Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Meaning of Brown Eyed Girl

At there is an interesting analysis of Brown Eyed Girl.  Below is an edited version of what they have to say.  For the rest of the article click on

How deep is your love for this song? Go deeper.
It's in the Grammy Hall of Fame, it's #109 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest rock songs, and it's #49 on VH1's list of the same. Bill Clinton says it's one of his favourites; George W. Bush says he rocks out to the tune as well. Guys sing it to their girls; fathers sing it to their daughters. It's one of those infectious little songs that makes you smile. It's a song about young, innocent love, and it's about the joy mingled with sadness that comes from recollection.

That's all there is to it, right?
Not so fast. After all, this is Van Morrison—the notoriously temperamental artist and Celtic mystic. Could he really have written a simple love song? 

Well, for starters, the song was not considered so sweet when it was released in 1967. Radio stations refused to play a song that moved from the implied ("Down in the hollow, Playin' a new game . . . Our hearts a thumpin'") to the explicit ("Making love in the green grass, Behind the stadium with you"). So Morrison's producers prepared a sanitised version for radio play. That song that repeated an earlier line and had his young lovers "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey" behind the stadium (as though we couldn't figure out what they were really doing).
All of the hubbub over the song's lyrics now seems quaint, and perhaps even surprising. Wasn't 1967 the summer of love, the year that San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district caught the nation's imagination with its mantra of free love? Well, yes, but most of America did not live on Haight Street.
Not surprisingly, television and radio catered to the values of these conservative times. Censorship of movies, music, television, and even cartoons was nothing new. Jeannie of I Dream of Jeannie, Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island, and Gidget of Gidget were all forbidden to show their belly buttons on TV. And while TV couples were allowed to get pregnant (gasp!), they must have done so immaculately, for most, like Rob and Laura Petrie of The Dick Van Dyke Show, were always shown sleeping in separate beds.
Morrison's song, with its rather blunt reference to "making love in the green grass," was somewhat risqué for its time. The only deeper layer of sex-related meaning in the song may be an allusion to interracial sex. When Morrison first wrote the song, he called it "Brown Skinned Girl". In 1967, sixteen states (the South plus Delaware) had laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The Supreme Court struck these down as unconstitutional in June 1967 in Loving v. Virginia (sometimes even the law can be poetic). But the Court's wisdom did not immediately change public opinion. Twenty years later, more than half of all Americans still disapproved of interracial relationships.
In other words, a song about the pleasant memory of an interracial fling would have raised more than a few eyebrows and also seriously damaged the single's radio play time. But Morrison claims that he abandoned his brown-skinned girl for a brown-eyed girl almost without thought. After recording the song, apparently with the lyric "brown eyed girl," he absent-mindedly changed the title to match the lyric. If he made the decision in the interest of appeasing conservative critics, he won't admit it. In his book Van Morrison: No Surrender, Johnny Rogan quotes Morrison: 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 happen (page 43).
Perhaps, then, the meatier question is not what the lyrics mean, but what the song means to Morrison and his larger body of work. On the one hand, "Brown Eyed Girl" is his most recognised song. DJs list "Brown Eyed Girl" as among the ten most frequently requested songs. 

Interestingly, though, Morrison says the song is far from his favourite piece. When he recorded it, he considered it a "throw away song." He claims that he has written 300 songs that he likes more. And we really shouldn't be surprised. Morrison cut his musical teeth on Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Jelly Roll Morton, and Ray Charles. Can you imagine any of these legendary bluesmen singing "Brown Eyed Girl"? 

While Morrison's complexity and seeming indifference to commercialism might encourage us to push deeper and deeper for the gotta-be-edgy meat to the song, it's probably as simple and comparatively innocent as it sounds. And if it seems somewhat un-Morrisonian, we might do well to listen to The Man himself when pressed to explain some of the complexities and mysteries within his work.

A lot of times people say, 'What does this mean?' A lot of times I have no idea what I mean. If you can't figure out what it means, or it's troubling you, it's not for you. Like Kerouac, some of his prose stuff, how can you ask what it means? It means what it means. That's what I like about rock & roll-- the concept--like Little Richard. What does he mean? You can't take him apart; that's rock & roll to me.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Best of the Fanzines #1 - Van's Belfast

The following edited article is taken from The Van Morrison Newsletter, Number 4, September 1991.

Belfast in the 1950s

Down the Street With the Wrought Iron Gate Rows

The Weekend section of the Independent carried a number of guides to Rock Holidays on their Traveller page.  On March 30, 1991 they focused on Van Morrison's Belfast with a heading "Down Van's Street of Dreams".   The articles featured photos and interviews with neighbours who remembered Van when he was young and was written by Van biographer Steve Turner. 

