Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 Van Morrison Quiz

1.  Which are Van's two most performed songs in concert?
2.  Launching Morrison’s solo career was which popular single released in June 1967?

3.  The first hit single for Morrison’s band Them was Baby, Please Don’t Go –which featured what famous B-side?

4. Has Van Morrison ever played concerts in Asia, Africa or South America?

5.  Who was the other famous member of Them besides Van Morrison?

6.  Morrison attended Elmgrove Primary School and then what High School in East Belfast?

7.  Dying from heart failure at 38 was which American producer of Brown Eyed Girl?

8. Which popular song was released as a single seven years after being the title track of a 1970 album?

9. In what year was Morrison inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

10. In early 1973 Morrison toured Europe and America with which backing group he had formed?


1. Moondance and Gloria
2. Brown Eyed Girl 
3. Gloria
4. No.
5. No one.  Some of the members were certainly fine musicians but none achieved the fame anywhere near Van. 
6. Orangefield (finally closing its doors in 2014)
7. Bert Berns
8.  Moondance  
9.  1993
10.  The Caledonia Soul Orchestra

Monday, 29 December 2014

Van Morrison - FAQ

Answers.com has a page of frequently asked questions about Van.  Strange.

Q.  What are the names of the musicians that form the group Van Morrison?
A.  Van Morrison is an individual singer, not the name of a group.

Q.  Is the jazz singer Janet Planet, the ex-Mrs Van Morrison?
A.  The true answer is NO!  Janet Planet the "Jazz Singer" was never married to Van Morrison.

Q.  On which Van Morrison album did Bobby Tench appear?
A.  Wavelength

Q. How many children has van Morrison?
A.  20

Q. Where does Van Morrison live?
A.  I believe he owns a house in his hometown of Belfast, in the Orby area of East Belfast. He lives in this house when he comes to Northern Ireland to visit family but when not in Northern Ireland I think he owns a house somewhere in Los Angeles.

Q.    Does Van Morrison still own a house in San Anselmo?
A.    No

Q. Who played the saxophone on the Van Morrison song Moondance?
A.  Jack Schrorer

Q. What song was co-written by Van Morrison and Phil Collins?
A. Hero

Q. Is Lulu related to Van Morrison?
A. No, she ain’t.

Q. Is Van Morrison a hermaphrodite?
A.  Yes, Van Morrison was born with both male and female genitalia?

Q. When did Gloria by Van Morrison come out?
A.  1965 - The song is actually credited to Them, which was the group he led.

Q. How many wives did Van Morrison have?
A. 4
Q. What was the eductation of Van Morrison?
A. Probably better than the person who wrote the question and misspelled "education".

Q. Did Van Morrison perform at Woodstock?
A. NO!! He might live in the area now - but he wasn't one of the entertainers at the original Woodstock Aug 15 -18, 1969.

Q. Who is Van Morrison's singing daughter?
A. Ivana

Q. Did The Pogues tour with van Morrison?
A. Not sure if they toured with him, but Shane definitely played a festival with Van (and a bunch of other legends). It was the Fleadh at Randall's Island, NYC, in Summer of 2007 with Van, Sinead, Christy, Shane & the Popes, etc.

Q. Where did Jim and Van Morrison play together?
A. Jim Morrison and Van Morrison's Them played two songs in an impromptu set on Hollywood Blvd at either the London Fog or the Whiskie A Go-Go. They did NOT tour together, and there are no known recordings of Gloria or the other song they jammed together on.

Q. What Van Morrison CD has the song These Are the Days?
A. Avalon Sunset
Van and His Twin George

Q. How many albums has Van Morrison sold?
A. 75 million

Q. Who sold more albums Bob Dylan or Van Morrison?

Q. Who played saxophone on the Van Morrison song Stranded?
A.  Stranded from Van Morrison's 2005 album Magic Time features himself playing the alto sax on that track.

