Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Van's Australian Tour 1985

In 1985 Van toured Australia for 7 concerts.  The experience apparently left him vowing never to do concerts outside North America and Europe. Legend has it that Van wanted to pull out of the Australian tour but was unable to.  Generally any commentators have called the tour lacklustre at best.  In Wavelength 17 (September, 1998), Simon Gee wrote, "the tapes from this tour, most of which have rather awful sound quality, reveal that Van was not at his most inspirational."

Interestingly, there is very little on the internet about the tour.  The tour support, Ross Ryan, proudly includes the tour on the CV on his website. Ross Ryan is a relatively minor Australian artist who had fame with several hits, particularly My Name is Pegasus.  Combine that with America's Horse With No Name and the Rolling Stones' Wild Horses and you have an outbreak of equine hits in the early 70s. But Ryan is an honest muso still plying his trade.  His 1985 backing band comprised Roy Zedras, Gus McNeil (sax; ex-Nomads), Alex Pertout (percussion) and Marcus Holden (fiddle). 

One interesting story from the internet involves the false memory of Jason Durbin.  The Western Australian fan recalled the (non-existent) show in Perth.  Jason Durbin wrote on a website that he was 17 years old at the time.  

"It was November 1984 at the Perth Entertainment Centre. 1984 had been a stellar year for me as a concert goer. That year I had seen Howard Jones, Elton John, David Bowie, Dire Straits, U2 and a whole lot more. Van Morrison as the music legend he 'is' was to cap off a great year. I had just finished school and as a way of a thank you I also bought a ticket for one of my tutors who was a huge Morrison fan and it was his birthday. Anyway the show had gone on sedately for about 30 minutes or so and Van 'The Man' got to one of his old standards, Bright Side Of The Road. A boppy little number which encouraged the first couple of rows in the lounge area to get off their feet and dance. The only problem was Van didn't want to dance. He immediately threw his hands in the air and shouted 'STOP'!!! The band stopped and he stepped up to the microphone and angrily announced that there would be 'NO DANCING AT A VAN MORRISON CONCERT'. For the first minute the crowd was stunned and silent. Morrison had already stormed off stage and his rather bemused band followed soon after. Then the 8000 odd crowd then broke out into boos and choruses of 'Morrison's a Wanker'. The lights came on soon after and as soon as it became obvious the 'The Man' was not coming back people filed out of the venue. When I got outside I saw this surreal scene of thousands of angry punters arguing with security staff, doormen and merchandise vendors about getting their money back." Great story but Van was only in Australia in February and March in 1985, not November, 1984.  

Another Australian fan named Daniel Robertson told me about two shows he saw - the Adelaide show and one of the Melbourne ones.   

"My memory of the two shows I saw is how much Van directed everything going on, on stage".

For Robertson the memory of those shows probably prolonged his interest in Van's music.  He's also a talented multi-instrumentalist who has even performed an audience participation Van show at the world-famous Woodford Folk Festival sometime in the mid-1990s. 

But it clearly wasn't the absolutely hopeless tour that some would portray it as.  Van's performance of Tore Down a la Rimbaud from the March 7, 1985 gig at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was released on Van's official site until he stripped all content a few years back around the time of what could be called the "baby scandal".
Van’s 1985 Australian Tour - Summary 

Musicians: Richie Buckley (saxophone), Kenny Craddick (keyboards), Martin Dover (trumpet), Artie McGlynn (guitar) and Jerome Rimson (bass).

Sports and Entertainment Centre   -   Melbourne, Victoria  
February 25, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 21 min)(complete recording exists)
February 26, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 27 min)(complete recording)
February 27, 1985 (21 songs – 1 hour 24 min)(incomplete recording)

Thebarton Hall   -   Adelaide, South Australia   
March 2, 1985 (17 songs – 1 hour 13 min)(not yet verified recording)

Festival Hall   -   Brisbane, Queensland 
March 5, 1985  ??? 

Sydney Entertainment Centre   -   Sydney, New South Wales 
March 7, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 10 min)(complete recording, DVD, download)
March 8, 1985  ??? 

