Tuesday, 24 April 2012

You Are What You Listen to

Mike Farragher ‘s column at Irish Central called Off the Record is full of wit and wisdom about the Irish music business.  A recent essay characterised fans of different Irish artists.  Here’s some of the piece:
Don’t Irish music fans come in all flavours? You can tell a lot about a person by what you see in their record collection or their taste in concerts.  I’ve been going to concerts on this beat for 15 years or more in this job, and I’ve stared down many a crowd.  So, I think I know a thing or two about this.  Plus I am Irish, which means I have a dominant judgemental gene that entirely qualifies me for the snarky opinion on everyone I see at these concerts.
Celtic Woman   -   Without fail, you take the mothballs off that QVC Aran sweater you got during the last Paddy’s Day home shopping marathon. You fidget with the rabbit ears atop the television until PBS comes in clear as a bell.  Coming to this show for some Irish culture is like going to the Barbie kitchen for a meal, yet there you are, ready to plunk down your donation at pledge time for that latest disc of saccharine-coated culture.  Your Tara brooch has been pinned on the Book of Kells silk scarf around your neck (in case it’s drafty), and you are ready to rock!

Van Morrison   -   Van Morrison: You’ve been listening to this guy for years; heck, he’s been your wingman on any lucky flight in love that you’ve taken.  A little Astral Weeks here, a dash of that rakish brogue there, and soon people were waking up without knowing or caring where their undergarments went.
But now, Van is older and so are you. That hippie vibe is intoxicating, which probably explains why you felt the need to take that thick wallet from the back pocket of your expandable waist Dockers and plunked down the Gold AMEX to purchase a block of $250 tickets to that last Astral Weeks Memory Lane Tour that Van did a few years back.
You used to screw to Van, but now Van is screwing you. And you kinda like it.
Sinead O’Connor   -   You’re either a leather-clad, high priestess badass that’s snarling at the world or married to someone who is.  There is no in between.
The Wolfe Tones, Derek Warfield and the New Wolfe Tones, or any other rebel trio band with a banjo with Wolfe in their name   -   You’re one of the many that didn’t get the office memo circulating around which announced that “The Troubles” ended a couple of decades ago. Just when you began to let go of all that anger directed at the Brits, along came Simon Cowell to prove once again, without a shadow of a doubt, that those limey bastards are the devil incarnate.
You’ve brought along your son or nephew with you to this show to teach him about his heritage, but it’s no use. He orders a Guinness and Harp mixed pint when the band plays Come Out Ye Black and Tans without a hint of irony.

Daniel O'Donnell   -   Daniel O’Donnell: You are a close cousin to the Celtic Woman fan; heck, you may even have some of their CDs mixed in with “The Daniel.”  The thing that sets you apart from the other species is that you bring all of the disappointments of parenthood to these shows. This boy never makes his mother embarrassed or blames her for how screwed up he is, not like that no-good son that came from your womb.  See how he blows a kiss to his mammy from the balcony -- it would take an act of God to get your amaudaun to say “I love you” at the end of his obligatory Sunday afternoon phone call. 

Loreena McKennit, Enya, and the like   -You are almost certainly a woman, have more than one pair of yoga pants and get indignant when someone refers to God as a male. Let your high school friends from Crestwood walk around with their Michael Kors handbags; your tie-dye knapsack with the pentagrams holds a wallet just fine, thank you very much!  Cubicles are for chumps--you can make money in any room that has oil and a massage table. You have an active profile on Match.com because you are sick and tired of dating Dungeon and Dragon Dungeon Masters, but the real secret behind your lack of dates has everything to do with those Birkenstocks.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rolling Stone Rates Van

At Rollingstone.com you'll find ratings for Van's albums from Blowin Your Mind to Keep it Simple with some interesting comments for each.  From my perspective, the Bang material is over-rated and gems like the No Guru, Healing Game and Common One have only been given two stars.  I really enjoyed Keep it Simple and can't understand its three stars rating.  I like all of Van's albums and the more I learn about Van, his influences, the meaning of lyrics and what he tries to do, etc., the more I appreciate his work. 

Below is the list of ratings and some comments from the essay accompanying the ratings.

