Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Random Van Stories

1.  Robert Freeman Wexler   -   The Armadillo World Headquarters, The Armadillo, as it was called, was a music hall that closed New Year’s Day 1980, which was just after the first semester of my sophomore year at the University of Texas. I went to the Armadillo only three or four times.  Apparently it was also known for the food. Robb Walsh in The Tex-Mex Cookbook relates an anecdote about how Van Morrison played three nights there and then went on, but after Jerry Garcia told him he shouldn’t have missed the shrimp enchiladas, his agent called to schedule another performance on a night that they were served.

2.  Ady Croasdell   -   In early 1995 I got to meet the legendary soul singer Doris Troy and arranged for her to do a live gig at the 100 Club. Doris was working with her own band by then and wanted to put on a great show, so she sweet talked me into adding extra horns and backing vocalists. Unfortunately those extra costs eventually turned the gig into a loss making exercise for me. Doris had been a darling of the original swinging London rock crowd and counted The Beatles, Pink Floyd and many other superstars as her personal friends, though she never name dropped in the slightest; she was very modest and underplayed her own celebrity.

A huge Doris fan was Van Morrison who came down to the show and duly paid the admittance for his diminutive self and his 6’ 4” minder. However due to having an empty feeling in my wallet, I was not in the best of moods at the end of the gig. Various friends and club regulars were queueing up outside the changing room to pay their respects to Doris and I just happened to be passing when Van and his man walked straight up to the front of the line and attempted to gain entry ahead of the queue. The profit and loss motive is a strong motivator to hardworking promoters, and the disappointment of the door take was sufficient to see me barking at the odd couple that if they wanted to see her Doris-ness, they should wait their turn! Fair play to them, they were very apologetic and did as they were told. They apparently spent quite a while in there with her – it must have been funny for the people queueing next to him.

3.  WYSIWYG   -   I attended the Graduation Ceremony when he received his Honorary Degree from Ulster University – he received a lot of criticism for not making a grand sycophantic speech – blah, blah. I think he’s just a very private person. And wasn’t / isn’t that so refreshing? I also know someone who worked very closely with him for years – his grumpiness seems to mostly be reserved for people who just want to interfere in his life. I wish there were more like him in that respect.

 4.  Greil Marcus   -   “the repetitions in Morrison’s music always signify freedom, a love of words and a lack of fear for what they might say that to be born again might be understood as magic, magic as everyday life; what you to preserve the current that is everyday life. And that current may be the sight of death – a sight that, when one is attuned to contingency as the singer on Astral Weeks is, you see everywhere.”
  5.  Levi Stahl   -   Van Morrison, I think, is a lesser artist than Tolstoy.  I can't imagine anyone suggesting that the chubby lover of late-night wine and craic has any ascetic tendencies. Instead, he leavens his ecstasies with a near-Buddhist argument against the self, an effort to feel oneself to be, at one's heights, a connected, minuscule part of a larger, significant whole. Instead of a closing of the self, as Tolstoy chose, it's viewed as the ultimate opening of the self, an embrace of the universe that, at base, is little different from what Tolstoy ascribes to Olenin in the forest. I don't know Van, so I can't say for sure that he's happy--but I'd be willing to wager that he has been happier than Tolstoy.

 6.  Anna M   -   I was familiar with Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl, etc., then one day on the radio I heard a song that captured me and it was Into The Mystic. I immediately went out and bought an album, then another, then another, then another. The feeling I get when I listen to his music is something I can't explain. I am 58 years old and the emotion, well the emotion makes me want to leave everything behind and go to another place (i don't know where). He has captured my spirit and lifted it so high.
7.  Kshugrue   -   I would list all Van's albums as essential, but if I were to only own one it would be Astral Weeks. 10 Essential Songs: Sweet Thing, Tupelo Honey, In the Garden, Listen to the Lion, Madame George, Astral Weeks, St. Dominic's Preview, Into the Mystic, T.B. Sheets and Joe Harper Saturday Morning.

8.  Zak   -   I'm a little on the young side for the average Van fan (I'm 36) but I realised when thinking about this show, that if I had to take the entire catalogue of just one musical artist with me to a deserted island, I'd choose Van's. Here are five albums why:  Tupelo Honey, Into the Music, Astral Weeks, Beautiful Vision and Avalon Sunset.

