outtakes.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Fake Van Morrison Interview

False Memory Foam has to be one of the most bizarre music sites on the Net. The writers supposedly led by Farquhar Throckmorton III, are a mischievous and intelligent bunch of pranksters. Here's a fake Van interview from the site: 
"It's All Been Splendid Fun!" The Van Morrison Interview 

This interview - a FMF© exclusive - with the musician known as "Van Morrison" will, it is fervently hoped, dispel at last and once and for all the myths surrounding this enigmatic and larger-than-life character, revealing him for the man he really is; a sensitive and deeply committed artist who has, over the years, created a persona that threatened to overwhelm him.

A little background: "Mr Morrison" (we'll get to that) was once a neighbour of mine at the Bide-A-Wee Residential Motel in Petworth, Washington, D.C., located between the Armed Forces Retirement Home and Rock Creek Cemetery on Blockbuster Avenue, accessed by a private alley next to the Polish Polecat Poledance Club. The Bide-A-Wee was a haunt of artists, and much patronized by those shunning publicity, or on the lam. I'd recognized the great Irishman in the lobby, but respected his privacy as much as he respected mine. One morning, he knocked at my door wearing his trademark damask smoking jacket, fez, and Persian slippers, and enquired - in a surprisingly aristocratic English voice - if I could "possibly spare a drop of milk for one's morning cuppa." I was of course delighted to oblige, and he kindly invited me to share it with him. His room was opulently furnished with fine antiques and costly wall hangings. A tall bookshelf displayed leather-bound volumes, and a vase of fresh-cut flowers stood on an ormolu table. Over a "cuppa" served from an exquisite Dresden bone china set, we fell to chatting about this and that, an informal and very private conversation that I present here, in confidence, for the first time.

FMF: You're not registered as Van Morrison, then?
VM: Good lord no! Nobody uses their real name here, eh, Mr. Foam?

FMF: You're obviously not Irish!
VM: Ah! I suppose it had to come out sooner or later. One was born Cholmondeley [pronounced Chumley - Ed.] St. John  [pronounced Sinjun - Ed.] Featherstonehaugh [pronounced Fanshaw - Ed.], to the Great Titterington Featherstonehaughs. Papa was Lord Featherstonehaugh of Great Titterington, where Titterington Hall has been in the family since the Crusades. So naturally one had a privileged upbringing.

FMF: But you moved to Belfast?
VM: [shudders] Heavens no! That came later. Dreadful place. Full of unemployed drunkards bombing each others' legs off.

FMF: So your earliest musical influences weren't American R'n'B singles brought into the docks by merchant seamen?
VM: I should rather think not! Mama was celebrated for her salons, chamber music soirées, at which one was a keen attendee! I think one became quite addicted to the celeste at an early age! More tea?

FMF: Thank you. When did you first sing in front of an audience?
VM: Ooh! That would be the Footlights Revue whilst one was up at Cambridge. One had adopted the highly theatrical persona of Madame George - spent an entire term in drag! Happy days! And the act proved riotously popular!

FMF: But still no touch o' the Blarney?
VM: Well, when one was sent down from Cambridge one decided to work up a new act. My little circle of dissolute gentry found Irishmen most amusing at that time, their delightful accents, red noses, funny walks, and so Madame George, with a lot of hard work and cathartic rehearsal, became George Ivan Morrison, the absolute antithesis of everything I was in real life. Curmudgeonly, abusive, aggressive, drunk ... and disgustingly working class. I had in mind the quintessential Irish poet, inarticulate yet somehow in touch with his muse. We - my little band of classically trained musicians and I - toured the Working Mens' Clubs of Belfast as an R'n'B band, keeping our true identities secret. My! They were rough brutes! But strangely exciting ... one could sense the homoerotic sublimated in their virile displays of drunken violence - quite intoxicating!

FMF: This would be Decca recording artists Them.
VM: Them being showbiz argot for, well ... as in [arch look] "he's one of them." One is constantly amazed the public didn't catch on!

FMF: And then the move to Boston, as a solo artist.
VM: Yes! And that was when this little Irishman, my creation, became ... Frankenstein.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Funny Things People Say - Part 30

Redhead   -   Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later of Led Zeppelin) both played on this recording (they used to be studio musicians), to the protest of Them's guitarist and bassist. Personally I think that threesome would have made a better group than Led Zeppelin.