Not all of the article is an interesting read.  Early on Turner mentions"The home where Van was born on August 31, 1945, has a black wrought iron gate and fence.  The small front garden is now concrete and painted doorstep red.  New windows and a glass front door are indications of modernisation."

More interesting are the recollections of Van's former guitarist Herbie Armstrong who recalled to Turner how, as a teenager, he would visit Van at home during the day when his parents were out to listen to records on the radiogram.  "The music he had went a bit over my head because I wasn't into jazz at that time. He would stick on all these records that I had never heard before.  The first time I ever heard Bo Diddley and Bob Dylan was at his house. "

Coming to Cyprus Avenues, Turner quotes a few lines of the song and observing its peacefulness and comfort he writes, "For a working class boy in the 50s, growing up in a two bedroomed house with an outside toilet and no bathroom, it must have seemed like another world."

Van's former English teacher at Orangefield, David Hammond says: "he slipped through the school without making any impression.  And I say that out of admiration than as a criticism. If he had listened to people like me he could never have written a line in his life. He believed in nobody but himself."

His old partner Sammy Woodburn is still cleaning windows but much of the city has changed.  The Maritime Hotel was demolished just days before Turner's visit. 

The Pylons?
Record shop owner Dougie Knight claims a small part of Van's musical development.  "I was describing Hooker to Van and then I introduced him to Baby Please Don't Go by Big Joe Williams as being a great number.  He later came to me and said that in its original form it was a bit too subtle but that he could make a hit record out of it with his group Them, who used to rehearse in one of my attic  room."

Pilgrimages to Belfast are becoming popular with Van fans trying to seek out old haunts and references in songs.   

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Live at Austin City Limits Festival Album (2006)

Do you have this live album?  I don't and I regret not buying it when it was released.  I've also resisted the urge to download it illegally.  In some ways it's not an official live album release like his other five live releases:  The Skiffle Sessions - Live in Belfast 1998,· Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl, It's Too Late to Stop Now, Live at the Grand Opera House and A Night in San Francisco.  The Live at Austin City Limits Festival album was available only from his website and then it was only listed for sale for only a limited time.  It was gone before I was able to buy it and when it appears on ebay every now and then it is priced among his most expensive CDs (e.g. Period of Transition and Hard Nose the Highway)  
The following review is on someone's site of archived material called "past archives" in the URL.  It has no title or author's name and simply contains 10 or so items about Van.    

"Available only from shows and the artist’s website, Live At Austin City Limits Festival recorded at the titular September 2006 show, is a reasonably accurate facsimile of the current live Van experience, although it does seem more than coincidence that, when being taped, he turns in a slightly longer set than the usual 21:30 getaway, and engages in garrulous banter of a “Hello Texas! It’s great to be here!” nature.
Unusually high levels of pixie cheerfulness aside, there’s lots to enjoy on this decade’s Van live album. Largely configured as per his current road band, with the addition of old hands John Allair, John Platania and David Hayes on organ, guitar and bass respectively, it’s gently thrilling to hear these songs at home in their concert trim. Where it differs most significantly from yer real live Van gig experience is that the audience reaction seems distant, the expected ovations at the end of every solo strangely muted – probably more a matter of recording technique than any lack of appreciation by the crowd on the night. The sonics are delicious, though: you can’t quite picture Van conducting his musicians with hand signals, but sometimes intra-song muttering can be heard, presumably Van telegraphing details of the next number to the band.
Van sets even modest material such as “Days Like This” swinging gently, an ability that can sometimes get obscured at a concert by the inevitable aching disappointment that the song he’s just launched into is yet another one that isn’t on “Astral Weeks”. He drops a little squeedly-bopping scat into “Bright Side Of The Road”, before unrolling a full-blown Satchmo impression.

