Friday, 28 December 2012

Van's Australian Tour 1985

In 1985 Van toured Australia for 7 concerts.  The experience apparently left him vowing never to do concerts outside North America and Europe. Legend has it that Van wanted to pull out of the Australian tour but was unable to.  Generally any commentators have called the tour lacklustre at best.  In Wavelength 17 (September, 1998), Simon Gee wrote, "the tapes from this tour, most of which have rather awful sound quality, reveal that Van was not at his most inspirational."

Interestingly, there is very little on the internet about the tour.  The tour support, Ross Ryan, proudly includes the tour on the CV on his website. Ross Ryan is a minor Australian artist who had fame with several hits, particularly My Name is Pegasus.  Combine that with America's Horse With No Name and the Rolling Stones' Wild Horses and you have an outbreak of equine hits in the early 70s. But Ryan is an honest muso still plying his trade.  His 1985 backing band comprised Roy Zedras, Gus McNeil (sax; ex-Nomads), Alex Pertout (percussion) and Marcus Holden (fiddle). 

One interesting story from the internet involves the false memory of Jason Durbin.  The Western Australian fan recalled the (non-existent) show in Perth.  Jason Durbin wrote on a website that he was 17 years old at the time.  

"It was November 1984 at the Perth Entertainment Centre. 1984 had been a stellar year for me as a concert goer. That year I had seen Howard Jones, Elton John, David Bowie, Dire Straits, U2 and a whole lot more. Van Morrison as the music legend he 'is' was to cap off a great year. I had just finished school and as a way of a thank you I also bought a ticket for one of my tutors who was a huge Morrison fan and it was his birthday. Anyway the show had gone on sedately for about 30 minutes or so and Van 'The Man' got to one of his old standards, Bright Side Of The Road. A boppy little number which encouraged the first couple of rows in the lounge area to get off their feet and dance. The only problem was Van didn't want to dance. He immediately threw his hands in the air and shouted 'STOP'!!! The band stopped and he stepped up to the microphone and angrily announced that there would be 'NO DANCING AT A VAN MORRISON CONCERT'. For the first minute the crowd was stunned and silent. Morrison had already stormed off stage and his rather bemused band followed soon after. Then the 8000 odd crowd then broke out into boos and choruses of 'Morrison's a Wanker'. The lights came on soon after and as soon as it became obvious the 'The Man' was not coming back people filed out of the venue. When I got outside I saw this surreal scene of thousands of angry punters arguing with security staff, doormen and merchandise vendors about getting their money back." Great story but Van was only in Australia in February and March in 1985, not November, 1984.  

Another Australian fan named Daniel Robertson told me about two shows he saw - the Adelaide show and one of the Melbourne ones.   

"My memory of the two shows I saw is how much Van directed everything going on, on stage".

For Robertson the memory of those shows probably prolonged his interest in Van's music.  He's also a talented multi-instrumentalist who has even performed an audience participation Van show at the world-famous Woodford Folk Festival sometime in the mid-1990s. 

But it clearly wasn't the absolutely hopeless tour that some would portray it as.  Van's performance of Tore Down a la Rimbaud from the March 7, 1985 gig at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was released on Van's official site until he stripped all content a few years back around the time of what could be called the "baby scandal".
Van’s 1985 Australian Tour - Summary 

Musicians: Richie Buckley (saxophone), Kenny Craddick (keyboards), Martin Dover (trumpet), Artie McGlynn (guitar) and Jerome Rimson (bass).

Sports and Entertainment Centre   -   Melbourne, Victoria  
February 25, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 21 min)(complete recording exists)
February 26, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 27 min)(complete recording)
February 27, 1985 (21 songs – 1 hour 24 min)(incomplete recording)

Thebarton Hall   -   Adelaide, South Australia   
March 2, 1985 (17 songs – 1 hour 13 min)(not yet verified recording)

Festival Hall   -   Brisbane, Queensland 
March 5, 1985  ??? 

Sydney Entertainment Centre   -   Sydney, New South Wales 
March 7, 1985 (19 songs – 1 hour 10 min)(complete recording, DVD, download)
March 8, 1985  ??? 

The information in this summary section comes from the wonderful Vanomatic database site created by Gunter Becker.  I've mentioned it before and is an absolute must for the Van fan or Vanatic.  Among other things, he has lists of how long Van played every song he has performed in every concert.  An incredible achievement.

