Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Steve Hoffman Music Forums

The Steve Hoffman Music Forum is a great place for the Van fan to spend a few hours.  There are thousands of words about our favourite Belfast native.  Most of Van's albums are discussed by fans.  Some of the comments can be shallow but there are a few guys who have written some pretty interesting stuff.  It's a great read and below the photo is a sample: 

Steve and his wife

"Wavelength, man, was that title song all over my radio station in 1978. Certainly the promo machine of WB was cranking like it hadn’t in years, as this was the first notes of Van I’d heard in several years. Radio seemed to have totally ignored Hard Nose, Veedon and APOT and now we were force fed, constantly, the title track ad nauseum, or so it seemed to me.
This was a time I was listening to The Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith…yeah, she covered Van Morrison, that “Alter Kocker”, remember him? and she showed him “how to do it” now with her great cover of "G-L-O-R-I-A…hahaha, what did I know, but I’m 16 and listening to all this great new music and this Alter Kocker pops out Wavelength….
I remember seeing Van Morrison on Saturday Night at this time. He performed "Wavelength" and "Kingdom Hall". Ah, the Dumb Dumb doo doo songs as I call them now…. I hated those songs then and I don’t really like them now. They seemed so “not cool” and just very tired to me. and now they just sound "dated". They tried to hard to make a pop hit and what was with the back up singers???? Who should be singing anyway? Those synthesisers and backing vocals were just grating to me.
I’d thought this guy was cool ya know? But in 1978 he was so not cool to me. I didn’t know that he’d just done a record with the uber cool Dr. John and I didn’t realise he had just been part of The Last Waltz; this sort of thing was off my radar at this time. I was a New York punk soaking up all that was cool. I couldn’t escape Wavelength and Wavelength was so not cool to my ears at the time. Still isn’t for me either..

Steve With a Mullet in the 90s
It was like all of a sudden a guy I’d really liked a few years ago became what I’d hated about the seventies music scene. I liked old soul, but this seemed “too polished” for me. Certainly it now seems this was one mass push to be a “big hit artist” again. He’s quoted in that Cameron Crowe Rolling Stone piece in wanting to have a “hit” so he could connect with his audience, well he got sort of what he’d wished for. Some think this era of live concerts that float around on tape are among the worst in his career. I guess he wasn’t feeling these fans adulating over this hit…
Fast track about 10 years, after I rediscover this artist, so I figure, this was an album I had to get, because it had such a big song on it. Well I’ve given this one many an adult listens over the years now that I’m also an Alter Kocker… but as a whole this is the second platter in a row that doesn’t really do anything for me….and I will probably never listen to again in my lifetime.
So, you can say its not one of his stronger albums for me. He appears to be just going through the pop/rock idiom game of the time… I can appreciate the fun and playfulness he went for on this one, but it just doesn’t work for me."

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Who Says Van Doesn't Have a Christmas Album?

Who says Van doesn't have a Christmas album? He does but he probably doesn't know about it.  Someone has collected bootleg performances of the most "Christmassy" of Van's songs.  A year or so ago I noticed discussion on the Van Morrison Fan Club site at Fan Pop about a Van Morrison Christmas album.  It seemed ridiculous at the time but Bob Dylan put one out so maybe Van will one day as well.  In the meantime there's this bootleg Van Christmas album (called "volume 1" no less).

Track List Volume 1:

