Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Astral Years: Van Morrison In the 80s




Astral Years: A Seeker's Guide To Van Morrison 
In The '80s

Here is only some of Brad Nelson’s brilliant essay on Van in the 1980s.  Just when you thought the Eighties were complete rubbish with the hair, the fashion, the synth driven music -  Mr Nelson steps in to tell that at least one performer was making music of interest.  Click here for the full article.

Van’s ‘80s records had a kind of uneven relationship with contemporary recording techniques; he never resisted the studio discipline he absorbed from John Lee Hooker, which required that songs be recorded quickly and severely—”in and out,” as Van characterises it. And he never committed fully to gated reverb and exotic banks of synthesisers, even as other avatars of the ‘60s (from Dylan to the Rolling Stones) did. 

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, Van’s last album for Warner Bros., is at least half-crowded with instrumentals, unusual for an artist whose music tends to orbit the intermittent flares of his voice. Among the instrumentals is the closer, September Night, which moves in a drowsy and distracted way, as if sleepwalking through its changes. A woman’s voice spectrally hovers over a drifting blush of synths, giving the track a haunted feeling, like air stirring through an abandoned building. Throughout the ‘80s, Van’s records slowly became populated by these gleaming, frictionless pieces, to which he’d contribute piano and saxophone, an instrument he first learned when he was a teenager.

Beautiful Vision acts as a kind of template for Van’s ‘80s career: It seems executed with incredible ease while also feeling rich and deliberate in its texture. Here, he begins to contemplate his adolescence in Belfast, which had previously environmentally figured into Cyprus Avenue from Astral Weeks, and which consumes his focus more and more as he gets deeper into the Reagan Era. He dedicates an entire song to his first job (Cleaning Windows), the efficacy and simplicity of which is simulated in the music. On songs like Celtic Ray, he incorporates a mysticism and an investment in ancient Britain that had only subtly manifested in his work beforehand. “All over Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales,” he sings, “I can hear the mother’s voices calling / ‘Children, children, children.’” Uilleann pipes stir through the mix. This mysticism would evolve into a more shapeless and extraterrestrial religious fixation, which throughout the decade would be fulfilled by varieties of meditation and discipline, including a flirtation with Scientology.

The title of 1986’s No Guru, No Method, No Teacher was intended to distract from Morrison’s drift between alternative spiritualities; from here on out, he creates a more abstract and holistic universe, using a Protestant vocabulary to contemplate something more elusive and indefinite. He sings the album title in the song In the Garden, almost whispering it between a minimally stirring piano and acoustic guitar: “No guru, no method, no teacher / Just you and I and nature / And the Father in the garden.” This was the most acclaimed of Van’s ‘80s records, considered a return to the ambiguous and swelling designs of Astral Weeks. Flutes thread through it; the unstable anatomies of the songs are occasionally vertiginous, as if motivated upward by gusts of air. It’s also the first record on which Van’s voice seems to have endured some erosion: He occupies a lower register, and his range seems slightly collapsed, but it enriches his phrasing.

Van’s evolving spirituality is totally developed on 1989’s Avalon Sunset, where at least two songs are directly pitched to God, including Whenever God Shines His Light a duet with British vocalist Cliff Richard. While the verses reiterate gospel-derived contemplations of God (“In deep confusion, in great despair / When I reach out for him, he is there”), the chorus dissolves into a meditative, almost narcotic humming. There’s an ambiguity in the direction of Van’s spiritual longing, a tension and space that implies more than it directly communicates. His hymns for the most part, whether addressed to God or a “universal magnet” (as in 1980’s Summertime in England), seem to acknowledge and are captivated by some kind of ulcerating absence. 

1991’s Hymns to the Silence, is Van’s only double album. The first disc of is a very odd, distracted constellation of songs that mostly describe Van’s professional dissatisfactions. Some take the shape of traditional blues, while others resemble the bright, condensed bursts produced by Tin Pan Alley in the early 1900s. It’s as if Van thinks silence is most appropriately honoured when one does as many things as possible with it. It doesn’t sound like Astral Weeks, but its restlessness seems to emanate from a familiar source—as Van described it once, “a desire to break out of this rigidity.”