Cleaning Windows” revels in how delicately funky it’s become, morphing into “Be Bop A Lulu” like some kind of olde worlde sampling. A heartfelt “I Can’t Stop Loving You” doesn’t quite scrape the same heights of tingling majesty as the recent Bridgewater Hall performances documented elsewhere in this issue, but it nevertheless provides evidence of Van’s continuing growth as a performer. It’s always a delight to hear a song from “Enlightenment”, and “Real Real Gone”’s spontaneity is underscored by Van’s call of “Who’s got it?” ahead of John Allair’s organ solo, his giggling fit as he steps on to the bridge, the way it drifts seamlessly into a version of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and, after a chorus from the Crawford Bell Singers, how his response of “That sounds good, do it one more time again” conjures up another one. “Saint James Infirmary” walks through frozen streets on blistered feet, and there’s something delightfully meta about the lines “Gonna go back down to New Orleans/And the drummer does a roll on the snare” (at which the drummer does indeed perform a roll on the snare), as if simultaneously listening to the director’s commentary. “Moondance” has the expected round robin solo spots, and then he gets all gregarious on us…”It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, I can’t remember…but it’s been worth the wait! Like to do the workshop at some point”…before launching into the highlight of both the album and many a Van set, a mesmerising Celtic soul workout loosely based around the old Tommy Edwards hit “It’s All In The Game”.
Click on the link above to read the rest of the review or check out the Wikipedia entry for more information.  
Tack Listing
(All songs by Van Morrison, except as noted)
Disc One
1."Back on Top" - 5:45
2."Big Blue Diamonds" (Earl J. Carson) - 3:06
3."Playhouse" - 5:30
4."Days Like This" - 3:02
5."Muleskinner Blues" (Jimmie Rodgers, Georgie Vaughn) - 5:49
6."In the Midnight" - 5:24
7."Bright Side of the Road" - 4:29
8."Don't You Make Me High" (Daniel Barker, Ken Harris) - 3:05
9."Cleaning Windows" - 4:37
10."I Can't Stop Loving You" (Don Gibson) - 5:32
Disc Two
1."Real Real Gone/You Send Me" (Morrison), (Sam Cooke) - 5:36
2."Saint James Infirmary" (traditional arranged by Morrison) - 5:28
3."Moondance" - 6:20
4."It's All in the Game/You Know What They're Writing About/Make It Real One More Time" (Charles Dawes, Carl Sigman), (Morrison) - 7:21
5."Precious Time" - 3:52
6."Don't Start Crying Now/Custard Pie" (James Moore, Jerry West), (Sonny Terry) - 5:23
7."Wild Night" - 4:18
8."Brown Eyed Girl" - 4:21
9."Gloria" - 8:46
Quotable Quote:
"Perhaps of greater value as a souvenir than as a stand alone album in its own right, it’s nevertheless great to be able to bring on home a modicum of the magic that makes Van gigs so different, maddening and frequently rewarding."

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell and Van

Eric Bell was a founding member of Irish rock group Thin Lizzy.  He was born on September 3, 1947 in East Belfast, Northern Ireland. Like Van he got his start in showbands.  The bands he played for included The Bluebeats, The Earth Dwellers and The Dreams.  He also played in the last line-up of them before Van departed in September and October of 1966.  In 1969 Bell teamed up with ex-Them member Eric Wrixon, Brian Downey and Phil Lynott to form Thin Lizzy.  Bell named the group Thin Lizzy, after Tin Lizzie, a robot character in The Dandy comic.  

Thin Lizzy became incredibly popular in the early 1970s. As lead guitarist, Bell played on Thin Lizzy's first three albums Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage and Vagabonds of the Western World. He co-wrote a number of songs with Lynott and Downey, including "The Rocker" which became a live favourite throughout the band's career.

After Bell’s final official appearance with the band in 1973, the guitarist briefly formed his own Eric Bell Band before Noel Redding recruited Bell for his own outfit. Whilst musically prolific, it proved a short-lived alliance and The Noel Redding Band split in 1976.  Bell pursued other avenues including a stint in saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith’s Mainsqueeze. Bell was on hand to perform at the unveiling of the Philip Lynott statue in 2005. That same year he took to the stage alongside the late, great Gary Moore for a rendition of ‘Whisky In The Jar’ at the Point Theatre for the Phil Lynott tribute show 'The Boy Is Back In Town'.

 Here are excerpts from Eric's Interview with Michael Limnios on the Blues GR blog.    

Eric, when was your first desire to become involved in the music & what made you fall in love with the blues music?

 When I was around 14 years old, I bought a cheap acoustic guitar, and started trying to teach myself  to play copying from records, like Lonnie Donegan and The Shadows...then the blues boom started and reached Belfast and all the local bands started playing the blues.

How do you to describe your philosophy about the music?

The music is sacred…it's like very important...when I listen to some music it just takes over my gives me strength, belief, humour, all these emotions.

Where did you pick up your guitar style & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?

I've been playing now for a long time, and I listened to all types of music, and tried to play things that had meaning to me, I'm still practising and still trying....Well, you can hear my work on Thin Lizzy's first 3 albums, and  I have 3 CDs out...”Live Tonite”,  “Irish Boy” and “Lonely nights in London”.

I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your experience with Van Morrison?

Van was a very intense guy; he had a great belief in what he did and came across as a very hip man...a bit like a serious jazz musician...I only played with him for about 3 months, and the way he was on stage really changed me...he would just try anything, change the songs, experiment and not really care what people expected him to do.

Tell me about the beginning of Thin Lizzy. How did you chose the name and where did it start?

I left The Dreams Showband I was playing with 6 nights a week, and went around Dublin looking for a drummer and bass player to form a group...4 weeks later I was about to give up as nobody was interested, I went to the Countdown Club, and happened to meet Philip and Brian, we started talking and they said they would form a group with me.. I chose the name from a cartoon called Tin Lizzie and because Dublin people say tree and tick instead of three and thick I put an H in to make Thin then changed Lizzie to Lizzy… We started in Dublin City.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory and what is the thing you miss most about Philip Lynott?