Finally, does anyone have any more information about the Australian tour.  Please email me.

Monday, 24 December 2012

2012 Christmas Quiz

Think you know your Van stuff? Try the following questions and see what kind of Van fan you really are. (Or cheaters can go straight to the answers below.)

If this isn't enough, there are currently 5 or 6 sets of Van questions at complete with answers.  You get your trivia test marked and then compared against everyone else.
1. What's Van's middle name? 

2. What was Van's first million-selling album?  

3.  How many children does Van have?

4. Which Rolling Stone did Van record with in 1976?

5.  What poet's words can be found in the lyrics to Let the Slave

6.  What's the only other continent that Van's played besides Europe and North America? 

7. What's Van's longest album?

8. Where are San Anselmo and Venice that Van sang about?

9.  According to Van, what was the first song he wrote?

10. What studios did Van Morrison once own?


1. Ivan
2. Moondance
3. 3 (Shana born 1970, Aibhe born 2006 and Fionn Ivan born 2007)
4. Bill Wyman
5. William Blake
6.  Australia 
7.  Still on Top (the three CD version) 
8.  California
9.  Some Sunny Day   (see Mojo, November, 2012) 
10. The Wool Hall


10/10 - You are Pat Corley, Simon Gee or Stephen McGinn

8/10 or 9/10 - You're a loyal fan (and you probably need another hobby)

5/10 to 7/10 - Keep reading the 'Van Morrison News' blog

2/10 to 4/10 - Who cares about silly trivia quizzes anyway?

1/10 - oh dear .....

0/10 - perhaps you'd like to try the One Direction quiz?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Young Fan Thanks Parents for Van

Sarah from the Bronx submitted the following post on her Well and Cheaply blog.  She thanks her parents for introducing her to the music of the great man.  Are you a first or second generation fan?

I remember going to my first official school dance in the 7th grade. There were no decorations or themes. No punch bowls or dates.  It was held in the gym with just dim lights and a DJ.

I had no older siblings and all I really knew at the time was my parent's music.  It also happened to be the same time I was starting to realise that maybe that wasn't something to be proud of. As in, it wasn’t “cool.”
I had a vague understanding of who Nirvana was, I pretended to mouth along the lyrics to Ace of Base, but what I really knew was Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, and Van Morrison.

I was faking my way through my first school dance when the DJ decided to play Brown Eyed Girl.  It was as if a weight had been lifted off of my flannel clad soul.  I knew this song!  I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew this song, and I remember wondering if everyone else had been faking their way through knowing "our" music too.  Before I knew it, I was on the dance floor with my friends "la-te-da-ing" with the rest of them. And although I was in the middle of having one of my first very parent-free moments of adolescence, it was like my parents were right there with me, not trying to embarrass me, just casually letting me know how cool they actually were.

Later in high school I discovered the poetic masterpiece that is Astral Weeks and stole my mom's thread bare Van Morrison concert t-shirt from 1985 to try and be "indie" in suburban New Jersey.  Van very much became my music, but I will always associate him with my parents.  Whether it be twirling around to Into the Mystic in our home movies or as the soundtrack to long car rides,  I'll always remember when we used to sing,
Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da.

Just like that.
Thanks for the music, Mom and Dad!

Friday, 14 December 2012

No Religion (1995)

No Religion from Days Like This is somewhat controversial.  Controversial, that is, for those into Vanology (the science of Van interpretation).  Is it Van's declaration of atheism?  Or is it saying the world is generally secular?  Is he mocking the example of Jesus?  Or is he saying Jesus' example was higher than anyone can aspire to?

More questions than answers I'm afraid.  Here are the lyrics with reader comments following.  Forget which song site it comes from.   

                    No Religion

We didn't know no better
and they said it could be worse
Some people thought it was blessing
Other people think that it's a curse
It's a choice between fact and fiction
And the whole world has gone astray
That's why there's no religion, no religion, no religion here today
And there's no straight answers
Of what this thing called love is all about
Some say it's unconditional
Other people just remain in doubt
Well I cleaned up my diction, I had nothing left to say
 Except there's no religion, no religion, no religion here today
And they ask what hate is
It's just the other side of love
Some people want to give their enemies
Everything they think that they deserve
Some say why don't you love your neighbours
Go ahead, turn the other cheek
But there's nobody on this planet that can ever be so meek
And I can't bleed for you
You have to do it your own way
And there's no religion, no religion, no religion here today
And they ask what hate is
It's just the other side of love
Some people want to give their enemies
Everything they think that they deserve
Some say why don't you love your neighbours
Go ahead, turn the other cheek
But have you ever met anybody who's ever been the meek
And it's so cruel to expect the saviour to save the day
And there's no religion, no religion, no religion here today
And there's no mystery, and there's nothing hidden
And there's no religion here today
And there's no religion, no religion, no religion here today