The second disc of Hymns to the Silence contains two monologues like Coney Island, Van’s voice shattering like autumn leaves over soft, pneumatic synths. The first of them, On Hyndford Street, is one of the many places on the record where the silence of the album title manifests. “Take me back,” Van says. “Take me way, way back, on Hyndford Street, where you could feel the silence at half past 11 on long summer nights.” Silence is a feature of memory; we tend to remember things with their sounds substituted or deleted entirely. Van sees a power in this noiselessness, a kind of religious flourish. It’s a loss, but it’s a loss that lands in his life with dimension. It’s this breed of silence that Ireland shares with its language and mythology, the silence that characterises its isolation from the rest of the world.

If Van’s devotion to silence begins in 1980, with the album Common One, which was recorded at Super Bear Studios in the Alpes-Maritimes, near the city of Nice, though its music implies a greater seclusion. John Jeremiah Sullivan, in an essay about Bunny Wailer, identified it as “an island effect,” describing both Jamaica and Ireland. “Isolation does seem to produce these intensities sometimes,” he wrote. “You think of Ireland, for instance, a backwater in so many ways, and yet: Yeats, Beckett, Joyce, in one century—how does that happen?”

On Summertime in England from Common One Van sings about walking “down by Avalon” just as he calls his own music Caledonian soul—real geographies whose names and meanings have drifted into myth. His shut eyes perform a series of micro-blinks, as if caught in the design of a trance. He’s lost in the music, wading through its textures. “Yeats and Lady Gregory corresponded,” he sings, his voice like an elusive, enigmatic pulse. In Morrison’s mouth, a phrase will mutate and distend and rubberise. “Corresponded! / James Joyce wrote streams of consciousness / Books / T.S. Eliot joined Lloyd’s bank / T.S. Eliot published Joyce / Published Joyce published Joyce published Joyce published Joyce.” Later he sings, “It ain’t why why why why why why why / It just is,” and he sings each why as if it were an individual animal. He signals the band with a convulsive movement of his arm—Van’s bands have always acted as sensitive ecosystems—and the horns reduce their volume to a spectral hum. Into the remaining space, arctic in its emptiness, Van leans toward his microphone and whispers, “Can you feel the silence?”

Monday, 11 June 2018

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks


It ain’t Shakespeare but here’s another loving tribute of Van’s classic Astral Weeks. This time Luke DeSciscio has his say. Ignore his awkward first paragraph and read on: 

I am a great believer in the power of Art. I believe it can move people, not just emotionally but spiritually. And, regardless of whether it’s on a canvas, a record or a dance floor, I am proud to be part of a species that is capable of creating and appreciating it. (?)
.
This is the first record that I really coveted and, once it was at last mine, the first record that overwhelmed me to the point of tears. From the moment you first slip the plastic from the sleeve you become totally aware that this collection of songs has a stronger bind than just the period in which they were written. The needle hits the groove and you are on your way. This is entirely your journey. Van is simply the medium that permits you access to the road. As those first words tumble from his mouth, you are already well on your way.

‘If I ventured in the slipstream,

between the viaducts of your dream…’

The mastery of this record perhaps belongs to Van’s choice of words. Those ‘stream of conscious’ lyrics that never linger upon the specifics. The darting vision of words that flutter from image to image with dream like whimsicality. Van continually presents to you an array of small vivid moments. Moments that implore you to fill the gaps with internal regression. Give in to the words and your mind will fill those spaces with your own eidetic dimension. It’s Van’s personal Kerouacian selflessness and you are never abandoned on your journey deep within.

By the time the needle hits Beside You I am already unreachable, ‘high on my high flying cloud’ and at the complete mercy of the teasing pirouettes conjured up in the turn around of Van’s every ‘you breathe in,’ and his every ‘you breathe out.’