01 - Snow In San Anselmo - Van Morrison Taken from The Orphanage, San Francisco, California July 29th 1974 (Soundboard).
02 - Spirit - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
03 - Glad Tidings - Van Morrison 1970 - Fillmore West - San Francisco, California (Soundboard) April 26th, 1970
04 - Brand New Day - Van Morrison Taken From the JTT Factory Pressed Disc - Gets His Chance To Wail 1969-1971
05 - These Dreams Of You - Van Morrison An EAC CD Rip from “It’s Never Too Late ” 1973 from Silvers Collection. Taken from the Original Acetates Recorded during Van Morrison & The Caledonia Soul Orchestra’s World Tour 1973.
06 - Ballerina - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
07 - Bring It On Home - Van Morrison A JTT Original Streaming Audio Captured and Edited, Pacific High Studios, San Francisco, CA. (09.05.71)
08 - Crazy Love - Van Morrison From The Fillmore West, The New 2010 SBD from JTT Uncirculated Rare Track (10.09.70)
09 - Hallelujah I Love Her So - Van Morrison Taken From a Rare Track from Van’s Live In Coventry, England, Audio Stream (01.25.02) Off Van’s Bootleg One Night Stands (rare songs that have been performed “Live” only once).
10 - Listen To The Lion - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
11 - I Shall Sing - Van Morrison 1973’s Irish Troubadour, Rare Unplugged Version EAC CD Rip from Silver’s Collection Track Taken From “Talk About Pop” - RTE TV (11.09.73)
12 - It’s Love Time - Van Morrison Taken From a Rare Track from Van’s Live In Coventry, England (01.25.02) Off Van’s Bootleg One Night Stands (rare songs that have been performed “Live” only once).
13 - Warm Love - Van Morrison From the 1973 Irish Troubadour, A Rare Unplugged Version, EAC CD Rip from Silver’s Collection Track Taken From Van’s “Talk About Pop” - RTE TV (11.09.73)
14 - If I Ever Needed Someone - Van Morrison Taken From the JTT Factory Pressed Disc - Gets His Chance To Wail 1969-1971 several others.
 15 - Everybody’s Talking - Van Morrison Taken from The Lions Share, The Rare 7 SoundBoard Tracks Edition (02.15.73)
16 - Kingdom Hall - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
17- Joyous Sound - Van Morrison From Van’s Historic Performance captured to film - Live @ The Montreux Jazz Festival July 10th 1980.
Total Time 77:13
This blog doesn't endorse bootleg albums.  I'm particularly annoyed that numerous internet sites offer official Van Morrison releases as 'free downloads'.  Van is a great artist and 'is worthy of his wages' (to use a Biblical phrase).  However, after buying all the official material the Van fan usually turns his attention to the bootleg recordings of live performances.  (Van's concert performances can be among the best on the planet.)  From a legal standpoint this is still illegal.  However, ethically, downloading concerts is not depriving Van Morrison of one cent in income.  I wish Van would release more concerts on CD, not just one every 10 years or so which seems to be the schedule he's on now.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Van Hit By Double Tragedy

Fans of Van Morrison have been shocked by news recently that he has suffered a double tragedy this year in the space of months.  Both the mother of his 'lovechild' and the child himself have died this year.  Van had kept both deaths a secret until recently. 

George Ivan Morrison III died in January aged 13 months and his mother, American Gigi Ann Lee, died on October 7.  Miss Lee died at the Marie Curie Hospice in Kensington Road in East Belfast after a two year battle with throat cancer.  The circumstances of the infant's death were shrouded in mystery for some time. 