Q. What song was a duet with Van Morrison and Phil Collins?
A. Van Morrison does not appear to have recorded any duets with Phil Collins, but Morrison has performed duets with many others, such as John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, and Shane MacGowan etc.   Although Van Morrison and Phil Collins both became members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the same time, i.e. in 2003, and they have each performed many duets, none, it would seem, have been with each other. In 1970 Van Morrison wrote 'Domino', a tribute to singer Fats Domino. In 1986, Phil Collins' group Genesis also wrote a song called Domino (The Last Domino) for their album Invisible Touch, but this song has the refrain 'You've got to go Domino' and is quite a different song to Van Morrison's Domino.

Q. What is the meaning of Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison?
A. Despite popular myth, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison is not about drugs. The song is about reminiscing over an interracial relationship. The song was written and recorded in 1967, toward the end of the Civil Rights Movement. The song was originally titled Brown-Skinned Girl. Van Morrison changed the title when the song was first recorded to make it more radio-friendly. Another example of the song's being changed to suit radio broadcast is the line "Laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey", which was taken from the first verse and used to replace the line "Making love in the green grass" in the third verse of the censored version.  

Q.  What year did Van Morrison record Ain't No Sunshine?
A.  Van Morrison didn't record Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone. Bill Withers did in 1971.

Q. Does van Morrison have any children?
A. Van Morrison has three children, two girls and one boy. First daughter Shana by first wife, Janet Planet. Other children by current wife, who, at one time was Miss Ireland.

Q. Was Van Morrison with The Troggs when they did Wild Thing?
A.  No, Van Morrison was never a member of The Troggs.

Q.  Did Morrison ever sing Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
A.  I searched it but I couldn't find it. I think Van Morrison didn't sing Have You Ever Seen the Rain? because I had Van Morrison's albums but this song isn't on any of them.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Extra Fan Stories

Sally Haig   -   I saw the inimitable singer, Van Morrison, at the Masonic last night. He had a full band, horns, keyboards, percussion and he played sax himself with great panache. His set list and his voice was perfect. He never talks to the audience but he is closely attentive to the audience. He never does an encore but it is not necessary. He closed with Gloria and the audience sang loud on the chorus.  As we walked back to the hotel I heard one person saying, ‘too many horns’. Never, you can never have too many horns in the horn section. I was dumbfounded by that remark….Van sings Jazz, Blues and Rock, and he takes the care and expense to have a full band accompany him for the sound he wants. It was very, very good. Too many horns indeed.

Stuart Bailie   -   1982 and Van Morrison is onstage in Belfast, chasing his rapture across Summertime In England. A roll call of the poets, the mystics, the romantics and the lightning catchers. More than eight minutes, and not a bit of it surplus. He’s calling out to Coleridge and Wordsworth, Blake, Whitman and Beckett. On saxophone there’s Pee Wee Ellis, sometime James Brown associate and he’s matching the singer’s fever, blowing with abandon. As is his wont, Van revises his  lyrics from the recorded version, sending more names into the ether.

Ralph Ueltzhoeffer   -   In June 1966, Morrison and the Doors were the opening act at the Whisky a Go Go on the last week of the residency of Van Morrison’s band Them. Van’s influence on Jim’s developing stage performance was later noted by John Densmore in his book Riders On The Storm: “Jim Morrison learnt quickly from his near-namesake’s stagecraft, his apparent recklessness, his air of subdued menace, the way he would improvise poetry to a rock beat, even his habit of crouching down by the bass drum during instrumental breaks.” On the final night, the two Morrisons and their two bands jammed together on Gloria.

Van Sickle   -   To be honest, I’m not actually trying to be glib. The first time I heard the album Moondance by Van I was with one of my first true loves. It was a warm summer evening, overlooking a lake, sitting inside my first pick-up truck. When Crazy Love started to play it was forever locked into my mind as the quintessential  romantic ballad. Sadly, the relationship ended before it ever had a chance to begin. Even the truck eventually fell apart. What was left was the memory of one the greatest feelings a person could ever have. Forever linked to that song, it seemed only fitting that the driving force that I knew existed inside of me would from then on be referred to as crazy love. When the time came to come up with a name for my company, Crazy Love seemed like the only logical choice.

