Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Simon Sweetman Comments on 2 Albums

Here's a post by Simon Sweetman from the Off the Tracks blog.

(Two of the) Five Albums I’m Loving Right Now

1.  The Last Waltz   -   This album is worth the purchase price just to hear Pops Staples delicately massage the third verse of The Weight before a high-as-fuck Rick Danko yells all over the fourth.  The Last Waltz isn’t new to me by any stretch, but it’s one of those albums I’ve always come back to. You always find something new there. It’s layered like that. My battered LP copy was dusted off, given a quick clean, and cranked solidly over the New Year period to rapturous applause from the neighbours (not quite). It’s perhaps my favourite album, but truth be told, I’ve probably spent more time talking shit about this album than actually listening to it.  It’s the album for lame musician discourse.
Memorable observations I’ve heard:

 1.“Clapton sucked so hard he deliberately lost his guitar strap so Robertson could school him”.

 2.“There was a room full of cocaine backstage and it was piled to the ceiling”.

 3.“You know Bob Dylan was going to fight Neil Diamond backstage, right”?

 4.“I can’t believe Wilco thought no one would notice that they ripped of Stage Fright”.

It’s a near flawless album, but it always strikes me how the film focused so heavily on Robertson. Let’s not forget he co-wrote Dry Your Eyes with Neil Diamond – he’s a great guitarist, but no one can polish that turd.

2.  It’s Too Late to Stop Now   -   This album rules. When Van Morrison breaks up a five-minute jam by screaming “I really wanna make love to you”, over a blaring horn section, you know he means business.  Recorded during his 1974 US/UK tour, this album captures him at the top of his game. It really is the best definition of a true ‘live’ album – there are no studio overdubs, splicing of tracks, or amplified applause. What you can hear is an 11-piece band absolutely killing it – carefully unravelling each track with precision, while creating the necessary space for Van Morrison to let rip.  For me, it’s John Platania that steals the show – carefully, slotting the guitar between the other instruments without detracting from the sound. When he steps up to take a solo it’s trademark big band (ala Henry McCullough before he got cheesy) – trebly and frenzied, with enough botched pitch harmonics to let you know he’s in the moment.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

125 Hyndford Street, Belfast

Superstars have to be born somewhere.  Even the planet Krypton sometimes gives birth to people who become famous here on earth.  Van was born in a two-up, two-down terrace in East Belfast.  He immortalised the streets and places near his Hyndford Street home on songs like On Hyndford Street and Cyprus Avenue.  Van’s home at 125 Hyndford is privately owned but proudly displays a small brass plaque put there by the Belfast Blues Appreciation Society. True to form, Van took umbrage at this modest tribute, citing 'invasion of privacy'. That’s our Van and that’s why we love him.
Security is being beefed up at 125
Jacky   -   I live round the corner from this and it is just a small terraced house in a dingy street. It’s a plaque on a wall....WOW
Rosejane L.   -   The fact that the childhood home of Van the Man is on Hyndford Street off the Beersbridge Road in East Belfast is probably quite well known. The house is to be found a considerable distance up the long, narrow street, the sort of place where people still hang around outside their houses and talk to each other, increasingly unusual in this age of growing anonymity. So much so that I felt a little self conscious as I tried to peer at the shiny brass plaque that notes the date of his birth (1945) that the Belfast Blues Appreciation Society have gamely put there. There is not much to see, really, the house is a well kept, privately owned small two up two down that I would not like to intrude upon. From the doorstep on a clear day Van Morrison would have seen a glimpse of a yellow crane (if they had been built by then) and the hills behind as he started the long and, it has to be said though it's a bit of a cliche, remarkable journey to his legendary success.
6INTHECITY   -   we are fans of Van the man, but we were let down with the recognition he gets at his birthplace, a small brass plaque disappointing.
27twinkle   -   Yep, this is where he grew up. Hyndford Street has changed very little since the 1950's - the same houses remain in what is a working class area of East Belfast. Cypress Ave is ten minutes walk along the Beersbridge Road past St Donard's Church. Van was a pupil at the nearby Elmgrove Primary school - five minutes walk away.  A couple of nice cafes on the main road too.  Note: No. 125 Hyndford Street is a private house - respect the residents door knocking. 
Bob C   -   Belfast is Van Morrison's birthplace. If you love Van or just admire his musical talent then a visit to his childhood home is a 'must' visit.. Wander the streets of his neighbourhood and soak up the atmosphere ...Maybe take your Ipod and listen to his music as you walk... you will be able to appreciate the 'roots' of his music.

