Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Lion's Share, San Anselmo

The Lion's Share in San Anselmo near San Francisco was a popular performance venue for Van.  Van first appeared at the Lion's share 13 times in the early 70s.  His first show was on February 10, 1971 and his last was three years later on June 3, 1974.  Some of the 13 shows were brief affairs showcasing only one or two songs.  Could this one club be the inspiration for songs like Listen to the Lion, Snow in San Anselmo and The Lion This Time?   
The club was located at 60 Red Hill Avenue, San Anselmo in between what is now Redhill Auto and what was Hatt's Custom Choppers. It's a drab 1940s square retail-looking single storied building. It's got a weather-beaten coat of green paint on it now with lots of oleander growing out front.  It's just a block toward San Rafael, from United Market.  It became a premiere venue when The Lion's Share moved there from Sausalito in the 1960s.  It became known as a musicians hangout. Throughout much of 1970, the house band had been called Nu Boogaloo Express, featuring Mike Finnegan or Bill Champlin alternating on keyboards and vocals, and other local players like Danny Nudalman (guitar) Dave Schallock (bass or guitar) and Bill Vitt (drums).  Local residents like Phil Lesh or Van Morrison regularly hung out or played there.
Before it became The Lion's Share it was a hardware store called "Highland Hardware" and the district was referred to as Highland from the 1910s through to the 1940s.
It's popularity was sealed when Dale Curtis wrote an extended piece that appeared in the Berkeley Tribe in the October 3 - 9, 1969 edition.   Here's some of that piece that inspired a number of Berkleyites to seek out the tiny club. 

Berkley Tribe Article

Remember the little places? The coffee houses? The folk-rock bistros?  They were the spots where, for a reasonable cover (or none) you could get beer and wine and coffee and some of the finest music in the world the music that grew up and took over the Avalon and the Fillmore and the whole country as the "San Francisco Sound."
Most of those places have died off now, or priced themselves out of the market, leaving only nostalgia behind.
But. if you are one who remembers: Be Informed! The Lion’s Share Lives again in San Anselmo.
Mike Considine, who operated the Share in Sausalito in the mid sixties, is back in business. In those days he presented such top people as Sandy Bull (whose manager he used to be), the New Lost City Ramblers, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Dino Valenti, and Rejoice (which made its first public appearance there).
After a couple of years of good times like this, Considine suddenly found himself fighting in the Marin County Board of Supervisors and in the Sausalito City Council to keep from being evicted.
The main complaint from the neighbours was noise: but the understood beef was the longhaired types who hung out at the Share.
Considine and his friends packed the Sausalito Council meeting and convinced the village elders that he was not too noisy. They voted 50 to keep him open. Mysteriously, the next night the Lion's Share burned down.
That was in November of'68. There was no fire insurance on the place, and Considine was out of business. One of the REALLY GOOD little folk-rock places seemed gone forever.
Not so! The new Lion's Share, at 60 Red Hill Avenue, does its predecessor proud. It has only been open a couple of weeks operating on Considine's friendships and on goodwill instead of bread, but already the clean sounds of Rejoice, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, and ROM have been tilling the night air.