Cillian Murphy   -   Beautiful Vision by Van Morrison. I am a big Van fan, always have been. Recently I re-bought  this album on vinyl. This was a record my dad listened to a lot when I was a kid. It was released in ’82, and is part of his Celtic revivalist/ mysticism period I guess. It is a strange mixture of folk and gospel with traditional elements thrown in. Although I dearly love Veedon Fleece,  Moondance, Astral weeks and St. Dominic's preview, there is something unique about this album. It has a serious groove to it, and deep soul. Listen to it again and give thanks to Van.

John Jay   -   I don’t want to say that I don’t like Van Morrison.  That is obviously not true or I would not be posting about him.  The thing is, I worked as a bouncer, all 160 lbs of me at the time…if only that were true today, at The Bull & Finch Pub (Cheers) in 1984 and 1985.  We had this DJ that played Van Morrison until I thought I was going to lose my lunch.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if he mixed in Wavelength or Blue Money once in a while, but no….it was straight Brown-Eyed Girl and Moondance until I didn’t care if I ever heard those songs ever again.   The girls love Van The Man.  I get that.  Really I do, but the guy has been a crooner for decades now.   Pop music, if that is what you want to call his once fresh sounding Irish Folk Rock, is a thing of Morrison’s past if you ask me.  Any artist is going to be pulverised back to the stone age if their catalogue is reduced to five songs, but in Morrison’s case the rest was sit down and pay attention ballads.  Usually last of my list on things to listen to at home.  That doesn’t make me right or wrong, it just makes me a respectful Van Morrison fan from a distance.   I own everything up until Avalon Sunset (1989), but I took a pass on the rest.  I don’t even listen to Astral Weeks that much to be honest.  I love Tupelo Honey (1971) and Saint Dominic’s Preview.  Even Moondance is still very listenable if you skip the title track (repetition, not quality is the reason for that remark).  There are several very good Van Morrison songs amongst those first ten or so records, but nobody ever hears them anymore.   He’s only got five songs don’t you know (insert sarcasm here)?  Most people would call themselves Van Morrison fans I would venture.

Nytechy   -   The tour with Georgie Fame in the 90s(?) was ace. Downhill from there I'm afraid.

Guey   -   Saw him at WOMAD with Georgie Fame early 90s, and he was excellent; even *gasp* joking with the crowd.

PigletsDad    -   I love Veedon Fleece. Saint Dominic's Preview is very good too. It's Too Late to Stop Now may well be one of the best live recordings ever made. I saw him live about 5 or 6 years ago. It was pretty patchy, but a few songs were brilliant.
Seeker   -   I like Common One but it's a difficult album to get into as it treads a fine line between genius and clever dickery. When Heart Is Open is a truly beautiful 15 minutes, one of my favs that.

David Ellwood   -   worked with him many times and he never fails to be an interminable misery. He has a large digital clock next to stage so he can time the end of the show. Doesn't matter where he is in the song he walks off stage.

Stackowax   -   I saw him in the mid-80s in Oxford and he did exactly that--just walked off in the middle of the song. Before that he seemed pissed that he even had to be there. Before he came out, his band did a couple of instrumental numbers and they were fantastic. While he was on stage, it was easily the worst live show of any kind I've ever seen.

d.m. butcher   -   Seen him live twice and would agree with everything said so far. I would not go out of my way to see him again. For me, Van’s music is the type that I have to be in the mood for, so that is another reason I wouldn’t bother seeing him again. I love some of his albums especially Hard Nose the Highway and Common One plus the usual top Van albums. Definitely best kept to records IMO.
The Decameron   -   I saw Georgie Fame looking into the wings then looking to the band and waving with his hand to say " keep bloody playing" while the Man was having an attack of stage fright again. I even like his religious stuff like "When will I ever learn" even though I'm an atheist.
Mrclick   -   I reckon I bought my copy of Common One in the early 80's (I have all Van's stuff up to 1995 when I pretty much gave up on his new music, although his catalogue continues to mesmerise me). Anyway, I played it once and filed it away under "forget" until half an hour ago. My heart mustn't have been open that day.  Just played it, and its wonderful. Reminds me of Miles Davis' In a Silent Way somehow.  Funnily enough Miles was a git, too. I, however, am quite nice, but a terrible musician.
Jeff Black  -  I have a family of Brown Eyed Girls, and that song has always been a big favourite among the four of us. We used to listen to it driving around with our daughters when they were little.  Recently, the four of us attended a wedding in the family.  We were sitting and enjoying a nice time. Then the DJ played Brown Eyed Girl. Immediately, I was transported back 20 years and could hear them both singing along in the back seat.

