Friday, 27 July 2012

Kevin Rowland Encounters Astral Weeks

I found this piece on the  Kevin Rowland And Dexys Official Blog on myspace.  It was supposedly written by Kevin Rowland in 2007 and talks about the life-changing experience of encountering Astral Weeks for the first time.  Now over to the notorious Kevin Rowland for part of the article.  Click on the link above if you want to find the full article.

It was during the boiling hot summer of 1976 that I first heard it. Punk was about to happen, but this album, showed me something really different. Before that, Van Morrison had been, in my perception, some American type singer and songwriter; long hair, jeans, country rock kinda thing. No thank you very much sir, not my cup of tea. Then I heard Astral Weeks. What was it? I couldn't understand it, it sounded bizarre and tuneless at first, as if he was making it up as he was going along. Oddly, it happened that I heard the whole album three times that same evening.

The circumstances were: I was in a wine bar in Birmingham my girlfriend. It was a lovely hot night and we spent the whole evening there. The woman running the bar, was clearly very into the album, she had it on an 8 Track cartridge machine {popular in the 70s} and instead of stopping when it came to the end of the record, she let it go around and around. The process in my head went something like this; the first time I heard it; I thought, it sounds like he is just making up the words and the tune, as he goes along, crazy. The second time, I thought, there's more to it than I first realised. I was starting to hear some melody in it, by the third time, I knew there was something powerful going on.

That was how I got into Astral Weeks, Van Morrison's first masterpiece. The long term effect it had on me, is something else entirely. That, and one of his other great works of genius; Its Too Late To Stop Now, brought my understanding of what music could be and mean, to another level. They showed me some of what was possible with music. Those records expanded the boundaries. I related to the pain and I'd never heard music that touched me so deeply. I hadn't known that music could express and mean so much, and be so serious. The seriousness suited me, that's how I felt. People were always telling me to cheer up.

Some Reader Comments

Martin Booth   -   Kevin,  I too remember It's too Late to Stop Now from Birmingham. I was at the Polytechnic School of Photography working part time at The Westerner (Jeans and Cowboy boots) in New Street Shopping Centre. The manager there was friends with the manager of Take Six (on New Street). I think his name was Maurice. As a proponent of the burgeoning punk/new wave scene, I remember being introduced to you by Maurice. You may remember I produced an video of one of your Killjoys rehearsals (I think at Barbarella's). Anyhow at The Westerner we had It's too Late to Stop Now on 8 track. Which I believe we borrowed this from Take Six. We played it and played it - FANTASTIC! Does any of this ring a bell? The album has been extremely influential in my own life and is still a critical part of my musical survival pack.

ACRYLIC STAR   -   I don't think that anyone ever "got" Astral Weeks on the first listen...I knew that it was "special" cos everyone told me that it was...but I had to grow into it as I learnt about music...  and then, all of a sudden you revisit an album like that and - Bingo! It washes over you. It makes you rethink all of your old allegiances to your fave bands. Bands that had a couple of brilliant singles, a decent debut album followed by that notoriously difficult 2nd....  Genius? Probably.

David   -   I saw Van Morrison at Glasgow's Govan Town Hall in 1988, a Victorian red sandstone building, next to an orange lodge decorated with an enormous union flag.  The gig was tied in with Glasgow's hosting of the Garden Festival.  Some of the audience were yelling out, Astral Weeks, Van responded, "astral freaks!" to fewer guffaws.
Adam Grace   -   The first Van Morrison album I really took notice of was Beautiful Vision in 1982. I had spent most of the summer in Arklow, County Wicklow and Dublin, staying with my cousins. I was 15 years old, and DMR were just having success with Come on Eileen and the release of Too-Rye-Aye.   I was already heavily into DMR since 1980 and my older cousins introduced me to Van Morrison. Too-Rye-Aye and Beautiful Vision were the theme music for the best summer I have ever had. Looking across the lake at Glendalough, whilst listening to Vanlose Stairway, Celtic Ray, Across The Bridge Where Angels Dwell.  That was a spiritual, near religious experience for me and  my cousins. Since then have got nearly everything by Van, and love it all, especially Astral Weeks and A Sense Of Wonder.