The atmosphere is dark with beam ceilings, brick walls, tiffany lamps and relaxed. There are some problems with the sound system, but none with the performers. Saturday night, for example, the bill included guitarist Jeffrey Cain, Universal Medicine, and Dan Hicks. All were smooth, accomplished acts that worked well with a surprisingly full house (there has been virtually no advertising thus tar.
At present, the Share's schedule goes like this: dark Monday and Tuesday, new groups and no cover on Wednesday and Sunday. $1.50 cover on Thursday, $2.00 cover Friday and Saturday when the more established groups perform.
To eat: pizza, sandwiches, wine, beer, cider et cetera.
In later years after being The Lion's Share, it was a health food market called Campolindo and then became some sort of manufacturing facility or a machine shop of some kind with lots of big, floor-standing tools.   As of May, 2011, the place is now an optical shop.
One of the most notorious moments for the club occurred when Janis Joplin died.  She left money in her will for a funeral party which was held at The Lion's Share on October 26, 1971. The Grateful Dead performed.
Fan Memories
Anonymous   -   Given that the real greats like Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, and the Grateful Dead played here, the place should be something else than an "optical shop." Unless the locale offers a greater perspective, of course...
Rob Miller   -   The hippest joint around. The best place for music, long before Sleeping Lady, Uncle Charlie's, Pepperland, etc. My favourite venue to see the Sons of Champlin, Van Morrison, etc. Marin was abundantly blessed with music luminaries, and it seemed that they all played there.
Quick story to get the ball rollin': I was there one night with a pal to see the Sons. Probably around 1972. We had just turned 16,so we had driver's licenses, if I recall. My pal, who shall remain anonymous (Jeff McNear), had wolfed down a large platter of spaghetti and red-sauce moments before leaving my mom's house, and heading up to San Anselmo to see the show.
Once inside, we ordered pitcher after pitcher of beer. (they weren't too keen on checking ID's back then). Suitably looped, we made our way to the very front of the house, immediatley in front of the band, and rocked out for a while. I turned and looked at my pal, and he was white as a sheet, and sweating profusely. "Think I gotta sit down for a while", he says, and plops down right there. Scant moments later, he staggers to his feet, and spews around 4 pounds of pasta and tomato sauce on Geoff Palmer's monitor speaker, at the edge of the stage. Cool.
Bill Champlin is immediatly enraged, jumps down off stage, grabs drunken pal by the belt loops and collar, kicks open a side door and tosses him out!
Dave in Truckee   -   Lion's Share was great. We could get in at 14 and see the Son's, Clover, etc. My friend's mom would drop us off and then pick us up at closing. Was there a large bouncer there with long hair and a beard that wore a sherrif's star?
I remember a lot of "Hippies" there and the smell of dope. We probably could buy beer too! Don't forget River City and Sleeping Lady in Fairfax. Saw Eddy Money booed off stage at the SL many years ago.
Paul   -   I liked going there all the time , and I especially liked around 1972 when they would have Clover Play . I remember going upstairs to the private party room , that is where some action was when the band was taking a break.
Meadowsweet Rich   -   Hey Paul, I remember partying upstairs there with my old buddy Jim Tonge, who just recently passed away, we were up there before Commander Cody played one night when this guy wearing a vest and a driving cap & carrying a small briefcase walked into the room, "Any of you guys with Cody?" he asked, and then proceeded to introduce himself as 'Snortin Norton', turns out the briefcase was for his harmonicas, and he was later to be known as Norton Buffalo, later that night he jammed with Cody & The Airmen & really impressed everybody with his harp skills.
Artlife   -   how i wish i could remember anything about my lion's share days! i can imagine, though
JasonLewis   -   Still dying for some photos from the Lion's Share. Anyone think they may have something tucked away in a closet or album somewhere?
Meadowsweet Rich   -   Lions Share was a club located on Miracle Mile in the same block as United Market, in an easterly direction. The Share put on music & poetry reading, many well known locals played there. Van Morrison was a frequent performer when I was a high schooler, Commander Cody played there too. I remember the hill behind there as being a place people would hang out & socialize with beverages & herb before the shows.
Paul   -  I was at Bedrock Records yesterday , and right next door ( if I remember correctly ) was the old Lion's Share location , now it is Paradise Drive Tatoo Parlor.
Yo Storocco   -   Nope. The tattoo place was not Lion's Share. It was further down the Miracle Mile, towards the hub. Right next to, on the uphill side, of Redhill Automotive.  
Clancy   -   Lion's Share was a cool little club..remember seeing Mose Allison, The Sons, Norton Buffalo and some others there in the early days. Best story I can remember is one night The Sons were smoking up on the hill behind the club and the cops came up to bust 'em. Bill Champlin told the cops that they could arrest him, but that they (the cops) just HAD to smoke that pot---it was too good to waste! Don't know if the story was true, but it was told to me by Mark Isham one night at Marin Recorders in San Rafael...gave us all a howl.
Lemo  -   early Lion's Share down the street from the flick in Sausalito. We went in and ordered cheese fruit and wine, way underage and thought it was the coolest, man. Beatatude. poetry, folkies, tea, dark and a real eye opening gateway thought process that got us going to North Beach to check that whole scene out. We were blowin in da wind.
San Anselmo Share   -   saw my fav John Stewart one night, with Jerry Corbitt and Big ass chawing long hair Charlie Daniels. We didn't think he was such a jerk, then.  What ever did happen to Considine, anyway? sure did bring a lot of great stuff to us all.
SteveC   -   Do you know the name of the bar across from the Lion's Share in the middle of Miracle Mile by a Chevron Station that was also in between the east and west bound lanes circa 1970.
Googuse   -   Across the street, here was a restaurant called The London Broil, which I think was owned by Barry Oldham, who later owned the Mayflower. There was also the Spanish place that had a few different names, but were all owned by Jose Pons He was an old girlfriend's dad and we used to loot booze from the restaurant. I remember the gas station was right past Amazing Grace, where the empty area is now.  What was the diner shaped building on the north side? I's always been a dry cleaner as far back as I can remember, which is about 1969-70
SteveC   -   Googuse, Every time I've driven past that dry cleaners I think, That had to be a diner or drive-in.  I walked in and asked about ten years ago but they didn't seem to know what architecture was, let alone diners and drive-ins.  C'mon old timers, step up. Tell us the origin.