I sprang into action. I just knew that we had to have a “family moment” as this special song was playing, so my hand shot up to flag down our younger daughter to come over and join us. I waved and I waved but to no avail. She didn’t see me. Then I realised something really important. She didn’t see me because she was playing a valuable role that day.
At that moment, I had to let go, just a little, of one of my Brown Eyed Girls. She wasn’t the little girl in the back seat anymore. Being a parent is tough sometimes, but I guess we have to let them go to be what they are destined to be.  Now, I suppose, Van the Man might not be quite as sentimental about this experience as I seem to be. He probably isn’t really conscious of some knucklehead and his family in Southern California who love his 40 year old song. He may not care, but he might be surprised that what he “said” with this song is still sticking with people so many years later.
Lee Ranaldo   -   I went through a crazy period of listening to all of Van Morrison’s records.  I knew a couple of his records really well, but there were a lot of them I didn’t know. That’s kind of the beauty of music and art. There’s something to be said for discovering something in its time, but there’s also always the possibility of discovering something years after it was made and finding a way to tap into it. 

irons1965   -   I haven't played Common One for a while either. I think I shall go and get the CD out of the box this moment and rip a copy to my Squeezebox Touch.  I too bought Common One in the early 80's (on cassette) shortly after buying Inarticulate Speech... on release. I remember hearing ....John Donne on Kid Jensen's show and becoming smitten with Van Morrison thereafter. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Healing Game - Some Fan Opinions

I haven’t plugged Steve Hoffman Music Forums for awhile.  So many great Van fan opinions there.  Here’s a forum about The Healing Game

 Van Morrison - The Healing Game

Therebelsell   -   After searching for a little while, finally stumbled across The Healing Game in a record store yesterday. What a great record. Anyone else love this 90s rarity?

Sneaky Pete   -   It was his last really great record in my book. Vastly underrated he was at another creative peak. What band too, they had played together a lot and it shows. I love Pee Wee Ellis' work on that record.

bubba-ho-tep   -   I have it, but haven't listened to it in a while. It's definitely more enjoyable than Days Like This but I find the followup to this, Back on Top, to be a stronger album overall. The Healing Game still suffers from a bit too much Brian Kennedy.

Sneaky Pete   -   Yes, Brian is the weakest link! I don't know why Van was so enamoured with him.

Pdenny   -   Hardly a rarity (seen all the time in used bins here in L.A.) but imo it's Van's last truly great album. The title track is up there with his greatest performances. I'm not particularly bothered by Kennedy here--it's far far worse on other albums.

Goombay   -   Awesome record. The Healing Game, Sometimes We Cry. and the great live version of Burning Ground.

bubba-ho-tep   -   I consider The Healing Game to be Van's Flaming Pie (I did indeed just throw a McCartney reference into a Van Morrison thread, thank you very much) in that it marked the beginning of a new "golden period" after a few years of fair to middling releases (in Van's case ,Too Long in Exile and Days Like This). I think that Van has really kept the quality of his releases pretty high since The Healing Game. Just my opinion, of course.

Tom H   -   The Healing Game is definitely a return to form. I think it stands up beside No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, Poetic Champions Compose, A Sense of Wonder. Not his greatest works, but still excellent. Rough God Goes Riding is one of my favourite Van songs ever.  I absolutely hated that Mose Allison album. IMO, that's Van's worst album by a loooooonnng shot.  Brian Kennedy doesn't really bother me.