Stone Foundation   -   It's too late to stop now was actually the first thing I ever heard by Van Morrison, before Astral weeks, before Moondance. A guy who worked in the local record shop gave me a cassette of it, I was very young still , maybe 15. It remains not just my favourite Van album but one of my favourite albums ever.  As for other Van albums, I've always considered No Guru, no method, no teacher to be an extremely underrated affair.

Bard of Ely   -   I love all of Van's work and obviously some songs and music more than others but Astral Weeks is my favourite of all his albums. It has that magic that touches something inside and you can't put what it is in words - it's a sort of spiritual connection that comes over! But not for everyone because that connection doesn't work and that's why some people love one act but can't stand another. Singer-songwriters that have that quality and become legends all have it - a projection of their soul through music and it is their art and role in life to communicate this way!

Tony Kennedy   -   I must admit Astral Weeks has never done it for me, but when I first heard Veedon Fleece I was blown away (& still am) & also to a lesser extent 'St Dominic's Preview'. Am I the only Van fan 'not to 'get' AW? I love all of his 70s stuff (& a lot of the later stuff too) other than AW. Each to his own I suppose.

Vincent   -   St Dominic's Preview was the 1st Van LP that truly inspired me.  However it was and is TB Sheets which knocks me for six every time i hear it - a very hard listen in places - but ultimately a journey somewhere special.

Rudi   -   Dennis Potter once said about writing "Don't transmit, connect" and this is precisely what Astral Weeks does. It's like listening to someone talking un-selfconsciously to themselves, an intriguing inner mumble that compels you to listen closer. Tiny details take on massive resonance. This is the Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart that anyone with a sensitivity to music cannot help but be attracted to. It's the sound of someone's soul talking, it doesn't even care if anyone's listening.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Van and Mock Duck

Krafty has a vantastic post at the Mock Duck site.  It’s a little piece countering some of the stuff Greil Marcus has been saying in his books and magazine articles.  Some of the reader comment is really insightful.  I’ll provide a sample and urge any Vanatics to access the piece themselves. 

If Van Morrison is a Jerk, Does That Make "Brown-Eyed Girl" Any Worse?

I recently came upon this interesting interview with Greil Marcus where he talks about his new book on Van Morrison. I’ve always liked but not loved Van Morrison, so I’m not about to run out to buy the book, but I was very interested in how, in the interview, Marcus espoused a form of musical analysis that seems comparable to New Criticism, the old school (mid-20th century) style of literary criticism that they taught at Dan and my high school. In short, it was all about the close reading of texts as self-contained entities, with no regard whatsoever for the biography of the author or, really, any other context. It turned out to be a great way to be introduced to the study of literature, and I’ve always felt that the rigorous training in such close reading has served me well in various other endeavours, including my eventual career as a lawyer.

So, anyhow, I was intrigued to see Marcus explaining, somewhat passionately, how he didn’t give a damn what was behind Van Morrison’s classic songs, and whether there was a real “Madame George” or not, and how basically irrelevant such context is to “true” appreciation of the music. I found myself drawn to this approach as a way of helping to explain how a song’s “feel” can be so powerful, even if the words are just “Sweet Thing” over and over again or whatever.
 But then a little bit later in the interview Marcus seems to contradict himself 100% without recognising it. He talks about this long “dead period” where Morrison failed to produce any decent music, from about 1980 to 1997. And then he analogises it to a similar dead period for Dylan, which he cites Dylan himself as identifying as stretching from his post-John Wesley Harding recordings (1968) all the way until the early ‘90s:

“Essentially, that entire period — that’s a long time — was worthless, was searching for something that would give him a reason to sing, faking it the whole time. Any Bob Dylan fan would say, ‘Oh, what about Blood on the Tracks or ‘Blind Willie McTell’, that great song he didn’t even release in 1983? I loved Desire, Under the Red Sky. How could you dismiss all that?’ Well, because he knew how he felt singing those songs, making those records.”