Prior to recording, the majority of the ensemble had never heard the album’s 8 tracks and, during the short recording process, they received no sheet music and not a single guiding utterance from the notoriously demanding VanThe result is - if not miraculous - utterly spectacular.

The band audibly dote upon Van’s vocal performance, following nothing but the moment and the voice. The magic here is a startling and direct reflection of phenomenal musicians imbuing the music they hear with the music they feel at the point they hear and feel it.

The journey through to penultimate track Ballerina is, for me, about letting go. To this point Van has toyed with your history, he has guided you through memories and settled the score with the stresses in your head.

His cyclical use of melody, the ebb and flow of the band, the moments of tension superseded by those swathes of relief, the ‘dogs barking,’ trips down Cypress Avenue and fantasies of Madame George have all led to this:

‘Step right up,

step right up,

step right up,

Just like a ballerina.’

This is Van commanding you to let go. So separate yourself from that physical form and, for want of a better word, ascend.

The finale, Slim Slow Slider, climaxes with a cacophonous array of double-bass-bashing and saxophone screeching …and its generally about here I am brought down from my ‘high flying cloud.’ But, not without first appreciating the delicate vulnerability Van manages to squeeze into the final 3 minutes of the record.

Forums are wrought with speculation of this songs agenda. In interviews even Van has yet to deliver a definitive definition to the sorrow about which he sings. Abandonment, loneliness and the self-destruction of a loved one all resonate amidst the songs weary resignation, but to me, the magic is in the adaptability of its sorrowed phrases. This is your last chance to shed a tear for the life you left behind. Whoever you are and whatever reason you may have, this is YOUR chance to move on, to let go, to cry and ‘to be born again.’

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Funny Things People Say - Part 24

The Great Yayoi Kusama


Mike Kirkeberg   -   I don’t have a problem with success, and yet agree that greed isn’t the answer. What is best? For me, to come to the end of the day and look back and say, yes, I got something done, that is success. Working every day to, as Van Morrison’s song says, Keep Mediocrity at Bay.


Rosston  -  The least said about some of Van's collaborations (apart from The Chieftains) the better, I would say. Too many of his concerts spoiled by too much input from Georgie Fame and Brian Kennedy as well.

Mags  -  Going to dig out my old Van albums. I've always been a massive fan of Wavelength!

David Bradley   -   Van didn't say 'good evening' at the beginning or 'good night' at the end of the concert. He actually only spoke to the audience once, after he had played five songs, and said 'how are we doing so far


anonymous12  -  Astral Weeks is an amazing album, as is Van's performance in The Last Waltz. Anyway keep on loving the old grump.

Josie Spink   -   Brown Eyed Girl is one of my favourite songs. Shame he is an egostical ignorant prat!!!!

Chris Franek   -   Duende is what so deeply informed the art of the great Irish musical and literary geniuses such as Van Morrison, Bono, SinĂ©ad O’Connor, Glen Hansard, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde and Seamus Heaney.

Ardenlinden   - I even put his 1979 Into the Music & his 1980 Common One up there right underneath Astral Weeks & Veedon Fleece (well, on the 1980 one just a few songs: summertime in England, satisfied, spirit - & those 3 amazing songs are all just 2 chord "1-4" vamps! the first of them at least switches from 4/4 to 3/4 time signatures to add variety) but since 1980 it's mostly "high quality dross." yet much of his 60s & 70s work is so good that (sadly) I'll keep following him to the end. A shout out to Van for introducing us to the amazing musicianship of Jeff Labes, John Allair, Mark Isham, Pee Wee Ellis, Peter van Hook, David Hayes, etc.


anonymous12   -   If anything I prefer Veedon Fleece to Astral Weeks slightly, though consider them both to be among the best albums ever. It's amazing that Van managed to create two different and essentially unique-sounding albums within that period of time.

eamonmcc   -   I always detested his voice. Didn't Astral Weeks have some very good session musicians? It is certainly a pretty good album and I've never been a fan of his. It's made in a style which seems to be in the opposite direction of the over-production which is typical now: fairly simple instrumentation and a general feel and sound which doesn't assault your hearing, although his screeching voice really does get on my nerves. It invites you to listen and muse; I find modern pop/rock music production now very aggressive.


