Friday, 17 May 2013

Kevin Forde's Take on Ringworm, etc.

Kevin Forde wrote the following piece about what he calls the world's strangest album.

After a brilliant stint with musical pronoun Them, Morrison signed as a solo artist for Bang Records in 1965 and recorded eight songs, originally intended to be released as four singles. The songs and band had been chosen by Bang boss Bert Berns, but Morrison was unhappy with the sessions. Ignoring the singer’s protestations, Berns instead released all eight tracks as Morrison’s first solo album with the truly terrible title of Blowin’ Your MindThe album name was almost as bad as its cover.

The Celtic minstrel was not happy and his arguments with Bang Records would continue after Berns’ death in 1967. Morrison wanted out of his deal. The label refused and insisted he deliver them some more short snappy pop stuff like “Brown Eyed Girl” (a song Morrison claims Bang never paid him royalties for).

Unable to record the music he wanted with the band of his choice, Van became understandably distraught. His state of mind wasn’t helped when Ber Berns’ widow (who blamed the argumentative Irishman for her husband’s heart attack) tried to have him deported. A quick marriage to his U.S. girlfriend Janet Rigsbee ended that problem.

ringworm - the condition
Finally, Van found himself a musical saviour. Warner Music stepped in and bought out his deal with Bang Records. There was still one problem, though. Morrison had to record 36 songs for his old label who would also continue to earn royalties off everything he released for a year after he left them. A true professional, Van did the only thing he could: swallowed his pride and recorded more than 30 songs in a single recording session… on an out of tune guitar.

The subject matter of the songs were as diverse as they were ridiculous. As well as the aforementioned songs about ring worm and sandwiches, there were a number of digs at a guy named George and a song about saying the word France.

Surprisingly, the bizarre set was deemed unfit for release by Bang Records who seemed to think that they were somewhat below Van Morrison’s regular output. They eventually saw the light of day under a range of different names from the mid-90s (including, but not limited to, Celebrities at their Worst Volume 3.1) and remain some of the strangest and funniest songs in rock history.

Morrison waited exactly one year before recording his first album with Warner. The rambling, jazz-influenced poetic music on Astral Weeks would go on to be regarded as perhaps the greatest of his storied career and one of the finest of the era.

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