A post-mortem report showed that the child died after slipping into a diabetic coma. The child died on January 25, 2011, from hyperglycemia and obesity at Gigi Lee's home in Fort Worth, Texas.  Originally it had been reported that the baby had died in Belfast.  The baby is believed to have weighed almost 15 kilograms (33lbs) when he passed away.  
The post-mortem report carried out by deputy medical examiner Dr Shiping Bao at Tarrant County, Texas, said the child had been found unresponsive at his home.  He was formally pronounced dead at 2.32am at North Hills Hospital on January 25.  The report added there were no injuries or fractures and said there was no sign of trauma or foul play.
Blood tests showed a glucose reading of 426mg -- which would indicate extreme hyperglycemia -- extremely high blood sugar.  The report also revealed the child had suffered from a lower respiratory tract infection when aged just seven months.
The world became aware of the existence of Gigi Lee when someone posted on Van's official website that the baby she gave birth to was Van Morrison's.  This immediately set off a controversy which grew when Van claimed the baby wasn't his and he didn't even know Gigi Lee.  Reporters soon found evidence that the pair were linked through business and had been out together socially.  An investigation carried out by several newspapers in Britain found email exchanges between the two that suggested Lee really did have Morrison's baby, which led to the singer announcing the truth.     
Miss Lee died on October 7 but Van Morrison somehow managed to keep the news secret for two months.  The cancer was detected when Miss Lee found a lump in her neck in August or September in 2009.  Apparently, the tumour had wrapped itself around an artery so it couldn't be operated on.  Miss Lee elected not to have other treatments like radiation at the time in order to protect her unborn child.  Her baby, George Ivan Morrison III, was born several months later. 
After the birth of the baby, Miss Lee came to live in Northern Ireland.  Van set her up in a secluded house near Newtownards in County Down.  He supported her and the child financially while she was undergoing treatment for her cancer.  All this may explain Van's less-than-active performing and recording schedule in the last couple of years.  Van, Gigi and their child had been very rarely spotted in public.  They appeared determined to keep liaison from becoming public knowledge.  Morrison is still with his second wife Michelle Rocca, and had permission to visit Lee when she was sick, the Daily Mail reported.  He visited Lee regularly from his home in Killiney, south Dublin, which he shares with wife Michelle.

Texan Gigi Lee was a director of 14 of Van's music companies.  These companies included Exile Music and Listen to the Lion Films, but she resigned all positions in 2010.  She was also a tour manager when Van toured his re-released album Astral Weeks in the US in 2009.  
The deaths are a tragic blow to Van particularly as he has been an intensely private man and the details concerning Gigi Lee and her son will further fuel speculation about his private life.  He has spent years trying to keep the relationship under wraps and even went as far as issuing a series of court injunctions to try to stop the media reporting on the birth two years ago.
In Australia, there hasn't been any mention of the two deaths in any media whether online or not.  All information above comes from UK media sources.   

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Rating Van: Robert Christgau's List

The Self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics"

Robert Christgau has been listening to, discussing and writing about music for a long time so it's interesting to see his take on some of Van's early albums.  After 1990 his system of rating albums become a little complicated.  In his later reviews he claimed Keep Mediocrity at Bay was a 'choice cut' on the Magic Time album which seems a strange choice.  He also labeled You Win Again a 'bomb' which is probably more accurate.  His website has a lot of interesting stuff and includes some of his best writings over the years.

His Band and Street Choir (1970) - A
Moondance (1970) - A+
Tupelo Honey (1971) - A-
Saint Dominic's Preview (972) - A-
Hard Nose the Highway (1973) - B-
It's Too Late to Stop Now (1974) - A
Christgau back in the day
Veedon Fleece (1974) - B+

A Period of Transition (1977) - B
Wavelength (1978) - B+
Into the Music (1979) - A
Common One (1980) - B-
Beautiful Vision (1982) - A-
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) - B-
A Sense of Wonder (1985) - C+
Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (1985) - B
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986) - B-
Poetic Champions Compose (1987) - B+
Irish Heartbeat (1988) - C+
Avalon Sunset (1989) - A-
Enlightenment (1990) - B+
The Best of Van Morrison (1990) - A
There seems a lot here I agree with.  However, there are a couple of issues as I see it.  I think albums like EnlightenmentA Sense of Wonder and Common One are slightly underrated.  I also think No Guru No Method No Teacher and Veedon Fleece are classics that deserve "A" ratings.  Conversely, I'm surprised His Band and Street Choir and Tupelo Honey have been given "A" ratings.  Both are good albums but in my mind they seem worthy of only "B" ratings.       