4     Blowin' Your Mind (1967)
5     Astral Weeks (1968) (his most beautiful and intense album)
4.5  Moondance (1970) (a mellow, piano-based hybrid of pop, jazz, and Irish folk.)
3.5   His Band and the Street Choir (1970) (a lighter version of Moondance)
5     Tupelo Honey (1971) (Van's only really cheery-sounding album)
5     Saint Dominic's Preview (1972) (a concept album about feeling homesick in America)
2     Hard Nose the Highway (1973) (the only good song was his bizarre version of Kermit the Frog's Sesame Street classic, "Bein' Green)
4  -  T.B. Sheets (1973)
5  -  It's Too Late to Stop Now (1974) (is a warm live album, with an orchestra, vintage blues covers, and vivid band-crowd interaction)
5  -  Veedon Fleece (1974) (all Celtic mystic tumult in the vocals and pastoral beauty in the music)
2  -  A Period of Transition (1977) (shrill, clumsy)
2.5  Wavelength (1978) (was a failed mainstream pop move)
3  -  Into the Music (1979) (sounds stuffy and ornate)
2  -  Common One (1980)  (jazzy religious blather)
2  -  Beautiful Vision (1982) (also jazzy religious blather)
2  -  Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983) (cranky self-imitation)
2  -  A Sense of Wonder (1985) (cranky self-imitation)
3.5   Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast (Mercury, 1985)
2  -  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (Mercury, 1986) (cranky self-imitation)
2  -  Poetic Champions Compose (Mercury, 1987) (cranky self-imitation)
3.5  Irish Heartbeat (Mercury, 1988) (a collection of standards with the Chieftains)
3.5  Avalon Sunset (Mercury, 1989) (a modest breakthrough)
5  -  The Best of Van Morrison (Mercury, 1990) (a well-timed summary)
3  -  Enlightenment (Mercury, 1990) (most complex and self-involved)
4.5   Bang Masters (Epic, 1991)
3  -  Hymns to the Silence (Mercury, 1991)(most complex and self-involved)
3.5  Too Long in Exile (Polydor, 1993) (the breeziest)
4  -  The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 (Polydor, 1993) (Morrison seemed to suck the life out of his past glories)
3.5  A Night in San Francisco (Polydor, 1994) (document of what a marvellous live performer the old man remains)
2.5  Days Like This (Polydor, 1995)
2  -  How Long Has This Been Going On (Verve, 1996)
2  -  The Healing Game (Polydor, 1997)
4  -  New York Sessions '67 (Recall, 1997)
3.5  The Philosopher's Stone (Polydor, 1998) (who knew Van had outtakes?)
2  -  Back on Top (Polydor, 1999)
2.5 The Skiffle Sessions (Polydor, 2000) (a strange live collaboration)
2.5  You Win Again (Polydor, 2000) (an even stranger set)
3.5  Down the Road (Polydor, 2002)
2.5  What's Wrong With This Picture? (Polydor, 2003)
3.5  Magic Time (Geffen, 2005)
4     Live at Austin City Limits Festival (Exile, 2006) (has stunning versions of "Muleskinner Blues" and "Big Blue Diamonds")
4     Pay The Devil (Lost Highway, 2006) (ineffably Irish collection of country covers)
3     Van Morrison at the Movies: Soundtrack Hits (EMI, 2007)
3     The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 3 (EMI, 2007)
3.5  Still On Top: The Greatest Hits (Polydor, 2007) (goes too heavy on the late material)
3     Keep It Simple (Lost Highway, 2008) (shockingly reveals he's not much of a social type )
4.5  Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl (Listen To The Lion, 2009) (revamps the classic with extra solos and vocal flights)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ronnie Montrose Update

The recently published San Mateo County Coroner's report into to the death of Ronnie Montrose has revealed that the talented guitarist took his own life.  Montrose died tragically from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Initial reports of his death stated that he died from prostate cancer that he had suffered from for at least 5 years.

Montrose reportedly battled clinical depression for much of his life, and booking agent Jim Douglas said that the guitarist was dealing with "personal demons" when confirming the death last month. A toxicology report found that Montrose's blood-alcohol level was at 0.31% at the time of his death, but no other drugs were found in his system.
Guitarist Ronnie Montrose had a career and a talent most people only dream of. He played music to adoring fans in packed concert venues, travelled the world on tour, and created well-loved songs as a solo artist and performed with performers like Van Morrison, Herbie Hancock, Sammy Hagar, Edgar Winter, and Boz Scaggs.

His widow, Leighsa, tells the San Francisco Chronicle, “He was very hard on himself. He would play shows where there would be three standing ovations, and all he would talk about on the drive home is what he didn’t do right.”

Creative people can be enormously hard on themselves. There’s a recognisable tendency to disbelieve the good things other people have to say. Psychologists call it the “imposter syndrome,”  a secret sense that the one thing we really are good at is convincing others we’re better than we are. 
"He never thought he was good enough. He always feared he’d be exposed as a fraud,” Leighsa told Guitar Player magazine. “So he was exacting in his self criticism, and the expectations he put upon himself were tremendous.”
 Montrose got his first break when he was invited to play on Van Morrison's 1971 album, Tupelo Honey.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Van Morrison Slams Bob Dylan?