Michaelangelo Matos   -   The most hip-hop thing about Morrison may be that he's been bitching about record labels — Industry Rule number 4,080 — for nearly his entire career.

Kylebr   -   I'm sorry don't know who Van is.

pamtur1956   -   I've got to say Van Morrison has a lot of "number 1 fans", simply because the man’s singing and artistic abilities is on the number 1 unbeatable list. He's amazing at what he does. Thank you Mr Morrison for the wonderful music that I have had the opportunity to listen to through out my life. Another number one fan.

billybird   -   I hope Van isn't one of the whispery singers?

Gender Neutral   -   Van challenges me. I can't work out if he is male or female. He wears male clothes like a man but then he colour co-ordinates like a woman. I'm confused and I hope he is too.

Yvon Haley-Peabody Lynch   -   Listening to Van fills your senses....when emptiness threatens to take your soul. it is like a moment with the sun melting upon your skin, catching spring raindrops upon your tongue and April wind in one's hair....the scintillating scent of winter's first snow and watching the heat of passion in your lover's eyes. He steals your heart away and makes it his...and oh so willingly it follows.

AussieRock   -   In the track Ringworm, Morrison sings "I tell you. You're very lucky to have ring worm, because you may have had...something else". Van Morrison is genius, even in fun.

Tadhg Mac Séaghdha   -   Van you're just badass. Love you brother. If I won the lottery, hey I gotta a chance, one of the first things I would do is hire Van for a private jam session with my friends and family. Now that would be a good day.

waterlilybarb   -   Love his voice. Not crazy about the man.

Anonymous   -   Nobody quite understands Van Morrison. If Bob Dylan’s long stretches of patent bizarreness in the 1980s seem incomprehensible to most, then Van Morrison’s entire career surely must remain an enigma.

Candy   -   I am a serious music lover and enjoy almost all genres of music. Some of my favourites are old 1970's (reminds me of my college days) one of my favourite artists is Van Morrison, I am also a big Cher fan! I must say though I'm not a big country music or hip hop lover.

lstidom   -   Early songs were pretty good but Van has ranged too far.

Jeff Liles   -   The A-side was a cover of The Kinks’ classic song You Really Got Me; the flipside a track called Atomic Punk. Who knows? Maybe this was a “gimmick” song by a guy like Van Morrison who put out a record to make fun of punk rock, and they figured giving it away free was the only way anyone was going to hear it.

Steve   -   Could I live in a word ruled by Van Morrison? Now that we are grown up democracy people do we not know that with leadership you have to take gregarious blows. Yes you’re going to laugh at the pols trying to bend reality to overcome circumstance but the end result is that while you may work out religiously the power of government is going to be in your pants. In a world of psycho killers this should be some kind of romance. But the truth is really hard. Hate is easy, understanding at the point of a gun is difficult. For anyone thinking killing people is a path to progress I ask you what about your tribe and how death effects you. Well I can tell you one truth that should really understand, its the worst thing we can experience in the mortal world. Those who can convince people to give up their life for some security boogieman should be Zombie food. We live on plane earth. We have made this existence no different than living in a good neighbourhood. Wake up Zombies we are heading into flesh eating days.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Willie and Van - A New Album?

Here’s a 2018 post and some reader comments about a possible Van Morrison
and Willie Nelson collaboration. It’s taken from the oddly named Saving Country Music website. Country music is hugely popular and doesn't seem to need saving, whereas the same couldn't be said about polka music.

It’s very early in the process, and we don’t know if it’s just a few songs or an entire album. But the word out of Pittsburgh, PA is that Irish singing/songwriting legend Van Morrison and country music icon Willie Nelson were recently in the studio together collaborating on an upcoming project. The two were in town as part of a recent stop of Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Fest, and decided to duck into a studio for three days to lay down something fans of both artists will be eager to hear.

The Church Recording Studio in the Overbrook neighbourhood in Pittsburgh received a phone call from Belfast, Ireland in early September, wanting to book the studio. “We didn’t take it too seriously at first, but after pushing them for some details, they revealed it was for Van Morrison,” the studio producer Dave Hidek tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We actually believed them less at that point, so we asked for the standard deposit, and sure enough a check arrived the next day and we knew they were for real.”