Reader Comments:
Floodle Zoot   -   His views have frequently changed back and forth and you can see it in his albums. But to argue that this song is against religion is totally misguided. That’s not at all what he is saying. Read the lyrics. He’s saying in this song that the world is messed up because there is no religion. He’s lamenting its loss in society. Can you really deny that? Maybe in 2012 he’s against religion but in 1995 when he produced this, he was clearly saying something different.

Nola horse rider   -   What is the big deal about this being religious or not? I love the music for what it is..just plain Awesome!!

The zenful dog   -   Listen more carefully. If you are a Morrison fan…you’ll see he’s a Believer…this song is *NOT* an “Anti God” song…it’s talking about Love is not a ‘Religion’–meaning—…ie. ” I can’t bleed for you”, is a DIRECT REFERENCE to Jesus…he’s saying..”i’m not your savior”—Belivers consider being called “Religious” a SLUR—he’s saying he agree’s with that…don’t look to me to save you..bleed for you…you have to learn how to love or deal with hate (ie. turn a cheek)–you find it.

Floodlezoot   -   In this song he's talking about the important things in society that are lost when religion is abandoned. He's not talking about its evils, though I agree with you, he is an excellent place to know what those evils are.  But....... he's talking about the tragedy of what is lost when religion is thrown out too, in a subtle way. Classic Van.

thezenfuldog   -   Dude, with all due completely missed the point....this is *NOT* an "Anti-Religion" song---by virtue of the fact Morrison's roots are in "Soul"/"R&B" and if you view just 10 examples of the 1000's of examples---he's a Believer...Calling a Believer "Religious" is considered a "Slur" by most people that know the Bible---are who are believers...People who are believers DO NOT want to be thought of as "Religious"--as it's not what it's about--thus "LOVE" is not about a "RELIGION"--

Patty from Toledo   -   anyone know who's singing with Van on this? Two great voices!
Dylan Martin   -   Love it!!!

Smigsable   -   I hear you also my son !! Walk in Peace Forever more !!! Religion ? Not much gone down in my back yard, why should a far fetched story make me feel any better ! Ludicrous !!! Love your music Van, always have !!
Carolina swamp fox   -   Good luck with that. Ask yourself how it is that love transcends death and that reality is the dream that perception lags behind. To believe that that's an accident takes an act of wilful denial, not faith. Peace be with you, too.

Kelsey7717   -   Hahaha OH MY GOSH my mom used to play the tape that had this song in the car when she took me to my church related Wednesday night activity! I never ever wanted to go and one night this song came on when we were driving there and I was like listen mom-no religion today!!! and every time after that I would sing this song on Wednesday night
Alfredo Olivares   -   If this music does not open your eyes while we are in this planet,nothing will, you´ll have to wait till you die.

bigmagic96   -   A joy from start to finish.


TheOffcialACCFans   -   rock your Irish Soul van!!
Dana Yeoman   -   Great song. Love Brian's back up vocals too.

pjb live - You’re a true DUMBASS! Read the lyrics fool….IT”S NOT AGAINST RELIGION.

TheZimmy7 - When I saw him sing it Live in 1995, he walked back up to the Mic and said “”And Thank God For That”, in a very sarcastic tone.

Floodle zoot - What statement in this song suggests anything against religion??? Saying “there’s no religion here today”, is just stating a fact that society is secular. Where is anything about the poor being kept down or that he is against religion?

TheZimmy7 - Yes He Went through his Religious phase along with his drinking phase but when he sang this song, he had Seen the Light, that Religion only stops the poor from murdering The Rich.

Floodle zoot - In this song he’s talking about the important things in society that are lost when religion is abandoned. He’s not talking about its evils, though I agree with you, he is an excellent place to know what those evils are. But……. he’s talking about the tragedy of what is lost when religion is thrown out too, in a subtle way. Classic Van.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Would you name your baby "Van"?