The Last Waltz: the high kicks came a little later
Here's some interesting stuff from Right Wing Bob's site that talks about Van possibly "slamming" Bob.  The site is basically about Bob Dylan although there are some other surprising things.  Sean Curnyn says he maintains the website "in order to challenge persistent fallacies regarding the Left's ownership of Bob Dylan and his work".  Here's some of what he wrote in 2008.  (I'd encourage anyone into Bob to click on the link.) 
Van Morrison in Dylan-Slam-Shock?
Well, maybe. Van Morrison generally gives interesting interviews, when he can bring himself to do it at all. At the moment, he is uncharacteristically ubiquitous, at least in the U.S., showing up everywhere from the Don Imus show to “Live with Regis and Kelly.” He is promoting his new (live) version of Astral Weeks. His enthusiasm may just have something to do with the fact that he doesn’t have rights over the original Astral Weeks, and he would like this new version to be the one people go to when they want to use one of the songs on a soundtrack, or for any purpose at all.
In any case, in a recent interview in the U.K. Telegraph, Van alluded to Bob Dylan — someone with whom he’s collaborated and of whom he’s spoken admiringly in the past — in an odd manner. To give better context to it I include here also an earlier part of the interview where the journalist first brings up the name of Bob Dylan. They had just been discussing the robust chart success that Van’s albums have had in recent years.
SF: I’m just wondering if there’s anything we can read into it to say that maybe people are craving this kind of music. Bob Dylan had his first #1 in 30-something years with his last album. Somehow it seems that maybe there’s a renewed interest in this not rock music.

VM: I don’t really know. They’re just promoting, especially with the download thing, like it’s always been: let’s just get the next load of kids in and milk that and then get the next lot in and milk those. It’s the same as it was in the old days, only much more. Like I say, the people running these companies don’t know anything about music and they don’t are about music; they’re not interested. It’s a con, it’s a front, you know?
SF: Well, the title of the last album seems very apropos to me: Keep It Simple. If I think about the times that I’ve seen you live, it’s really about the music, and it’s not about all of these other things that seem to get grafted on to some people’s concerts, where it’s more about the lighting design or the costumes…

VM: Yeah, well, you see I don’t know anybody who does what I do, because I do it all. Like, some of the people you mentioned there, they don’t do it all. I do it all. You name it, I do it: jazz, blues, whatever. I can do everything. Because that’s the background that I came out of. So I don’t really fit into this mythology. I don’t fit into the rock mythology, or the Zimmerman mythology or any of that shit. I don’t fit into any of that. I’m not creating any image. I’m anti-mythology. I’m not really in the music business as such.

Earlier in the interview he’d also mentioned the “Beatles myth” and the “Elvis Presley myth.”

Is he putting down Bob Dylan as a musician, as being more about the “mythology,” and also, implicitly, as not being able to “do it all” like he (Van) can? Well, it would seem unlikely, considering their history as mutual admirers. Still, it’s a strange choice of words. (And this is the thanks Bob gets for playing Van several times on “Theme Time Radio Hour”!) It seems more likely that he’s putting down those writers (maybe even like yours-truly) and publicity-people who, he believes, promote a mythology of Dylan. It’s a little hard to say. I do think that Van does tend to protest too much about not being this and not being that, but he’s entitled. He’s also a moody and capricious chap, and maybe he’s got some bee in his bonnet about Dylan right now.
It’s also odd that he chooses to call Dylan “Zimmerman” in this context. We all know that there is a Bob Dylan myth (or many of them, actually) but what exactly is the “Zimmerman myth”? I guess it’s impossible to judge why Van Morrison chose to cite Dylan’s original surname in this way during the interview. It probably means nothing in particular. Now, in any case, the incident will just become another small part of the great “Van Morrison mythology.”

 Public Responses to the original article

Bob W.:   I like Van Morrison’s music. I think I own two or three of his recordings (Astral Weeks is not one of them) but, I’m sorry, most of what he said in that interview is self-delusional BS. Especially the part about “So I don’t really fit into this mythology.” Yeah right…what about the Otis Redding mythology and the Ray Charles mythology then? It seems to me that VM has spent his entire career trying his best to “be” those two guys. I really don’t know what he’s talking about, but if he thinks his work hasn’t been influenced by Bob Dylan then he needs another shot of Irish whiskey and get his head on straight. And while I would agree that one doesn’t automatically think “Dylan” when you hear a Van Morrison song, no way would Vannie boy have gotten from “Brown Eyed Girl” to “Poetic Champions Compose” without listening to a whole lot of Zimmerman.
What Van Morrison “is”, is one of the best singers to come down the pike but he’s certainly not an original (if that’s his perception of himself). And, he is definitely part of the whole Rock, Soul, Folk, Country, R&B, Jazz “mythology” that has developed over the past half-century…and he should be man enough to admit it.  The part about not being in the music business is really laughable….beyond self-delusional. That’s all he’s part of…IMHO.