Peter M    -    The first song on each side of the LP - Rough God Goes Riding and Burning Ground -- are both top drawer songs that are best played loud. The band is great and Pee Wee Ellis really shines on this album. I particularly like side one of the LP.   In my opinion, The Healing Game is a great album and much stronger than Days Like This, but I think Back on Top is a better album overall. Unlike others, I like the Brian Kennedy effect on the songs on The Healing Game

Craig   -   I love this album. The CD single of Rough God Goes Riding had two nice B-sides - At The End Of The Day and an alternate version of the title track.

bubba-ho-tep   -   At the End of the Day" was eventually released as a bonus track on the 2008 remaster.

dee   -   I thought those Healing Game songs I heard in concert were Spectacular.  I like Days Like This and Brian Kennedy. 

curbach   -   The original cd sounds great. As a 1997 release I would assume the mastering was the same worldwide. I think this album was part of the last round of remasters, but I'd say there is approximately a 0% chance that the sound was improved. Never heard the lp.

Peter M   -   Asking the important questions: Brian Kennedy: For or Against?
curbach   -   Against. Mr. Kennedy is a major reason I don't rate this album as highly as a lot of other people do.
twowwheels   -   Great album. I've got it on vinyl but haven't listened to it in a while. My recollection is that the SQ is pretty solid. Brian doesn't bother me as a harmony singer on the album.

Crispy Rob   -   It's the last Van Morrison album that I really got into, and there seemed to be consensus at the time that it was a very strong one. I saw him in '97 on a triple bill with Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and then in '98 on a double bill with Dylan and the live versions of this material were also really strong. I only have the original CD, but would also be curious how the remaster compares (and did not know it had bonus tracks). I haven't kept up with Van much since Back on Top and the Mose Allison one, other than picking up the live Astral Weeks (and seeing the terrific Astral Weeks show in Berkeley a few years ago). 

Carserguev   -   AWESOME album, Rough God Goes Riding is FANTASTIC! He just roars on that one!  He was, IMHO, in the midst of a string of good albums, which served to make me a fan for life... Back On Top is also fantastic, more bluesy, less jazzy perhaps...   Many's the time I've wanted to strangle poor Brian Kennedy... His excruciating habit of repeating Van's lines like a castrated parrot ALL THE TIME got on my nerves big time. Was very glad when Van finally got rid of him. 

Peter M   -   The Back in Top vinyl sounds good. My copy has low surface noise and I play it rather than the CD. There must not have been many pressed as it is rarely listed on EBay and expensive. I had much better luck finding the The Healing Game on vinyl for a reasonable price.

dbeamer407   -   I've loved this album since it's came out. I loved some of the songs on Days Like This (the title track, Perfect Fit and I'll Never Be Free) but I wasn't prepared for how good this album would be. Rough God Goes Riding is a ways behind Listen To The Lion on my favourite Van list but it's still up there. I've always liked Piper At The Gates Of Dawn too.

Headfone   -   Brian Kennedy. What was Van thinking? I never play Healing Game and Days Like This. I'm a Van Morrison completist. That's the only reason I haven't thrown them away. Thankfully, he got over it.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Gospel According to Van Morrison

Steve Stockman's blog called Soul Surmise purports to be about art and faith.  So many have tried to work out what Van "is".  In some ways he's a spiritual chameleon hinting at things and influences without actually acknowledging full-fledged membership.  He's not willing to die for any cause.  You won't see Van waving a flag, threatening to cut the head off a journalist or burning down a church in the name of peace.  

(What follows is a post about a church event called The Gospel According To... Van Morrison - songs performed and insights drawn - which took place at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast on March 20, 2011)

We always begin our Gospel According To... evenings by asking why we should be looking at this artist in what is, a least in disguise, a Church service. Van Morrison gives us a wide array of reasons. His upbringing on Hyndford Street in East Belfast meant that he was conditioned in the shadow of all kinds of Churches, Mission Halls, Gospel Halls and Kingdom Halls. It was very unlikely that an artist like Morrison who has paid so much attention to his childhood in his near fifty year career would not find these influencing his art. Later he became an enthusiast of Comparative Religion. He read books and wrote songs about all kinds of religious ideas like Scientology, Roscrucianism and the Tibetan influence of Alice Bailey. Into the middle of this wide ranging mix Morrison’s Christian legacy enters and exits in orthodox and unorthodox ways. Lots of his songs have a deep spirituality as a result.