Jerry Garcia at Lion's Share
Nostalgia Newbie   -   Anyone know who Meadowsweet Rich is in the post above? That story about being upstairs at the LS when Norton Buffalo came in...I was there! I've told that story many times. It was the last week when the LS closed down. Not only did Norton have his cosmetic case full of harmonicas, he also kept his stash in it and pulled out some doobs. And Jim Tongue was a good friend of sorry to hear of his passing.
Nostalgia Newbie   -   It was a very good year.  I was the cook at the Lion's Share around 1972 - Mike (Considine) was the owner and he needed to serve food so minors could be allowed in (mo money) he gave me a little room to the side of the liquor bar with a serve through window, and a cutting board - he explained the minor situation - and didn't want to be bothered by anything food related after that. The music and the scene was just so very hip. Van Morrison was there at least monthly it seemed - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee - Herbie Hancock - Sun Ra - Jerry Garcia picking in a bluegrass band called 'Old and in the Way' - I cooked and served Jerry a cheeseburger at an afternoon sound-check - a very big moment for me - I'm a bit of a harmonica player and another idol, Charlie Musselwhite graced the stage - one afternoon when I came to work there were security guards outside and one of the bartenders had to come to the door and OK me before they'd let me in - the whole place had been 'rented' for a private party. 
As I was setting up in my 'kitchen' a guy came in with a sack of pot and a BIG chunk of hash - he started rolling hash/grass bombers and since it was my cutting board and I prided myself on rolling skills in those days I took over and when everything was rolled up he gave me two for my services - the opening act was a 3 or 4 piece with a very hip babe singing and playing a wicked slide guitar - after the set she and Mike had a little conference in my kitchen and when Mike left for his office we talked and she commented about the looseness of the party - cops standing watch outside - and inside there were barmaids walking around with a platter of free coke - piled high - no shit. She asked me if I had gotten high yet - meaning the coke - and I said no - and she whipped out a small glass vial and gave me a couple of toots from her coke spoon necklace - I was in hippie heaven - I don't KNOW who that gal was - but looking back it almost had to be Bonnie Raitt - I didn't know who she was at the time - so I can't say for sure - but it fits perfectly.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Believe It or Not - Part 4

  1.   A web developer and higher education administrator in Montclair, New Jersey called Born to Sing Van Morrison’s anti-emergency-contraception album
  2.   Man crush alert !!! In 1992 Kent cricketer Graham Cowdrey revealed he kept "an old photo of Van Morrison" in his cricket kit bag "for inspiration".

3.   In the summer of 1971, Janet Planet ordered Van to pack their car and prepare to leave.  Apparently, their babysitter had gone to a fortune-teller who had a vision that astronauts had seen a piece of California break off into the ocean. Janet’s fear deepened when she also dreamt that the Big One hit and their house in Marin County slid down a hill.  Van, Janet and their baby Shana drove to Albuquerque where they remained until, Janet told the LA Times in 1997, some astronauts circling the Earth at the time landed. 

