Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Van Morrison Slams Bob Dylan?

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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!

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