When I knew Philip, he was a very gentle guy, good company, and very much into music...We got a house and lived together just to work on the music...I miss those days.

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most? Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

I admired Van, Philip, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore. The best friends would have been Brian Downey, Philip, Gary Moore, and Noel Redding.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory of Bo Diddley? What advice has given to you?

Bo was such a nice man, one of the boys, and a great sense of humor. He was very young at heart and really seemed to love Life. The only advice he gave me was one day at a sound check, I asked him how I could be a better singer...he just said “there's nothing wrong with your voice you just sing.

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?

I would keep my interest in practicing guitar, and would cut down drink and smoking dope.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Believe it or Not - Part 1

Believe it or not, this is not Van
Believe it or Not!

  -  Real Foods Daily, an eatery in Hollywood, has opted to name a menu item  after Van.  Folks seeking a healthy alternative can hunker down over a plate of Van Morrison Shepherd's Pie, which consists of tempeh, lentils and vegetables baked in a tomato miso sauce topped with whipped sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
  -  There is a Van Morrison Road in Monticello, Georgia in the USA.  (why doesn't your town have one?)

  -  English cricketer Graham Cowdrey (son of you know who) had the nickname Van because of his love of the great man.  (Georgie Fame loves cricket apparently but I couldn't imagine Van being a fan.)

  -  Retired systems analyst Mike Millard has seen Van in concert over 700 times. 
   -  According to a BBC survey Into the Mystic is one of the most popular songs for surgeons to listen to whilst performing operations.

  -  Brown Eyed Girl has been played on radio over 10 million times becoming only the 10th song to achieve this milestone. 

  -  Van's most active performing year was 2000 when he performed 163 concerts

  -  Van said in a 2009 interview that "the Beatles were peripheral".

  -  After performing in the SXSW Festival in Austin in 2008 the talentless celebrity commentator, Perez Hilton, published a rumour that Van was banned from several area hotels for throwing a food tray at an employee.   The rumour was completely untrue which was verified by the manager of the Driskill Hotel where he stayed.

  -  In 2009 Van recorded his 2009 Orpheum Theater show in Los Angeles so that he could give copies of the performances to Farrah Fawcett who was suffering with terminal cancer. 

  -  Van is a fan of the gold harmonicas, microphones, saxophone stand and his microphone stand with the "VM" logo.  All of these were made by the the so-called "Mr. Microphone" (Dennis Oelig) of Kansas City, Missouri.

  -  The website Rock claim Van suffers from diralophobia which is an intense fear of cuckoo clocks. That's not as bad as Billy Bob Thornton who claims to be scared of antiques and komodo dragons. 

  -  Van, who left school at 14, has two honorary doctorate degrees.  In 2001 he was awarded a Doctorate of Music from Queen's University.  In the early 1990s he received a doctorate in literature from the University of Ulster.

  -   Colin Abbott originally from the Bloomfield area of Belfast but now of Jarrahdale, Western Australia claims that one night in a central Belfast pub, Van asked him to lend him a pound. Unfortunately, he only had about three shillings in his pocket, and had to tell him that he couldn't help him. 

  -  Van claimed in an interview that his suits were made by the tailor who makes suits for the Sultan of Brunei

  -   Salmon Rushdie, by his own admission, once danced--or, to be precise, pogoed--with Van Morrison in Bono's living room. 

  -  At Nicole Stanley claimed in 2005 that "your Van Morrison posters" are among the "a few bare essentials every student and every dorm room should have".  She goes on to ask "how else are you going to make a stunning impression the first week of college?".

  -  Van doesn't "go to night clubs anymore".  What's more improbable is that he ever did.  Did he really hang out at Studio 54 in the 70s with Mick, Bianca, Andy Warhol, etc?  

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Why is there so much hate in the world?

Here's an opinionated article posted online about Van and his music.  It's strange to read such vitriol about a great artist who has been in the professional music business for over 50 years.  I don't really like the music of Justin Beiber, Susan Boyle, Kesha, Miley Cyrus, etc. but I never feel the need to slam these professional performers.  If you don't like the music of some artist you don't have to go to concerts or buy their music.  My comments about the criticisms are in brackets.  I'm a one-eyed fan for sure.  The website that this was found on has some interesting replies to the article.   