4.   On youtube there is a "medical parody" called "Pink-Eyed Girl" about the condition known as Tactile Fremitus. Hilarious, apparently. 
5.   Van Morrison's oldest daughter (born 1970) is a singer in her own right with four or five albums to her credit. Shana's middle name is 'Caledonia' and there's some debate over her first name.  Was she born "Shannon" and then changed it to 'Shana'?   
6.   Caitlin Moran supposedly has an anecdote about seeing Van on a fold up bike. 

7.   Brianna from Milwaukee thinks Van Morrison is a band name. "Van Morrison - Am I the only person under 30 who "likes" them on Facebook? I don't even care. Their music screams "relaxing summer evening with my lover" to me.
8.   Van’s 1983 album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart offered “special thanks” to L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the notorious Church of Scientology.
  9.   In October, 2012, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon held a Van Morrison liturgy.  The event was a" celebration of The Journey, The Mystery and The Harvest set to the Celtic heartbeat of Van Morrison, one of the most transcendent and mysterious figures in modern music". Promotion for the event exhorted those interested to Let your soul and spirit fly into the Mystic.

10.   In the Berkley Court Hotel in Dublin in 1995, Van spoke about UFOs and his belief in them.
 11.   Van auditioned for the BBC when he was fourteen.  He said of the audition, I sang a folk song and because I didn't know all the words I rewrote it and added my own lyrics.  It was about a bird.  The BBC never wrote back! 

12.   Brown Eyed Girl made the list of "25 Most Overplayed Songs" somewhere on the net.  First place?  Why, that was Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. 
 13.  The Crystal Hotel in Portland, Oregon in the US has a Van Morrison and Them themed room.  All rooms are themed with performers who've played at the nearby Crystal Ballroom.  

14.   The acclaimed Beck album called Odelay has a song called Jackass which samples Them's version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," giving the song a hypnotic groove and a repetitive keyboard melody.

15.  Dominic Monaghan from the TV series Lost likes to sing Brown-eyed Girl. (Celebrities think that what they do is so damn vital and interesting. Who cares?)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Drinking Ban - The Fans Speak

The Guardian Music Blog had an interesting post back in 2008.  It was entitled "Can You Stomach a Gig Without Booze?" and basically discussed Van's alcohol ban during shows. What follows is a cut down version of the original post and edited versions of some of the reader comments. 

Can you stomach a gig without booze?

Looks like Van the Man won't be taking any requests for Moonshine Whiskey then. 
It's pretty easy to come up with reasons why a Van Morrison gig could disappoint:
a) He neglects to play the original version of Brown Eyed Girl, and instead kicks off a 15-minute pan-pipe jam inspired by his soul-searching travels in the Andes.
b) He rekindles his love affair with Scientology and brings Tom Cruise onstage for a skiffle paean to the wondrous ways of L Ron Hubbard.
c) The crowd find themselves banned from going to the bar to get a stiff drink to numb the dull, throbbing pain caused by two hours of incessant MOR rock.
This time, Van the Man has gone for c) - preventing his audience from quaffing booze at tomorrow night's Brighton Dome gig, and for two shows in Liverpool and Birmingham next month. Apparently, this beer ban has nothing to do with the teetotal Van's past problems with alcohol.  He doesn't like folk wandering about too much when he sings. It puts him off, you see. We can only suppose that this rules out dancing too. Soft drinks, however, are allowed – so you can go back and forth, downing as much Coca-Cola as your body can hold.