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Van and Hinduism

All religions and philosophies can be made fun of

Van has been a spiritual seeker for virtually his whole life.  He has been to church services, esoteric lectures and demonstrations and has read widely across a range of religious writings, including from sacred texts.   While many religions and philosophies have tried to claim Van as an adherent, he has frustrated them all.   Several years ago he admitted to Don Imus that he doesn't believe in God anymore.   
Van has been asked a number of times about his religious beliefs.  In one interview a journalist asked the question, “there was much speculation about your religious beliefs in the '80s. Did that unduly bother you?”
 Van's answer was "Well, what happened is that people would take things I said at face value and say, "Oh, he's being a dilettante".  What it's really about is that, if you study knowledge, then you really have to study knowledge. You don't just study one thing. You can't just say, "OK, I'm going, to study Hinduism:' If you're going to study knowledge then you have to study the whole field. You need to get an overview and you have to look at the whole picture. That's what people are getting at when they say that my music was about the mystical or that it was about searching for something. That's how it's been interpreted. But, when one studies knowledge, one gets influenced by things. Again, the songs come out of things that you are being influenced by at the time you're studying. For me, that's what that '80s phase was."
His spiritual investigations may not have provided him with the enlightenment or contentment he craved, but they have provided a rich vein to mine for his song lyrics.  Van's lyrics hint at an incredibly wide range of spiritual or philosophical paths.  One of the lesser known connections is Hinduism.   
Let's examine some of Van's lyrics to assess a Hindu influence.      

  1.  From Satisfied Van sings:  "You know, baby, cause and effect,  I got my karma from here right to New York."
'Karma' is a Sanskrit term used with some variations in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist philosophies.  Supposedly, 'Karma' is the sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The results or "fruits" of actions are called 'karma-phala'.  'Karma' is not about retribution, vengeance, punishment or reward, 'karma' simply deals with what is.

   2.  In the song Daring Night,there is a refrain about the “Lord of the Dance”: 
                             With the Lord of the Dance in the daring night
                             With the lord of the dance and the great Goddess
                             Of the eternal wisdom
                             Standing by the light of the moon in the daring night
These lyrics are clearly influenced by Hinduism or Buddhism.

  3.  The lyrics of Piper at the Gates of Dawn hints that he is singing about 'Krishna':
                              The coolness of the riverbank, and the whispering of the reeds
                              Daybreak is not so very far away
                              Enchanted and spellbound, in the silence they lingered
                              And rowed the boat as the light grew steadily strong
                              And the birds were silent, as they listened for the heavenly music
                              And the river played the song
The wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn
                              The wind in the willows and the piper at the gates of dawn

If one uses some imagination Pan, without the cloven hooves could easily be Krishna.  But then again the lyrics might be drawing influence from pre-Christian era Pagan religions.

  4.  Then there is the song Dweller on the Threshold:
                               I'm a dweller on the threshold

According to one website, the term “dweller on the threshold” originated with “English mystic and novelist Sir Bulwer Lytton” and represents the “ghosts of the dead men that the present man formerly was.” More specifically, it “refers to the embodied karmic consequences or results of the man's past, haunting the thresholds which the initiate must pass before he can advance or progress into a higher degree of initiation.”

   5.  Burning Ground from The Healing Game:

                              And I cross some burning ground

                              And I'll go down to the water
                              Let the great illusion drown

The burning ground is clearly a Hindu symbol representing death, purification by fire and the coming rebirth.  In other lyrics he wants to go down to the river to drown the great illusion. Great illusion sounds like Maya, another Hindu concept.  In Hinduism, Maya or illusion must be seen through in order to achieve moksha (liberation of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth). Therefore, Dweller on the Threshold becomes a song about a man trying to break out of the Karmic cycle.
Van has been a Dweller on the threshold for a long time.  In an interview Van Morrison once said, “I've also investigated Buddhism, Hinduism . . . various forms of Christianity, mystical Christianity, esoteric Christianity . . . I don't believe in myths anymore. If I could find a religion that worked . . ."
(Information in this post mostly comes from a Hindu blog.)

Greil Marcus' Book on Van

The following response to Greil Marcus' When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison is taken from writer Jim Linderman's blog called "Dull Tool Dim Bulb".  The post is better than a book review as it proves the adhage that good books are those that affect the reader. 

The blog has links to the interesting books that Linderman has authored as well other interesting posts.  One, in particular, is fascinating where he details the concerts he has been to over many years.    