Then a little bit later, they received a second unexpected call. “We got a call from Willie Nelson’s management to let us know that he’d be attending as well, which was an unbelievable thought, having those two guys collaborating in our space. Having either one walk through our doors would in itself be a treat, to put it lightly, but both of them together would certainly be an historic experience.”

The two legends played the KeyBank Pavilion on September 9th as part of the travelling Outlaw Fest. It was Van Morrison’s first appearance in Pittsburgh since 1973. Also on site for the recording session were Willie Nelson producer Buddy Cannon, Willie’s son and performer Lukas Nelson, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael, though the project was described as a “future Van Morrison project” as opposed to either a Willie record Van Morrison is guesting on, or some joint project. But we’ll have to see what the future holds, as fans of the two legends salivate over the possibilities.

Willie Nelson just released a tribute to Frank Sinatra called My Way. Van Morrison released a record in April with Joey DeFrancesco called You’re Driving Me Crazy.


Jack Willams   -   Now that is intriguing. I thought Van did a very nice job with his 2006 country music album Pay the Devil. If this a project of his they’re working on, I’d certainly welcome another country project and the notion of him and Willie collaborating.

Kevin Smith   -   I was in attendance at that show. I admit, at first laughing at the notion of calling the show an “outlaw” tour.However, I got over it. Van Morrison was in a word fantastic! He played 22 songs with an 8 piece band that included horns.Wow! Moondance, Wild Night, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria and on and on. He blew the crowd away to put it mildly. Willie sounded great but only played an hour or so. Nonetheless his guitar skills were intact. We all thought Van would join him for some encore but it didn’t happen. Kinda funny afterward, talking to folks there, everyone was talking about Van Morrison and nobody even commented on Sturgill Simpsons set. Sturgill basically did a rock show with some wild lead playing and loads of distortion including a Jeff Beck number. Good stuff but definitely not country. Wonder why Van and Willie wanna record in Pittsburgh of all places? Curious.

hoptowntiger94   -   There was no doubt that 60% of the people were there for Van Morrison. It had been 40 years since he played Pittsburgh. The local sports station was playing Morrison songs as the intro and outro all day without one mention of Willie. It broke my heart. We didn’t get out there until Morrison (pains of owning a business) was well into his set, but did I hear a couple Hank Sr songs in his set?

Kevin Smith   -   Willie played a few Hank Wiilams tunes including Move it on Over. Van did not, although he did play a cover of I can’t stop loving you, originally by Don Gibson. That was a legit country cover although Van's arrangement of it live was more jazz crooner sounding. Also should mention that Lukas Nelson's performance was waaay too short and he basically sounded like a jam band rocker. It was nice to see him come back and play in Willie's band though.

Judith   -   Two of my favourites. It will be a fantastic album.

Luckyoldsun   -   Twenty-Five years ago, this album might have been of huge interest. Now?  Well, if it makes them happy.

Daniele   -   these two legends put out albums like craaazyyyyy!!

Dirt Road Derek   -   Very interesting. Nelson just can’t sit still, always working on something new. I loved the days back when artists were constantly creating, sometimes releasing two albums in the same year, as opposed to the several years wait between albums that we see now. I’m assuming that declining album sales and the pressure to tour more has a lot to do with it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Van Morrison, Spiritual Rock Star?

Here’s an odd post from the classic music blog:

Van Morrison, Spiritual Rock Star?

Here I am gazing on the Web for extraordinary witnesses of enlightenment yet very popular in the entertainment realm, so that at least everybody could say “hey, I’ve seen or heard that person!” As my research focuses randomly on any performer from our time, some pages choose to cite the art of singer Van MorrisonHis work is thoughtful, often spiritual in nature, and combines elements of jazz , R&B , Celtic traditions, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Van Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1945 and was named George Ivan Morrison. Better known as the Celtic sorcerer, Morrison began playing different instruments and composing songs in an Irish show band during his teen years. His musical heritage was inevitable since h e was exposed to music from an early age with his father collecting American jazz and blues albums and his mother being a singer.