Art Siegel   -   If you love the music of Van Morrison and want to understand it better, visit Hyndford Street. The house he grew up in, at 125, has a plaque on the front, but isn't tourable. The street itself is atmospheric and still has the atmosphere of "the days before rock 'n roll."

DeanK1979   -   This is a private, working class street, in East Belfast, but you really a get a feel for what must have inspired Van the Man to put lyrics to paper, simply wonder round and you will see the places that he has mentioned, Hyndford Street, St Donard's Church, and Cypress Avenue.

Pampers777   -   We strolled down Cyprus Ave and visited Van's birth place on Hyndford Street a very big part of Irish Music history If you listen to vans lyrics you'll find all the places he talks about right in the neighbourhood - Connswater, the Hollow, the pylons -amazing trip!!!
Michael S   -   My wife and I avid Van Morrison followers since high school, have set upon touring the world to see this iconic performer and just enjoyed our first trip to lovely and welcoming Ireland. This was made all the more special as we toured the streets and neighbourhoods of Van, down in the hollow, up on Cypress Avenue and of course, Hyndford Street.
Miguel L   -   El número 125 de Hyndford Street es un punto de obligada visita para cualquier amante de la música de Van Morrison. Se sitúa en el barrio de Bloomfield, en la zona oriental de la capital norirlandesa. En la misma casa creció su madre, Violet, y también queda muy cerca el edificio en el que vivió su padre, George. Además, ya puestos a peregrinar, hay que darse un garbeo por la parte de atrás de la casa, el backstreet tantas veces citado en sus canciones.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Van's Personalised Plates

Here's a complete post from Private Beach.  Silly, but Van-related so it passes my less-than-stringent standard for inclusion on my blog.

Sunday, February 10, 2013  Van-ity

The fact that someone has personalised licence plates on their car tells you something about what kind of person they are.  The contents of the plate tell you more.
Perhaps the silliest I've seen in Hong Kong is one I saw recently which just said VAN.  I can only think of three possible reasons for choosing this:

The owner's name is Van.  However, the only person I've ever heard of with this name is Van Morrison.  Van the Man doesn't live in Hong Kong (though I wish he'd give a concert here), and isn't the type to draw attention to himself anyway.

Post-modern irony - so subtle that others won't grasp it.

The owner is so forgetful he may not remember what type of vehicle he's driving.

Whatever the explanation, I wish "Kung Hei Fat Choi" to all my readers.  Have a Van-tastic Year of the Snake!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

John Gushue's Radio Songs

John Gushue's Dot Dot Dot blog is an eclectic mix of stuff.  There's some music in there and some Van.  Here's a post about Radio songs. 

Saturday Playlist: Tunes About Radio 

There are lots and lots of songs about the radio; so many, I had no trouble finding a list from what's on my hard drive. This week I pick 10.

Van Morrison: Caravan. You could make a list alone around Van Morrison songs about radio; an alternate is the Enlightenment track In the Days Before Rock and Roll, one of several about his adolescent obsession with tuning in U.S. R&B ("Fats did not come in/ Without those wireless knobs"). Caravan is about the joy that comes with letting the radio set the scene for a party.
Reunion: Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me). A chestnut from the AM era ... about AM-era chestnuts. The lyrics are one namecheck after another, sung at a frenetic pace: "B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers..."  One of my friends at school could actually rattle off these words, even though I'm pretty sure none of us knew much about the names in the song.

Talking Heads: Radio Head. A track from True Stories that may be best known for giving Radiohead its name ... even though the Texan accordion swing sounds nothing like Radiohead at all. And it's fun.

Elvis Costello: Radio, Radio. The other side of the coin to the tributes to radio, Costello ripped into the vapid programming of the late 1970s. It was also, famously, the song Costello played without approval on Saturday Night Live after a false start of another tune; you can watch it here. (It pissed off NBC, although it's been anthologised and taken as a proof of SNL's iconoclastic tone ever since.)
Wilco: Radio Cure. I love the sombre tone of this song, which seems to be about the healing power of radio, even though it is so downbeat.
Donald Fagen: The Nightfly. With Steely Dan, Fagen made FM, which gave the concept of grapefruit wine to the masses. But I like this song, and the fantasy of late-late-night radio that filled Fagen's imagination in the early 1960s.

Everclear: A.M. Radio. I'm not an Everclear fan, but I got a kick out of A.M. Radio, and its attempts to explain things like transistor radios to kids brought up on CDs (which, ironically, are now themselves old-fashioned of kids today).