Greil Marcus Writes Again. Van Morrison's voice.

I have always taken Van Morrison for granted. Even during last years recent touring reconstruction of the masterful album Astral Weeks, (The masterpiece he painted twice, Moondance being the second) his voice has always just seemed part of the world. Just as he always wanted and repeatedly sang, his work popped up from the radios not as a surprise at all, but as a pleasing sensation everyone was familiar with (and always, ALWAYS turned up as directed and sung along to) but never thought much about. Like the late Alex Chilton, he has always been a comfortable presence like plant shoots in spring, a rusted chain link fence around the lake, a limb slowly wavering in the wind, but never troubling and never in the way.

The only time I saw Van Morrison perform was the early 1980s and he was short and round like a giant freckled toad. When he took out his saxophone and raised it to his lips, the instrument rested nearly horizontal on his belly and the horn pointed directly at his face, but I knew the stage held greatness.
Marcus has created a slight book for him, far less smart than "Invisible Republic" (which was a better title than "That Old Weird America") but no less essential. Three chapters in, I was pulling out the old bootleg of the Moondance demos, Just Van the Man and a few tentative musicians. Mine come from the wonderful Scorpion Three CD bootleg which is all of his music I need. There are certain times when hearing that voice, the only Irish red-headed voice I know, tinker and capture Domino in every manner, (a "harmony" version, a "rap" version, a "flute" version...) is so soothing it just makes all seem well. He eventually nails it, and Caravan and Everyone (you don't recognize the titles, but you've sung along) are a revelation with just his voice, and it makes me long for the days when vocal imperfections and mistakes could be spun into gold by a true artist.

Half of the musicians who mattered moved to Woodstock before the big concert, before it was tie-die heaven, because Dylan and the Band were there. They all wanted to be in the Band. Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bobby Charles, even George Harrison came calling and many stayed. They all went to Woodstock when Dylan lived there and the Band was figuring out what came after Little Richard, drunken sock-hops and the whirlwind Manchester. Soon it was mostly booze and drugs, but for a time it was Laurel Canyon in the Catskills. Marcus caught on early. He reviewed the original releases 40 years ago for Rolling Stone. I realize this book review is hardly that...one should always wait until you finish the book and turn the music off. But the book has already given me an appreciation which was always there and needed goosing. To me that means, already, Good Book.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Brown Eyed Girl Hits 10 Million Mark

 Is it just me or did anyone else miss this news story?  Australian news is a Van-free zone even though thousands of fans live here and the Best of Van Morrison album reached #1 here.     

Van Morrison was honoured in early October this year for Brown Eyed Girl passing 10 million plays on US radio.  Van joins an elite band of only 10 musicians who have reached the musical milestone. The only other UK entry was The Police for Every Breath You Take.  What no Beatles?  Or Rolling Stones? Or Queen?  Those esteemed performers haven't made it to the 10 million club yet.   
Van's contribution was honoured at the Broadcast Music Inc Awards in London which was hosted by the US performing rights body Broadcast Music Inc.