The information in this summary section comes from the wonderful Vanomatic database site created by Gunter Becker.  I've mentioned it before and is an absolute must for the Van fan or Vanatic.  Among other things, he has lists of how long Van played every song he has performed in every concert.  An incredible achievement.

Finally, does anyone have any more information about the Australian tour.  Please email me.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

20 Best Long Songs List by Akshay Ahuja

Here’s a list from Akshay Ahuja at his The Powdered Wig blog.  Is Madame George Van's best "long song"?  Who cares about the length of songs anyway? For lengths of every Van song in concert check out Guenter Brecker's Van Song Database.  Brilliant!      

20 Best Long Songs
My rule was over 6:30. One song per artist. Jazz, live, and instrumental tracks were off limits. Also excluded were songs pointlessly extended with silence or white noise (this means you, Wilco). Instrumental noodling was discouraged but not forbidden.

1. Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna – 7:33 (Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is beautiful but not quite gripping for all twelve minutes.)
2. Van Morrison, Madame George – 9:25
3. Velvet Underground, Heroin – 7:12 (Sister Ray is half an hour long, but I get pretty bored around the six minute mark.)
4. Bruce Springsteen, Backstreets – 6:30
5. Prince, Adore – 6:30
6. Tindersticks, Sweet Release – 8:55
7. Cat Power, Colors and the Kids – 6:35
8. Rolling Stones, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – 7:15
9. Tom Waits, Burma-Shave – 6:34
10. James Brown, It’s a New Day – 6:27 (I’m giving him the missing three seconds for exceptional funkiness.)
11. Neil Young, On the Beach – 6:59
12. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Ball and Chain – 9:37
An Album by Finland's Madame George Not a lost Van Bootleg
13. Al Green, For the Good Times – 6:32
14. Curtis Mayfield, (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go – 7:50
15. Built to Spill, Velvet Waltz – 8:33
16. Outkast, Liberation – 8:46
17. U2, All I Want is You – 6:32
18. Modest Mouse, Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine – 6:53
19. The Wrens, 13 Months in Six Minutes – 6:50
20. Marvin Gaye, Right On – 7:31
Posted by Akshay Ahuja at 4/18/2007

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

125 Hyndford Street, Belfast

Superstars have to be born somewhere.  Even the planet Krypton sometimes gives birth to people who become famous here on earth.  Van was born in a two-up, two-down terrace in East Belfast.  He immortalised the streets and places near his Hyndford Street home on songs like On Hyndford Street and Cyprus Avenue.  Van’s home at 125 Hyndford is privately owned but proudly displays a small brass plaque put there by the Belfast Blues Appreciation Society. True to form, Van took umbrage at this modest tribute, citing 'invasion of privacy'. That’s our Van and that’s why we love him.
Security is being beefed up at 125
Jacky   -   I live round the corner from this and it is just a small terraced house in a dingy street. It’s a plaque on a wall....WOW
Rosejane L.   -   The fact that the childhood home of Van the Man is on Hyndford Street off the Beersbridge Road in East Belfast is probably quite well known. The house is to be found a considerable distance up the long, narrow street, the sort of place where people still hang around outside their houses and talk to each other, increasingly unusual in this age of growing anonymity. So much so that I felt a little self conscious as I tried to peer at the shiny brass plaque that notes the date of his birth (1945) that the Belfast Blues Appreciation Society have gamely put there. There is not much to see, really, the house is a well kept, privately owned small two up two down that I would not like to intrude upon. From the doorstep on a clear day Van Morrison would have seen a glimpse of a yellow crane (if they had been built by then) and the hills behind as he started the long and, it has to be said though it's a bit of a cliche, remarkable journey to his legendary success.
6INTHECITY   -   we are fans of Van the man, but we were let down with the recognition he gets at his birthplace, a small brass plaque disappointing.
27twinkle   -   Yep, this is where he grew up. Hyndford Street has changed very little since the 1950's - the same houses remain in what is a working class area of East Belfast. Cypress Ave is ten minutes walk along the Beersbridge Road past St Donard's Church. Van was a pupil at the nearby Elmgrove Primary school - five minutes walk away.  A couple of nice cafes on the main road too.  Note: No. 125 Hyndford Street is a private house - respect the residents door knocking. 
Bob C   -   Belfast is Van Morrison's birthplace. If you love Van or just admire his musical talent then a visit to his childhood home is a 'must' visit.. Wander the streets of his neighbourhood and soak up the atmosphere ...Maybe take your Ipod and listen to his music as you walk... you will be able to appreciate the 'roots' of his music.