VAN MORRISON – Like A Jelly Roll

Van The Man. What kind of nickname is that? It's as if he was so dull that the couldn’t think of any distinguishing factors of his personality to hang a sobriquet on. (Van has been called many things but dull is not one of them.) Truth is of course that a lot of people have been brought up with the ridiculous notion that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Suddenly the name Van The Man makes sense. Well, I have no such compunction.  (Is this supposed to be clever?  Lots of his fans and admirers have written lots about this superstar of popular music.) 
Van Morrison is a fat, curmudgeonly old Irish git (Lots of people are overweight - more than half the planet.  Also, when you talk about people in their sixties the vast majority are overweight.)(Curmudgeon? If you had his pressures and took the crap he's taken you might come across as a tad curmudgeonly.) (Irish git?  He's proud of being Irish and he's no fool being one of the UK's wealthiest entertainers.) – whose success lies squarely at the feet of Irish isolationism and racism. (???? His success is the result of his skill and talent.) His version of red-eyed soul was the nearest the Republic got to Motown, which is to say that it was significantly distanced by an ocean in between. Adding more Celtic lyrical touches ended up with the boglands version of Joe Cocker wibbling pointlessly about shaking his tush in the moonlight, before losing it all completely on Astral Weeks. (This doesn't even make sense but to criticise "Astral Weeks" is an attack on one of the most significant and praised albums of the 20th century.) What is it about Irish pop stars that compels them to write songs about dancing under the light of the moon? Surely a lack of light would be the only thing that would make the corpulent Morrison and the stick thin (and rotting significantly) Lynott look good.  (Such childish words that need no discussion).

Back to the Moondance album though, when Van was supposedly at the height of his powers – before he started doing Christian rhymes with Cliff Richard. It kicks off with “And It Stoned Me”, a song whose drug pretentions are so hidden that even a nun could work them out. But how – you ask – did this mythical substance stone Morrison? Well, it stoned him – and I quote – “Just like a jelly roll”. Suddenly it all makes sense why Van is so damn fat. A roll. Full of jelly. Lawks a lordy, I bet it isn’t a fruit set jelly either – more the scrapings off of the side of a tin of corned beef. (??? More bizarre attacks on a set of lyrics.  The writer needs to study other lyrics from popular music to see if they make more sense.)
Irish people like doing this, apparently
Of course Van, being the God botherer he is, (Van admits to being an atheist) could mean stoned in the biblical sense. The jelly roll line still makes no sense, (all kids of interpretations have been put forward about Van's use of the term jelly roll. Hundreds of other songs use the same term.) but the fact that he was getting stoned by people who had bought his other records – and not for the first time. And it's happy thoughts like that which will stop me from completely crucifying Morrison in the way he deserves. (He deserves to be crucified?  He's only a popular music performer not Pol Pot.) 

It's a credit to Van and all that he has achieved in the music business to see how much emotion he stirs in people. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

Ronnie Montrose Dead at 64

1947 - 2012

Noted Van guitarist, Ronnie Montrose, has died aged 64 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Montrose was born in Denver on November 29, 1947 and died on March 3, 2012 in Millbrae, California.
Ronnie Montrose was an American rock guitarist who led a number of his own bands as well as performed and did session work with a variety of musicians, including Sammy Hagar, Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison, The Beau Brummels, Boz Scaggs, Beaver & Krause, Gary Wright, Tony Williams, The Neville Brothers, Dan Hartman, Edgar Winter and Johnny Winter.  He was a respected guitar virtuoso and his work spanned a wide number of genres. 
His start in the music business came about in 1969 when he started out in a band called Sawbuck with Bill Church. Montrose had been in the process of recording what would have been his first album with Sawbuck when David Rubinson, the producer, arranged an audition with Van Morrison. Montrose got the job and played on Morrison's 1971 album Tupelo Honey. He also played on the song "Listen to the Lion", which was recorded during the Tupelo Honey sessions but released on Morrison's next album. Saint Dominic's Preview (1972).
Montrose played briefly with Boz Scaggs and then joined the Edgar Winter Group in 1972. He then formed his own band, Montrose, in 1973, featuring Sammy Hagar on vocals.  Eventually Hagar left but Montrose continued to put out albums as "Montrose" until he formed Gamma in 1979.  He continued to record through the 1980s and 1990s, and Gamma put out a fourth album in 2005.

 The original Montrose lineup also reformed to play as a special guest at several Sammy Hagar concerts in summer 2004 and 2005. Ronnie Montrose has also performed regularly from 2002 to present with a Montrose lineup featuring Keith St. John on lead vocals and a rotating cast of veteran hard rock players on bass and drums.
He was also a song writer of note.  Iron Maiden and Van Halen were two bands who covered his songs. 
On his most recent tour, in late 2009, Montrose revealed that he had successfully fought prostate cancer over the last two years however, the cancer returned soon after. On March 3, 2012, having battled the disease for almost five years, Montrose died from prostate cancer.
He is survived by his wife and manager Leighsa Montrose.  Together they had two children, a son, Jesse and a daughter, Kira, who gave them five grandchildren.
Soon after his death a message was posted on his website stating "A few months ago, we held a surprise party for Ronnie Montrose's 64th birthday. He gave an impromptu speech, and told us that after a long life, filled with joy and hardship, he didn't take any of our love for granted."