All the chumminess with Bert wasn't to last
Morrison was only 22 when the evergreen 1967 single was released.  It was the 22nd take of the song that has been most played and it basically launched his solo career.  It was first released in May,  1967 on the album Blowin' Your Mind!.  When released as a single, it rose to number eight on the Cashbox charts, and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.  It featured the Sweet Inspirations and Bert Berns singing back-up vocals. 
Van has had a love/hate relationship with the song claiming that it was one of his weaker songs.   At times he has refused to play the much-requested song but overall, he has played it almost 700 times in concert making it one of Van's most-played songs.    
“I've got about 300 songs that I think are better,” he was quoted in a recent interview.
The song was recorded during a two-day session with Berns at A&R Studios in New York that began on March 28, 1967.  The musicians who played on it included three guitarists, Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken, and Al Giorgioni, bassist Russ Savakus, pianist Paul Griffin and drummer Gary Chester.  According to Morrison, the single, produced by Bert Berns and first released in mid-June 1967, was originally entitled Brown Skinned Girl.  Morrison changed the name to Brown Eyed Girl when he finished recording it.  
Remarking on the original title, he said: “That was just a mistake. It was a kind of Jamaican song... Calypso. It just slipped my mind. I changed the title.”
He continued: “After we'd recorded it, I looked at the tape box and didn't even notice that I'd changed the title. I looked at the box where I'd lain it down with my guitar and it said Brown Eyed Girl on the tape box.  It's just one of those things that happens.”
The song may have been about a Belfast girl, but Stuart Bailie of the Oh Yeah Centre thinks the singer may have been using poetic licence.
“I'd like to think it's about Belfast and that the stadium he refers to may have been The Oval in east Belfast.  Although it could have been the Shankill Stadium as well.”  The identity of the song's main character will probably aways remain a mystery.
At the time of its release, the song's nostalgic lyrics about an ex-lover were considered too explicit to be played on many radio stations.  A radio-edit of the song was released which removed the lyrics “making love in the green grass”, replacing them with the line "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey" from a previous verse.  The edited version appears on some copies of the compilation album The Best Of Van Morrison. 
It became his first American Top 10 single and, according to BMI spokesperson Robin Ahrold, has since “transcended hit status”.  "It's into a very elite status where if you go for a meal in a restaurant you're likely to hear it played at some point,” he said.  “It's definitely a standard that gets airplay all the time, year in, year out.”
But Van still has some way to go to catch up with the act with the most airplay in US radio history.  The Righteous Brothers' You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin’, produced by Phil Spector, has been heard almost 15 million times — and is still going strong.
Brown Eyed Girl passed nine million plays two years ago.  A number of rock and roll greats also received airplay recognition at the October event.  Eric Clapton’s Layla  - recorded under the name Derek And The Dominoes - has amassed eight million US plays and his single Tears In Heaven  reached five million.
Several Beatles tracks passed new milestones with Michelle and Let It Be hitting six million plays and Hey Jude five million.  Spandau Ballet’s True passed the four million mark with songwriter Gary Kemp collecting an award for its success.

Van hated the psychedelic cover
 In typical Van style, he was absent from the event. 

Other Facts About Brown Eyed Girl
In January 2007 Brown Eyed Girl was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In November 2004 it was listed at 109 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
It’s one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
In 2000 it was listed at 21 on Rolling Stone and MTV's list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs, and it also was listed as 49 on VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs.
In 2003 it was listed as one of the The 365 Top Selling Songs of the 20th Century by RIAA.

Brown Eyed Girl

Single by Van Morrison from the album Blowin' Your Mind!
A-side Brown Eyed Girl
B-side Goodbye Baby
Released June 1967
Recorded March 28, 1967
Length 3:03
Label Bang Records
Writer Van Morrison
Producer Bert Berns

Friday, 9 December 2011

Rick McGrath Interview with Van 1971

It's Too Late To Stop Now

The Van Morrison Interview...

Vancouver, February, 1971
© Rick McGrath

Getting this interview wasn't easy. Van didn't like the press much -- remember, this was 1971, only a couple years after he was vilified for alleged drug use -- and his prior life as a top 40 hitman. It was set up at the Vancouver airport the morning after the show, and I think for all of us it was a different gig: I'd never interviewed a rock star over bacon and eggs, and I doubt if Van had much of a conception of The Georgia Straight and just how sympathetic an underground paper could be.... Anyway, he seemed to enjoy himself; we laughed a lot, and members of the band listened and made a few comments, as well.

Rick: To get things started. What were your feelings about the Vancouver show generally?

Van: I think it could have been better. Sound wise it wasn't too good because we weren't hearing each other. Stuff like that. And whoever was doing the lights didn't know what was happening because, you know, someone would take a solo and he would put the lights on the wrong cat, stuff like that. The guy with the lights didn't have an ear for music, and so that part of it was all - pshew - the lights were up in the air. The sound wasn't too good.