Many of you will be aware that I am always keen to ask if an artist is a cheap shyster or a visionary and honest artisan. I am always asking if the music on our iPods is healthy for our souls. When you ask about the iPodic obedience of listening to Van Morrison there are many positive traits in his work. His authenticity, his hopefulness, his rehumanising of people, his alternative imagining and even the spiritual devotional. 

This is all dressed in Morrison’s sense of place which is so absolutely and crucially relevant to us. He is a Belfast boy. Somehow out of the claustrophobic streets of the shipyard end of Belfast a man appeared who would take the very ordinary of his geography, places like Beechy River, Davy’s Chipper, Sandy Row, Hyndford Street, Cypress Avenue and wait for it... Fitzroy, and make them places of transcendence. The same place that birthed the world beyond through wardrobe in Narnia has given us one of rock’s most iconic records and transcendent visions; Astral Weeks.

There is always a mystical intention about Van Morrison’s work. He told Steve Turner some years ago, “I am a Christian mystic.” Perhaps Tom Petty’s exposition is right and he just wants that “for just one minute everything could be alright.” Maybe there is a more serious religious agenda. Or maybe the religious images are just an instrument added to his muse. Anyway tonight we are going to venture in the slipstream, on the viaducts of his dreams and see what we might glean.

As we listen to the songs chosen by our artists tonight we will engage with songs of catharsis, songs of hopefulness, songs of spiritual confession and intention. As in his entire catalogue from Astral Weeks to Keep It Simple God will appear very frequently and even when he doesn’t there is something beyond the horizontal going on. The aforementioned Madame George was described by one commentator as “part blues, part Protestant testifying... with the insistent verve of a Presbyterian minister...” You will get all of that tonight!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Patti Smith's Gloria

Ray Padgett has written a great piece at the Cover Me blog about how Patti Smith's version of Gloria came to be.  Cover Me concentrates on "the Cover Song".  Here's most of the post about Patti Smith's Gloria:

The Story Behind Patti Smith's "Gloria"

Before there was a song called Gloria, there was a poem called “Oath.” And the transition from one to the other might never have happened without forty bucks and one loud bass note.

Smith wrote “Oath” in 1970, opening with a line that wouldn’t become famous for five more years: “Christ died for somebody sins but not mine.” A giant kiss-off to her cult-like Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, the poem rattled off lines like “Christ, I’m giving you the goodbye, firing you tonight” and “Adam placed no hex on me.” The hostility towards religion that shocked so many in Gloria pales in comparison to the text of the original poem.

She performed “Oath” at her very first poetry reading, at St. Marks Church’s prestigious Poetry Project series in February 1971. She kept performing Oath in both solo and duo incarnations for the next few years. When she released her first book of poems, 1972s Seventh Heaven, she left Oath out. It wasn’t until 1975 that “Oath” would get any sort of release – and by then it had changed rather dramatically. 

Smith’s poem “Oath” and Them’s garage-band staple “Gloria” merged in a spontaneous moment one day in 1974. Playing regular concerts at Max’s Kansas City and other small clubs, Smith now had a three-piece band and the practiced what they called “fieldwork,” or what a different sort of band might call jamming.

“In the beginning it was just Lenny and I, and then we brought in a piano player, who was Richard Sohl,” Smith told Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross in 2006. “So it was just the three of us… and we did very simple songs, because the configuration was so simple. We just chose songs that were basically three chords, so I could improvise over them.” A song so simple a child could play it, “Gloria” was a staple of these sessions – at a later point they auditioned second guitarists by playing Gloria for forty minutes or more to see who dropped out first (after many others couldn’t handle it, Ivan Kral stayed the course and soon joined the band).

One day though, it evolved into something new. In practice Patti wanted to play it. She hit a big E note: boinnnggg! She recited a bit of ‘Jesus died for somebody sins but not mine.’ You know, moving into Gloria seemed like a natural progression. Especially when we began, there was not a lot of forethought into what we did.”

From the moment Smith hit that E note, Gloria ceased being a cover by the strictest standards. Over half the words in the final version are her own, and even the bits she takes from Van Morrison are often radically rewritten. 