9.  Susan Carter   -   Van Morrison was always appealing to me but then in 1979 I heard Into the Music whilst living in Boulder, CO; I couldn't hear it often enough!  My love-life was questionable at the time, and that album pierced me to the quick.  Long story....It's the spiritual and the sexual! He captures both and they become one! I LOVE HIM!!!!!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Van's Gold Stage Stuff

Van with the new iced tea rider in his contract 
Van never has trouble with lost property
In the past decade or so Van has incorporated a lot of gold into the onstage paraphernalia, particularly the microphone stands with the distinctive VM logo.  All of these have been done by Mr. Microphone.  All of Van's stage equipment that he uses personally (except for his non-harmonica instruments are made by Mr Microphone (Dennis Oelig) of Kansas City, Missouri.

Mr Microphone had these exciting insights to reveal about Van's stage stuff:

Van is a great lover of the gold work.  When you see Van on stage that he also has his microphone stand, and saxophone stand done in gold that were also done by us as well as doing his many gold plated harmonicas.
On Van's Uke, we only applied 24kt gold to the string buttons on the neck.  For harmonicas, he uses the Hohner Marine Band 1896, and the Hohner Bluesharps which are all in gold.

Who said this blog was trivial?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Madame George and Shalimar Perfume

The following edited post comes from Christopher Laws' culturedallroundman blog.  Click on the link for the full post. 

Madame George and Guerlain’s Shalimar
 A Portal to Perfumery

If asked, and obliged to be concise, I would name Astral Weeks by Van Morrison as my favourite album and Madame George from that album as my favourite song. This is a brief history of how the album and the song came about and how it encouraged, in turn, an interest in a particular perfume.

Van Morrison’s band, Them, disbanded in 1966. Morrison signed a contract in haste with Bang Records – a label just then founded by Bert Berns.  Van recorded over two days a group of songs which Bang Records released as the album Blowin’ Your Mind!. Morrison, apparently neither consulted or made aware of the release, was thoroughly displeased, believing the songs he had recorded would only be released as singles and that they did not, together, comprise a coherent stream of music.

One of the songs was Brown Eyed Girl which reached the top ten of the American charts in the middle of 1967. Increasingly in dispute with Berns – who made it difficult for Morrison to get gigs in New York; and who failed to provide anything approaching assistance when Morrison faced visa problems, eventually solved when he married his American girlfriend – Morrison relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He began performing some songs around Cambridge and Boston which he’d written and kept to himself over the past several years. Motivated by Brown Eyed Girl, some producers from Warner Bros. attended one of these performances; the group included Lewis Merenstein, part of Inherit Productions with whom Warner Bros. had a working relationship; and Merenstein, moved in particular by a performance of Astral Weeks, determined to sign Morrison and set to work on an album.

Astral Weeks was recorded over three sessions, with its eight songs ultimately drawn from two of the three: the first, taking place on the evening of September 25 and the last, on the evening of October 15. The middle session, on October 1, apparently took place in the morning which didn’t provide the right sort of feel for the music they were engaging with. There is a palpable sense of the evening through Astral Weeks. The musicians that the recordings brought together were talented and experienced.  The two most prominent were double-bassist Richard Davis and guitarist Jay Berliner.
Madame George was one of four songs recorded during the first session, alongside Cyprus Avenue, ‘Beside You’, and the title composition. Despite the pedigree of the musicians, it remains one of the miracles of art that a collection of people who had not worked with each other before, and who played without lead sheets – which provided the musicians significant freedom of expression – came together and made these four pieces in one sitting. John Cale was working in an adjacent studio, and years later reported that, ‘Morrison couldn’t work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes’. This account doesn’t appear quite true: Morrison recorded concurrently with the rest of the musicians, but apparently somewhat isolated, in a separate vocal booth. Yet the resultant music transcends music, inseparable from the heart and the soul of Van Morrison developed and revealed in his singing.

Madame George was originally called Madame Joy, and first recorded while Van Morrison was still with Bang Records. A version of the song, titled Madame George but with Morrison singing Madame Joy throughout, was released on the 1973 album put out by Bang against Morrison’s wishes, T.B. Sheets (Columbia later compiled the same recordings on a 1991 release, Bang Masters). Whereas the titular song indicates – in its surging rhythmic claustrophobia, its emotion, its closeness to suffering – what was to come on Astral Weeks, the version of Madame George on T.B. Sheets is much looser, drawing more from R&B and funk than jazz, coming in at half the length, and with an atmosphere of the pub or the club, emphasised by the audible background chatter and drinking. 