The Modern Lovers: Roadrunner. Jonathan Richman's breakthrough song is one of the great driving songs of them all, but it's also all about the radio. "Radio on," to be precise. Chant it now.
David Bowie: DJ. A slice of weirdness from the Lodger era.

Rush: The Spirit of Radio. On a positive note, a rare love song from a band that is happy to say what fans they were of a radio station, in this case the still-loved CFNY in Toronto

Monday, 11 February 2013

A new DVD release for Van fans is  Them: Mystic Eyes - Live 1965.  The DVD was released on January 29th by the IMV Blueline studio. The 44 minute documentary was originally recorded for French television in 1965.  The footage shows live footage from a '65 Them show in Paris.  
Tracks include Baby Please Don't Go, Turn on Your Lovelight, Here Comes the Night, Mystic Eyes and Gloria.  It also includes an interview. 
The DVD is listed at $17.95 but a check of the internet revealed various prices.  CD Universe has it for $14.75, Barnes and Noble for $16.46,  Best Buy for $14.99, ebay for $14.95, DVD Planet for $11.84, Kmart for $12.99 and DVD Pacific for $11.05.
Some Viewer Comments from Amazon
Chuck Schulze   -   The first song is a lip-sync, the next is live but the audio is out of sync with the picture, and the rest are poor quality. I've seen better bootleg copies.

A. Annis   -   This is a patchwork of already available footage on the net - and actually of exactly identical audio/video quality (very poor one). Very disappointing (official? - I doubt it) release - should have suspected it, since even the well-known 'Gloria' is written 'Glorida' on the back cover.  These mistakes show at least a frivolous intention. Stay away from this purchase - it would be the same if you download these performances from youTube.
I wonder if Mr.Morrison is aware of all this...


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks from 1999

Zach from the Midwest in the USA has written about Van and American Football.  Specifically, he has selected a Van song appropriate for every Cleveland Browns Quarterback since 1999.  Why he's done this is known only to his therapist and that's protected by patient confidentiality. But for the North Americans, here's his list.  And for the non-North Americans it's been heavily edited using the "less is more" theory. 
Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks from 1999 with Van Morrison
I think it's a good time to look back at Browns quarterbacks from 1999-present. And since I love Van Morrison music, it's also a good time to list them with Van songs. (That makes complete sense, not!)
Van song for Tim Couch (1999-2003): Did Ye get healed?
Reasoning: Couch's injuries have forced him from the game. I don't know if Couch would have been great, but I think he never really had the chance. No one was happier than I was when Couch signed with the Jaguars, but he was released. I certainly hope he's not finished, but it isn't looking good.
Van song for Ty Detmer (1999-2000): Full Force Gale

Reasoning: It's what Detmer must have felt he'd been hit with after Chris Palmer told him he was yanking him after one start.

Van Song for Doug Pederson (2000): Cleaning Windows

Reasoning: That's what Pederson should have been doing instead of quarterbacking for the Browns.

Van song for Spergon Wynn (2000): Only a Dream

Reasoning: What the idea that Wynn could be a saviour was.

Van song for Kelly Holcomb (2001-2004): Rolling Hills

Reasoning: A good game, then a bad one. One week he looks like Bart Starr; the next week he looks like the backup quarterback in Necessary Roughness. "Blow the Whistle!"

Van song for Jeff Garcia (2004): You Don't Pull No Punches

Reasoning: From Terrell Owens to injuries to court issues to losing, Jeff got it from all sides. But he has made quite a comeback.

Van song for Luke McCown (2004): Domino

Reasoning: McCown started because there really was no one else after injuries decimated the quarterback position in 2004. Garcia went down, then Holcomb went down. Then practically the entire offense ended up on Injured Reserve. McCown never had a chance to be successful with the Browns, but no one would have been with that team.

Van Morrison song for Trent Dilfer (2005): Precious Time

Reasoning: Dilfer wanted to play, didn't want to be a backup, and probably knew his career was close to over. Had he accepted a backup role with the Browns, last season may not have been such a disaster. Well, OK, it would have been.

Van Morrison song for Charlie Frye (2005-present): Man has to Struggle
Reasoning: Frye will have to do something pretty special to keep his job past October. With what he has around, there is at least an opportunity. Good luck, Charlie.

Van song for Derek Anderson (2006-present): You Know What They're Writing About

Reasoning: I'd hope no NFL quarterback reads the newspaper. Well, at least not the sports section. But the writers haven't been kind about Anderson's play. But I'm also sure Anderson is aware of how poorly he's played for much of the preseason.

