Sunday, 29 September 2013

Quotes About Van


1.  Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons singer)   -   For me I grew up on the blues, I never really got into the British Invasion. The one band I did like as a kid was the Animals, because I liked Eric Burdon’s voice so much. It was so commanding. People never talk about Eric Burdon, or Van Morrison. Van Morrison could crush all those other guys with one hand vocally.

2.  Ted Templeman (Astral Weeks producer)   -   “When he’s got something together, he wants to put it down right away with no overdubbing … I’ve had to change engineers who couldn’t keep up with him.”

  3.  Janet Planet (Van's wife in the early 70s)   -   “Really he is a recluse. He is quiet. We never go anywhere. We don’t go to parties. We never go out. We have an incredibly quiet life and going on the road is the only excitement we have.”

  4.  John Platania (Van guitarist)   -   “There were many times when he literally had to be coaxed on stage. His motto was ‘The show does not have to go on’. He would create the choice of whether he would go on stage or not.”
5.  Jimmy Page   -   “My first impression of Van Morrison was that he was a terrific singer.” Page paused for a short time to consider his statement. “No, I take that back. I thought he was a really dirty singer. Everything he did had a real big pair of balls to it.”

  6.  Sir Paul Smith (fashion guru - yawn)   -   "I still quite like Van Morrison as well. The album Astral Weeks has helped me get around the world so many times. It’s very easy to listen to. In general it’s really varied."
 7.  Robert Plant   -   "Van’s a very interesting character, he’s got a very beautiful voice and he’s just about as crazy as I am in a totally different way."
8. Billy Faier   -   "Van Morrison was a good friend. He loved to play Woody Guthrie songs with me when he got drunk."
9.  David Bradley (actor)   -   "If I'm in the car I'll bung on Irish Heartbeat or The Best of Chet Baker Sings. I've seen Van a live a few times.  I don't think he's a very happy bunny, but his voice and his songs do it for me every time." 

10.  Dina Carroll (singer)   -   "With Van Morrison you never know what's going on beneath the exterior. He's definitely a man unto himself.  He does what he wants."

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Van Ruined Bob Seger

According to Ricki C. on his Growing Old With Rock & Roll blog, Van caused rocker Bob Seger to forget his roots and put out MOR sludge which led him to make millions.  Here’s most of his post: 

Van Morrison has a lot to answer for in the Ricki C. Rock & Roll Universe.  Don't get me wrong, I like Van Morrison, especially the early stuff.  (Much like Woody Allen movies.)  Gloria is, of course, a genius rock & roll song.  Brown Eyed Girl was the theme song for my high-school majorette girlfriend (from social pariah to a majorette girlfriend in less than six months time, THAT'S what rock & roll could do for you in 1968 & 1969) and presently for my lovely wife Debbie.  The Blowin' Your Mind album (that Brown Eyed Girl was taken from), Astral Weeks, and Moondance were all great discs.
But then, as Van the Man started getting all Marin County-ized and laid-back along with the rest of his rock generation circa 1971-1972, he (and they) kinda lost me.  Plus, worst of all, Morrison started to drag genuine rockers like Bob Seger along in his back-to-the-country, watered-down wake.  It's hard to remember now - after Beautiful Loser, after Night Moves, after The Famous Final Scene, and especially after innumerable plays of Against The Wind on TV commercials hawking Chevy pick-up trucks during football games - that Seger was once a rocker at heart.  I can remember watching Bob Seger & The Last Heard or The Bob Seger System rockin' little Columbus dive-bars like The Sugar Shack with tunes like Heavy Music and Lucifer from the mid-60's all through the early 70's.