Reader Comment
Thomas Stazyk   -  Interesting post. The problem I have with Van Morrison (especially see Tupelo Honey) is that he doesn’t know how or when to end a song. In fact, check out his performance in The Last Waltz. Great but please just stop!
New criticism is an interesting idea but the problem is that you can’t explain away creative gaps by pointing out that the artist was having a ten year lost weekend with the sauce or something.

But I think Marcus is on to something. Have you heard Mark Knopfler lately? Talk about contempt for the audience.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Van's Misheard Lyrics

At the Amirightsite they claim to make “fun of music one song at a time”.  There’s one section on misheard song lyrics.  Misheard lyrics are also called ‘mondegreens’. These occur when there is near homophony.   American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954.  The site has a lot of examples by different performers and even Van has a few. 

Below are a couple of selections from the Van ‘canon’ of misheard lyrics. 

Brown Eyed Girl
The Misheard Lyrics:    Cats in every back fair lot,

                                Sometimes I'm overcome thinkin' 'bout it.

The Real Lyrics:          Cast my memory back there, Lord
                                Sometimes I'm overcome thinkin' 'bout.

The Story: This was the first song I actually REMEMBER hearing on the radio. I mean that I was aware of and looked forward to hearing again. I was in the 6th grade and home with pneumonia so my Mom brought a radio to play by my bed. I just loved it and felt like Van Morrison was singing it specially for me - even though I have blue eyes.

It's one of those songs that even now that I know the real lyrics, and even though what I was hearing doesn't make sense, it's hard for me to sing correctly. - Submitted by: Mary


The Misheard Lyrics:   Oh oh, damelo
The Real Lyrics:         Oh oh, Domino

The Story: I was in junior high school when this song was released. I was taking Spanish at the time and had recently learnt that 'damelo' meant 'give it to me'. I assumed the lyrics were about a very frustrated man. - Submitted by: sherry

My Brown Eyed Girl

The Misheard Lyrics:    Gunning down the old man
                                With a transistor radio.

The Real Lyrics:          Going down the old mine
                                With a transistor radio.

The Story: I never really knew what this song was all about. How could you kill someone with a transistor radio? Why didn't they like old people? - Submitted by: Princess

Warm Love

The Misheard Lyrics:    And it's seven feathers everywhere
                                And seven feathers everywhere,
                                It's warm love

The Real Lyrics:          And it's ever-present everywhere,
                                And it's ever-present everywhere,
                                It's warm love

The Story: I only have this track on a download from his Best of Van Morrison album, so I will put down to my recording technique not being up to scratch.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Being Van Morrison

The following article by adrastos at First Draft reveals a lot about a Van fan's questioning his love for the great man.  We all ask ourselves "Why?" but it's a question we can never satisfactorily answer.  Adrastos mentions a bootleg album consisting totally of audio of Van losing it on stage in various countries.  Sounds like a great gift for an enemy.  Anyway, some fans want Van to be nice - something like a cross between Sir Cliff Richard and Sir Paul McCartney.  Nice guys both of 'em.  Van is different and to me more real.  He's got problems, we've all got problems.  also, there's a lot not to like about modern life - the screaming headlines about every tiny issue, the incredible number of rules about everything, the use of taxes to attempt to solve every ill in society, the crassness of modern reality TV, the sudden rise of undeserving music performers, the decline of reading, the growth of facebook and twitter, the increasing influence of Islam in Europe, the increasing sense of entitlement among the young, etc. etc. For Van, he has extra burdens.  Smiling fans approach him thinking he's going to be "awfully nice" about either signing an autograph or being told how wonderful his music is for the millionth time.  Fans in concert demand Brown Eyed Girl and boo him if he refuses to play it!
Social media access seems to make people think they can control their 'celebrities' or music performers.  Now here's a message for the people, especially young people.  That tweet you got from George Clooney?  It came from a PA hired to perform such tasks.  Don't go around saying "George told me he's really enjoying Lake Como".  Don't be an idiot.  Now here's adrastos talking about The Man:      

No, I'm not stalking one of Ireland's finest exports. I'm riffing on the title of the surreal comic film Being John Malkovich. I've always liked Van Morrison's music but wish I knew less about him as a person and have no desire to spend any time inside his head. In a word, Van is dickish. Or is that malakatudinous?  