On the Mumtastic's Baby and Bump Australia site there was a discussion about the name ‘Van’ for a baby.  Would you name your baby "Van"?  What about other Van-related names?  What about Dominic, Veedon, Gloria or Avalon? This is the post you’ve all been waiting for. 
crakerz01   -   Boy's name Van, cool or weird?  I love the name Van, like Van Morrison. I'm just afraid he may get teased by other kids. What are your thoughts on the name? Thanks for your help!

Kdor11   -   I really like 'Van' but I personally would use it as a nickname. I went to school with a guy named Donavan and everyone called him Van, even his mother. Good luck with your choice of names!

Wannabe MomV   -   Friends had a baby in Dec and called their son Vanier. They call him Van! My name is Vanessa- so I like Van.

Luna Rose   -   To be honest I'm not keen. I think it would be ok as a nickname. Evan is nice. 

Bridie Child   -   What about the name Vance?

Clairealfie   -   I don't love it but it's not the worst name I've heard by a long way.  I don't think kids will really get mocked in the future about names as there are just so many unique (and odd) ones around. I guess if it sounds like something rude or they have unfortunate initials but I wouldn't worry too much about Van.
Pixydust   -   It’s nice, prefer it for a middle name though.

Miss Zoie   -   I like it as a nickname.  Not sure it looks right for a full first name.  
Twilight Again   -   Not a huge fan sorry.

Mauser  -  Yeeeah, sorry, I don't care for it either... a Van is what I drive... but then again, A) I'm an old fart and I probably don't like 80% of the names going around these days, and B) it's not MY little bundle of joy.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The 'Meaning' of Brown Eyed Girl

The Song Meanings site is based almost entirely on reader comment.  I'd encourage any fan to click on the link and join the discussions on hundreds of Van songs or even add the ones that have been neglected.  Here's what some people had to say about Brown Eyed Girl. 

Stormy Season   -   It's about heroin addiction.
Halford Beatles Man   -   This may not be his best song ever, but it's still special to me, my girl, "the one who got away" so to speak loved this song as do I, and she was my brown eyed girl , who ever thinks that’s stupid.  It doesn't have to be deep to bring back memories of those perfect moments. I really miss my brown eyed girl.
MaryMaryQuiteContrary   -   The mind hears what it wishes to hear, I suppose. It's a beautiful song written by a very talented songwriter/musician. He's reminiscing about the good times he had with the brown eyed woman he loved and with whom he enjoyed great times. It's an INNOCENT track that some apparently wish to sully. Just wish Van had written the song about a blue eyed girl; we get no respect :)

Hit by the music   -   The song is clearly about heroin.

All Of u R Wrong   -   I can't believe it took so long to get the right meaning.  I mean I know it sounds like a love song on the surface, but, hey, all heroin inspired songs do. Yes, brown-eyed Susan is type of heroin. Yes, heroin is often personified as a girl because it interacts the same parts of the brain as sex. Also, because the withdrawal symptoms set in 12-24 hours after the last dose, the addict is compelled to do it often and thus feels as if he/she has formed a relationship with the drug. MANY lines in the song allude to smack but here are just a few - "Down in the hollow, playin a new game"[depressant in a needle, experimenting with h], "our hearts a-thumping" [makes one's blood pressure rise], "going down to the old mine" [again, "down" as in depressant, and "old mine" double meaning-vein and place to shoot up], "slipping and sliding" [trying to find a vein]. 
Ol Sloaner   -   Great song.  Catchy, upbeat, fun.   Not one of Van's most profound tunes in terms of either music or lyrics but one of his most popular and accessible.

I have a hard time with some of the raunchier interpretations but of course, even a lesser work of art is open to interpretation and each reader, viewer, listener brings his or her own experience to the activity of finding meaning. Suggesting to me, that if you think the song is about the Greek way...well.
Beatles fan 94   -   Why are some people so perverted that they interpret this song as a song about having anal  intercourse? Jeez, that's a very big stretch. It's disgusting. Brown Eyed Girl is a great song, I love it, and it's a love song about an old love between a boy and a girl. The narrator is looking back on his love with this girl, and then meets her again to see she's grown - as we all do. It's beautiful and it makes me sad that people think so many disgusting things about such a beautiful thing.

