Monday, 3 June 2013

Van Censored Twice in the 60s

Van Morrison was censored twice in the 1960s.  The songs at the centre of the controversies were two of his best known - Gloria and Brown Eyed Girl
In 1965, Van was first heard by the broader American public when his group Them had a hit with Gloria.  It was a quite a big hit in Southern California, though it did poorly on the national charts, peaking at a very modest #71. Them had other songs on the Billboard Hot 100 but eventually Van left Them to forge a solo career.  In the summer of 1967, he had his first hit as a solo artist with Brown Eyed Girl.

Both Brown Eyed Girl and Gloria attracted the attention of the censors.  Many radio stations banned the two songs for suggestive lyrics”  and both had to be fixed”. One was re-recorded by Van and the other was fixed” in another instance, in order to make them more appropriate for airplay.

The original lyrics to cause controversy were she make me feel so good, Lord, I wanna say she make me feel all right.  Comes a-walkin’ down my street, then she comes up to my house.  She knock upon my door and then she comes to my room, yeah an’ she make me feel all right.  The line and then she comes to my room was deemed offensive back in 1965. That part of the song was then re-sung by Van and replaced with a tame and then she calls out my name

Brown Eyed Girl

It was originally titled Brown Skinned Girl, and was about an inter-racial relationship.  Van then changed the title (and, hence, the lyrics) to a less controversial Brown Eyed Girl. All this was back in 1967 and shows how far we've "progressed".  Now we have hip hop to improve our vocabularies.  However, another controversy existed in the lyrics. 

Cast my memory back there, Lord,
Sometimes I’m overcome, thinkin’ about it
Making love in the green grass, behind the stadium with you,

My brown-eyed girl… 

Radio stations decided these were offensive lyrics but Van didn't have to go back to the studio.  Instead, recording engineers took parts of lyrics already in the tune and spliced together a totally different line from an earlier section of the song.  The lyrics  Down in the hollow, playin’ a new game, Laughin’ and a-Runnin’ hey hey Skippin’ and a-Jumpin’ in the misty mornin’ fog with our hearts a-thumpin’” became “runnin’ and a-jumpin’The lyric line was changed to “runnin’ and a jumpin’” behind the stadium with you
The splicing job also assured that an earlier phrase didn’t quite repeat, taking a hybrid of both laughin’ and a runnin’ and skippin’ and a-jumpin’ to make runnin’ and a-jumpin’, a totally different pair of words!
It's interesting to note that the original 'racy' versions endure and are the standard versions you now hear on radio.

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