Bob Seger influenced The MC5, my little rock children, not the other way around. 
(Plus it had to be tough for Seger to watch Glenn Frey - a snot-nosed little Detroit high-school kid Bob let hang around the studio while he recorded killer tunes like 2+2+? and Ramblin' Gamblin' Man - move to California, form The Eagles, and go right past Seger on the rock & roll success meter until Live Bullet broke big in 1976.)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Ratz from Modesto

After decades away from music Modesto,California band The Ratz got together last weekend for a benefit.   They played at 1425 Church Street, Modesto on September 21.  Local bands like these are great frames of reference for many who spent their youth listening to these energetic young bands.  Modesto and the Stanislaus County area had long had a great local music heritage right up to the time when Beatles changed everything.  
The Ratz were one of the premier Modesto area bands of the mid-1960’s, drawing big crowds by performing incendiary covers of songs by the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Kinks, mixed with American rock and R&B standards. Distinctively attired in their trademark two-tone bell bottoms and velour shirts, The Ratz regularly whipped crowds into a frenzy with their trade-marked versions of Under My Thumb, I Ain’t No Miracle Worker, G.L.O.R.I.A, Scene of the Crime, and I’m Alright. They played every venue in the Modesto area, notably the California Ballroom and the Purple Turnip, plus did gigs in Monterey, Santa Cruz at the Coconut Grove, Lake Tahoe, and the Bay Area, including the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco, home of Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests.  All very good stuff but what's the Van connection? 
It seems The Ratz opened for Van Morrison and Them at the old Strand Theatre on 10th Street. Though there were several changes in personnel early, the core of the band at the height of its popularity from 1965 through 1967 consisted of Ray Rector on drums, Daniel Johnson on keyboards and vocals, Patrick Durr on guitar and vocals, Rick Edmond on bass. 
If you find this post a little tangential, perhaps it's time to investigate this whole area of garage bands.  Them is considered a classic garage band.  You've really got to go to Garage Hangover and check out all the weird and wonderful groups that burst forth in the 1960s. 


Friday, 20 September 2013

A Run-in With Van Morrison

A run-in with Van Morrison is one of those first person eyewitness accounts that I love reading. Peter  Gerstenzang wonders whether an accidental backstage encounter with Van in 1978 caused one of the shortest concerts ever.  Click on the link for the full story.  Otherwise read below for an edited version. (Some of the information here may conflict with other accounts of the same concert.) 

It was fall, 1978, and I was excited to see Mr Morrison — before the whole performance began and ended as quickly as a teenager having sex for the first time. See, I had a friend back then, Tom, who worked at the Palladium Theater where Van was singing. Tom promised me a backstage tour before the show. I was stoked. Plus, the band Rockpile was opening.

Tom met me at the side door, an hour before the show began. I'd never been backstage at such a venue before. Surprisingly, it was nothing special. Mostly dank and dirty, with lots of fat, belching Teamsters milling around. At least, I hoped they were Teamsters. If they were Van's band, I thought, they needed to shave and spend the summer at one of those weight-loss camps. But there were the sounds of tooting horns and guitar licks, so the place did bear some resemblance to a rock 'n' roll hangout.

As I walked around, past guys with ladders and clipboards, I turned left as Tom turned right. I saw a couple of rooms. One had its door closed; the other was open. And astonishingly, standing there in a robe, stood 5-foot-2 and 160 pounds of Napoleonic nastiness known as Van Morrison. I gasped.  Gathering myself, I let loose with the literary brilliance that is my hallmark. "Hi," I said. This bit of Evelyn Waughlike wit drew an immediate response from Van. He glared, stood there for a moment, then came over and slammed the dressing room door. So hard, I think he loosened one of my fillings. Sure, it was upsetting. But I couldn't help but feel that it was also a bad omen.

Tom eventually found me. I told him what had happened. I heard him gulp. And we got the hell out of there. Within 15 minutes, I was sitting in my seat. Full of anticipation. Big mistake.

The evening began well. Rockpile, lit up the hall with luminous rock 'n' roll lightning. They played hard and did covers of Chuck and Elvis, plus groovy Nick Lowe tunes and a great song by Graham Parker. All was well. But sitting there in the 10th row, I couldn't help but feel I'd cursed the evening. Simply by glimpsing Van Morrison before he came out to play.

