Saturday, 5 May 2012

Why Bother with Van Morrison?

Howard Weaver (centre) may wear a suit but he still likes Van

What follows is an interesting opinion piece from Howard Weaver a longtime journalist from Alaska.  His title Why Bother With Van Morrison? really caught my eye because it's a question I'm still trying to answer.  This is the only Van or even musical piece on his blog so I'm including all of it.  It's always interesting to see how fans try to explain how they feel about Van. 

"My life has been punctuated by the music of Van Morrison...
Alone among the songs that enveloped my boyhood, Van's music has progressed along with me. Beatles' music, even in affectionate review, grows stale and saccharine; a Moody Blues CD, purchased not long ago in a fit of nostalgic delusion, proves almost unlistenable; listening now, Wheels of Fire isn't the powerhouse I remembered. Dylan holds up better, but meanders too far from the path I'm on. Springsteen?

Van Morrison is with me still.
I suppose I listened to Van about like anybody else until 1980, when Common One was released. For the first time I heard a mystical, otherworldly singer who thrilled me with references rich enough to linger in imagination long after the sound had faded. The lush, textured music offered sincerity and honest appraisal that wasn't happening anywhere else on my turntable.
Somehow the polished production of Wavelength -- hip, slick and superficial -- begat the growling, existential doubts of Common One. We turned a corner together, and the search was on.
Did you you ever hear about
(did you ever hear about)
Wordsworth and Coleridge, baby?
Yes, I've heard. So has Van Morrison, and even when his religious excursions grow tedious or his literary allusions embarrassing (Rave on, Kahlil Gibran...) his earnest searching touches me. The explorations mapped by these almost-annual albums have tracked my own with eerie precision.
Oh my Common One,
my Illuminated One,
my High In the Art of Sufferin' One ...
Van Morrison sings of mysteries I have pondered for myself and then heard echoed in his finely crafted pagan-Christian Celtic soul music. (A Jehovah's Witness boy from Belfast, Morrison has said he felt moments of transporting, religious rapture as a kid and has been looking for them ever since.)
In 1987 Morrison sponsored a symposium at Loughborough University called "The Secret Heart of Music: An exploration into the power of music to change consciousness." The careful listener would have to say he's been examining that question pretty much all along.
For more than 30 years he has spoken almost solely through his music -- no megastar public image, no crusades, few interviews. Although he was reportedly a wild, enthusiastic stage presence early in his career -- playing sax while sitting on the shoulders of the singer, throwing his shocking pink jacket to girls in the crowd, writhing on the dirty stage floor ... a complete nutter on stage, a Monarchs bandmate recalls -- Van came to be known later as a moody, withdrawn performer, famous for interrupted concerts and lacklustre shows following spectacular outings.
In this as in all, he remained true to his own muse. "His motto seemed to be, `The show does not have to go on,' " longtime sideman John Platania said.
I think that's because he is true most of all not to the show but to the message -- an integration of words, melody and atmosphere that sustains more depth than the rock-n-rollers with whom he is often categorised.
Voice and music, music and no music
Silence and then voice
Music and writing, words
It seems that for Van Morrison, public performance is a necessary adjunct to creativity -- an invigoration that stirs imagination, not a bath in the spotlight of celebrity.
I admire his consistency, his willingness to explore and share an inner landscape that, after more than 40 albums, is more familiar to me than many of friends'.
Recent work demonstrates a longing for simpler (or perhaps simply younger) days. The refrain from See Me Through (Part II) is emblematic:
Before, yes before, this was the way it was
More silence, more breathing together
Not rushing, being
Before rock n' roll, before television
Previous, previous, previous

No comments:

Post a Comment