From the original seed, Gloria evolved. Smith began adding new lyrics until only the first six lines of “Oath” remained. They began playing it live in late ’74, where it opened with a bass guitar playing the familiar piano riff, reminiscent of that first bass note inspiration.

For a live radio concert in ’75, Smith even used the occasion to put the call out for a drummer, the last missing ingredient in the transition from poetry to rock-and-roll band. After a little self-mythologising about how the band got together, she reaches the next stage while the band vamps behind her: “So they got together and they looked for a drummer. And I know you’re out there! And I’m waiting for you! And we will go, and the rest will follow! The rest will follow! And oh it will be so good…” and right back into the song. After the show ended, Clive Davis went backstage with the contract for a seven-album deal on his new label Arista. And before long, they added Jay Dee Daugherty on drums.

With the Clive Davis deal in place, the band set out to record an album. Going into the studio in August 1975, Smith wanted to keep covers to a bare minimum. “On my record, I’m trying to reveal as much about myself as I can,” she told Crawdaddy around that time.

Some have written that Kaye talked Smith into including Gloria on the album, a story he disputes. “Nobody needed convincing because we were all on the same page,” he told Rock Town Hall. However, there was little question this song was closer to his heart than it was hers.

Kaye had been performing the song in its more traditional form since before he met Smith, and has often called it “the national anthem of garage rock” (having released the acclaimed Nuggets compilation a few years prior, he was the undisputed authority on the subject). “To me, Gloria is the greatest of them all,” he told author David Todd in 2012. 

Smith didn’t seem to feel as strongly. In her earliest interviews, she constantly mentions a trinity of musical heroes: Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison. Yet that other Morrison – Van – never comes up, despite, by that point, having proven himself in both the worlds of rock and roll raunch and highbrow poeticisms that Smith herself would draw upon. Nevertheless, Kaye – or good sense – prevailed, and the recording got underway at Hendrix’s Electric Lady studios.

The Velvet Underground’s John Cale was producer, but once he agreed and the sessions began, she began thinking she’d made a mistake. “My picking John was about as arbitrary as picking Rimbaud [as my favourite poet],” she told Rolling Stone in 1976. 

Over the month-long recording sessions, they fought over everything, from the band’s cheap instruments (Cale made them buy new ones) to the amount of improvisation – Cale pushed for more, eventually pushing the formerly 4-minute track Birdland past the nine-minute mark. The fighting didn’t appear to damage Gloria, though, which emerged relatively unchanged from the live versions the band had been playing around town.

The band – Smith, Kaye, Kral, Daugherty, and Sohl playing the studio’s massive grand piano – recorded the track totally live, according to engineer Bernie Kirsch in 2009. “The band was a live group; they were playing in the clubs and they had the songs down, so when they went in the studio it was mostly a matter of picking which performance was best,” he said. “There were not a lot of fixes I can recall.”

By the time it came to mixing, Cale was gone. “I’m not sure what occurred, but he didn’t complete the project,” Kirsch said. “If I recall, he wasn’t there for most of the mixing. I don’t know what the politics were — it wasn’t in my domain. So I basically took over and did the mix with Patti.”

Horses was released on December 13, 1975, with Gloria as the opening track (a month later it was released as a single, backed with a live “My Generation”). The critical reaction was immediate, with plenty of praise (the New York Times called it “extraordinary”) and a few detractors (the Village Voice derisively dubbed it “an ‘art’ statement”). But whatever the reaction to the album, many honed in on “Gloria” in particular.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many focused on the first line of the album, slightly rewritten to “Jesus died for somebody sins, but not mine.” Was this a call to arms for atheism? A reflection of Nietsche’s “God is dead”? Simply your everyday punk-rock provocation? For anyone following Smith’s career, that attitude wouldn’t have been a surprise. She speaks about rebelling against her strict Jehovah’s Witness upbringing in many early interviews. “My father taught us not to be a pawn in God’s game,” she told Interview in 1973. "The religious part I guess is from my mother, who is a complete religious fanatic.”