Sue:   You’re right, it’s hard to decipher exactly what Van the Man meant but what IS obvious, to me anyway, is that while his fellow artists don’t seem to mind saying all kinds of stuff about him Dylan is pretty scrupulous in following the dictum “if you haven’t got anything good to say about someone say nothing at all”. I think I’ve only ever heard him say good things about other people. If he ever does say anything bordering on criticism he’s always being general, never specifically citing someone by name. It’s a pity then that they don’t grant him the same courtesy.
On the subject of Morrison, it’s always annoyed me how people say Dylan is disrespectful to his audience because of his perceived indifference during a concert. Which I think is nonsense BTW. But it seems Morrison’s attitude is somehow accepted. I DO think he is unbelievably rude. I remember my sister telling me how friends of hers went to see him for the first time, very excited, only to find that he had his back to the audience for the entire concert. I also have a bootleg where he abuses the audience. You can’t say Bob is like that even though he has good reason to be given the number of times throughout his career his so-called fans have turned their backs on him.
Mary of BabyBlue:   Van Morrison could achieve more if that bitter root was softened with humour. He takes himself way too seriously. Dylan seems to achieved the balance of taking the music seriously, but not himself. Also, if I could be so bold, I think Van Morrison’s persona is troubling for an audience of women. Dylan could have that problem too (he certainly has had his issues, at least in the past!) – but again, his charm wins out every time! That’s got to build up resentment to Dylan’s contemporaries – of which Van Morrison (or Donavon for that matter) are a shrinking exclusive group. I’m not sure if the Next Generation has latched on to Van Morrison as they seem to be doing to a certain degree with Dylan. But of course, Dylan keeps touring locations to get the next generation to hear him – which is how he swept me up too.
So, Van: don’t mess with Bob, even by implication. We’ve got his back!

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Religious Affiliation of Van Morrison

Van Morrison is a contrarian in most things and religion is no different.  He's dabbled here and there so much that it's hard to make firm statements about what he believes religion-wise.  However, the most authoritative source is the man himself.  The last statement I heard him utter was on the Don Imus show (the video footage can be seen on the Van Morrison News blog) where he confirms that he's an atheist.  For Christians this is a pretty definitive answer.  Christians believe that what we say about our religious beliefs is pretty important.  In mainstream Christianity it's not okay just to be a Christian.  One must confess 'with our lips' our faith.  In the Bible Jesus says if you confess  me before men I will confess you before my father in heaven.  Van has enough knowledge of Christianity to know the implications of what he was saying when he said there was no God.   

Some of the following information comes from the Religious Affiliation of the 100 Greatest Rock Stars site.  It's a fascinating little site.  There's a basic list showing each artist's affiliation. To find further details simply click on the artist's name. Van Morrison was born into the Church of Ireland, which is part of the Anglican Communion. Members of the Church of Ireland are considered Anglicans (or Episcopalians by Americans) and are often called either "Irish Anglicans" or "Protestants."

At one time Van Morrison was briefly a Scientologist or at least, paid for some of the various courses they offer, but he later distanced himself from that denomination.  The Inarticulate Speech of the Heart album from 1983 has "special thanks: L.Ron Hubbard" the "founder" of Scientology on the cover.  (Scientology holds the distinction as the only religion launched in a pulp science-fiction magazine.  Hubbard was also very interested in the tax benefits of starting your own religion immediately before founding Scientology. The religion contains some pretty bizarre beliefs involving aliens which you should check out.)  
In Clinton Heylin's notorious Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison a New Biography there's a section about the Scientology phase. 

According to an 'auditor' with whom Steve Turner spoke, Morrison only ever 'finished what we call fourth grade, which is about three-quarters of the way to being clear'.

Heylin also records that Van told a friend that he had "made a substantial financial commitment by the time he decided enough was enough". (p. 375)

Van Morrison's mother was a Jehovah's Witness which is considered to be 'outside Christianity' despite its quasi-Christian beliefs. In an interview Van was asked if his family were Jehovah's Witnesses?  He replied, "Not really. My mother was in it for a while, a brief encounter, that was all".
He was asked if he was taken door-to-door as a child with the Witnesses?  He replied that he wasn't but that he was taken to a couple of meetings. He reportedly found them "quite pleasant, but that was all".  This was probably the inspiration for his song "Kingdom Hall" from the Wavelength album.  
In another interview he was asked if he was raised a Jehovah's Witness. He said, "No, no, no. I wasn't raised anything. My mother went to some meetings at some point. She took me to some meetings. She didn't call herself that. It was only for a couple years' period. My father was an atheist. My mother was what you would describe as a freethinker. She would check things out and read about things, but she never joined anything".
This background certainly explains Van the religious/philosophical dabbler.  He checked out a wide range of New Age beliefs before eventually settling on evangelical Christianity.  Steve Turner, a Christian himself, writes about this on several occasions. That lasted a few years but it seems now that he doesn't believe in  the existence of God.  Some of his songs like "No Religion" and "Precious Time" probably indicate his atheism.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Replay: Van the Man