What I find weird, though, is that Van seems to have forgotten that most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze. Queues at venue bars are nearly always a vicious battle to the Becks, yet still people are willing to miss a couple of songs by their favourite acts in order to secure an overpriced, plastic pint of cider or miniature beaker of acrid vodka. And why? Because good music and drink are still the best of bedfellows, and a tipsy crowd is usually an enthusiastic one. And let's face it, most of us need some Dutch courage to shake a leg in front of complete strangers at 8.30pm on a school night.
Maybe we've got this all wrong. Seeing as the tickets for Van's mini-tour range in price from £40 to £85, could the man be doing his fans a favour by asking them to not shove their hands any deeper into their pockets?

richardrj  -  18/09/2008

Banning booze at gigs is fine by me. I too get irritated by people walking back and forth while the artist is playing, especially at seated gigs like the Dome where the potential to distract other punters is much greater. And of course they're not just going to the bar, they're going to the loo as well, the latter being a direct result of the former. Sometimes you look around you and all you see is folk milling around, not just at the beginning of the gig but right the way through it. I wouldn't go to a Van Morrison gig if you paid me, but I can see his point right enough. I mean, can't people go without drinking for an hour or so?
The thing about Morrison allowing soft drinks is interesting, though. It makes me suspect that he is probably closer to the Robert Fripp school of thought. Fripp has never gone so far as banning alcohol at gigs, although he has banned photos/smoking/taping/fidgeting/enjoying oneself. His view is that audience members, or audients as he calls them, have to be clear-headed in order to appreciate the music – a rather priggish attitude, in my view.
For the second time today I find myself writing on these here blogs that the rock world could take lessons from the jazz world. Go to a jazz club here in mainland Europe and you get your drink brought to you at your table – a far more civilised business than the scrum at the bar.
This is off topic, but here's an illustration of why drinking at gigs in Europe is so much more pleasant than drinking at gigs in Britain. For obvious reasons, bar staff aren't allowed to serve drinks in proper glass glasses, so in Britain you get those crappy flimsy plastic things which rapidly get crushed underfoot. In Europe, they give you a hard plastic glass and they charge you a euro deposit for it. You keep the glass throughout the evening, bringing it back to the bar every time. At the end of the evening, you take it back to the bar and you get your euro back. Hey presto - no broken glass, no plastic for the poor staff to sweep up at the end of the evening, no glasses for them to have to keep collecting.
A gig without the constant, constant distraction of the queue of people who spend their entire time squeezing all the way to the back of the hall to buy beer, squeezing back (usually depositing half of it over you) and then swiftly downing it before returning to the bar once more?
Fine by me, the odds of catching him on a good night are slender anyway. Why not stay in and listen a selection of his better tunes with a few mates and a few bottles of wine?
Grumpy old git.
Just because tubby can't handle his drink, doesn't mean the paying punters can't have a bevy. What a knob. Maybe they should ban pork pies & sausage rolls from his rider?
most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze.
not sure I agree with that - rock gigs yes, but it is different strokes for different folks - I went to see India Arie a few years back and the bar was empty.
I also had an enforced period of sober gigging a while back due to being on antibiotics for 6 months - the best gigs (e.g. Robert Plant at the Hammersmith Palais were just as enjoyable).
I think there is a case for closing the bar at seated venues when the act is on. A previous Plant gig at Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever it is called these days) was partly spoiled by the constant distraction of fans trips to bar & toilet ( the two are linked, and in the case of Plant his audiences bladders aren't what they used to be!).
But I think this is just Van being his usual grumpy self.
I recently finally had the chance to see one of my all-time favourite bands, Big Star, live. When they played their classic song, Thirteen, what should have been a beautiful perfect moment for me was ruined by some idiot bulldozing his way through the crowd carrying a whole round of drinks. It wouldn't have been so bad, but he was incapable of finding his mates, or locating natural gaps between people, so just pushed me and everyone in the vicinity back and forth throughout the entire song, spilling beer everywhere as he went. The poignancy of the song was left trampled in his wake. I would very much like to find that man and perform a Carling enema on him.