Spoon fuller   -   It's well known that Van Morrison has had a long friendship with Bob Dylan with each admiring the others work. In fact on the BBC's Arena documentary about Van, from 1991, there is rather odd footage of the two jamming together in 1989, in Greece, on a hill above Athens with a view of the Acropylis behind them.  He also had Georgie Fame, who had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, play, as a core member in his band , for around a decade.  Then there was his work, both as a producer and musician, with John Lee Hooker and a duet with Tom Jones on Reload. There were also collaborations with skiffle performer, Lonnie Donegan, singer Brian Kennedy, The Chieftains, Shane McGowan (at the Brits Awards), Linda Gail Lewis (sister of Jerry Lee) and others.


Vera Nunes   -   As the popular Brazilian saying goes: it’s God in heaven and Van Morrison on earth. 

Bill Gallagher   -   Pity such great music comes from such a grumpy wee fan unfriendly man.

Beard of Biff Pocoroba   -   I’m a little embarrassed about this, but I’m 38 years old, and until about 5 years ago I had, for some reason, assumed that Van Morrison was dead.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Van Morrison Versus Bobby Bland


Stephen T. McCarthy has an interesting Battle of the Bands blog where he fortnightly pits two artists against each other and has readers vote.  Here’s one post (edited for brevity’s sake) about Van versus Bobby Bland.

      Bobby "Blue" Bland Vs. Van Morrison

First of all, I want to thank each and every single one of you (and, yes, YOU too!) for taking the time to listen and vote here. All y'all made this a really super Battle Of The Bands (BOTB) contest. I'll tell you the truth: In creating this Battle (which was almost just an excuse for me to yak about my love of Mexican food), even though BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND is justifiably a legend in the annals of R&B / Soul music, I figured the greater name recognition was going to give VAN "THE MAN" MORRISON a huge advantage. But it seems everyone voted with their ears rather than by "reputation" and y'all turned this into one helluva BOTB instalment.

Truthfully, on this song I prefer Van's band and Bland's tan voice. Had this been Van's more mature, deeper, richer voice, I perhaps would have given him the nod in the "Voice" department as well. But as it was, I had divided feelings on this one. But since in most cases, for me, music trumps vocals, I ultimately sided with VAN "The Man".

Van Morrison's voice deepened and got a great deal richer over the decades, and although I've always loved the material, I prefer the more mature voice. AIN'T NOTHIN' YOU CAN DO (recorded in 1974) showed Van found his voice in that "period of transition". You can compare the change in his vocal tone by listening to ASTRAL WEEKS and IN THE GARDEN back-to-back. 'Astral Weeks' is the title track of Van's incredible 1968 solo debut (one of the greatest "Solitary-Drinking-Myself-Into-A-Mystical-Mess" albums of all time), and In The Garden was released in 1986.

The following comes from The Complete Guide To The Music Of Van Morrison by Patrick Humphries: As far as Van live on disc is concerned, his first live set, 'It's Too Late To Stop Now', is unquestionably one of the best-ever live rock 'n' roll recordings. Van was cooking when he came to record these 18 songs.

It's Too Late To Stop Now had Van fronting The Caledonia Soul Orchestra, arguably his finest ever ensemble. ... the orchestra also boasted a five person string section and a two man horn duo ... On it's original release, It's Too Late To Stop Now was soon cemented as one of the great rock 'n' roll double albums ... every note you hear was recorded live - there was not one overdub.

Looking back on the album, guitarist John Platania told Mojo: "I would say that tour represented the height of his confidence as a performer", while bassist David Hayes recalled: "When I speak to Van about that album he still talks about it as having marked the peak of his career. He really feels he was on to something very special." It was recorded in Los Angeles at the intimate Troubadour Club and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, as well as at North London's Rainbow.