North Write   -   Weddings, stupid city summer festival variety bands and high school dances have RUINED this song for me. They play it every single time and it drives be back towards the cash bar every time it comes on. That said, my 5-year-old daughter LOVES this song because she's the only one of my kids with brown eyes. So now reading some of these responses have ruined the song even more because she loves it so much.  Into The Mystic is Van's best song, IMO.

Mmmmmm   -   I absolutely love this song. It's always been a favourite of mine, especially since I have brown eyes. However, to be completely honest, I believe this song is about some form of drugs. If I'm not mistaken, isn't some form of heroin from poppies? Poppies being Brown-Eyed Susans. Brown-Eyed Susans being Brown-Eyed GIRLS since Susan is a girl's name. If you listen to the lyrics, they are down in a hollow, a mine, behind the bleachers... And to top it off they are skipping and running. I could be completely wrong and it could be about young love, but I don't think Van Morrison is as shallow as that and I think there's a deeper meaning. OR it could just be written like this to make people wonder and interpret the lyrics for themselves.

journey head 4ever   -   Jimmy Buffett covered this song back in '83 on his One Particular Harbor album and made slight changes to the lyrics. So the lyrics submitted here aren't exactly wrong, just a different version. Just in case anybody got confused as to why they are the way they are. I'm just glad they didn’t post the 'radio edit' version lol. Kickass song btw, reminds me of this brown eyed cutie I got a crush on from my school. It’s really just about teenage lust and romance.

Billcot   -  The first time I heard this song I thought it was about a Dad reminiscing about the times with his brown-eyed daughter when she was little and when they would play while all alone, and he could just enjoy himself without anyone around judging him. Then I heard the line making love in the green grass and it ruined the interpretation lol. Now I think it’s about a teenage relationship and they intimate things he would do with his brown-eyed girl when they were alone.

Royal girl 296121   -   I love this song!  My dad told me it was about a guy talking to his ex-girlfriend about what they used to have.  But the line "and my how have you grown" suggests that the girl is now pregnant.  My dad said she was pregnant with his baby but I don't know.

Brown Eyed Girl   -   This song is simple and innocent and perfect. It just makes me happy, sure it may have some innuendos that people feel the need to pick up on, but seriously, can't you just let it be about innocent love? It’s beautiful and one of my favourite songs :)
Bleed the colours open   -   This is a brilliant song. It reminds me of being like six years old, because I didn't know much better than to listen to my dad's music.

The Mystery   -   This song rocks no matter what anyone else's special to people and it makes people a little bit happier....most people can't help but smile when they hear this song come on....

Tamova22   -   this song is extremely special to me...last year my father died of a heart problem and this was his favourite all time song. We played this at his funeral and just reminded us so much of him. if it comes on without me knowing I’ll get upset but then I think 'hey...this is dads song!' yes everyone has their own opinions...but I really don’t think people should say such mean things about van Morrison...he is a great song writer!

Vasnmo Go   -   The three most sustained attack on the realist tradition in 20th century. James Joyce in literature, Samuel Beckett in theatre and Van Morrison in popular music.  All Irish, and the 3 chef d'oeuvre, Ulysses, Waiting for Godot and Astral Weeks, rejected and neglected on first appearance.

Omg_shoes   -   This song is about an old love that he's possibly still in love with.  It may be true that the majority of people have brown eyes, but in certain parts of the world, brown eyes can be less common, like in northern Europe... Even in the United States, there's variation. There are several purely Italian towns where my family lives, and there are some Dutch ones too.

Xelion   -   Although everyone is entitled to their "opinion”. The facts are clearly stated in an interview done with VM he stated that the song was originally entitled Brown-Skinned Girl but was changed to Brown-Eyed Girl to accommodate AM programmers. Interracial relationships in the 60's were definitely a taboo subject.

Vasnmo Go   -   Yes Burt Berns was great for Van the Man.  But Van then went on to the truly original Madame George .
BazBear   -   Bert Berns was one of the great rock and soul songwriters of the 1960s, as well as being a producer of note. He worked in the studio with the Drifters, Ben E. King, the Isley Brothers, and Solomon Burke. He wrote or co-wrote a raft of classics, including "Twist and Shout," the Drifters' "I Don't Want to Go On Without You," Burke's "Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," Garnet Mimms' "Cry Baby" and "It Was Easier to Hurt Her," and "Hang on Sloopy." By the mid-'60s, he was proving adaptable to changing trends in white rock too, successfully collaborating with Lulu, Them, and Neil Diamond. With executives of Atlantic Records, he founded the Bang! label, which had hits with the McCoys, the Strangeloves, Diamond, and Van Morrison before Berns' death at the end of 1967.