We love Van the Man. Sometimes our partners and spouses don't understand this unnatural love for one of modern music's greatest artists.  What follows is one person's blog post where they try to describe the simple feelings of getting out a bunch of Van CDs and just putting them on.  We've all been there.   I can remember when I declared to my wife "I love about 300 Van songs".  She didn't think this was possible, not for one artist anyway. 
Can you identify with the following fan?  Click on IsobelandCat's Blog to be directed to the full article. 
Replay: Van the Man
I repost these old posts in no particular order, This one is from November 2009 and I had been on the boat. I had evidently been chatting with Brendan, whose blog I have been neglecting recently, about Van Morrison. The man is a genius. I doubt if I’ll ever be asked onto Desert Island Discs, but I reckon Astral Weeks would be the album I would want to take with me.
Maybe there’s a secret to it to which I am not privy, but getting out of London on a Friday afternoon is always a nightmare. I have to travel less than seventy miles so why should the journey take nearly three and a half hours?
OK, I hate motorways, and even if I didn’t ,they are impractical given Cat’s travel sickness record. Believe me, when your car smells of cat sick and the animal responsible is crying loudly you want to be able to stop quickly and clean up, not count the miles until the next exit.
How come so many people are free to travel in the afternoon? They can’t all be like me, part employed/part freelance can they? And was today really National Bad Driving Day, or did it just feel like it? The radio was tuned to Radio Two. It was the Steve Wright show. Normally I can’t stand then man. His continued success is a complete mystery to me. 
After a while I couldn’t bear listening to him anymore and , thanks to last night’s ‘conversation’ with Brendano, I had a couple of Van Morrison CDs with me. Well, more than a couple actually. And as I type I’m continuing to listen to him. And he’s glorious,
The marina is pretty empty tonight so I’m hoping no one has heard me when I have felt the need to sing along. Because Van is a Genius. Deliberate capital G. not a typo. Moody and unpredictable, as anyone who has been to see him live will know, but an undeniable Genius. And when you do go to see him live, it’s part of the evening’s excitement and entertainment, not knowing whether he will be Van the Performer or Van the Sulky Bear who hides at the back of the stage barely acknowledging the audience.
So tonight I’ve been singing and dancing and remembering just how good and how wide his range is. Listening to tracks old and new and hearing how his voice has changed, and how he has continually explored and experimented. And I feel amazingly lucky that his career has spanned my life from his Them days onwards – oh, Gloria! I am so struck by the integrity of his music and the way it connects at such a visceral level. Straight to the guts and heart.

And Madame George comes on and I know I am alive, and I’m glad!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Them at Garage Hangover

Garage Hangover is a site which aims to be a tribute to garage bands.  It has a fantastic array of so-called garage bands from all over the world.  Bands like The Motivation, Jo Jo Gunne and The Most can be found on the hundreds of colourful pages at the site.  The pages on Them are fantastic and a must for any fan.  There are some really great photos and the personnel changes and history of Them right up into the 21st century is traced.  Here's a tiny sample from the Them page: 

December 1966

Sample Replies to the Them Pages
There are a lot of replies to the Them material.  Fans have added concert dates to the database or have simply wanted to record their own recollections of the group. 
Danny Holloway   -   Them played a warm-up gig before their Whiskey residency at the Cinnamon Cinder in Long Beach. I went and talked to Van and the others after the show. They had a great intro: upon being introduced, David Harvey jumped on stage and began played a pronounced kick beat, Alan Henderson soon joined him with a familiar 2 note bassline and on it went until 4 Irishmen vamped on Baby Please Don't Go. Lastly, Van shuffled to the mic and wailed piercing notes on harmonics. So, after the show, me and drummer Steve Roosh told Them agreed we'd see them at the Whiskey. The Whiskey shows were insane. Them drank as much booze as they could. One night, Van was atop a super reverb sized amp waving his arms like a bird as the amp teetered back and forth. Captain Beefheart supported Them the first week and The Doors (pre-Elektra) supported the following week. Jim Morrison wore a suit and was very reserved, frequently performing with his back to the audience. I moved to London in 1970 and began writing for the NME. I interviewed Van at his home in San Rafael. As usual in interviews, Van was prickly. I left the NME and worked for Island Records. In 1975, i was doing overdubs at Island's Basing Street studios for a reggae album i produced called Night Food by The Heptones. I'd noticed that Jackie McCauley had been gigging in London and arranged for him to overdub guitar on The Heptones songs Country Boy and play talk box on Mama Say. He came to the session dressed entirely in black and was easy to get along with.

Freqazoidiac   -   Can you believe, that the first THEM album on Happy Tiger, is essentially a Jerry Cole (spacemen, animated egg) album. That's him singing basically every track, and his searing guitar lines.!!!

John Berg   -    by the time the "final 45" Corrina was recorded, only Alan Henderson was left holding the Them name, the other musos having all returned home to Ireland/UK. Details are still a bit murky about who actually plays on the Corrina single -- it was the last Them 45 on Tower Records, but my hunch is it too was done by LA session men perhaps including Jerry Cole? Likewise, the specifics of who plays what on the first Happy Tiger Them album are still in doubt -- I believe you when you say Jerry Cole handles the singing and guitar, but who else plays alongside him and Alan Henderson? There are no doubts about the In Reality album that wrapped up that phase of the Them career, as Nick's notes accurately credit the ex-Kitchen Cinq gents alongside Henderson for this LP.