Ronnie Montrose’s Van Session Work

Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey (1971)
Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) (“Listen to the Lion” only)
Van Morrison - The Philosopher's Stone (1971/1972) "Ordinary People" & "Wonderful Remark" [compilation released 1999]

Edmonton Folk Festival Van Concert, August 4, 2010 - Reviews

Here's a comparison of three fan views of the same concert.  Basically, it shows how subjective life and music both are.      

 1.  Acidica's blog has a great Van review at the Edmonton Folk Festival.  The blog contains a lot of other reviews and other rock articles.

     Quote:  -  "Anyways, Van Morrison put on a stellar show, his voice sounded good, back up band was good, good selection of songs, caught me by surprise when two songs into his hour and half set he played his hit Brown Eyed Girl, other notable songs, they are all good, but these are the ones most people know. He played, Into The Mystic, Moondance and closed the night out with the song Gloria which had the crowd up and dancing finally. Van Morrison didn't acknowledge the crowd once through out the whole evening, he comes off as kind of ignorant or a grumpy bastard. I would give this show a 7 out of 10." 

2.  Donna Brinkworth's Edmonton Folk Festival Review  -  Donna also gives a little information about herself which is interesting.  Apparently she's becoming active in a sport called 'schutzhund'. 

     Quote:  "Standouts for me were Northern Muse as the opener, The Mystery, Celtic Excavation transitioning to Into the Mystic – wonderful combo; And the Healing Has Begun – never thought I would see that one live – and loved his 'digadigadig groove'; Ballerina – beautiful and well rehearsed; and In the Garden though by this time the sound problems meant it was a superficial attempt and did not reach a strong point (with a repeated verse rather than the whole song). I should mention Fairplay too – but for me his voice was too strong for this song and it was used as a band showcase – and worked well that way, becoming quite jazzy towards the end."

  3.  Mike Ross's Van Review is pretty opinionated.  This is the JAM! Showbiz site so there's a lot there for the music fan to enjoy.  

   Quote:  -  But he did do Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Into the Mystic and Gloria, the classic rock songs, the "hits" that will be remembered long after their creator is forgotten. He played piano, sax and guitar -- none of them better than Bob Dylan can play harmonica, but points for multi-instrumentality. He also played harmonica in a terrific rendition of the blues standard Help Me, better than Dylan. Besides, Van's fellow band members were always close at hand to pick up the slack, solo-wise. He had an awesome band. Longtime guitarist Jay Berliner was especially strong. The sweet interplay between the violin and saxophone was unusual, but a welcome wrinkle. Arrangements and melodies were twisted, freshened up. And he sang as only Van Morrison can sing: With taste, power and as much soul as a white man is legally allowed to possess. He didn't say much to the crowd or even acknowledge their delirious cheers with so much as a "thank you." Like, would it kill him to shout "Ed! Mon! Ton!" and soak up the cheers? Apparently, it would. And the concert ended precisely after 90 minutes. There was no encore.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Workplace Health and Safety

Here's an interesting Van story from a Jake Holmes page on the great music site called "Perfect Sound Forever".  Jake Holmes was a notable musician whose "Dazed and Confused" was made famous by Led Zeppelin.

Will Shade: Do you remember your extended run with Van Morrison at The Bitter End in '67?
Jake Holmes: (Irish accent) Do I have the stories for you there, me lad! (chuckling mischievously) We worked with Van at The Bitter End. He had this pick-up band. Charlie Brown and this drummer . . . they were flat-out freaks. They were total drug-crazed people. He decided he was going to get three backup singers. So he hired three black Bronx girls who had never been in The Village before in their life. They didn't know anything about rock n roll or folk music. They were R & B backup singers.
Van had apparently gotten enamoured with The Who. And there he is on stage doing T.B. Sheets and he's knocking the glasses off the tables in the front with his feet. He's kicking the microphone stand over. He's smashing into the drum set, crashing into everything. He's taking the microphone . . . and these girls are in the background singing (sings in high falsetto) "Oww, T.B. Sheets!" . . . and he's swinging the microphone over his head and it's missing . . . Charlie Brown and the drummer could care less . . . but he's swinging the microphone over the girls' heads and they're ducking and their eyes are getting bigger and bigger. They don't know what the hell's going on. What is this guy doing? They finally look at each other and go off stage. Van keeps on with T.B. Sheets, screaming and yelling and kicking and breaking stuff and just going nuts.
A double album of various Bitter End appearances
The girls go in the back. I'm sitting in the back of The Bitter End and all of a sudden these girls come out, it was in the winter time, in their fur coats and they walk past the table and I hear one of them say to the other two "That motherf#$%&#'s crazy!" All the while Van's still doing T.B. Sheets.
It was one of the funniest moments in my life.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Van Fans Versus the Web Sheriff

Every artist has a right to protect the art they have created.  A true Van Morrison fan would never just illegally download officially released albums!  We just wouldn't do it!  We love the man and appreciate his talent and skill.  Many readers of this blog are part of a large group of Van obsessives or Vanatics, as Pat Corley would say, that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.  We collect the albums, singles, EPs, videos, DVDs, or whatever else we can get our hands on in whatever format.  We promote Van to our friends and family, sometimes to the detriment of those relationships. 