In my opinion, every single song on the live album is better than its studio counterpart, with the sole exception of Listen To The Lion. My favourite track is 'I'VE BEEN WORKING'. Pretty dang funky for a White bloke from Ireland. Listen to the amazing interplay between the musicians on this, the way they come in and then drop out for another musician to take the spotlight. It's like a trade-off of white-hot funky licks... [Play it LOUD!]

Reader Comments:

BECKY   -   YAY! My man, Van, won the BOTB!! There's no other voice like his....I'm doing the happy dance to Van's....can't choose a song at the moment...so, it'll be Van's Greatest Hits!

Arlee Bird   -   It was a tough choice for me and made for a good Battle in general. Nice job of choosing. I've got a Van song or two in my future line-ups, but now you've inspired me to use a Bobby Bland song as well and I found an excellent one. Never thought about Van's voice in the earlier years since I didn't really "discover" how much I liked him until his 1985-87 releases and then I started going back to some of his earlier stuff. I always liked his work with Them, but I was never enthralled enough to buy any of those records. Maybe it was his voice later on that captivated me, but I think it was also the songs and the music.

A Beer For The Shower   -   Wait, Van Morrison is a white boy from Ireland? I always thought he was black! "Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud!" I guess it only makes sense that Van's got so much of that Irish soul. You may have already known this, but I saw this fun fact after we watched The Commitments (1991): Alan Parker originally wanted Van Morrison for the role of Joey "The Lips" Fagan.

Farawayeyes   -   Ha, ha, ha! Can you imagine Van in THAT movie? I would pay real money to see THAT!

Stephen T. McCarthy   -  .As far as I know, Van has never done any acting, and for some reason I can't imagine him being good at it. Still, it's an amusing thought. That guy who played Joey "The Lips" though was very "right" for that part. Hate to say it, but I think I'm glad they didn't get Van "The Man" for the role.

Jeffrey Scott   -   I hate hearing live music when I'm listening to my favourite Pandora station. BUT, I do love live CDs. When I'm listening to them in their entirety.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Astral Weeks - The Song


Song lyrics sites like Song Meanings occasionally have interesting fan comment. Here are some interesting interpretations of the song Astral Weeks.   

Astral Weeks (first few lines)

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again

Comments


Backstage   -   I'm convinced that even Van couldn't explain what some of these songs mean, as he opened up let the mystic flow into him. He escaped all boundaries and made a timeless work about yearning and coming of age, about sex and death, acceptance and love. I'd put it up against some of the greatest poetry or prose we have. Once in a while over his career Van has touched something like this again, but rarely. St. Dominic's Preview had some, Veedon Fleece had a lot, but never did he, nor anyone in this era, equal the beauty and enigma that is found in Astral Weeks.

Wauf   -   The chord structure of the song is quite repetitive (and I believe that enforces his lyrics even more), but the complexity of the words is what makes the song so beautifully poetic and eternal. My interpretation of Astral Weeks is pretty simple to grasp though.. Van is writing about his love.. and how if he got into the very depths of her thoughts, where all the peculiarities of life that could alter her genuine train of thought were gone.. at the core of her true soul.. would she still do it all the same? Would she come find him? Would she even want to? Would she kiss his eyes and love him for the man he is? Or would life be different? Would she lay him down in silence, in a soothing calm, to be reborn to come back into her life over and over for eternity.. as to question does she love him so much that she would put him on replay? Like an old record she loves too much to throw away. This song to me, is about him questioning life, love, and how differences can often alter life's path.. and in turn, ponder the unknown.

johnpauljones86   -   Irish?.........Well anyway I thought I'd add another little piece of info. This song was actually recorded last, kind of as an afterthought to fill space. In fact the session flutist had already gone home, the flute you hear in the song is the flutist who had been playing in Van's Jazz trio.