Van sings like a drunken angel but often acts like a drunken demon. I've seen him live 7 or 8 times and you never know who's going to show up. He's been great, mediocre, bad and downright insulting. A few years back I wrote the following about him at the Adrastos Virtual Cafe:

Van the Man is one of the most erratic and irascible artists ever to hit the stage at Jazz Fest or anywhere else for that matter. His live performances run the gamut from sublime to wretched. You never know what you're going to get with Van and, frankly, my dear, he doesn't give a damn.

There are times when it's perilous to know what some of one's favourite musicians are like offstage. Van Morrison is one of them. He's a big talent who can also be a great big jerk. But I gotta give Van credit, he's not afraid to show his surly side in public. Not long ago, I downloaded a Morrison compilation via Bittorent. But it's not actually a bootleg per se: it's a collection of Van's public tantrums and drunken meltdowns. It's called Who's Grumpy? It was compiled by a fearless chap known as NK.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Cynthia is a Californian blogger whose blog called Still Amazed is a literary masterpiece compared to my writings.  Still Amazed isn’t exclusively a Van blog but she does have four Van mentions. It shows the Van influence on all kinds of people, even on those who don’t consider themselves Vanatics in any way.  Her last Van reference is a little spooky.   

The Art of Being Ten Now and Then (April 4, 2012)

Sometimes it’s best to let the day take you where it will, relinquish control or the illusion of it, and just see where you go. On this particular day, we first detoured over to Jeanne’s house to see her new chickens.
Then we walked up a steep hill, buffeted about by boisterous winds, leaning up against them laughing sometimes, and descended into a neighbouring canyon. We were a motley crew: Lori, Carey, Ryan, Margaret, and myself, not to mention Badger, who maintained his boundless enthusiasm even while he may have been questioning our good sense. 

At one point we came to a clearing and sat on a wooden platform eating licorice, which was the only snack anyone had thought to bring. Badger stretched out in the warm sun to snooze, and we talked and sometimes fell silent, sipping the few remaining drops of water we’d carried, enjoying the sunshine, surrounded by springtime…there was something almost mystical about being there. It stoned me, as Van Morrison put it.
In fact, I suddenly felt like I was in a Van Morrison song. Half a mile from the county fair…hands full of fishing rod…saw a man from across the road with the sunshine in his eyesthat song. And I know it’s a song that’s full of rain, while we were awash in wind and sunlight, but it was the same feeling…being with friends in the outdoors, having an adventure, the brightness and intensity of everything, feeling uncontained by my usual self. Maybe I was ten years old for a minute. Or no age at all. Time stood still, and the world surprised me…and it stoned me to my soul, as the man said.

I even said it out loud: “I feel like I’m in a Van Morrison song.” And then, the most bizarre thing: we discovered that someone had carved the name “Van Morrison” into the wood. Isn’t that weird? And carved alongside Van’s name was a hilariously random series of words. I can’t remember them all, but they included s####ing, penis, and butt. We read them out loud, laughing like the 10-year old boy who I imagined had inscribed them. But Van Morrison? Who can explain his name in this collection?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Van and Eric - August 6, 1976

Eric Clapton - August 6, 1976 at Belle Vue King's Hall, Manchester.

 On Robert Crossley's website there's a brief mention of Van.  Robert is a hardcore Eric Clapton fan and Van is mentioned in connection with Eric's 1976 Manchester concert.  Still it does provide a Van anecdote, even if it is a minor one.   
Another fairly 'shambolic' performance; I believe that Eric's voice was playing up hence Van helping out. After the show Van caught the same train as I, the 00:25 from Piccadilly to Euston (I got off at Stockport to connect with the Shrewsbury to York mail train back to Huddersfield, a very useful train for gigs back in those days before the Airport station - and hence 24-hour trains - opened). He strode purposefully across the concourse of Piccadilly station in leather jacket and jeans - and possibly rock star shades - with his guitar case in hand and accompanied by a mate. I'm convinced that no-one recognised him apart from me. I walked past his compartment on the train - even though it was a sleeper Van sat in a bog-standard second class compartment - and thought about asking him for his autograph but shyness prevailed and I continued on down the train. Ever since, I've wondered how he would have reacted had I approached him!