Libertine1   -   I understand what all you people are saying about everyone else not giving much thought to the lyrics - I hate it when other people do that, myself - but I think that a song can basically mean what you want it to mean or it can bring back memories of happy times, etc. - for me, it will always remind me of being a young girl. I have brown eyes and my dad used to sing it to me all the time, so I think of him every time I hear it.

Dig it all love   -   I hate that edit that you always hear where instead of playing "making love in the green grass" they replay the "laughin' and a-runnin yeah" line.

Red   -   Van Morrison is my favourite artist. I love him to a level of pure obsession. This song is beautiful, but not one of his best. But...I guess I love it in the same way that I love "night moves" by Bob Segar. It just reminds me of purely blissful and enjoyable moments that almost everyone experiences in their teenage years.

Erock   -   This is Vans greatest songs! He made a lot of good songs but this one was the best! A good shore song.

VAN THE MAN   -   He was in love with a sweet little thing from high school and they had some play time in the grass -- that's all it means!

Think4URself   -   Brown Eyed Girl is merely a pop song that surely doesn't define Morrison as a singer/songwriter/musician. For those who are interested in Morrison's extreme talent listen to Sweet Thing as musikfreak mentioned. Into the Mystic, Tupelo Honey, Warm Love, anything from Astral Weeks. There are far too many to list, but please don't stop at Brown Eyed Girl. Morrison's brilliance has been downplayed for years. He's a genius.

BazBear   -   As to Morrison's genius, I won't argue; most of it's just not to my tastes. But the genius certainly shines (to me) the most through his popular work. True, it's just a simple pop/rock love song; but the lyrics; the phrasing; the beautiful lead/rythym guitar (and instrumentation in general...who produced this?). One of the all-time greatest pop-crossover-classic rock tunes IMO.

John inky   -   What a load of old bollocks!! It's a song about teenage lust and trying to get your girl behind the bike shed or in the long grass...remember when Van wrote this!!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Artistfacts: Van Morrison

The Artistfacts site is the twin brother of Songfacts and as such is committed to bringing little known and well known facts to light about the most well-known performers of the rock era.  Here are 10 facts about The Man ("for those who came in late" as The Phantom comics say). 

1.  Van Morrison's musical career has bridged such a wide variety of genres that he is difficult to label.

  2.  He's a member of both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  3.  At his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1993, Robbie Robertson, former member of The Band, said of Morrison, "he is the Caruso of rock and roll".
  4.  Morrison's career began as a teenager, working in the Northern Ireland showband scene. 
  5.  In 1967 he released Brown Eyed Girl and while many consider it to be his signature song, he said in an interview with Time that he has "about 300 songs" that are better.
  6.  Morrison was given three sessions to records the album Astral Weeks. Morrison said at this point, he was literally a starving artist.
7.  Rolling Stone magazine later named Astral Weeks #19 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, saying that it defies easy description and Morrison was "never this open, and naked, again."
  8.  Morrison's next album, Moondance in 1970, became his first album to sell a million copies and also made the Rolling Stone greatest albums list, at #65.
  9.  He regularly collaborates with other artists, such as his recording of Have I Told You Lately with the Chieftains in 1995, which won a Grammy Award.

10.  He said in a 2008 interview in the Los Angeles Times, when the reporter questioned him about his music, "It's a funny feeling that you actually have the courtesy of asking me about my songs. Did you know there have been numerous books written about my music where none of the authors were interested in my take on my music?"

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The John Bennett Interview 2012