Reader Comments:

Metalhead   -   I'm 36 and I got to admit, I don't get the Van Morrison joke. Heck, I think most people won't get it. You need to apply your content to something more than some oldie "rocker". Anyways most Browns fans listen to AC/DC and Metallica, have you heard the songs they play during game breaks at the stadium? You know the saying: "Cleveland Rocks" Not "Cleveland's mellow".

Anonymous   -   I understand how saying Wynn was drafted before Brady can make him look even worse, but Brady was drafted in the 6th round...100-200+ players went before Brady, which makes the fact that Wynn went before him nearly irrelevant.

Smed   -   Yeesh. I think metalhead needs to get educated. Van Morrison is a perfect artist to relate to Browns' QBs.  Of course, on my site half the time I ramble about my mixes featuring bands that no one cares about or songs that no one has heard. But Van Morrison? Yeesh, dude, turn your dial off of the classic rock station and start downloading.

Anonymous   -   Guys with the screen name "metalhead" will likely tell you that all Browns fans listen to AC/DC and Metallica and whatever recycled garbage gets played on 100.7, but believe it or not some Browns fans can appreciate a brilliant rock/jazz provocateur who has made compelling music for forty years, and whose every album does not sound the same. Also, I draft Spergon Wynn over Brady every time...I mean, maybe I haven't been paying Brady still in the league...?

Anonymous   -   Great Van selections....Surprised you couldn't find a use for "not feeling it anymore" or "why must I always explain".

Monday, 4 February 2013

Believe it Not - Part 3

Better Than the Real Thing?

1.  There's a Wax museum in Dublin that features a wax figure of Van.
2.  On the Am I Right site Brown Eyed girl is criticised for having the outdated technology "transistor radio" mentioned in the lyrics and Moondance was criticised because "it's impossible to do both at the same time". (Get it?)

3.   Jim Morrison was born in a van but Van Morrison was born in a gym.  Totally untrue but bizarrely mentioned on a site that was discussing cosmetic surgery. 

  4.  The Planet DJ site lists Someone Like you as no. 5 on  its list of 20 Top First Wedding Dance Songs.
5.  According to the Hunter S. Thompson biography called "Gonzo", Van's music inspired Doctor Thompson to write.
 6.  According to radio station KZOK at 102.5 FM, Into the Mystic was rated the top sexiest classic rock song.  (Has the modern music scene become an endless series of meaningless polls and award ceremonies?)

 7.  In happier times Mojo Magazine reported that Van always wore a medallion (yes, a medallion!), inscribed 'con amore Michelle'. 

 8.  Jack White said that covering the Van track You Just Can't Win was to explain his ongoing feelings of vulnerability.  

9.  At least one person online thinks Van' lyrics on Veedon Fleece make a contribution to the gun debate.   Oh, ain't it lonely, When you're living with a gun, When you can't slow down and you can't turn 'round, And you can't trust anyone?

10.  The My Personal Secretary site recommends Moondance as a song to listen to on Moon Day - each July 20th.  (Celebrating the Armstrong landing on the moon).  How obvious!

11.  Apparently Van Morrison supplied Olympic 400m silver medal winner Roger Black with the title of his biography "How Long's the Course?"  The question was a demonstration of Van's general sports ignorance.  Apparently Van didn't know that a 400 metre race is 400 metres long.   

12.  There's a Van Morrison Restaurant in the town of Brno in the Czech Republic. 

13.   Dutchman Evert Meulie nominated the website of Van Morrison for the Most boring celebrity website on the entire World Wide Web award. It was of course during that period a few years ago when the site contained only 18 words.  

14.  On a Vance Fontaine blog it was revealed that "in one drunken and embarrassing night Van Morrison and Vance Fontaine picked each other up at bar under the mistaken apprehension that the other person was a woman." Yeah, sure.

15. Van once almost worked with Miles Davis

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Maritime Hotel

The Maritime Hotel was a music venue in Belfast that is most closely associated with Them's early sensational shows.  In fact the Maritime is considered the birthplace of rhythm and blues in Northern Ireland when Them and other groups began to play there in April, 1964. 
In the early 1960s, Belfast nightlife largely consisted of a number of licensed cabaret clubs with genteel pianists and singers and an array of sedate ballrooms where smart-suited showbands pounded out cover versions of the latest hits. But in April 1964 a spartan seamens' hostel in College Square North, Belfast, which had formerly been a Royal Irish Constabulary police station, was transformed into the Club Rado and a new rhythm 'n' blues movement in the city was inaugurated. 