Rick: You usually travel with the Street Choir - Janet Planet, Martha Velez and Ellen Schroer. But they weren't here this time.

Van: They only come with us in situations where we can all travel comfortably. This one happens to be a haphazard tour.

Rick: I've heard albums by Martha Velez on her own. How did you pick up on her?

Van: The trumpet player, Keith Johnson, she's married to him. All I remember is just one night she was there, that's all I remember.

Rick: She's got a fine voice.

Van: Yeah.

Rick: You guys are a fine band. How did you get together?

John Platania (lead guitar): I just came in and played. 

Rick: This next question is sort of in response to the review of your show in the local dailies, both of which emphasized the point that your stage presence was less than exciting. I would like to know if you are self-conscious about your stage presence at all.

Van: Is this tape on?

Rick: Yes.

Van: You wouldn't know it (laughs). Go ahead.

Read the rest of the interview on Rick Mcgrath's site.  He's got other great interviews there like Captain Beefheart, Led Zeppelin and Pentangle.  Again, the purpose of this blog is not to steal other people's material but to point fans in the direction of the best Van stuff available online.  


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

10 Quotes about Van

The works of writer Greil Marcus have helped mythologise the Belfast Cowboy

  1.  Comedian Spike Milligan  -  "The only time he laughed is when I said, 'Paul McCartney is a miserable sod'. He burst out laughing at that." 

  2.  Gay activist writer Desmond Hogan  -  "He was really insolent to me.  He kept saying, 'what's your angle?' and I had no angle.  I hadn't even interviewed anyone before."  

  3.  Reporter Dave Fanning  -  "His onstage intros at the Self-Aid gig in the RDS in 1986 were quite silly and he's still at it today."

  4.  Rod Stewart  -  "Van walks towards me and I stand up to give him a friendly hug and he just barges past me. Unbelievable. Why can't he just be nice to people?"

  5.  Singer Charlie McGettigan  -  "I don't think anyone knows Van!"

  6.  Comedian/Actor Tony Powell  -  “I just think he's just a little prickly leprechaun. I think what his problem is, I mean, you know what it is? Spending all that time guarding the gold makes you paranoid when other people are standing around you.”

  7.  Anonymous  -  “I was talking to my father today,” a woman in Portland said. “He asked what I was doing tonight, and I told him I was going to hear someone talk about a book he’d written on Van Morrison.

‘Oh, Van Morrison!’ he said. ‘You know, I used to work with his father on the docks in Belfast. After work he’d take me to his house to listen to his records. I’d never seen anything like it. Hundreds and hundreds of 78s and LPs, jazz, blues, country music, everything. And there’d be the little boy there, dancing around the room, saying 'play that, Daddy! Play that!'"

  8.  Anonymous (retold by Greil Marcus)  -  "Then Van Morrison walked in. Almost everybody in the bar had been to the show. They all saw him. People applauded. He went over to the bar and sat down. I worked up my nerve, went over to him, and said, 'Mr. Morrison, I just want to tell you how much your music has meant to me.' And Van Morrison looked at me and said, 'Why do people feel they need to tell me these things?'"

  9.  Singer Frank Black  -  "I went to a Van Morrison show ... why did I think he was going to roll into Brown Eyed Girl?  Am I a fool ? It's f#&%ing Van Morrison.  I mean, he's going to do exactly what the hell he wants."

10.  Californian fan Gary Baker (1966)  -  "... then Van came on stage playing harmonica and singing Baby Please Don't Go... I didn't know how this night would transport me to another place and time... I have never connected with another soul like this Irishman playing the harmonica, kicking his foot high in the air, picking up the mike stand, slamming it down on the stage, singing with the passion of a soul possessed."

Sunday, 4 December 2011

2011 Van Trivia Challenge

Think you know your Van stuff?  Try the following questions and see what kind of Van fan you really are.  (Or cheaters can go straight to the answers below.)  