The following interview is from The Belfast Telegraph (September, 2012).    Below is an edited version of the interview with John Bennett (JB).  Click on the The Belfast Telegraph link above for the full version. 
The Interview
JB: Elaborate on the title a bit. How do you mean there is no plan B?
Van: Well that’s my profession. Singing is my profession. There is no plan B. Maybe there might be one later on? I don’t know! There could be a plan B later but there isn’t one right now.
JB: You were born to sing, do I take that literally?
Van: Yeah, well I think so.
JB: Even from when you were going to school?
Van: Well, apparently before that. What they tell me is that I was singing in the pram. That’s what I was told.
JB: At what age were you aware then that this was going to be your livelihood?
Van: I wasn’t really aware until I was looking at the Alan Lomax Folk Guitar book. I didn’t really know until that point because I was trying to work out, you know, what Leadbelly was doing on a 12 string, on a 6 string, so I didn’t really know until then because before then I wanted to be a vet.
JB: So at what stage did your veterinary aspirations give way to the music?
Van: Well, when I heard Irene Goodnight by Leadbelly, the version with Sonny Terry on harmonica. When I heard that, that was it. Everything else went out the window I suppose.
JB: As I, and as most fans, would have expected it is an eclectic mixture and, going back to the emotions, I found myself listening to some of the tracks and I was uplifted by them. In some of them I was agreeing with you when you were having a go at materialism and how the bankers and the world elite are ruling us and then in other ones ... ?
Van: Well, I’m not really having a go. It’s like, as Lenny Bruce said. ‘It’s observation baby!' It’s not having a go. It’s just observing what’s going on.’
JB: Coming back to the album, I suppose if you were to follow the template of commercialism and you wanted to make a lot of money out of it you could simply put out 10 clones of Brown Eyed Girl and almost be assured of it being a success?
Van: Well I’ve ‘been there, done that', but that's not what it’s about. .. hopefully along the way you gain more experience and you kind of absorb stuff and then you regurgitate that as songs. You're not going to be the same as when you started out. Also, it’s not easy to clone Brown Eyed Girl anyway, even if you wanted to, because songs are unique within themselves. Some of them become more popular but you just can’t clone another one of those because there’s only one of them, you know what I’m saying?
JB: Can you isolate a point Van along your career, or maybe even along the chronological track of your albums, where you ceased to imitate the template of the Fifties and Sixties and when you became Van Morrison the singer/ songwriter doing his own thing?
Van: Well, I’m always doing my own thing. I still use the Fifties template to write songs.
JB: Eclectic is the word that comes to mind when I describe your albums, or have done in the past, and this one isn’t any exception. There is soul in there, blues, it’s jazz, it’s a Van Morrison collection, so you have ...? I don’t know if resisted is the right word, but you haven’t been channelled into any one direction along the way?
Van: No, you see I was lucky because Ray Charles was like my role model and he always said he did everything. It’s all music and he did everything and he reinvented a couple of things, too, while he was at it. And there were guys like Bobby Darin who did everything, I mean Bobby Darin was songwriting before anybody even knew what that was but he could also do other stuff. He could do folk, he could do Frank Sinatra, you know, so there’s people like that who covered all the bases.
JB: But do you not see the paradox here, Van, because you are, by all accounts, a very private person and yet when you write and when you sing your songs ...?
Van: Yes, but I am not singing about me specifically. Just because I wrote a song called Pagan Heart it doesn’t mean I’m a pagan.
JB: I take your point. Let’s just take a look at the album per se and start with the title track Open The Door (To Your Heart) which is quite clearly anti-materialistic. “Money doesn’t fulfil” you sing. It’s a statement of the human condition, I suppose? Where are we headed? What would we want the goal to be? Where did the inspiration for this come from? Was it one particular incident or a phrase somewhere?
Van: Well, no, it’s not one particular incident. It’s just looking at greed. Greed has been around for a long time. I don’t know about your business but it’s been in my business. My business is just all based on total greed. People, they can’t seem to get enough, so what I’m saying is “Enough is enough”. You only need enough to survive and live your life, that’s basically what I’m saying.
JB: [The song] Going Down To Monte Carlo ... I’m slightly confused here Van because there’s the beautiful ‘Ulsterism’ in it, “Give my head peace” which might be a bit confusing to international audiences (Van laughs). Explain what you mean by “Give my head peace”?
Van: It’s a local saying. People from here will get it and other people won’t, but basically it’s like, it seems very strange that you could go to Monte Carlo and find peace but yeah, hey, that happened to me.
JB: How do you get peace in Monte Carlo? What do you do to?
Van: [Interjects] For one thing nobody cares. They are too busy with their own lives and they have enough money so nobody really gives a damn about who you are really so that’s part of it. They’re not going to approach you because they are all kind of stars in their own way so I can be anonymous there.
JB: Ah so your head gets peace when people don’t notice you?