As it appears on Astral Weeks, the song is a ten-minute recollection, a monologue in which the speaker recalls tenderly a scene from his youth, a character, and their physical passing but emotional and metaphysical remains. The speaker pulls the scene apart and places it together piece by piece, talking himself explicitly through his recollection, recounting to himself ‘That’s when you fall’, and the moment ‘You know you gotta go / On a train from Dublin up to Sandy Row, / Throwing pennies at the bridges down below, / In the rain, hail, sleet and snow’. The music critic Lester Bangs, in a beautiful piece of writing published in 1979, refers to the title character of the song as a ‘lovelorn drag queen’, and this seems indisputable from the song’s lyrics and gestures, though some have read ‘George’ as a reference to heroin. What follows are the song’s opening lines:
Down on Cyprus Avenue
With a childlike vision slipping into view
The click and clacking of the high-heeled shoe
Ford and Fitzroy Madame George
Marching with the soldier boy behind
He’s much older now with hat on drinking wine
And that smell of sweet perfume comes drifting through
The cool night air like Shalimar

The House of Guerlain was founded in 1828 in Paris by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, a chemist who moved into cosmetics, began to focus on perfumery, and had increasing success in a fledgling market. Pierre-François was able to open a store on the prestigious rue de la Paix in 1840. When Pierre-François died in 1864, with Guerlain well established in Paris and receiving commissions from royalty across Europe, the perfumery passed to his sons, Aimé and Gabriel. They took respectively the responsibilities of master perfumer and commercial manager: the one worked on the fragrances whilst the other took care of finances, production and marketing.
Shalimar was created in 1921. The apocryphal tale of its development goes that Jacques, by way of experiment, simply poured whole a sample of vanillin into a bottle of Jicky perfume – and Shalimar was the result. Shalimar was re-released in 1925 in a bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain, and made by the crystal house Baccarat, and has been in continual production since. It was important in establishing Guerlain outside of France. It stands considered the classic oriental fragrance, the flagship perfume of the House of Guerlain.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wearing of the Green

Sunday, March 17 is going to be big this year.  St. Patrick's Day was established as a way to recognise Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Originally a religious holiday, it is now practised on March 17th by many people throughout the world with food, drink and all things green.

How are you going to celebrate St Patrick’s Day? Here are some ideas.  

  1.  Learn a little of the history of St Patrick's DaySt. Patrick's Day was not officially recognised until 1976. Saint Patrick, whose real name was Maewyn Succat,  has been credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. He led a rather interesting life.  He was kidnapped and sold into slavery at age 16 and, to help him endure his enslavement, he turned to God.  At 21 he escaped to France, where he became a priest. Eventually he returned to Ireland where he spent the next 30 years establishing schools, churches, and monasteries across the country. 

 It is thought that St. Patrick used a shamrock as a metaphor for the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), showing how three individual units could be part of the same body. His parishioners began wearing shamrocks to his church services. Today, "the wearing of the green" on St. Patrick's Day represents spring, shamrocks, and Ireland. St Patrick died in March, 461 AD.
  2.  You gotta go green.  You don't have to wear a sweater with a giant shamrock on it. There is a wide variety of St Patrick's day clothing.  A St Pat's Day T-shirt or anything with at least some green on it would be suitable.  
 3.  Accessorise. Buttons, pins and jewelry are all great ways to dress up an outfit. Nothing is too gaudy or outlandish. Buttons with clever (or not so clever) sayings are also encouraged. Small shamrock pins are a great and subtle way to express your support of the holiday. Dying your hair or your pet's fur bright green is also a great way to stand out. Be sure to use a non-toxic dye.
4.  Eat traditional Irish food. Beer and spirits are not the only great "foods" to come out of Ireland. Corned beef (corned beef is not a traditional Irish meal, that tradition started in NYC), cabbage and lamb stew are tasty ways to "keep it real." Potatoes are about as Irish as you can get and are one of the staples of the Irish diet. Traditional Irish foods include bangers and mash, colcannon, corned beef and cabbage, stew, boxty, a Belfast breakfast and praties-potatoes.

 5.  Play some Irish music. There's so much great Irish music out there.  But please, make sure you play something by Van Morrison - play anything or play Irish Heartbeat the album he made with The Chieftains.