And yes, there's a bootleg of the concert.  The record cover at right shows a young Eric with all the hair thing going on.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Anyone Seen Van Morrison live?

Today’s post is some reader response to the question on the Word Magazine site that asks “anyone seen Van Morrison live?”  Word Magazine has been around since 2003 but the August 2012 issue will sadly be the last.  It's a shame to see its passing considering it was a fine music magazine.  In fact, it won the UK's Music Magazine of the Year for 2007 and 2008.  The Word Magazine’s most Van issue was August, 2007 when Van featured on the cover and gave an extensive interview inside.  Here are some of the answers to to the question about Van’s performances.

 Anyone seen Van Morrison Live?

Charlie Mingles   -   I just bought tickets for his show at The Playhouse here in Edinburgh in March.  Although the tickets didn't go on sale, even for priority members, till 9am this morning, the best seats (front three rows where you can bathe in Van's famous warmth & joi de vivre) were already sold out by 11.30 when I phoned. No matter, we've got some in the Circle that sound okay.  As everyone probably knows, he's notorious (Bob-Dylan style) for his inconsistency when performing live.   Anyone seen him live recently?  

Ralph   -   E mailed me a live pre-sale link yesterday so that is probably where the front rows went.  I must say £75 for a front stalls ticket did not appeal in the least.  I have seen Van many times but decided a few years ago it is now a case of diminishing returns for increasingly expensive tickets. He no longer has the vocal range he once had (true of most vocalists as they get older), the recent material is not a patch on previous glories and he is reluctant to revisit what we mere mortals consider his finest work.The exception being the Astral Weeks reruns which he charged a further premium for.  A great shame as I was lucky enough to witness some truly wonderful shows in the past and would love to see another one. Hope you have a good night nonetheless.  
Iainiain   -   Sadly, totally agree: saw him a few times, long ago, when he was magnificent; called it a day when he, Brian Kennedy and Georgie Fame indulged in too much call-and-response fiddle-dee-dee. By then, van was just rambling and grumbling, racing every song to its finish, and (God help me!) trying to be "funny", at times. All the excitement and great singing had gone.  Got the pre-sale mailout, too. Thought about it...and decided to just let it rest and remember the great sets of yore.  Shame, really. However, I hope he turns out to be great, again, at the gig, and proves me wrong! If Geraint Watkins and Bobby Irwin are still in the band it should be at least a bit good.

Fuzzy   -   Got given a ticket for him at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester in 2003, the magnificent Solomon Burke was his support and he was marvellous despite being sat on his throne all through the performance.  On the other hand,Van Morrison was a miserable so and so.   
stimpy    -   I saw him dozens of times in the 70s & 80s and every gig was a treat - he was either mind-blowingly good or stropped off stage after a perfunctory set.  During the 90s he seemed to start phoning it in and there were less and less transcendent moments. The last straw for me was when he installed a large digital 'countdown' clock starting at 90 mins. The second that clock hit 00:00 he was gone.  If you've never seen him, then you should certainly try him once, just in case his muse hits him during the show. When that happens there's no better live singer...

Colin H   -   I understand he played a series of charity gigs at the Culloden Hotel outside Belfast last week, at £200 a head. I heard that a well known rock star walked towards him backstage... and ended up turning on his heels and walking the other way when Van spotted the approach and unleashed his joie de vivre on the poor sod. The world will not be a sadder place etc etc...