Artists today are under threat from the illegal download.  Every worker is "worthy of his wages" as the Bible says.  Van seems more active than most in pursuing people who download his official albums for free.   The so-called Web Sheriff is his weapon of choice.  Perhaps he's been a bit zealous.  I don't know why Hayward's Van the Man info site and the Wavelength site were closed down because these two sites were all about promoting Van.  How many people has Wavelength's Simon Gee turned onto Van?  I bet it's in the thousands. 

I can't blame the attempt by Van to shut down illegal download sites.  For the true Van Fan or Vanatic, we want to have the album in our hands as we listen.  We want the cover art and any info in the booklet to digest.  Maybe that reflects our age.  Young people tell me they have thousands of albums and then I find out they're all illegal downloads.  It's not the same thing!  In the 70s I plonked down all I had on albums I liked.  A few dollars back then was everything I had.  It's not like today where middle class kids seem to have so much and then go ahead and steal the musical output of hundreds of artists.  They can afford to pay and yet just take.  Apparently, they have to save money on music so they can buy brand goods that give them some kind of artificial feeling of wealth or status. 

I better stop now.  I'm sounding as angry as Van. 

What follows is one fan's struggle with the Web Sheriff on the Ben Lomond Free Press blog.  The Web Sheriff reveals himself to be a person at pains to explain the actions he takes on behalf of his employer - anyone who hires him to protect his or her artistic output or other copyright issues.  It all starts when the the blogger begins to contemplate buying the latest Van album:
I got my sweaty palms on the new Van album today. Just what you’d expect from him i.e. the heroic struggle, the hurt, the disappointment with life, self obsession and gnawing self doubt. I love it. I notice that the drummer on the album is Liam Bradley who I saw in action with The Blue Nile in 2006.
*This is the first track on the album which from reading the lyrics, is Jesus Christ himself singing in the first person. It’s called How Can a Poor Boy? (no relation to the song recorded by Ry Cooder and others)

*The second track here is Van returning to his philosophical odyssey which has been going on for over 40 years. This is called Soul.

*Edit: These tracks have been removed at the request of Web Sheriff despite them having been uploaded from an entirely bona fide copy of the album. The web lawman has however provided links where you can access material from Keep it Simple.

 1.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 17, 2008 at 8:14 pm said:

Hi ‘Bigrab’,
On behalf of Exile Productions, Lost Highway and Polydor, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of “Keep It Simple” on your site (or any individual tracks from Van Morrison’s unreleased album – release dates US 1st April and UK / EU 17th March).

We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting Van, but Exile, Lost Highway and Polydor would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

Thank you for respecting the artist’s and labels’ wishes and, if you want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, full versions of “That’s Entrainment” and “Behind The Ritual” (along with album track samplers) are available for you to link to on Lost Highway’s web-site at .

Up-to-the-minute info on Keep It Simple and Van’s 2008 shows is, of course, also available on and and, for the next few days, you can hear Van’s exclusive BBC sessions and interview at and .

As you will appreciate, this e-mail is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients’ accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this required formality.

With Thanks & Regards,

  2.  bigrab, on March 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm said:

Dear Web Sheriff,
You say this album is “unreleased”. I purchased a copy of the album today in Woolworth's in Helensburgh Scotland (£10.99) from which these files are uploaded. As Woolworth's are a reputable company I am confident that the files I have uploaded are not in fact “pirate” material. As your request relates to pirate material only I will therefore leave the tracks I have posted here.

Thank you for the additional links which I will leave here so that people who appreciate Van Morrison’s music and visit my blog will be able to access them.

This message is written on a without prejudice basis by a genuine, law abiding music fan who simply wants to share discussion of Van Morrison’s work in an honest, non-profit making way. I am confident that my so doing will not result in any loss for your clients.

On this new information, please let me know if I am breaking any laws and I will remove the tracks.

PS I do note a certain irony in the title of the album!

  3.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 17, 2008 at 10:33 pm said:
Hi Again ‘Bigrab’,

Many thanks for your reply / post … .. in answer to your query, just because you have purchased a copy of Van’s newly released album, this does not entitle you to publish / electronically distribute tracks from KIS on your site … .. which is akin to buying a copy and then deciding to run-off a few thousand copies for your friends … .. we know that you mean well, but would, again – at the request of the artist and labels – kindly ask you to remove these tracks … .. as before, you are, of course, welcome to replace them with links to the official preview tracks.