At around 10, musicians marched out and lit into Tupelo Honey. Van, however, didn't appear until they'd played the intro about 11 times. During which, the crowd went from yelling joyfully, to that sort of horrible hiss that happens when the villain appears onscreen. To make matters worse, when he finally came out, Morrison was still sporting that disgusting purple jumpsuit he wore in The Last Waltz. I was sure the outfit would result in more projectile vomiting than during a screening of The Exorcist.

Still, the brilliant little bulldog was finally onstage. Maybe I hadn't cursed the show. Then again, maybe I had. I noticed, immediately, that every time that malevolent little rhesus monkey finished a verse and a band member started to solo, Morrison walked offstage. He must've done it done four times during "Honey." Ever the eternal optimist (kidding), I believed it was a jazzman's move.

I think the second number was "Moondance." But that moody little Lilliputian repeated his pattern of walking away every time someone soloed. The crowd began to murmur.

Then that petulant little pygmy really lost his shit. I've since blocked out what the third number was. But Van did his Rain Man/OCD thing of disappearing every three minutes. Except this time? He stayed offstage for two minutes. Then five. Then eight. And soon, even the most mentally-challenged of us realised that Mr. Morrison would not be returning. After 15 freakin' minutes of music!

We all waited for a while, thinking that the spiteful little homunculus might come back. No such luck. Food was hurled along with lit cigarettes, warm beer and curse words. Also, combinations of curse words I'd never heard before ("Unwashed pussy face" was one, I believe). Pretty soon everyone knew the show was over.

The most astonishing thing? Not a word about refunds was mentioned as the lights came on and we filed out. A couple of spiky-haired punks, clearly there to see Rockpile, tried their best to knock over the box office kiosk out front.

I stood there sadly for a moment, then quietly walked off keeping my mouth shut. I kind of knew I hadn't really done anything wrong. This clearly wasn't my fault, but I split anyway. There was no use in taking any chances. All the while thinking what I've probably thought 1000 times: 'Hell, even without this incident? My life is hard enough as it is.'

Monday, 16 September 2013

When the Leaves Come Falling Down (1999)

Andrew Hidas’s blog called Traversing contains this post about Van’s song When the Leaves Come  Falling Down. The piece has been edited for brevity’s sake so click on the link for the full original post. 

Van Morrison and the Deep Wisdom of the Leaves

I’ve long felt that fall is fortunate to be so gorgeous, otherwise we would never forgive it for all the grief we feel over summer’s end. Yet deeply interwoven into fall’s beauty is its profound sense of melancholy at time’s passage, all the brightness dimming now as the world inexorably darkens and decay and death spread across the landscape, there for us as reminder, as harbinger, as spur to savor the day.

Fall is a time to begin our long hunkering, but the dream of every romantic is to do so with one’s beloved, in a private enclosing world walled off from the coming darkness and cold. Few artists sketch that world with quite the stark beauty of Van Morrison, and in the vast sprawl of his career over a half-century, few songs have matched the super-charged romantic vision of When the Leaves Come Falling Down.

This 1999 song sees Morrison at both his songwriting and singing best, inhabiting a place mixing profound love and longing with deep melancholy. No season bespeaks this mixture more than fall, and as each of its golden leaves spirals to earth, Morrison is gathering himself and his beloved, seeking shelter in a cocoon made of their regard for the beauty in each other and the surrounding world.

Morrison wastes no time in setting the scene with his first stanza:

I saw you standing with the wind and the rain in your face
And you were thinking ’bout the wisdom of the leaves and their grace

When the leaves come falling down
In September when the leaves come falling down

We see the lover here perhaps looking down through a picture window, beholding his beloved below as she braves wind and rain, probably not even noticing but certainly not caring, so absorbed is she in contemplation of the “wisdom” in leaves, and their “grace.”

This lovely poeticism, of ascribing not only wisdom to leaves but also “grace,” speaks to their naturalism, their being no more nor less than they are, knowing exactly what to do in their dying, which is to be blown softly to earth, bronzed or brown or golden in their turn, there to co mingle with other elements as they decompose and become mulch for the future. This will happen to the lovers, too, and the beloved knows it in her contemplation. But meanwhile, her own beloved looks on from above, and there will be time yet to enjoy and reflect on much else before they themselves will spiral down with the wisdom of the leaves.