John Berg   -   Those of you who wish to hear the music cut in Chicago by TRUTH in 1970 are advised to visit the CDBaby.com website where the CD remains on sale, and before you buy you can listen to samples of all tracks. I worked for 5 years to see this release happen, and always enjoy it when more people get turned on to the great music created by Jim Armstrong, Kenny McDowell, Ray Elliot, Reno Smith and Curtis Bachman under the banner of Truth.

Nick   -   I was searching the internet the other day and stumbled across a Rhodesian band called The Priory Combe. They claim their guitarist Dick Cory came to the UK and played with Them and Hedgehoppers Anonymous. I don't know if this is true or not but considering his name is Dick Cory (Them's final single was Richard Cory); I wonder if this is a wind up. One possibility is that Dick Cory could be the same guitarist called Don, who played with the rival Them and is mentioned on 4 November 1965 entry. Who knows!
Tom Wagener   -   THEM - The Belfast Blues Band.  The band is still working and touring the world.  The lineup since 2009 is:  Eric Wrixon - vocal, keyboards,  Billy McCoy (Belfast) - guitar, Luca Nardi (Italy) - bass,  Tom Wagener (Germany) - drums.  Eric Wrixon lives in Italy since 2008.
Nick   -   In the 31 January 1969 issue of the Kingston and Malden Borough News, there was a story about the two McAuley brothers living in the Kingston Upon Thames area, Surrey and that they had just formed a band with a bass player called Rod and two brothers Tony and John Hill called The Washington Track. Does anybody know anything else about this band?

Nick   -   I was scanning through the Middlesex Chronicle (Hounslow ed) today and I stumbled across a West London band from 1964 called Them, who I suspect is the same group listed above for the 1964 dates that I've listed in the comment section. I reckon they had to change their name when Van's more famous band turned up on the scene. To confused matters even more, there is a South African Them who put singles out there featuring future Freedom's Children guitarist Julian Laxton!

John Walker   -   I saw the group one night at the Tiger´s Head pub in Catford, south-east London. This was in 1965, I guess, because I recall the band having had two big hits with Baby, Please Don´t Go and Here Comes The Night.  I would have been aged 17, coming on 18, busy learning the guitar and besotted by those wonderful beat groups that filled the charts.  When the band came on, they had to leave their dressing room and plough through the audience to reach the stage.  As Morrison walked by, I looked straight down onto the crown of his head - he was a tiny bloke - which was covered with long blonde hair down to his shoulders.  I recall thinking: "So, all that guff old people spout about pop stars´ hair being dirty is just so much shit."  I loved the band, but my compatriots sat on their hands. Them couldn´t get arrested that night in Catford.  They were a good band, with two smashing hits under their belts and a fabulous frontman in the dynamic and multi-talented Morrison who, in addition to his ferocious vocals, played guitar and saxophone.  The problem was - Morrison. Even then he was finding a way to make people hate him. Poor Van didn´t have the social skills of a day-old rat.  After each song, I found myself one of only three or four people clapping. I couldn´t have given a damn about Morrison´s prickly personality.  I´d gone there for quality musicianship and got it in spades, so I was happy. But I was deeply unhappy that Them had got such a lukewarm reception. 

Armstrong, Elliott, Harvey and Henderson decide to carry on with Them’s name, now that Morrison has abandoned the name and is pursuing a solo career. The group recruits a new vocalist Ken McDowell (b. 21 December 1944, Belfast, N. Ireland), previously a member of Belfast group The Mad Lads, who have recorded a number of singles for Decca Records, as well as a lone release I Went Out With My Baby as Moses K. & The Prophets. The new version of Them writes to Carol Deck, Californian editor of Flip magazine (who had given the band some encouraging reviews during its US tour) asking for help, and she in turn introduces them to Texan producer Ray Ruff, who has his own indie label, Ruff Records.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Van's Sweet Cherry Wine

It sounds awful to me. Give me beer anytime, but spare me anything sweet or anything with an umbrella in the glass.  'Sweet cherry wine' sounds undrinkable. However, Van Morrison mentions "sweet cherry wine" several times in reverential tones.   The Back Room and Cyprus Avenue are two songs that contains the lyric.  But Van wasn't the first to refer to "sweet cherry wine".  In 1931 country music pioneer and Van favourite Jimmie Rodgers sang the words, “I’m goin’ where the water drinks like cherry wine, cuz the Georgia water tastes like turpentine.”
In the 80 years since Rodgers recorded that line from his classic song T for Texas, legends including Buddy Guy, Tommy James and the Shondells, Prince, Steely Dan and the Foo Fighters, have all used “cherry wine” in song lyrics.  Artists use “cherry wine” in the most positive, poetic, romantic way, such as when Sheryl Crow sings, “I feel like cherry wine, like Valentines, like the spring is coming/ And everything is alright…” on her track Over You.