I've only twice consumed alcohol at gigs, the first time was at a Van gig. Van's performance was uninspiring and the beer was rubbish.
The other time was at a Bowie gig, or more accurately before a Bowie gig. I was very excited about going to see my hero and a friend generously gave me a bottle of vodka to celebrate.
My companion for the evening was late and by the time she arrived I'd consumed at least half the bottle. By then I was rocking on and drank some more on the train to Liverpool.
When I woke up in the morning I tried to remember the gig but all I could recall was one solitary image of Bowie standing there on the stage in that union jack coat (Earthling era). I also had a big lump on the back of my head.
I had to go and buy a copy of the Liverpool echo so I could read a review of the gig and find out if it was good.
A rock gig without a ten minute queue to pay 4 pounds for a warm can of Red Stripe served in a flimsy plastic glass would just not be the same. Has the man no sense of tradition?
  • Ramalution  19/09/08
  • Absolutely not, 10 years ago I saw Bob Dylan on a co headline tour with Van Morrison. Van was first up , started with Days Like These which was nice ,and then did a 1 hour blues jam which was terrible, and REFUSED to play Brown eyed girl. I still hate him.
I'm all for drinking at gigs as its something to do while your hanging round for the band/singer to start. Or if the gig (see 45 minute blog post yesterday)goes on to long, something to do.
That said drinking to much at gigs is a pain and I apologise for the following drunken moments:
1) Automatic, Kentish Town Forum, beginning November. I had just come back from Peru, had a works do straight away on the Friday night and consumed my body weight in Redbull and Vodka. Turned up at the gig and just jumped on people, got boll*cking by the bouncer. Sorry if you were there.
2)January 4h 2006 Art Brut, Elbow Rooms. What a rubbish venue for a gig. Even more rubbish when I'm pushing through the crowd every 5 minutes to go to the bar and consume more Guinness. Very drunk.
3) Arctic Monkeys, Glastonbury 2007. They were rubbish, I had drunk for 3 days with no let up. No excuse to start chucking mud at my friends and passers by. Apologies.
4) Quite a few others: Subways @ Koko's springs to mind.
In conclusion drinking is bad at gigs ,lets stop it. Just stop it.
Whatevs - but I don't think drink would improve a van gig anyway. The man hasn't done anything of musical consequence since about 1984 (probably about the time he started having trouble with drinking).
I yearn for the days when drink was not the drug of choice of the gig going classes. I can remember seeing CSN&Y at Wembley (twin towers) with the Band, Joni Mitchell, and Jesse Colin Young, and while one of those acts was on going to a bar for some liquid refreshment - the bars were all deserted, with the barmen looking perplexed by the inactivity. The crowd too busy munching on microdots and smoking hash. But of course the smoking ban means those days are sadly forever gone!! Que nostalgic old geezer staring wistfully out of the window.....................wondering where his short term memory has gone.
Having had the misfortune of seeing Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged to, in order to make some extra sales on his recordings, but hates the selling process so much that he just seems to grump his way through them.
I can only guess that the only parts of the whole recording business he likes is the money and the recording process. which is fair enough, but surely he's earned enough by now to just record for his own pleasure (if such a concept exists for him) and ignore the sales anyway.
I'm guessing that if a record sells poorly he blames the audience for being uncultured slobs rather than his own work anyway.
I've been going to gigs sober for years and it's not affected my enjoyment of them (apart from a growing intolerance of anti-social drunkenness in some members of the audience) I'm not against banning drinks from some gigs - why do they need to buy drinks while the headline act is on - surely that's why you bought the ticket - you don't spend £20+ to just get access to warm beer served in plastic glasses.
But I just think this banning in Van Morrison's case is just another example of the lack of respect he has for his audience.
I would like to have seen him try to stop people drinking and moving when he appeared at Glastonbury, yet he no doubt pocketed his sizeable fee!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Van Morrison - a Celtic Sourdough for a Celtic New Year