Then the chorus kicks in early, on the third stanza, and we get more of that Morrison songwriting genius that brings such tender romanticism to so much of his work. His imagery here weaves together the heart and its surroundings, an enchanted place where only he and his lover live, intensely private, as if they are the last (or first) two people in the universe, existing in an eternal now, needing no one or nothing else:

Follow me down, follow me down, follow me down
To the place beside the garden and the wall

Follow me down, follow me down
To the space before the twilight and the dawn

A place—you know, that place, that special retreat we know next to the loveliness of the garden and the wall that sequesters us from the din and demands of the distant world. Wind and rain and my lover’s face. Wisdom of leaves, and their grace. The month of September. Follow me. Garden and wall, twilight and dawn. Morrison has packed in the romantic, dreamy imagery with words that burst with mood, tenderness and soft light, the song already aching in just a few short lines.

And then, out of nowhere, he gives us Paris, yes Paris! City of light, of lovers, and those fabulous French women and the elegant way they shoulder their handbags and move their mouths when they say, “Merci…”
Oh, the last time I saw Paris in the streets, in the rain
And as I walk along the boulevards with you, once again

And the leaves come falling down

In September, when the leaves come falling down

This is almost not fair, bringing Paris into the picture, but Morrison is just going to follow the smouldering of his heart here; there will be no detour or distraction on the way to joining his beloved by the garden, and then in Paris, because that’s the only city worthy of hosting and containing their love. And there will be wind, and rain…

Then the chorus repeats, after which Morrison gives everything he has to romantics everywhere, every last passionate image in his arsenal firing away now:
And as I’m looking at the colour of the leaves, in your hand

As we’re listening to Chet Baker on the beach, in the sand

He is contemplating the colour of fall leaves in his lover’s hand, but the scene has shifted to the beach, probably the most romantic and oft-used image in poetry and pop music (not to mention personals ads), the universal context for long lover’s walks and soft moody thoughts. They’re listening to Chet Baker. He of the tragic downward spiralling of life, lost to drink but blowing such tender-hearted ballads with his trumpet on the way down as to make the angels weep for both beauty and the sadness of his descent.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Van Cupcakes?

Janice Hardgrove-Kollar has created the Peace, Love and Cupcakes cupcake bakery in Woodstock, New York.  Her “groovey flavours” include:
The Van Morrison:  Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Stout Frosting
The Ginger Baker: Zingy Gingerbread with Vanilla and Spice Cream Cheese Frosting.
The Dylan: Moist Carrot Cake with the Creamiest Cream Cheese Frosting
The Band: Big Pink Strawberry Cake and Frosting
The Janis Joplin:  Red Velvet Cake with Southern Comfort Cheese Frosting/Virgin Janis Joplin's are available as well
The Santana:  Lemony Lemon Cake and Lemony Buttercream
The Johnny Winter:  Coconut Cake, Coconut Filling with Coconut Cream Cheese
The Big Pink: Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
The Jimi Hendrix: Triple Shot Espresso Cake with Intense Mocha Buttercream
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band:  Yellow Butter Cake with Blues Buttercream
The Who:  Vanilla Cake filled with Nutella and topped with Nutella Frosting Psychedelic, Surrealistic Vanilla Frosting.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Summertime in England (1980)

The Scriptorium a blog by the Terry Honors Institute is basically a religious blog dealing with all kinds of religious thought.  One of their stable of writers, though, has produced an analysis of Summertime in England.  Here's most of Fred Sanders' post from July 1, 2012.
Summertime in England:
It Ain’t Why (It Just Is)

I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s Summertime in England lately.  It was a twelve-minute monster of a studio song on Morrison’s 1980 album Common One, and critics immediately lambasted it as disjointed, self-indulgent, and pretentious. Granted, Summertime in England is very long, uses every instrument Morrison could get his hands on, has numerous passages that are not clearly related to each other (and are in different time signatures), and includes a rambling spoken-word section full of literary name-dropping.