Journalists have described Morrison as one of the most serious singers with high moral values, something that lacks in the music business. His lyrics and music are influenced on the works of poet and New Age prophet William Blake, Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, J.D. Salinger, occult and spiritualist poet W.B. Yeats, Alice Bailey, and of many other religious visionaries. Those authors add mythic powers to Morrison’s singular musical vision and his articulation of emotional truths.

Astral Weeks was his first album after he moved to America . It gained good reviews from critics. Rolling Stone magazine once reported that a man claimed to see God while listening to this album under the influence of nitrous oxide. If you listen to the record you’ll notice that the artist uses a form of symbolism instead of current narrative. Very much like using spiritual images because they are stronger than words. And this work was released in the late 1960s, when a New Age consciousness was spreading in the U.S.

His idiosyncratic and spiritual musical path has lead him to create more than 30 albums, among them are Moondance, Tupelo Honey, A Period of Transition, Beautiful Vision, No Guru No Method No Teacher, Irish Heartbeat, Avalon Sunset, Enlightenment, Days Like This and The Healing Game.

On his official site, Alan Pert sums up Morrison’s spiritual exploring on the album Days Like This. “Morrison continues his lifelong exploration of the human psyche, offering up highly entertaining and danceable tunes about everything from love to manic depression. While all of Morrison’s albums from the early 1990’s had expressed a desire to go back to childhood and early adolescence when “everything made more sense” and he was most capable of experiencing the elusive “sense of wonder,” the memory in Ancient Highway is of being older, of feeling isolated and restless, of needing to leave home and childhood behind forever, and he is afraid of failure: “I keeping praying to my higher self, don’t let me down…”

Extract from Ancient Highway

There’s a small cafe on the outskirts of town
I’ll be there when the sun goes down
Where the roadside bends
And it twists and turns
Every new generation
And I’ll be praying to my higher self
Don’t let me down, keep my feet on the ground
There’s a roadside jam playin’ on the edge of town
In a town called Paradise near the ancient highway
When the train whistle blows
All the sadness that Hank Williams knows
And the river flows
Call them pagan streams and it spins and turns
In a factory in a street called Bread in East Belfast
Where Georgie knows best
What it’s like to be Daniel in the lion’s den
Got so many friends only most of the time

I picked Morrison’s music up because he is still creating innovative material and is not like others rock stars who recycle their greatest hits. “Great art incarnates truth, gives shape to beauty, and joins inner longing with outer form. Van Morrison has provided Christians and non-Christians alike a glimpse into the childlike vision ” according to the insights of Carl Olson. More recently, Morrison had the opportunity to duet Crazy Love along with the late Ray Charles, on the 2004 Genius Loves Company album. Ray Charles was one of Morrison’s influences during his years in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Avalon Sunset (1989)

The following post is from The Punk Panther's Music Review site:


1. Whenever God Shines His Light
 2. Contacting My Angel
 3. I'd Love To Write Another Song
 4. Have I Told You Lately
 5. Coney Island
 6. I'm Tired Joey Boy
 7. When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God
 8. Orangefield
 9. Daring Night
 10. These Are The Days

 Just as Bob Dylan's Damascus moment in 1978-79 had shocked the music world and resulted in the release of three devotional Christian-themed albums, so Van Morrison's supposed conversion to evangelical "born again" Christianity similarly shocked people. Granted, he had been spiritual on his albums now for many, many years. Had he converted to Buddhism, Scientology, or indulged in transcendental meditation, it would have been no surprise, but to declare himself "born again" was a left field move, even for one as wilfully perverse as Morrison. 

His brief flirtation with this form of Christianity came after meeting Cliff Richard, but although Cliff was impressed with Morrison's initial zeal, he eventually came to doubt that Van was serious enough about his faith. Either way, Richard duetted with Van on the blatantly religious Whenever God Shines His Light, to great effect, actually. Many people have derided the song, and the collaboration. Not me. I have always loved it. Richards' voice is crystal clear and a perfect foil for Morrison's gruff growl. The song has rhythm, soul and some great hooks. Lay off it - it's good.