6.  Attend a local parade. Failing that, what about fronting up to your local Irish bar/pub? 
7.   Consider staying at home. If you aren't a fan of the bar scene but still want to celebrate, invite a few friends over and have a St. Patrick's Day themed party. Go as extreme or as laid back as you want: insist that everyone wear green or just have them come as they are and chill out with a few beers. Create a delicious St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. What about a dinner party serving Irish lamb stew and Irish soda bread?  Drink some Guinness.  Decorating for an Irish theme party is easy, just stick with green and you won’t go too far wrong.  St Patrick’s Day is known for people celebrating with outlandish t-shirts, hats, scarfs and Irish symbols.
 8.  Finally, treat an Irishman with some special kindness.  Why not go to Westbury and look Pat Corley up.  Go over and look at his blue wall and then shout him pints of Guinness all night. 
How to Make Green Beer

Step 1. Choose A Light Beer You can enjoy, Light Beer Works best as Green Beer

Step 2. Pour 1/2 of a Beer into a Beer Mug  

Step 3. Pour 4-5 Drops of Green Food Colouring into the beer  

Step 4. Pour in the Second Half of the beer.

How to Make Irish Soda Bread

3 cups flour  

1 tbs baking powder

 1/3 cup of white sugar

 1 tsp salt

 1 tsp baking soda

 1 egg lightly beaten

 2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup butter
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and even the baking soda in a mixing bowl and lightly mix it all together. Blend the egg and buttermilk together and add that to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Then mix in the butter. Pour into a sprayed pan. Preheat oven to 200degrees Celsius. Cook it in a 8×8 pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for an hour and cook until a toothpick comes out clean. After cooling wrap in aluminium foil and let it set for another 4 hours to let the tastes meld. A very simple bread to make.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Worst of Yahoo Answers

Ask Yahoo Answers anything.  Here's the worst of the best answers from John Q Public.  Some of these answers make the writers over at Fanpop sound like Van experts. 

  1. What's a better album, Van's Moondance or Fallen by Evanescence ?
Please settle this inter-office debate. Which of these two albums is better. Obviously 'better' is difficult word when it comes to musical tastes. But if one of these albums had to be a 'Desert Island Disc' - (where you get to choose three albums to be marooned with on a desert island) – which would you choose.
 xXxSumik...   -   EVANESCENCE!!  Dude, their songs are awesome! And they sound great live. Fallen has some of their best songs on there IMO, defiantly Evanescence.  (But I haven't heard of Van Morrison)

Shark bait   -   Neither, get some Willie Nelson.
John Elias   -   Van Morrison all the way - the guy's a legend. Evanescence just aren't comparable!

horseyho...   -   Definitely Van Morrison, but I hate Evanescence so maybe my vote shouldn't count.

HannahNz   -   Definitely Van Morrison. He's amazing full stop, not just when compared to Evanescence.

S.T.F.U. already   -    Van Morrison for sure....  that really is not a fair comparison though Morrison is a classic

Fox Paws   -   I'll vote for Van the Man. They just don't make artists like that anymore.

retchen (forever)   -   Oh, Evanescence! Of course! That's easy. I love, love, love, love, love Evanescence.

  2.  Why do people call Van Morrison "Van the Man"? What is the meaning of it?
taz c   -   If you call someone "the man" it means he carries a huge amount of respect as a person & as an artist.

Steve J   -    It is an instruction shouted to roadies by music fans, telling them to "van the man" (i.e. lock him up in the van) before he can make any more bloody awful records.

 Smelly Helmet   -   It’s because Man rhymes with Van.

3.  How do I get in touch with Van Morrison?
LITTLE BIG MAN   -   I don't think you can.  Mr Van Morrison is a very private person. It is very seldom he would give an interview, so I don't think you could get in touch with him.
Kristin C   -   Become a famous musician.
K H   -   His agent... just have your people contact his people.
 4.  What kind of dance would you do to Van Morrison's Moon Dance?  This is the first dance for our wedding and we were just wondering what type of dance we should be doing?
Spot   -   The foxtrot, swing or two-step could be danced to Moon Dance. It is a good slow dance song too. Hey, have you heard the Michael Buble version of Moon Dance?
John de Witt   -   It's always been a little problematic. The tempo's a little fast for a comfortable foxtrot, but that's as close as you'll get, so the choreography will be a little (but not too) limited.
Tori S   -   I just choreographed a dance to this. It was a jazz dance.

Hawkinsi...   -   Smooth and excitable.

Jdavies   -   I would do the Lindy Hop to it but you could also foxtrot.