Who knows what worldview is being expressed in the lyrical miasma of literature and mysticism and reverie? Morrison’s delivery makes some of the lines pop out and really work (Holy magnet gave you attraction), but mostly I try to follow the advice given in the song: “It ain’t why, it just is.” Or to be more precise, “It ain’t why why why why why why why why why, it ain’t why, it just is.”

And the studio recording is 'pretty meh', maybe 'meh plus' at the best, even when played really loud.  But Morrison took the critical rejection as some kind of creative provocation, and took the song on the road. He re-imagined it in show after show throughout the 1980s. The song ballooned up to sixteen minutes or more and shrunk down to under six minutes. The spoken word ramblings rambled on ever more. That weird, uncontrollable Van Morrison thing happened to it. Audiences started clamouring to hear in concert the song they rejected on record.

Most importantly, Van Morrison started using the song to try out all sorts of new things in his music. It became a creative centrepoint of his repertoire. Critic Peter Mills, in a chapter-length essay entitled The ‘Liveness’ of ‘Summertime in England, says,”Of all Morrison’s compositions, this is the song that has exerted most influence over its author, that is, it cleaves most closely to the metaphysical idea of the song teaching the singer.”

Greil Marcus still doesn’t like the song, and consigns it to Morrison’s long “dark ages,” a period between bursts of brilliance, during which the magic just isn’t happening in Morrison’s music. He doesn’t have any praise for it in his book When That Rough God Goes Riding. But the thing that Marcus praises most in Morrison, his “Yarragh,” his ability to put just the right spin or shine or texture on a note that boosts it beyond the assumed boundaries of vocal communication. “It is at the heart of Morrison’s presence as a singer that when he lights on certain sounds, certain small moments inside a song…can then suggest whole territories, completed stories, indistinct ceremonies, far outside anything that can be literally traced in the compositions that carry them.”
Check out any number of versions on youtube. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Remastering Van

Pat Thomas has written a fantastic piece on his journey with the music of Van and a little about the remixing history of Van. Following is an edited version.  Check out the whole piece on the East Portland Blog.

Now I Can Die in Peace, They Have Finally Remastered Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, His Band & the Street Choir, and Moondance Albums on CD, by Pat Thomas  (October 8, 2012)
In the summer of 1983, needing a break from my high-paying, but totally dead-end job at Kodak in Rochester, I asked for a month off and got it – and I bought my 19 year old self a plane ticket and Euro-Rail Pass and set off to Europe. I brought a Walkman and just ONE cassette tape with me; Van Morrison’s Moondance album. Here was an album that was both a sedative and crystal meth for the long days and nights I spent on trains.

When I arrived back in Rochester, I bought a copy of Van’s 1974 double live album It’s Too Late To Stop Now at the Record Theatre. I transferred this LP to cassette and the meditative mood of Listen To The Lion made those long hours at Kodak seem a little more bearable.

A bit later, I compared notes about Van with Steve Dollar. He recalled an amazing Mardi Gras in New Orleans when him and a bunch of pals spent the whole time driving around town, partying their asses off and cranking It’s Too Late To Stop Now on the car cassette player. An evening spent at Dollar’s apartment saw me leaving with a tape of Veedon Fleece and A Night At The Belfast Opera House.
Getting turned on to Veedon Fleece was drinking a vintage Scotch for the first time, you finally knew the taste of something smooth that was gonna melt your brain. The live recording from the Belfast Opera House was an introduction into what Van was currently doing, blending spiritual longing with his Irish roots.
Just before I split Rochester for Denmark in the summer of 1985, I found myself holed up in a swank downtown hotel hanging with Steve Wynn and talking about Van’s T.B. Sheets which Steve cited as a particular favourite. While living in Copenhagen during 1986, Van released No Guru, No Method, No Teacher and came to town to promote it. I can’t remember the name of the venue, but me and my pal Bent Sorensen were mesmerised watching Van. I was particularly struck by his guitar playing, so subtle, yet so expressive. He wasn’t the primary guitarist on his own songs and yet, what he brought to them was magical.