Steven C    -   I was there on the third night at the Culloden. It was at the invite of a friend of a friend who had a table. It was an odd experience. The start of the set was strictly lounge jazz, but as it progressed the band really picked up and there was a storming final 30 minute run through the 1960s hits and blues covers. He was unwell, clearly had a cold and I'm hoping he had tailored the early set to the well-heeled supper club patrons.  I have a ticket for the Odyssey gig in two weeks - odd venue for him - and I am hoping for, rather than expecting great things. I say that as a veteran of 40+ gigs and having given up in despair about 7/8 years ago. I'm giving him one more chance!

Colin H   -   Apparently the Culloden shows were partly to break in a new band. But then knowing his reputation in this area, his Odyssey show could be a wholly different crew - he keeps a couple of bands on the go at one time, some (very good) musicians never get out of the rehearsal room, while some mediocrities get to play on stage with him for swathes of time. (Of course, some very fine players also get to the stage band...) But very few players can last long in his band given the way its run, the demands on their time, the working environment.  I've paid to see him maybe half a dozen times over the past 20+ years, but I decided after the last one (at the Ulster Hall or Waterfront - can't recall) a few years back that enough was enough. He seems to treat his audience with contempt, so why should he have my money for the privilege?

dai   -   I’ve seen Van about 27 times.  Some of the greatest shows I ever saw, mainly in early 80s and late 90s.Last one I saw was Astral Weeks live in New York, 2007. Generally brilliant.  A tip, get there at the start time on the ticket. Otherwise you may miss half the show.

Steve Turner   -   Saw him once at Warwick Castle. I thought the music that night was truly special. He never said a word and as a consequence my GLW thought the show was a pile of crap even though she agreed the music was great.
Occam   -   Astral Weeks is an oasis in a desert of crud.  Saw him before, during and after the Astral Weeks revisit.   The latter was just stunning and it was amazing to see him do justice to one of my favourite albums. But the dial-in mentality returned in full force for the following year's 'Greatest hits' show. What planet was 'Keep Mediocrity at Bay' a hit I wonder.  The album he needs to revisit is 'It's Too Late to Stop Now' - not just for the song choice, but also for the passion and energy. In particular, since the early 80s, Van has always employed drummers who tap and shuffle rather than hit and thud; and guitarists who major on the tasteful and polite, instead of the raw, wailing and scratchy. All part of his insistence that he's not a 'rock' act, but entirely wrong-headed.

Dr Volume   -   I'm not a Van Fan but as a fan of The Fall a lot of the comments above ring very true. Increasingly overpriced tickets, phoned in performances with the occasional glimmer of greatness, gigs quickly curtailed once the artist had decided to retire backstage and yet you keep going back with hope in your heart that this time it will be brilliant.  The only real difference is that with The Fall its definitely not a good idea to turn up early, or indeed arrived with any hope of catching your last train/bus home unless you're happy to miss the last few songs.

Guffster   -   Huge admirer but haven't bought any of his new stuff for a while and if I'm honest don't really get Astral Weeks - I find it a bit dull and find the articles written about it (apart from PDN's) pretentious to say the least. Saw him twice - one of the smaller halls at the SECC 25 years ago (that has made me realise that I am old) and he was on for the 90mins and off. Saw him 10 years later at Wembley Arena with Georgie Fame and he was excellent and you couldn't get him off the stage. GLW and father-in-law have seen him since and just not worth parting with the hard earned cash to see him. Doubt I'll see him again and will just remember how good he was at Wembley - how often do you hear that?

mojoworking    -   Haven't seen Van since 1985 and vowed never to pay to see him again.  He played whatever his current album was (A Sense Of Wonder, probably) in its entirety right off the bat.  Trouble was, the album had only just been released and I didn’t know a single song from it.  He then compressed some of his "hits" into a 10 minute medley and that was it, he was off.  Never spoke a single word to the crowd all night. Not even “Goodnight”.