johnpauljones86General   -   What can be said that hasn't already been said out the Man, the Myth, the Mystic, the Morrison. This as you know is the very first song on his first solo album. (Not counting what he did for Bert Bang's Bang records.) It is the beginning of the story of the album Astral Weeks. It starts off in a style similar to maybe Dylan. With the semi-concrete images. Viaducts of your dreams?. In any case some of the most beautiful lyrics ever. Sets the story of a boy, a younger Van in Belfast, who is taken by this one girl that he yearns for and imagines himself with her. He's got it bad for her. 

johnpauljones86   -   By the way he is poor and she is rich. Also he is big into astrological stuff. The Astral plain is the level above this one, its weird because things aren't what they seem in that level. Things can come and go in exist randomly. It is believed that one can possibly wish something hard enough in that realm and it will occur in this world. Also kissing the eyes has something to do with Tir Na Nog. Irish folklore. He thinks that if his eyes are kissed it will give him sight into the the Astral plain. Deep. I don't fully understand it myself.

Donutslikefannys   -   Surely "leatherette" shoes not “little red shoes”. Too poor to afford leather (this is the late 50s/early 60s Belfast of Van's childhood) but his Mammie is making sure he gets turned out smart and clean anyway. The intermingling of working class Belfast with American blues/country references is what gives these songs their unique imagery ... like the cherry wine that appears on Cyprus Avenue of all places.


Swasome   -   I believe this song is about Van transcending from the world we know. Lots of the lyrics indicate some great distance .between where he is and this world, for example, "from the far side of the ocean," "in another world," and "way up in the heaven." He wonders, if he transcended into a higher world, would she still find him there? With her love in this higher world, he would then be reborn, maybe into some sort of ultimate purity or nirvana.

sampson21    -   He was with Janet Planet at the time. I think this song is specifically about her. She had a young son from a previous relationship. The lyrics "taking care of your boy" "seeing that he's got clean clothes" "putting on his little red shoes" are so touching and sweet to me.

kdhuntermedia    -   Van Morrison, I believe has had some ecstatic experiences, hence the religious reference to being "born again" and "lay me down in silence easy," and the imagery that has him circling back to being a child. Astral, of course refers to being on the astral plane, "out of body" experience. Much of the "unexplainable" imagery feels trippy, psychoactive, not saying he did or didn't do acid. There's lot of overlap in naturally induce ecstatic experience and chemically induced.


brackett10   -   I'm 13 years younger than Sir Van, and for decades I thought of him as a distantly successful artist through songs like Brown-Eyed Girl and "Gloria" (which are both fabulous and deserve more than being called "garage band" songs). But somehow I found Astral Weeks, and many of the works that have followed over his incredible career. This man has power--intellectually and vocally--along with intellect, poetry, passion and that je-ne-sais-quoi that differentiates exceptional performers from the rest. My wife's family is from southern Ireland but mine's from London-town; mine came to Boston in 1640 and are still here. Sorry to say I will miss Sir Van this spring in Boston, but will always think of his reprise of Astral Weeks at the Hollywood Bowl. What a gem. Will love him forever. If I ever met the man, I'd say "Not starving now - Huddie came through - Forget Plan B - Boston loves you". If you don't get that, it's okay; he would.


Aristotelia   -   My interpretation of this is this is from the perspective of someone close to the moment of their death ("to lay me down"). Thinking about the most beautiful moments from their life and wondering what it will be like in the afterlife ("to be born again," "talkin' to Huddie Ledbetter"). Some have attributed the mother to the woman he is dating, but I thought it was his own mother, and he was seeing himself as a little boy.

Brentjason   -   Like Cyprus Avenue I believe Astral Weeks is about longing for a girl out of his depth. Admiring from afar, a relationship he yearns for but feels unworthy of. He wants to enter her consciousness(viaducts of your dreams) to begin the song and ends with slight hope and optimism to be with her "in another time, in another place".The four or five lines that begin with "standing with a look of avarice" feels like stream-of-conscious, nostalgia that may or may no be related to the girl in the song. Maybe stuff that reminds of her that happened to be going on at the same time. That's what I get. Maybe the same thing with his "little red shoes" and "clean clothes" though the use of pronouns in that passage confuse about whom he's speaking.