I eventually made my way from Copenhagen, back to Rochester and then to San Francisco – where along the way, I pretty much got the whole Van catalog. About a year after hitting San Francisco, I was invited into the home of one Paul Bradshaw where he asked me within 5 minutes of arriving to name my top 5 fave artists, when my reply included Van Morrison, Fairport Convention, and the Dream Syndicate – he said “I think we’ll be friends.” Some 22 years later, we still are and Van and Fairport remains a constant soundtrack between us.

In the early 1990’s, Warners still controlled Van’s classic 1970’s and early 1980’s catalog – albums like St. Dominic’s Preview and Beautiful Vision. This was also the age of fax machines, not emails. Someone at Warners had the bright idea of assembling a Van Morrison box set and faxed a proposal for a track listing to Van. They wanted Van’s cooperation in regards to using unreleased and rare recordings as well as the usual collection of ‘hits.” Van wrote a 2 word reply across the proposal and faxed it back, it read “F### You!”
A couple of years later, Van got back the rights to all of his albums from Warners with the exception of his first three; Astral Weeks, His Band and the Street Choir and Moondance. These three, Warners will own forever. They had put them on CD in the late 1980’s when CDs became ‘the thing’ – and now some 20 years later, the lack of technology in that early CD mastering process is very apparent. Van has ‘remastered’ and released the other albums from this era himself at least once, some of them twice and they sound fantastic.
Meanwhile, Warners (like most labels) has jumped onto the vinyl remastering and reissuing bandwagon and they have somewhat recently redone Moondance on LP. I haven’t heard this version, so I can’t comment, but suffice to say, they didn’t need or seek Van’s permission.  He did tell them however, he would allow them to reissue those 3 albums as deluxe CD versions with rare/unreleased bonus tracks, in exchange for Warners handing back their ‘lifetime’ rights to him. No surprise, they’ve declined.

So, one day, at a meeting with Warners, I asked them when we would get remastered versions of Astral Weeks, Moondance and His Band and the Street Choir on CD – without bonus tracks – as that would require no co-operation from Van – and that frankly, remastering those CDs was so long overdue. They agreed that the Van CDs they’re currently selling don’t sound their best, because they were mastered some 20+ yrs ago – but no, they were ‘afraid’ of Van – and that just didn’t want the hassle. That was four years ago.

About 2 years ago, with no announcement and no fanfare, somebody at Warners in Japan got the idea (finally!) to remaster those three CDs from the original tapes and release them in Japan only. Very few people outside of Asia seemed to hear about this. Certainly not myself. Until about a month ago, when I caught wind of this. Apparently they are already ‘out of print’ – but new, sealed copies can still be had by searching Amazon and Ebay. I bought all 3 and it’s like listening to these albums for the first time. For me, the most amazing one is His Band and the Street Choir – I’m hearing talking between songs, instruments that I’ve never really heard before – it’s like the whole thing has come ‘alive’ – it always had the air of a ‘live album’ recorded in a ‘studio setting’ and that is now more apparent than ever.

Astral Weeks – hands down, one of the seminal works of Van’s life or our own lives, so getting this one is a no brainer. The string sections glisten, the flute breathes. You’ll feel like you’re high when you hear this one. Moondance was always an exquisite experience and this remaster brings back the fact, that even if this album is overly familiar to me, it’s one of best collection of songs that anyone has assembled in one place at one time.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Paste Site: Old Fart Roundup

Andy Whitman has written a good short piece on some of Van's live albums on the Paste Magazine website.  Here's part of his piece with the Bruce Springsteen content removed:    