Van: Exactly. Absolutely. Anonymity. People don’t realise what a gift it is. They don’t realise what they have. People wanting to be famous, they don’t know what they’re getting into. Anonymity is a gift from God and people don’t realise what they have.
JB: A lot of people would willingly swap places. There’s an old song that says, “Whatever you want, whenever you get it, you don’t want it”, or words to that effect. I think the vast majority of the population from that end of things would want to be famous?
Van: No, they don’t know what they want. They’re brainwashed to think that’s what they want. It’s just brainwash because this is another distraction, just like soap operas or X Factor or what Simon Cowell's doing this week. They are brainwashed into thinking that they want fame. They want to buy that paper that tells them they want fame or they want to watch the TV shows that tells them that they want fame or they want to see the magazine that tells them they want that because they can’t think for themselves. Their thinking mechanism has been short circuited so it’s like what other people think and what other people implant in their heads because they don’t know how to think for themselves. It’s that simple.
JB: Back to Born To Sing, the title track. You say it comes with a “sting”?
Van: The sting is fame because you’re not told about that when they tell you “?You were singing in the pram and your granny used to sing these little Scottish melodies to you .... you don’t know about all this other crap.
JB: And it’s in inverse proportion to the success and the fame isn’t it? The more success you get, the more the pain becomes? Is that the way it works?
Van: Well, it all depends on who you are. See, I’ve always done this because I love the music. It’s like what they say about jazz. You don’t do jazz for money, you do it for love. Same kind of thing, I’m doing this for love. Not fame, not money and that’s always been the M.O. [modus operandi] and that’s why I got into it because I heard people and they did something to me. They changed my consciousness, they changed my thinking. Something changed within me when I heard these people. So, I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do because I love it.”  People used to be into music in my day. They didn’t care if someone was like wearing a shiny jacket or something so people usually got into it, why? Because they loved the music. If you wanted to do it you had to love it. It was all focused on the music if you were doing what I was doing. It wasn’t focused on anything else. So that became manipulated by “Oh yeah, blues! We can sell that!” I came in on that.
People tend to forget that’s where I came in, as a blues singer. I was doing that music because I loved it. Nobody else here was doing it. It was a different world. So I actually came out of a different era, different time, different consciousness, different everything.
 JB: That’s surprising because you’re saying, if I get you the way you mean me to get you, you can divorce the fame from the actual artistry and the music, but when you think to the Sixties, there was Beatlemania and that wasn’t ...
Van: [Interjects] Yeah, I know but how many people from that era, apart from the Beatles, can you now name? There were hundreds and hundreds of people and a lot of them were really good. You used to see guys in Germany that were amazing. Where are they now? You never hear about them. You only hear about the ones that made it. You don’t hear about the other hundreds of people that were good that didn’t have a manager like Brian Epstein that gave everything away so that he could get airplay.  It’s like horses for courses but you’re talking about the mainstream. I’m not in the mainstream, I never was, I never wanted to be in the mainstream. That’s not what I wanted to do.
JB: In terms of record sales you are?
Van: No, I sell enough for them to name check me. I sell enough and I’ve sold enough and there has been enough for them to bring me in because I’m actually credible. So they bring me in for credibility factor, not because I’m selling millions of records ’cause I don’t. You know, some of them have done that over like, I think, 30 years or something? But, they don’t name check me because of that. They name check me because they want credibility there with all the non-credible people. They need credibility, that’s where I come in.
JB: Bankable is the word they use I think, is it?
Van: I’m bankable to a certain degree but I’m more bankable for gigs than I am for selling CDs.
JBEnd Of The Rainbow ... having a pop, maybe, at a false god and anti-materialism? [The song] No pot of gold ... it’s not worth the search?
Van: No, well it’s the same old story. I was just talking to somebody the other night who was saying how like Irish Americans still believe in leprechauns, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs]. I think there’s this thing that because I’m famous then money is going to drop out of the trees and people want it because they think it just grows on trees. They don’t understand you have to work for it and it has taken 50 years.
JB: [The song] Disappointed? Is that the message across when you reach the end of this fabulous rainbow?
Van: No, it’s like I’ve been carrying this idea around for a long time, many, many, many years and that’s the first time it has come out in a song. But that idea is still predominant in the music business and show business.   It’s still a sort of mythology. It’s a bit like Dale Evans and Roy Rogers riding off into the sunset. People have this idea but it’s all wrong. They don’t understand that it’s like ... it’s work. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t exist. Except for leprechauns. That’s really what it is.