  5.  Why does Van Morrison babble on in his songs?
Practica...   -   It sounds to me like he is just stringing random words together! For instance in his song astral weeks (which I think is a lovely melody) he sings:  "talking to eucalyptus, whispering in the halls".  That's just one example. Do these meanderings actually mean anything in the songs or is it just randomness?
Birdy   -   His lyrics are also like poetry. So what if he was doing drugs? Astral Weeks is his most inventive album.
Van fan   -   Didn't know he was on drugs, that explains it then.

TexHabs   -    Van likes a brown-eyed girl as they dance into the mystic.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Van and Cricket

Cricket legend Colin Cowdrey is kind of linked to Van.  It seems his son Graham Cowdrey is a big Van fan.  Big enough to have the nickname "Van" after his "Number 1 Music idol".  The article that follows shows why the spread of cricket is important.  It's a genteel sport full of good humour and lasting friendships even among rivals.  No cricket-playing nation is ever going to start a war!  This is why we should immediately fully export cricket to Afghanistan, Iraq and any other nation that seems soft on terrorism.  I know they play cricket in Afghanistan, but the Taliban is against it!  When people get into cricket it often turns into an obsession.  People have no time to join the Taliban or learn about making IEDs when they learn to love cricket.  They're too busy consulting their Wisden almanacs or discussing the relative merits of Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne.

Here's an edited version of a Graham Cowdrey retirement piece with some of the cricket stuff taken out so any American readers won't be too offended.  After all, Americans call cricket "baseball on Valium".  Especially when they hear of five day Test matches that end in draws!

28 September 1998

Cowdrey closes his Kent innings

By Robert Philip
WHEN you grow up thinking your full name is really Graham Son-of-Colin Cowdrey, so frequently are you reminded of your father's towering legend, you could easily turn into a resentful, envious little brat. Instead, Colin Cowdrey's youngest male offspring is the kind of son of whom any father would be justifiably proud.

He may never have captained England nor made 22 Test centuries, but G R Cowdrey represented Kent with honour and is just about the most entertaining lunch companion with whom you could wish to share a bottle or three of Sauvignon Blanc on a late summer's afternoon in the window seat of his favourite London restaurant, Launceston Place in Kensington. And having announced his retirement at the age of 34, thereby ending the Cowdrey family's 48-year dynasty at Kent, there is much to talk about.

"You don't want to talk cricket, do you?" he asks in mock horror. Yes, and no. I want to hear about Michael Holding knocking your teeth out, but I also want to find out how you came to be Irish rocker Van Morrison's chauffeur and Rory Bremner's regular drinking crony.

"My only regret as I ride off into the sunset is that I never played for England. But cricket has given me a wonderful, wonderful life. If I hadn't become a cricketer, I'd never have met so many fascinating people. Van Morrison, Albert Finney [another regular dinner companion] and Rory, who I met during a cricket tour in South Africa, among them."

A friend of the cricket-loving Georgie Fame, Cowdrey was introduced to Van Morrison ("my absolute No 1 music idol") backstage following a concert in Hammersmith. They became instant soul-mates, to such a degree the singer asked him to accompany him on his next British tour. "We just drove and chatted. I was in groupie heaven." Cowdrey repaid the honour when his step-mother, racehorse trainer Lady Herries, was looking for a suitably Irish name for a thoroughbred yearling of which she had high hopes and he proposed the title of a classic Van Morrison track Celtic Swing, the four-legged version of which went on to win the French Derby. "That's my only claim to fame as far as racing's concerned, though I've lost a few bob on Rory's ruddy nag."

Cowdrey's county average of 35.07 was only seven less than that of his father, "and one higher than Mark Nicholas. Go on, I dare you to put that in just to annoy the blighter." He also combined with Sri Lankan Aravinda de Silva in a stand of 368 against Derbyshire at Maidstone in 1995, which remains a Kent record for any wicket partnership.  Bremner said I should ask him about his teeth. "Oh, he did, did he? I was only 22 or 23 and it was my first game batting at No 3. I made 70 against Derbyshire in the first innings and returned to my hotel room that night thinking my career was really under way.

"Second innings, it's after tea on the final day and the match is heading for a boring draw. Our openers put on quite a few then a wicket fell and by the time I get out to the crease it's dark and gloomy. I don't know why but Michael Holding was still all fired up, I think he was really pissed off we hadn't made an earlier declaration.