The Van Morrison live experience is a confounding thing. He can be totally mesmerising (see It’s Too Late to Stop Now, from 1974). He can be professionally competent (see Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast, from 1984). And he can be petulantly inaccessible (see One Night in San Francisco, from 1994, where he turns over many of the vocal duties to his backup singers). What he is on Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl is simply great.
For the fortieth anniversary of his landmark second solo album (and the one that put him on the singer/songwriter map), Van rounded up a few of the original musicians, hired a couple horn players and a string section, rehearsed the unwieldy band once, and then hit the Hollywood Bowl stage determined to wing it. The results, recorded over two nights in November, 2008, are nearly miraculous. What we get is the entire Astral Weeks album, albeit played slightly out of order. Then he tosses in Listen to the Lion and Common One for good measure. Those of you who know Van's early recordings know that these songs basically define the Holy Grail of a certain esoteric movement, of which Van is the primary if not the sole practitioner, in which Musical Performer Goes Apeshit/Has Out-of-Body Mystical Experience Where Muses/Gods/Ancient Caledonian Ancestors Are Encountered.

On the original albums (and I'd recommend Astral Weeks and 1972's St. Dominic's Preview as the best examples) these are strange and hair-raising experiences indeed. They're a little more subdued and earthbound here, but still thrilling. Van has been a scintillating great singer, and can still be when he wants to be. He wants to be most of the time here, and the band he's assembled plays the music with passionate abandon. More impressively, the extended improvisational codas stretch the music in ways that are entirely suited to Morrison’s ecstatic singing. Van excels at moaning, humming, scatting, and soaring off into the stratosphere, and he gets, and takes, plenty of chances to sail into the mystic. The end result is a 70-minute tour-de-force, something delightfully unexpected and daring in a late career that has been increasingly characterised by playing it safe and keeping it simple.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Iggy Pop on Them

Here's Iggy Pop or James Newell Osterberg about the importance of Them on his early musical education.

I found out about music and groups from my friend in junior high school, Jim McLaughlin. He played me his Ray Charles records, and Elvis too. We formed a duo for the school talent show; I called it the Megaton 2. We played "What I'd Say" and "Let There Be Drums," which was a record I owned by Sandy Nelson. Later Jim and I started The Iguanas.
The radio in Detroit wasn't that great, but nowhere near as bad as it is now. You could hear the Beatles, Stones, Ronettes, Wailers, Booker T, early Motown, Jackie Wilson, the Kinks, and other good stuff on CKLW, the Detroit AM station, but you had to be patient and listen to lots of s--- like Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, Leslie Gore,
Frankie Avalon, etc. to hear what you liked.
When I later got a job at a record store, it really opened up my knowledge of music. The other people who worked there were experts in classical music, avant-garde, R&B and blues as well as rock, and I took it all in. The store was loosely organized, so when I wanted to hear a record, I just opened it up and played it right there.
I probably first heard Gloria by Them. When I bought the album, it was the American version of The Angry Young Them, the same album, but with a hideous ugly orange cover, and it just said "Them." Now I have a vinyl copy of the original. It still blows my mind. I would listen over and over and over to Mystic Eyes and One Two Brown Eyes. Those two cuts really influenced my ideas of what The Stooges could be.
At about that time I was listening to all the good English groups, plus Bob Dylan, plus anything that came from San Francisco, plus Love, plus tons of garage rock. Them was by far the most experimental, but also had a kind of doomed quality that I liked, because I could see that these guys weren't cute, didn't know how to dress and did not have a commercial touch except for the one hit, Gloria. Gloria at the time was completely inescapable all over the U of M (University of Michigan) campus and at any club, anywhere with live music. Every band covered it, including my own.  
I think the liner notes were really pathetic. What a great example of a repressed, apologetic, neurotic show-biz bullshitter. I never saw Them, but I saw Van play once at the Troubadour in LA. It was around the time of Moondance. He was very stern, and the group members all looked ill.
He was so cool, the best thing he did was pick up a chair with one hand and wave it over his head while he screamed. I saw him do the same thing on TV on American Bandstand. I guess it was his one stage move. I've always wondered where he got it. The way Van's voice ripped through the mic, and the simple arrangements and spirit of experiment, was a huge deal for me. I still listen to the record in the early mornings and when I want to get worked up.