Them came about at the beginning of April 1964 when Morrison responded to an advert for musicians to play at the new R&B club being created at the Maritime Hotel. The new R&B club needed a band for its opening night; however, Morrison had left the Golden Eagles (the group with which he had been performing at the time), so he created a new band out of The Gamblers, an East Belfast group formed by Ronnie Millings, Billy Harrison, and Alan Henderson in 1962.

Eric Wrixon, still a schoolboy, was the piano player and keyboardist.  Van played saxophone and harmonica and shared vocals with Billy Harrison. They followed Eric Wrixon's suggestion for a new name, and The Gamblers morphed into Them, their name taken from the Fifties horror movie Them! 

On April 14, 1964, an ad in a Belfast newspaper asked: Who Are? What Are? THEM. Similarly curious ads followed until the Friday before the gig (April 17, 1964) announced that Them would be performing that evening at Club Rado at the Maritime Hotel. Attendance at the two hundred capacity venue quickly grew with a packed house by the third week.
Them performed without a routine, fired by the crowd's energy: Morrison later commented that while the band was "out of our element" making records... "The way we did the numbers at the Maritime was more spontaneous, more energetic, more everything, because we were feeding off the crowd."

Morrison ad libbed songs as he performed and Gloria, the classic song he had written at eighteen years old, took shape here and could last up to twenty minutes. According to Morrison, "Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel" but only very rudimentary recordings survive.  The band's strong R&B performances at the Maritime attracted attention. While the band did covers, they also played some of Morrison's early songs, such as Could You Would You, which he had written in Camden Town while touring with The Manhattan Showband. The debut of Morrison's Gloria took place on stage here. Sometimes, depending on his mood, the song could last up to twenty minutes. Morrison has stated that "Them lived and died on the stage at the Maritime Hotel," believing that the band did not manage to capture the spontaneity and energy of their live performances on their records. The statement also reflected the instability of the Them lineup, with numerous members passing through the ranks after the definitive Maritime period. Morrison and Henderson would remain the only constants, and a highly unsuccessful version of Them even soldiered on after Morrison's departure.
One fan's recording, of Turn On Your Love Light, the group's most popular number, made its way to Mervyn and Phil Solomon, who contacted Decca Records' Dick Rowe, who then travelled to Belfast to hear Them perform. Rowe and Phil Solomon agreed on a two year contract with the members of the band then signed up to Solomon. Morrison, at eighteen had to have his father sign for him. Within a few weeks, the group was taken to England and into the Decca's recording studio in West Hampstead for their first recording session.  
Over a two year period they released two albums and ten singles, with two more singles released after Morrison departed the band. They had three chart hits, Baby, Please Don't Go (1964), "Here Comes the Night" (1965), and Mystic Eyes (1965), though it was the b-side of "Baby, Please Don't Go", the garage band classic, "Gloria",Turner (1993), that went on to become a rock standard covered by Patti Smith, The Doors, Shadows of Knight, Jimi Hendrix and others.

Soon after the start of Club Rado at the Maritime,  it had earned a reputation on a par with the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool for highlighting a new generation of exotic musicians who were inspired by the traditional American rhythm 'n' blues tunes but who gave the music their own twist laying the foundations for what would years later evolve as Celtic rock. 

Among the regular Maritime favourites during its brief heyday from 1964 until it became a casualty of the civil disorder some five years later were Rory Gallagher and the Taste, Just Five (featuring Sam Mahood), the Lovin' Kind, the Mad Lads. the Alleykatz, the Interns, the Aztecs, the Deltones, Five by Five, the Method, the Few and the Fugitives.  But the Maritime is still best known for the dynamic Them shows and for nurturing the world class talents of Van Morrison. 

The Them song Joe Harper, Saturday morning, refers to the Maritime caretaker who frequently let the band use the hall for rehearsals when they could not get a room above Dougie Knights record and bicycle shop in Great Victoria Street where many bands of all musical persuasions practised.
Billy Harrison is third from left.
All that remains of the Maritime is a plaque in College Square North, Belfast that was unveiled on April 17, 2010 and, of course, the memories of thousands locals in their 60s who witnessed a special time in Belfast's music history.  

Check out the Ulster History Circle's tribute here.

The visitor to Belfast should also check out the Belfast Music Exhibition at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, in Gordon Street.  The exhibition highlights such Belfast music luminaries as Snow Patrol, Them, Van Morrison, Ruby Murray, Stiff Little Fingers, Dana and Clodagh Rogers, The Undertones, The Divine Comedy, Nadine Coyle and Henry McCullough.  The exhibition also has artifacts from the historic Maritime Hotel.