Yet anyone outraged – or even anyone thinking Smith was taking a definitive stand – perhaps missed the sense of humour, the tongue just a little in cheek. In her first-ever interview in 1972, already regularly performing “Oath” live, she told Victor Bockris, “When I say that bad stuff about God or Christ, I don’t mean that stuff. I don’t know what I mean; it’s just it gives somebody a new view, a new way to look at something. I like to look at things from ten or fifteen different angles, you know. So it gives people a chance to be blasphemous through me.”

Smith’s definite statement on the matter may have come thirty years later, when she reflected on Gloria to Terry Gross. “People constantly came up to me and said ‘You’re an atheist, you don’t believe in Jesus,’ and I said ‘Obviously I believe in him’… I’m saying that, y’know, that the concept of Jesus, I believe in. I just wanted the freedom. I wanted to be free of him. I was 20 years old when I wrote that, and it was sort my youthful manifesto. In other words I didn’t want to be good, y’know, but I didn’t want him to have to worry about me, or I didn’t want him taking responsibility for my wrongdoings, or my youthful explorations. I wanted to be free. So it’s really a statement about freedom.”

“I always enjoyed doing transgender songs,” she told The Observer in 2005. “That’s something I learnt from Joan Baez, who often sang songs that had a male point of view. No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist.”

A lot of people had opinions. The obvious question was: What did Van think? If he ever said anything to her privately, Smith hasn’t said. His one public statement on the matter, in a Rolling Stone profile two years later, reveals muted approval.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” he said when asked about the cover. “I could even dig that for what it is. It doesn’t floor me like some things. I’m the type of cat that would listen to black soul music or black gospel music… that’s what I would listen to. But if something comes along like what Patti Smith is doing, I have a tendency now to accept it as what it is and get off… it’s just what it is and I enjoy it that way.”

Since then, other artists have been more forthcoming. “The opening to Gloria might be one of the greatest moments in American music,” Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha said when inducting her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Johnny Marr called it “a massive influence on me” and said that “she gave new energy to American garage rock.” 

With Horses having her raised her profile outside of New York, she continued to tour and perform Gloria as her regular set closer. Most notably, she performed the song on the first season of Saturday Night Live, supposedly singing the “Jesus died” line right as the stroke of midnight signalled Easter’s arrival. CBGB tuned all their TVs in the bar to Channel 4 so everyone could watch – and earned themselves a shoutout at the performance’s end. 

In January 1977, Smith’s relationship with the song changed forever, without her even playing it. Six songs into a show in Tampa opening for Bob Seger, she fell 15 feet off the stage and broke several vertebrae in her neck. After an experience than could have killed her, she began reevaluating “Gloria”‘s message. In fact, she blamed her attitude toward the divine for her injury.

“I fell during ‘Ain’t It Strange’,” she told Melody Maker not long after the accident. “Now all this sounds like mythical bull but it is a truth – just like the guy at Altamont got shot during ‘Under My Thumb,’ I fell just as I was saying ‘hand of God, I feel the finger.’ And I did feel the finger push me right over. It was like, I spend so much time challenging God when I perform and in everything I do… that I feel it was his way of saying, ‘you keep battering against my door and I’m gonna open that door and you’ll fall in.’”

“I did say ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,’ and I still believe that,” she continued. “I wasn’t saying that I didn’t like Christ or didn’t believe in him, just that I wanted to take the responsibility for the things I do… I’m a one-to-one girl and I have always sought to communicate with God through myself. And I feel that was one of the reasons I fell offstage.”

When she returned, the song stopped getting played quite as often. Then on September 10, 1979, in Florence, she played her biggest concert ever, her last before a 16-year retirement. For the first time ever, she opened with her usual show-closer: Gloria. And she made one dramatic change to reflect her new beliefs. “Jesus died for somebody’s sins,” she sang. “Why not mine?”

Smith continues to perform Gloria regularly at her concerts in its original form, but she’s lucky she released it when she did. If she tried to get permission now for her quasi-cover, she probably couldn’t.

“You can’t really do that with most songs, because artists won’t give you the licensing,” she told LA City Beat in 2007. “I developed the Prince song When Doves Cry and put a biblical verse in the middle of it, and he blocked it.