Thanks again for your understanding and co-operation.

Once again and as you will appreciate, this e-mail is written on a without prejudice basis and, as such, all of our clients’ accumulated, worldwide rights remain strictly reserved : please excuse this further formality.
Kind Regards,

  4.  bigrab, on March 17, 2008 at 11:24 pm said:
OK lawman, you win and I have removed the tracks as you have asked nicely. However, your comparison analogy of illustrating a fans’ pleasure at buying an album with two streaming tracks on a blog and running off thousands of copies is, if I may say so, ridiculous.

  5.  almax, on March 18, 2008 at 7:53 am said:

Yikes.  I’d never heard of Web Sheriff before – he seems to be the Lone Ranger of the information super-highway.  

  6.  Alan, on March 18, 2008 at 8:15 am said:

Sounds like a scam to me.

  7.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 9:34 am said:

Alastair, I am immediately tempted to upload (from my legitimately purchased copy) Van Morrison’s “Who was that masked man?” from Veedon Fleece. However I have no wish to upset The Web Sheriff any more than I have already.
Sadly Alan it is no scam. Web Sheriff acts directly on behalf of artists, so whilst Van has “No guru, no method and no teacher”, he sure as hell has a lawyer. I note from my research that the first two clients of Web Sheriff were Prince and , heaven help us, The Village People. I think one of them wore a tin badge too.
As Private Eye once was moved to point out (regarding a firm of solicitors protecting the trade mark “Portakabin” from being used to generically describe temporary buildings) “What a pathetic way to make a living.”

  6.  Alan, on March 18, 2008 at 11:42 am said:

Fair enough Rab. Their website looks naff and out of date, still, never judge a book by its cover! But I can’t help thinking that the artists concerned can’t have it both ways boys. Either file sharing is good for your career or it’s bad.  Arctic Monkeys anyone?

  7.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm said:

It’s not even file sharing though! these tracks were not for download, only streamed for listening to.  Arctic Monkeys are not for me I must admit.

  8.  Helpless Dancer, on March 18, 2008 at 12:05 pm said:
Ah the good old Web Sheriff, I had the same issues with Lost Highway when trying to promote Cat Power’s “Jukebox” album, I was so annoyed I told them I would never buy another Lost Highway release again.  Didn’t know that Van The Man was releasing his album through them though!!!

  9.  bigrab, on March 18, 2008 at 10:39 pm said:

“Vanfan” I inadvertently deleted your message posted earlier. I have cut and pasted the message from my email alert as follows:

“I wonder if they realise how much they alienate genuine music fans. Thanks bigrab I managed to hear the tracks yesterday before deletion and will purchase the album today.  The Belfast Cowboy hires the Web Sheriff!

 10.  WEB SHERIFF, on March 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm said:

WEB SHERIFF  Protecting Your Rights on the Internet
 Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013         Fax 44-(0)208-323 8080

Hi Bigrab,

Many thanks for your removal of those streams (which, for your info, are actually capable of ‘capture’ / ‘download’ by very many people ). … .. anyway, thanks also for your kind words (in the main) … .. again, much appreciated.

To Alan and Helpless we’d add that – at the end of the day – it’s always an artist’s right to decide how they distribute their music on-line (i.e. whether through official channels or via free file-sharing), as it’s THEIR MUSIC !!
All The Best,

 11.  bigrab, on March 19, 2008 at 7:35 am said:

Web Sheriff,

Thanks for that. I realise of course that a determined individual could download the links I had posted or indeed the feeds for the links you have posted. I’m sure though there will be many other Russian sites, file sharing outlets etc where this could more easily be done.

 12.  MrMattBlum, on April 26, 2008 at 7:38 pm said:
For whatever it’s worth, it seems to me that either Van or his lawyers are being rather over-zealous in their pursuit of copyright infringement, especially when it means that fans can’t interpret the songs in a public forum such as YouTube where there is no financial gain involved. I posted a video at YouTube of myself playing a version of Caravan that was pulled down at the request of Exile, so I created a video response at Perhaps someone here will enjoy it.

 13.  bigrab, on April 27, 2008 at 6:38 am said:

Thank you Matt. I have featured your video on the blog.

  14.  auld son, on August 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm said:
 A sign of getting old is when you can go into Tesco and buy van Morrison CDs for £3! I bought a lynyrd skynyrd CD today for £3.  When I was younger it was Bing Crosby and the like that were sold cheap.   btw I saw Van the Man live when he played with Them.   just another reminiscence.

 15.  youtube, on July 2, 2010 at 6:54 am said:

which subtly reminds you that you’re being watched. Post a track, video, or even a photo, and you get told to cease and desist.