BernkastelCues    -   Seen him about 20 years ago on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.  Was a huge fan of his work at the time - even Wavelength. He came on, refused to address the audience, (Georgie Fame did the pleasantries) went through a perfunctory set, then left.  He may not enjoy the performance experience, but if he's going to charge me top wonga to sit in the rain then I'm afraid I'm gonna expect more. Unforgivably poor.  Haven't bought any of his work since, and find my listening of tracks I previously enjoyed is compromised by my updated opinion of him as a James Hunt.  So, in my case at least, the live experience can be regarded as "counter productive."

johna_online   -   I agree with virtually everything said about Van on this thread which can be distilled into great music (on the whole and ignoring last 15 yrs) but live a miserable git since the early 80's. You cannot overlook the man's talent though and its a shame that his reputation swamps his artistry. He is one of the very, very few artists who have made several truly great albums but I will probably never go and see him live again or buy one his albums.

peterthecook    -   Him and Bob Dylan 1997...easily the worst gig I've ever been to. Would've been time better spent had I simply lapsed into a coma for 3 hours.

David Kelner   -   I can only reiterate what most other people have said. Seeing him live puts you off at least 6 months from listening to what is, aside from Bob Dylan and perhaps Neil Young, the greatest solo artiste back catalogue around. The only time I have seen him perform live with any commitment and feeling was at the NEC a decade or so ago when he followed Bob Dylan on stage. Perhaps he felt he had something to prove.  Never has there been a greater contrast between an artiste's work and the actual person.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Van: A Choreographer's Nightmare

Can you imagine Van in the middle of this?
You've got to be kidding.  Van with back up dancers?  Say it ain't so.  But according to Evan Kessler and his blog it sort of happened.  Here's an edited version of Kessler's "shock revelation".
Van Morrison: A Choreographer's Nightmare

Fresh out of college, a young idealist...that was me.  I had spent the last twelve years of my life immersed in modern jazz, tap, and movement classes. Then all of the sudden they give you a diploma and say, "go dance your way through life." 
Lightning struck quite quickly one day as I read through "Modern Choreographer" magazine while eating Chicken Noodle soup out of a Breadbowl on my lunch break at a Panera in Milford, Ohio.  There it was in the classified section.  "CHOREOGRAPHER WANTED: for world tour of a famous classic rock musician."
I quickly called the number and scheduled an interview with the tour director.  The only problem was, the interview was in New York.  Rather than flinch at the distance I had to travel I ran to the bus depot and bought a ticket.  Before I knew it I was leaving on a Greyhound, as John Denver used to sing. 

My interview was fantastic.  Darlene the tour director immediately told me that the Classic rock musician in need of choreography was Van Morrison.  Van wanted a modern dance interpretation of his 1970's classic album Moondance to accompany his stage show, as he'd be playing the album in his entirety.  I nearly fainted in disbelief.  Moondance was my favourite song of all time and my other two favourite songs were the song that came after Moondance on the album, and the other song that came after that. 
Feeling inspired I blurted out my experience choreographing No Jacket Required. I think Darlene took this to mean that I had actually choreographed Phil Collins, but I didn't realise that at the time.  I was immediately notified that I got the job. 
Luckily, we didn't have to go through the casting process as Van had already personally selected the dancers he wanted on the tour through a vigorous audition process.  The first week was bliss as I worked my fingers to the bone listening to Moondance  and coming up with hot moves to compliment some equally sizzling tunes.  After three weeks of gruelling rehearsal we were ready to take on the tour.  Our first night was in my hometown of Cleveland.  I was ready to show all of the people who I went to high school with that might show up to a Van Morrison concert, just how this local boy made good. 

When the curtains went up the show went on as planned.  Van played his sweet soothing blend of Folk, Country Rock, R&B and Jazz.  The dancers swarmed and manoeuvred about the stage in their tight fitting attire, weaving in and out of the band's performance space.  To my eyes, it was a thing of beauty.  I had tears streaming down the whole time.  Sure there were a few heckles from the audience who didn't appreciate a good dose of modern dance, but I had triumphed. 
After the show Van called myself and tour director Darlene into his dressing room, I presumed to congratulate us on a show well done.  Instead he said, "Let's cut the whole dance's a bit too faggy."  And with that my Classic Rock choreography career came to a screeching halt.