The most explicit of the term is in the song Sweet Cherry Wine by Tommy James and the Shondells from their 1969 album Cellophane Symphony. The song hit number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit number six on the Canadian charts. This psychedelic song was released at the height of psychedelia. It supposedly expresses Tommy James' Christian beliefs. "Sweet cherry wine" apparently was meant to be the Blood of Christ.

At cherrywine.com they explain that "In the time between Rodgers’ plaintive yodelling and Crow’s power hooks, cherry wine has evolved, too, from being a Prohibition- and Depression-era “homebrew” to being crafted and sold by 50-some wineries across the USA."

So what is "cherry wine"?
Wine is legally defined as any beverage made from fermented fruit (including grapes) with an alcohol content of at least 8% and no more than 14%. At cherrywine.com they assert that fruit wines (i.e. not including grapes) are increasingly popular. Cherry wine apparently tastes like cherries but also like “wine.”  Just like grape wine, cherry wine is made dry, semi-dry and sweet.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Worst of the Van Forums at Fanpop

Bizarre fans are always fascinating.  Sure these snippets would be irritating to the great man if he were to see them, but surely he can see the funny side?  I mean just by doing his composing and performing job he engenders all these bizarre responses?  He has a sense of humour, right?  Here's a sample of some of the forum postings at Fanpop:

The Non-Existent Gay Issue

Mitch_Healy   -   Is Van Morrison gay? You would almost immediately say 'no'. Looking at his clothes and hair you'd just say 'no'. But let's dig deeper. Do you know any women he's linked to? Who does he live with? Do his lyrics speak to us? What does the world think?

Wren_Kybosh81   -   I don't think Van's music is very "Gay Friendly". Except for "Madam George". Is he talking about his own cross dressing in that song?
Junior_Gynther   -   What about the song "Madame George"? It seems to be about a transsexual. It was ripped off by Rod Stewart in his "Killing of Georgie" about the murder of a transsexual. Anyway, Van Morrison's first name is George. Is he saying he's a transsexual? A cross dresser? I guess a blonde wig would hide his bald head.
Minivan   -    Anyway, Van isn't gay. I hit on him in a club and there was no response. And I'm a gorgeous guy. Great abs, tall, great dancer, smart, funny - a great date for any man. So Van showed he was heterosexual. Proved it to me.

bubblesIV   -   Van Morrison is not gay. He's got terrible curtains.

 Hymns to the Silence
  Art_Avatar   -   I love it too. I thought it was shockingly bad when I first put it on. But now I love it. Listened to it this morning as I washed the dishes. My wife was feeding the baby in our bedroom.
Jon_Jon_2000   -   "Hymns to the Silence" is brilliant. What a coup for Van when other people put out so much over-produced garbage. He wears his nostalgia right there on his fancy sleeve. Michelle has really made a difference to his clothes. He went from one of the worst-dressed to one of the best-dressed. Keep up the good work Michelle Rocca. Please try to get him on the treadmill.
Clive_Powell   -   "Hymns" is a great album although many people hate it. Say it's too religious. Don't they want to go to heaven.

 The Alcohol Bans
Ray_Le_Blanc   -   Van has had his struggles with alcohol over the years. Now he's teetotal. Recently there have been reports that he will ban alcohol at concerts. What do you think? I think it's a negative step. A little beer or wine helps you to enjoy the concert a little more. Apparently Van was upset with people getting up in the middle of the concert and going out for a beer. Leaving a Van concert to get a drink? How can that be? I'd never want to miss a minute of the Man!
Dr_Watson   -   Alcohol is a poison to the body affecting many people here in Britain. Anything to reduce its influence is fine by me.
Clive_Powell   -   Good on yer alcohol bans. Beer has made me a loser.