Art Siegel   -   If you love the music of Van Morrison and want to understand it better, visit Hyndford Street. The house he grew up in, at 125, has a plaque on the front, but isn't tourable. The street itself is atmospheric and still has the atmosphere of "the days before rock 'n roll."

DeanK1979   -   This is a private, working class street, in East Belfast, but you really a get a feel for what must have inspired Van the Man to put lyrics to paper, simply wonder round and you will see the places that he has mentioned, Hyndford Street, St Donard's Church, and Cypress Avenue.

Pampers777   -   We strolled down Cyprus Ave and visited Van's birth place on Hyndford Street a very big part of Irish Music history If you listen to vans lyrics you'll find all the places he talks about right in the neighbourhood - Connswater, the Hollow, the pylons -amazing trip!!!
Michael S   -   My wife and I avid Van Morrison followers since high school, have set upon touring the world to see this iconic performer and just enjoyed our first trip to lovely and welcoming Ireland. This was made all the more special as we toured the streets and neighbourhoods of Van, down in the hollow, up on Cypress Avenue and of course, Hyndford Street.
Miguel L   -   El número 125 de Hyndford Street es un punto de obligada visita para cualquier amante de la música de Van Morrison. Se sitúa en el barrio de Bloomfield, en la zona oriental de la capital norirlandesa. En la misma casa creció su madre, Violet, y también queda muy cerca el edificio en el que vivió su padre, George. Además, ya puestos a peregrinar, hay que darse un garbeo por la parte de atrás de la casa, el backstreet tantas veces citado en sus canciones.

Van - A Smooth Criminal?

Judith Coyle has written an unintentionally hilarious post comparing Van and Michael Jackson. 
 Van - Is He a 'Smooth Criminal' too?!

I was just about to write a post about how I like to compare Van Morrison, Irish minstrel, and Michael Jackson, global superstar, when I discovered a funny cartoon on the web. It depicts Van as Michael and underneath the picture, instead of Who's Bad? it reads Who's Grumpy? I would have loved to seen MJ cover one of Van's later songs. So, onto my very random thoughts about Van and MJ. Stick with me on this....
Both stars have had careers throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.

Both burst onto the scene in the 1960s in groups, Van with Them, Michael with The Jackson 5, before going onto more glittering and critically-acclaimed solo careers.
Both are/were known to be reclusive and seem(ed) to have trouble dealing with the general public.

Both have an aura of mystery around them, albeit in very different ways.
Both have a penchant for black hats and sunglasses!

Both are usually referenced in terms of one defining album - for Van it is Astral Weeks, for MJ, Thriller. Thriller tops the best-selling album of all time list; Astral Weeks has topped the best album, as voted for by critics, of all time.

Both reference, in music, lyrics or dance, those from an earlier era who have inspired them - e.g. Jackie Wilson. Both have a love of spiritual songs and frequently address God in their lyrics. Both could be said to be 'spiritual seekers'.

Both artists harp on about childhood and youth in their songs. Van has got to be one of the most nostalgia-focused songwriters of all time! Both have written songs about the industry and professionals who have 'done them over'.

Of course there are vast differences:

One (MJ) chose to fight the ageing process through diet and surgery; the other embraced his portliness and the ravages of time. You could say that MJ fought against his corporeal existence while Van accepted it. Van has released album after album, some very much the same; MJ released a small number of albums containing original material - no album really like the others. And of course, Van will probably live to a ripe old age; Michael has gone.


Al Burton   -   ...and how could you forget, both artists have written songs which have been covered by Alan Burton!! I used to have a hat a little like the one in your picture, but it got nicked at one of my gigs. For some reason people seem to think it's OK to steal people's hats and somehow it's not thought of as a crime. They wouldn't take my jacket, put it on, think it's fun and walk off home with it. But when it's a hat.. well that's different it seems. I was gutted.