Van Morrison sourdough

Imagine Van as a loaf of bread.  Chinese Australian Shiao Ping has done just that on her bread-making blog and she's serious.  Here are highlights from her post about Van Morrison sourdough: 
"For 30 years you've enjoyed an artist, he has accompanied you from when you became a young adult, marriage, career, through till you retired, and has begun your second 50 years of life... 
...If you are discerning enough and are able to extrapolate the lessens you've learnt along the way, you will see the relationship between your life and bread (or any other serious endeavours).  What you can learn then is beyond bread.   What masters can teach, then, is beyond bread.  If you are able to find in masters such continuity and such value, you have transcended beyond the physical.    
In Van Morrison I have found such a master, and value for all my investments in him.  I have found a life evolving, unfolding, deepening, and ever refreshing.  
I wanted to do a bread to pay him tribute.  I am pondering if Spelt would be a good fit as Spelt is an ancient grain and Celtic is an ancient culture.   I went to Dan Lepard's The Homemade Loaf for some help; I thought maybe Dan's proximity to Van Morrison's Irish Celtic roots would give me some hints as to what bread would do him honour.   Under the heading Ireland, all that I can find is Irish Soda Bread which is not a leaven bread.  It uses bicarbonate of soda in place of yeast so requires no proofing.  I was told from other sources that the soda bread is a staple of the Irish diet.  It was and still is used as an accompaniment to a meal.   
Why Celtic New Year?  To the Celts, their year begins with the festival of Samhain on 31st October at the end of the harvest season, when nature appears to be dying down ... but "from death and darkness springs life and light."
I have a few months up my sleeve and I am brushing up my skill for a Irish Celtic stew too.  To soak up the Irish stew and Guinness beer, a hearty, somewhat dense, bread is what I need. 
My Guinness soupy starter 
420 g Guinness draught stout (brewed in Ireland by Guinness & Co., St James's Gate,* Dublin)
84 g white flour
100 g starter @ 75% hydration  
*  The only St. James that I know of is Van Morrison's Saint James Infirmary in his album What's Wrong With This Picture, what a monumentally beautiful song.  
I heated up Guinness to 70C (158F) then stirred the flour in.  When it cooled down to 20 C, I added the starter and let it sit covered overnight.  
In constructing my Celtic Sourdough, I took cue for some of my ingredients from Dan's soda bread which has soft wholewheat flour (white wholemeal flour?), fine oatmeal, lard** (I used dripping fat from roasting a leg of lamb last week), butter milk and milk (I steered clear of dairy products), and sugar (I used black strap molasses for that deep colour and bitterness). 
** Have you ever heard of a Chinese 50-year old stock pot?  Yes, in Europe or US you have 150-year old starter; in China, there is the 50-year old stock pot.  If you ever see a picture of it, you swear you're never going to get near that stew the shop owner is brewing out in the open.   My stock is, oh, maybe 18-month old (against my husband's knowledge), and it lives safely in my freezer; it gets ever renewed with each new stew or roast I am making.   Can you imagine the deep meaty savoury aroma that comes out of the little bit of lard that I skimmed off from my stock pot and put in the dough (below)?  
My formula 
200 g Guinness starter from above (hydration about 328%)
280 g organic spelt flour
120 g organic stone-ground wholemeal flour
50 g fine oatmeal
30 g dripping fat from a roast ** as above
20 g organic black strap molasses
167 g water 
10 g salt
Rolled oats and oatmeal for dusting
The dough hydration from above (74%) may seem high but it is not at all; the dough feels more like a 65 - 68% dough because of the fat and molasses which are not exactly liquid, and also because oatmeal soaks up a lot of water.  I was in two minds about whether I score or don't score.  The ancient Celts, if they ever made breads, would they score like the French village bakers?  I left it untouched.  On hindsight, a score would have helped it bloom.  Anyway, here is my rustic Celtic Sourdough:   

Celtic Sourdough:  a Celtic banquet?
The crumb may look heavy, but, gee, it is not heavy at all, it is soft and tender made possible by the Guinness soupy dough and fat; you can clearly smell the lamb fat.  The crust is extra crispy also because of the fat.
                                befitting to Celtic hospitality?
A few years back there was a new Van Morrison biography by the English Australian composer and writer, Andrew Ford, Speaking in Tongues, that was released; I placed an order, but my friendly neighbourhood book shop never rang me back about my order and I just left it there.  So I don't know much about Van Morrison the person.  And I don't know if my Celtic Sourdough would suit his tastes if at all; doesn't matter, at the end of the day, it's me, not him.    
In the end, it is you that matters, not the masters.    
p.s.  Van Morrison: some of the albums I love: 
Into the Music
Poetic Champions Compose
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
The Philosopher's Stone
Hymns to the Silence, and