Van and Adolf Hitler
Ray_Le_Blanc   -   What similarities can you find between these two men? They're both people, right. They're both European men. They both weren't what you'd call a "people person". They both ate food. Hey, I'll stop now.
Russell_Howard   -   You're kidding, right? I know they're around the same height.  Hitler wasn't that great of an artist. Van is. Van on.
Roosevelt   -  Van's a genius. Hitler was an evil genius. And "evil" spelled backwards is "live". Spooky, ain't it?
TVMadnezz   -   I think there are better people you could make comparisons to. Adolf Hitler???
rodstarr2001   -   Sieg Hail !!! Hitler gassed and burnt people, Van entertains people. A Totally bizarre title for someone to make! but that's OK.
Dr_Watson   -   I'm offended by this forum. Van Morrison has done nothing to warrant comparison with Adolf. Adolf was a megalomaniac and a satan worshipper. Van is a little troubled like most middle-aged men in the current times. Nothing more.
Justin06988   -    Adolf had one testicle.
Micah_Gidro   -   I guess both of them had a kind of group culture. Van likes to hang around musos and Adolf liked to hang around similar egomaniacs in uniform.
Kent_Uzziah87   -   Similarities come and go. Love Van for the now. not what he did in those awful camps. Forgive and move on.
Kristopfk_Silo   -   We must support Israel.
Maxine875   -   Van is like most men I've met on the scene, emotionally stunted. So was Adolf. Am I making myself clear soldier?
Knight_Table   -   Van and Adolf are well known European white males. They have both slept with women outside of marriage.
hbhb2   -  shut up please! I'm not trying 2 b mean wen i say that but van Morrison is amazing and he brings joy to the world and Hitler is a man that i am glad is gone now forever very sorry and don't take this the wrong way but i think that the world is better without him. u rock van!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Art_Avatar   -   Van has his faults, like us all, but to compare him to Adolf Hitler is really weird. Van has always avoided discussing violence in his songs. He's from Belfast but has never mentioned "The Troubles". He concentrates on his own troubles instead.
Candide   -   Who's Adolf Hitler?
Cal_Avery   -   Hitler had only a brief European tour. Van has been touring Europe for 50 years. Van has stood the test of time. Adolf isn't popular now. Except with horrible racist people.
dingoboy   -   This is typical post-modern thinking. Not everything is related or exists to be deconstructed. Adolf Hitler and Van Morrison are not in the same subset.
Reebus89   -   This is a rather deep forum and I'm happy to contribute. The holocaust did happen people but so did "Astral Weeks".

Van or Sir Paul McCartney?

Ray_Le_Blanc   -  Who of these two leading lights of contemporary music do you think turns out the best albums? Of course, Sir Paul has had the most influence on contemporary music by a long way. Paul is a superstar while Van has a solid fan base that buys his albums and goes to his shows. However, right now, forgetting the past - who of these two still has more of the creative flame?
Maybe compare the last couple of albums for each.
Russell_Howard   -   Well Sir Paul's "Memory Almost Full" rocks more than Van has ever done. Both guys probably are well beyond their creative peaks, but I think Van has the easier time of it. Paul has to keep coming up with neat pop songs whereas Van just has to get into the groove of whatever muse is taking him at the moment.
rodstarr2001   -   I am not familiar enough with Van the Man's recent album outings, I have heard some of his albums and they are pretty good especially his hit songs, however I am not a big bluesy / Jazz fan and a lot of his stuff falls into this category. However Paul I am very familiar with. I personally find Paul's latest albums very mature and musically creative, in fact I find his latest releases including "Chaos and Creation In The Backyard" and "Memory Almost Full" more interesting than his work with The Beatles (even though I still Love the Beatles.) So to sum up, despite the fact that Van is a truly great Artist, I would have to Say That Paul McCartney turns out a better album, of course this is my taste to, so to a real big Van fan of course they will Love Vans stuff.
SuzieQ83   -   I like Van's music better. Paul's music is too clean. Too mainstream. I like odd stuff. Also I like performers that not many people know about. In my age group not many people know Van.
Dr_Watson   -   Paul was good when I was young but now I prefer more challenging artists. "Silly Love Songs" doesn't light my fire anymore.
Mitch_Healy   -   Sir Paul is an old song and dance man. Van fuses Celtic soul and African roots like someone making a daisy chain. Sir Paul is pop, always looking for the hook. Van follows his muse anywhere it takes him. And that road doesn't lead to the town of 'Commercial Success'. No apologies here.
Tom_Eegret   -   I would love to see an album of Sir Paul's worst songs. That would be embarrassment in the extreme.
della401   -   I like Van better. i think his music will sustain me as I get older. Something to listen to and talk about. Sir Paul is just rich.
Cal_Avery   -   Van is definitely more interesting. He's always surprising. Paul used up his massive supply of talent years ago. He has written 20 or so gems since 1970, but that isn't enough to keep buying his albums. Isn't Bob Dylan amazing?
missyox   -   Van really is interesting. Sir Paul is still trying to write the perfect pop song and the hooks ain't coming. Van's into a groove and follows his muse to where ever it takes him - country, soul, jazz, Irish, etc. Paul is just pop and rock with simple trite lyrics. Van's weird. Paul is your ultimate nice guy while Van is Mr Grumpy. To me that makes Van more real.
Eldrick-woods   -   Paul is just your normal nice guy. How did he do it? How did this billionaire keep his head together? So he spent a year on cocaine and got busted for weed in Japan? The man is a legend but I wouldn't buy any of his post-Beatles albums. Too low in quality.
Reebus89   -   Paul's bag of tricks dried up in the 70s. Van's still got it. His bag has some jute that he regularly throws on the burning ground.
Jon_Jon_2000   -   I like Van's weirdness. It's sublime. (That's the word I'm using a lot this week.)