"First ball was just short of a length and I sort of groped forward trying to see in the dark. Crash! All my teeth down the left side were knocked out and my jaw was broken in four places. I was shipped off to Derby infirmary covered in blood and had my jaw wired up. There's no doubt that put me back a few years. I was never frightened, honestly I'd tell you if I had been, but somehow my technique against pace was never quite the same. From then on I always struggled against the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Allan Donald. Did you know they called Michael Holding 'Whispering Death' because you couldn't hear him running up to the wicket?" ('You could hear your teeth dropping out, though,' interjects Phil the photographer a mite unkindly.)

There are some things he will miss ("the crack in the dressing room, mostly"), and some he will not. "I certainly won't miss having to face Curtly Ambrose at Northants. I had a real problem with him. I remember one time Dickie Bird giving me out then calling me back as I was making my way to the pavilion after one of Curtly's bouncers caught me on the arm and flew into the hands of a slip fielder.

"I knew I wasn't out but when Dickie waved me back to the crease, as I passed Curtly he growled 'you're a blankety cheat, Cowdrey'. From the look on his face I knew I'd made an awful mistake - I should just have whispered 'Dickie, you were quite right' - and predictably the next ball came right at my head. I swear to you, without trying, that was about the last ball I faced from Curtly all afternoon. Poor Matthew Fleming and Mark Ealham bore the brunt of the great man's anger while I made 139 at the other end.

"He never forgot, though. Sunday league games particularly annoyed him because he wasn't allowed to bowl bouncers, so I could hoist him over third man for six if my eye was in. But every time I took him for 40 or so on a Sunday as luck would have it we'd be playing Northants in a championship game the next day. The look in his eyes when I walked into the pavilion said it all. I'd love to have taken Curtly to the cleaners just once, but I never did. Still, what the hell . . . how about another bottle?"

Friday, 1 March 2013

Van Morrison Fanzines - Part 2

Every artist of any prominence has been the subject of a fanzine.  There have been four Van Morrison fanzines over the years, that I know of, though none are being produced at the moment.  Where is the intense Van fan willing to sacrifice his life, marriage and thousands of dollars?  There's gotta be someone out there whose devotion for The Man exceeds his rationality?  
  1.  The main Van Morrison fanzine was Wavelength which began in 1994.  It was published three times a year and served the Van community well for about 15 years and grew from a few pages to regular issues of 44 pages or more.  Simon Gee was the hard-working editor who had a good team of contributors.  As the reputation and circulation built Wavelength was able to get Van news and snippets from all over the world.  Van couldn't sneeze without Wavelength knowing about it.  Every concert was analysed and described by fans and set lists were provided. There were also quite scholarly articles on Van's influences, his musicians, and the effect of his music. It ceased publication in 2008. 

  2.  Before Wavelength was Stephen McGinn's fine effort called the Van Morrison Newsletter.  I've recently written to Stephen McGinn and he was kind enough to reply.  It was great to receive some emails from someone so famous in the Van fan community.  
He explained the origins of The Van Morrison Newsletter by saying,  "I was off work ill for quite a long period at the end of the 80's and was looking for something to occupy my time. I felt there was no forum for Van Morrison fans to make contact and share tapes and knowledge (remember this was way pre- internet). I placed an ad in Q magazine and got about 40 replies. This persuaded me that there was a market, so I put out number 1 in early 1990".

In all McGinn produced 10 issues. "I was helped by a small group who have remained friends, one of whom was Simon Gee".  Over the next four years Stephen managed a few scoops from some interesting contacts who were close to Van.   I'll leave out the specific details so as not to increase Van's paranoia. 

But all good things have to come to an end.  "I stopped publication in 1993 but this ran into 1994 as I tried to settle subscriptions. I had restarted full time work in 1993 and when I learnt my wife was expecting twins - we already had two boys - then it was time to get this thing off my hands. To my amazement Simon was interested so I passed all my back issues over to him and he started Wavelength".

  3.  Around the same time as The Van Morrison Newsletter was kicking around there was also a fanzine coming out of Belfast. Into the Music was produced by Donal Caine.  Quite coincidentally it was contemporaneous with The Van Morrison Newsletter and lasted for 10 editions as well. It began in 1990 and ceased publication in 1993.  All efforts to track Mr Caine have proved fruitless.      

4.  Stephen let me know about another fanzine called No Guru Newsletter produced by a couple of Americans who were pretty taken by that album and its allusions to Krishnamurti. It focuses on the mystical and isn't the usual broad-based fanzine. 

This isn't the last word on this topic.  I'd really like corrections or more information about Van Morrison fanzines.  Please email me through my profile page if you have further information.