The album also sold well, and saw Morrison grabbing a little bit of the mainstream. I knew people back then who certainly were not Morrison fans, yet they had Avalon Sunset in their CD collection, alongside their Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA. I aways found that rather strange - why this but not Poetic Champions' Compose or Hymns To The Silence? Have I Told You Lately? has become well known due to Rod Stewart's more than acceptable cover of it. Morrison's original shows that, like Someone Like You on the previous album, he can write a straight-up love song. The keyboard-replicated wave sounds at the beginning are most atmospheric. It is simply a beautiful song. Funnily enough, in his Christian theme, the song could easily be addressed to God. Maybe it was.

Contacting My Angel is a meditative piece that sounds as if it should have been on Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart. Morrison growls some of his vocals and fetchingly whispers some of the rest of it, talking of a "little village", a theme he would revisit later in his career. It is all a bit stream of consciousness. I'd Love To Write Another Song features Georgie Fame, who was beginning a long recording relationship with Morrison here. It is jazzy and jaunty - saxophone, brass and rhythmic shuffling drums. Morrison would do a lot more songs like this over the next twenty-five years.

Coney Island is a wonderful little oddity. A short melody that has Morrison reciting memories of earlier days on the Northern Irish coast. He speaks the words and it is all intensely personal. It gets you thinking "he's not such a bad bloke after all, he'd be okay on a trip to Coney Island" as he ruminates on "autumn sunshine magnificent..and all shining through..". I'm Tired Joey Boy is a moving and mournful Irish lament that is most endearing. Short but very sweet and uplifting. When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God? is the album's other big, essentially spiritual song, which sees Morrison questioning his own ability to meet the demands of his faith. It is slow, tuneful and dignified, appropriately. Orangefield is another beautifully orchestrated piece of Van nostalgia, Cyprus Avenue-style for the sleepy Belfast neighbourhoods of his innocent youth.

Now, then comes Daring Night. A true Morrison classic as he evokes the Lord of the Dance and the Goddess of the Eternal Wisdom in a most "new age" way for a born again Christian. The backing slowly rises to meet Morrison's challenge, organ swirling, drums pounding, keyboards clanking. Morrison whispers "don't let go. don't let go" and then goes all spontaneous. Marvellous stuff. I remember driving through County Cork on holiday with this playing full volume. These Are The Days is one of those almost hymnal songs he often uses to close an album. It is a song with a sanctified, holy feel about it, just sublime and achingly beautiful. The soulful, gospelly "na-na-na" fade out vocal seem so right, as well, as the great man leaves another album, his listeners well satisfied.

The bonus track on the remastered CD is an uplifting, entrancing slowed down version of When The Saints Go Marching In, which I love dearly. I love the bit where Morrison growls "St Francis of Asissi comes marching in...". Gets me all tearful.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Believe it or Not Part 12

The guitarist on Them's first recorded track - Don't Start Crying Now - was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame.

How's this for an ad - Learn English from Astral Weeks by Van Morrison using the LingQ language learning system to learn from content of interest.

Gloria was a number one in the Netherlands on four separate occasions.

In 2019 Van put out his 40th studio solo album and continues to retain the popularity he established as a member of Them in the mid 1960s. His music is particularly played at weddings and used in hundreds of movies.

The Pope Ondine claims that Madame George is the wife of WB Yeats according to Marianne Faithful.

Van recorded vocals with Frank Zappa on Zappa's Dead Girls of London.

In 1990 the American group Poi Dog Pondering released the song U Li La Lu which contained the lyric line: If I should die in a car wreck, May I have Van Morrison on my tape deck.

Van's first appearance on record was The Monarch's single Twingy Baby backed with Boozoo Hully Gully. It featured Van on saxophone.

At The Irish Digital Media Awards in February 2018 the company Eyekiller  received the award for Best Creative website for the Exile Productions - Van Morrison official website.

There's a Facebook group called Van Morrison Soul Healing.

Van and Linda Gail Lewis met at a Jerry Lee Lewis convention that Van went to as a fan. Jerry Lee is Linda Gail's brother.  Van and Linda recorded an album together, had a much-publicised fight and later Van deleted the album. 

Van had a part in a German movie called Glide in the early 1960s. He played the role of a jazz singer.

Ben Kassoy listed Astral Weeks among his 17 Best Songs to Have Sex to listed on the GQ website.

The Right Proper Brewing Company has an Astral Weeks beer on tap. It’s described as a Dry-Hopped Foeder Beer that is dry, floral and  tropical.