ZFT   -   I think it's clear Van is making the lyrics up as he sings (even making the words up, no?).But, should it be tossed out as just inane rambling, or do the words come from someplace deeper-- possibly an astral plain-- removed from his conscious state.For example, what does the metaphor of standing with one's arms behind them represent? It repeats twice-- once with him, once with him watching her. Is there a point to trying to figure it out, outside of the psychological analysis of a single human being? I think that is what this song presents. It is impossible to analyse. Either it is base, or it is sublime. There's no right answer.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Meeting Van Morrison: Part III



Pat Egan   -   When people ask me do I know Van Morrison I say, yes, I knew him once, yet at the same time I know I never really knew him at all. When you travel as the promoter of a tour for four hours in a chauffeur-driven limo and your companion speaks not one word for the entire journey, it’s hard to say you know the guy, the same guy who corresponded with you from America in the late 1960s and sent you the first copy of Brown Eyed Girl. When someone invites you to dinner at a country mansion and leaves you sitting in a drawing room for two hours, and then has the housekeeper inform you that Mr Morrison won’t be dining tonight and you can feck off now, you certainly don’t feel like you know him.


Diane Amato   -   The first time I saw Van was in 1970 at The Fillmore in San Francisco. In the early 90s I saw him at Bimbo's where he gave me his autograph on a napkin. A prized possession. I am a lifetime fan. His music is in my soul. 

Jason Isbell   -   Met Van Morrison and he was nice. I think maybe I'm a tiny bit disappointed that he was nice.

Rude Pundit   -   I knew caterers for one of his tours. They described him as "an angry, evil elf".


Neil Gowdy   -   He'll be doing you for slander!  He loves the grumpy image he's got as it stops people from approaching him.  Apparently he's a good bloke. 

Michael Johnson   -   Elvis Costello and Sammy Hagar each mentioned Van the Man in their books. Similar stories. Nice but not very engaged. Aloof.

Paul Sexton   -   I last met him 20 years ago, during a grudging promotional round for No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. That album, its title inspired by his campaign to discourage writers from intellectualising his work, signalled an artistic renaissance and a re-connection with the wider world after years of perceived introspection - even if that was the judgement of critics. Then, Morrison was at pains to tell me, almost in self-justification, that he was "jaded". When I asked, like some cheap shrink, how long he had felt this way, he said: "Since I was 18." That was the age at which the son of a Belfast shipyard worker, born two weeks after VJ Day in 1945, had formed Them.


Brian McPherson   -   I met him. He was not nice.

Randal Phelps   -   trust me, he is a frigging old man now, so, he is nice. I met him in the 70's and he was a dick. Great singer though.

Ted Bonar   -   I met Van pre-show in 1994 when he was shoving shrimp salad down his throat. Then he yelled at the crowd for liking his music. Awesome show

Paul McLoone   -   My only meeting with Van Morrison was somewhat brief. In the mid 1990s, at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, I found myself beside him during an awards show, which featured Van and a small band as the interval act. The 1990s were weird. I awkwardly tried to engage him in a spot of muso-to-muso badinage, which resulted in him glaring at me through his shades and emitting a noise. I shuffled away, cursing my gauche idiocy.


Someone once said it was a measure of Van Morrison’s genius that one could still love his music having met him – rather cruel, as compliments go, but I get what they mean. As an Undertone I was lucky enough to play on the same bill as him one beautiful summer’s night in Prehen. Watching him work his way through a perfectly judged set of peerless songs, turning a field outside Derry city into the most romantic place on earth in that moment, it was clear even to a still Joy Division-obsessed fortysomething chancer that Van was, and remains, very much the Man.