Monday, 9 December 2013

Some More Random Van Stories

Buck Pennngton - I don’t have very many concert tickets left. But I do have one from a Van Morrison concert in the early 80’s. It was at the Dominion Theatre in London in the early 1980s. It was my PEAK rock 'n' roll experience --rushing the stage for Van's encore that evening, a rousing rendition of Caravan. It never got any better than that, ever.

Scott Mc Nally - Oddly enough, I didn't pay Van Morrison too much attention while I was growing up in the late 60's and early 70's. I knew his many hits well, enjoyed them, but never really delved into him. I was mainly into the rambling progressive rock of that era. As I entered my early 30's, I found myself with a copy of Avalon Sunset and realised what I'd been missing all those years.

Ronny Elliott   -   Most of my heroes have turned out to be really nice guys. Makes it easier to keep your gods on pedestals, I suppose. Every now and then, though, there's a really bad apple in there.  In 1967 I was playing in a band called Noah's Ark. We thought we were hotshots but here we were booked to play our first show in New York. I was reasonably sure that the hip Manhattan audience would immediately identify us as hicks with a phony cool act. We were in town to record at Decca's studios and our pal, Rodney Justo, put us on the bill with his band, the Candymen, at Steve Paul's Scene on West 46th Street in the village.

Also on the bill were Blood, Sweat and Tears. They were an instrumental combo then featuring Al Kooper's piano. Finally there was Van Morrison. I knew the name because Brown Eyed Girl was a current radio hit.
It turns out that we had the same publicist, an older gentleman named Morty Wax. Somehow we got the word that Van was interested in hiring us to be his new band. He was unhappy with his current lineup. Well, to say that his band was magnificent is to understate the case. I only remember that Danny Armstrong was the bassist.

During his set Morrison scowled, complained, cussed and scowled some more. He kept turning his own mic off with the switch when he would try to play harmonica. That would lead to him kicking at the P.A. speakers and cussing some more. Rodney tells me now that the sound system was the Candymen's and that the other guys had to hold him back from removing Van from the stage. At one point he stopped in the middle of a song, looked around and pronounced, "It's hot in here. Where's the little creep who runs this joint?"
I immediately spotted Steve Paul, whose ego was his calling card, marching up the aisle to the stage. With his arm around Van's shoulder they moved off into the crowd. A crowd, I should add, that held Rick Zehringer and Jim Morrison among other notables.

I saw them sitting together with drinks at a little table in the front later and Rodney told me the next day that Van had been fired. I always wish that we would have ended up as his band. I know that it wouldn't have lasted long but I'm pretty sure that there would be good stories from the adventure.
I didn't cross paths with him again until 1970. Duckbutter was playing a small festival in Miami and Van was on the bill. We were there in the middle of the afternoon for a sound check. My friend, Harry, came out of the bathroom, grumbling, "There's some little red headed guy in the bathroom bragging about how long he's been in show business."

"That's Van Morrison," I explained.
"No, this guy's British."

"He's Irish. That's Van Morrison."

Kirsten Thien   -   We popped in to BazBar one evening and I sat in with the band. I sang Van Morrison’s Moondance. Sort of. No matter that I barely knew any lyrics past the first line and didn’t know the key that would be good for me, so I was singing weirdly high by the “night’s magic” part. It was awful (after a stunning first line I’m sure ;). Anyway, I kept a low profile for the rest of the week and I hoped the owner wouldn’t recognise me when I sent a booking package and a copy of my first record to him upon my return to NYC. From then on, I’d contact him once a year, sending the newer records each time I had one. Finally, in May of 2012, I got the call.

Jenny Lewis (singer)   -   Van Morrison’s Crazy Love was on a mixtape that Ad-Rock made in the '90s. It somehow ended up in my '64 Chevy Malibu tape player. This tape changed my life by introducing me to Keith Richards via Before They Make Me Run. The incredible Crazy Love was on the flip side. These background vocals partly inspired my collaboration with the Watson Twins.

Canyonsteve - Great musician, but he can be a twit. Used to see him a lot when he lived in Marin, and played at the Lion's Share frequently. He could be a fascist backstage. Most of the people that dealt with him knew this. One problem (maybe), and getting out of my area of expertise, is/was that he was basically shy, an introvert, so he dealt with it by using a heavy handed approach.

J. Bates - I think you're right- the grumpiness was/is a symptom of being an introvert who has to deal with people. That said, Van should get over it, along with his frequent ranting against the music biz (which made him wealthy). Deal with it or get out of the game.

Blank Frank  -   In '81 I was involved in helping some friends make a self-produced 45 in LA. The producer of that single was Jeff Labes, the keyboard player for the Moondance LP. He talked about the sessions being a miracle that anything usable was made at all. Waiting hours for Van to show up, and when he did he was mostly incoherent from drinking. I still love this album, though not as much as Astral Weeks. I get a chuckle every time I spin Moondance because of it.

Wardo   -  I met one of the engineers on Moondance and the next, and he said that Van was certainly an odd guy, who would be all over the place and then pull off a song in one take.

Terry   -   I once met Van’s mother, in Jackson’s Point, Ontario. She had a sister who married Johnny Watson, who owned a pub there. I happened to work in that pub. Sammy Watson, is a first cousin of Van’s.

tedman1 - I had wanted to see Van Morrison perform live for many years, having enjoyed his music since Them and for a number of reasons beyond my control I never got the chance. Until one evening at the RCH Nottingham were my wife and I had seats only a few rows from the front. Over the years I have attended many many gigs and been privileged to see some of the greatest performers of our times. That evening at the RCH still ranks as one of the very best concerts I've ever witnessed. Van was in storming form, ably assisted by Georgie Fame on keyboards and amongst other notable musicians, Andy Fairweather-Low of Amen Corner fame. His voice was a revelation, he sounded 'better then on the cd', I was in absolute heaven when he played 'In the Garden' from No Guru, No Method, No Teacher.

His dexterity on alto sax and guitar was amazing a truly memorable evening, which I considered myself privileged to have attended. I was so knocked-out with Van that I immediately booked tickets for my boss and his wife and my wife when Van returned to the RCH within six months of this memorable experience. What a dreadful experience, a completely different band line-up and Van just tore through every number as if he had a taxi on the clock waiting outside for him. I have never been so disappointed. I think the foregoing explains the difficulty of being a fan of Van Morrison. You get what you get, if he's on form he's second to none, if he's not, then you have a disappointing experience. The man is an enigma but I still continue to buy his albums as he releases them, just like catching Van live, when they're good they're very very good, when they're bad...

 Statick   -   agreed, he's a c### of the highest order. A friend of mine a few years ago used to work at his studio (the Wool Hall, but I think he's moved since then) and had many tales of his excessive c##tery such as spitting 'F### OFF' at a young girl who asked for his autograph when he was sat outside a cafe drinking a coffee.

Wax Cat   -   A friend of mine used to work in a hotel which Van Morrison stayed at on tour. Apparently, he eats with his hands and is a lecherous pig. But I would forgive him anything for Astral Weeks.

SAUSAGES  -  Like anyone who's been around for a while he did some great & sublime stuff at the start - some Them, first few albums - including Hard Nose The Highway. Then he got screwed up by fame and what it does to your personal life and lost touch with reality and his muse. I'm sure Prince ain't too nice to his fans these days but that doesn't mean Purple Rain isn't a cracker. In my younger days I've seen Van around town and he was very pleasant to me actually.

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