  1.  What's Georgie Fame's real name?

  2.  What's the only Van song that has been played over 1000 times in concert? 

  3.  Who gave Van the "Belfast Cowboy" nickname?

  4.  What's Van's birth date?

  5.  What building was Van born in?

  6.  Who is generally acknowledged as Van's first child?

  7.  What official album has the fewest tracks?

  8.  What was Van's first solo album?

  9.  Who is the song "Choppin' Wood" about?

 10.  What song features the unusual phrase, "squealin' feelin'"?



   1.  Clive Powell
  2.  Moondance
  3.  Robbie Robertson of The Band
  4.  August 31, 1945
  5.  The family home at 125 Hyndford Street, Belfast
  6.  Shana Morrison 
  7.  Common One 
  8.  Blowin' Your Mind (1967)
  9.  His father.  The song is quite a tribute.
 10. A Town Called Paradise


  10/10  -  You are Pat Corley, Simon Gee or Stephen McGinn

  8/10 or 9/10  -  You're a loyal fan (and you probably need a hobby)

  5/10 to 7/10  -  Keep reading the 'Van Morrison News' blog

  2/10 to 4/10  -  Who cares about silly trivia quizzes anyway?

  1/10  -  oh dear .....

  0/10  -  perhaps you'd like to try the Justin Bieber quiz?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Van Morrison Under Review DVD

A popular purchase on ebay is the Van DVD documentary called Van Morrison - Under Review 1964-1974.  It's a 2 hour coverage of Van's music and influences during that period. The documentary starts with the strains of Sweet Thing as the various journalists and critics make their introductory comments over shots of Belfast, Hyndford St, the Harland and Wolfe shipyards, etc. 

The DVD begins with a brief history of Morrison's youth and the influence that music from people like Leadbelly and the Carter Family had on him. The film explores the skiffle movement, Lonnie Donegan, and the London scene, and then the formation of the band Them, whose name was taken from a 1950's horror movie. Them began as a blues band similar to the early Rolling Stones, but is was Morrison's early songwriting that allowed him to assume leadership and make a real name for the band.

Next, the disc takes us through the albums of his solo career: Astral Weeks, Moondance, St. Dominic's Preview, Tupelo Honey, Veedon Fleece, and It's Too Late to Stop Now.  Along the way the film places the dynamic creativity of Van front and centre.  Just look at that list of albums.  Paul McCartney wishes he had put out a stunning array of albums like that, post-Beatles. 

It's probably the most enlightening, revealing and entertaining Van Morrison documentary yet to emerge.  It features rare and classic Van Morrison performances re-assessed by a panel of esteemed experts, rare interviews, seldom seen footage, and unusual photographs from the period.   The panel are an incredibly complimentary bunch and include two notable Van biogaphers in Steve Turner and Johnny Rogan.  To a man they're definitely fans.  Their talk isn't much different to the loyal readers of this blog.  You can see sometimes how they struggle trying to explain what they feel for the Man who doesn't love them back.   

Some scenes from the DVD

Van Morrison: Under Review 1964-1974 is a must for any fans and can always be picked up on ebay.  It's a great reminder about the incredible depth and creativity of Van Morrison, songwriter and performer.  Why this isn't even more recognised I'll never know.  He's great, isn't he?  

The Worst Van "Art" Ever!

Cats and Moondance,  I get it - not!

Performers have to endure so much.  Every minute of their lives watched by others. Paparazzi waiting like vultures.  Autograph hunters.  Music critics.  Van's had his fair share and it's gotten under his skin more than once.  But perhaps the worst indignity these performers have to suffer is seeing themselves made into pieces of art by well-meaning fans or art department hacks in magazines and newspapers. 

In the 1954 movie "The Magnificent Obsession" Rock Hudson said rather ironically, "to me Art is just a man's name." Viewing the Van art examples below you begin to understand what he meant. 

There's madness in the eyes. 
Marlon Brando or John Belushi as Van

A nervous-looking doppelganger
May or may not be Jim Morrison

With just a little more plastic surgery
Van as social leper
Just needs the banjo and overalls to become Boss Hog

Like Van but angrier

Better than the concert photos