Monday, 30 November 2015

Van's Awards

Van is a much-honoured musician, composer and performer.  His longevity, combined with his unique combination of talents has meant his name is invariably mentioned in most award settings related to music.  The following is an attempt to list his lifetime of achievement. Please let me know what I've missed.

International Honours 

In June of 2015 Van Morrison was awarded an honorary knighthood during the Queen’s annual Birthday Honours celebration.  Sir George Ivan Morrison, received the United Kingdom’s highest individual honour for his “services to the music industry and to tourism in Northern Ireland.”

Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1996)

Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (1996)  -  from the government of France

Honorary Degrees

Van has received Honorary Doctorates from two universities.  The University of Ulster (1992) awarded him a doctorate in literature while Queen's University Belfast (July 2001) awarded an honorary doctorate of music.  (Though really we all know Van's education came from The School of Hard Knocks (2008)) 

Music Awards 
Morrison has received a number of major music awards in his career, including six Grammy Awards (1996–2007); inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (January 1993), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (June 2003), and the Irish Music Hall of Fame (September 1999).  He also received a Brit Award (February 1994). 

The Hall of Fame inductions began in 1993 with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Morrison was notable for being the first inductee not to attend his own ceremony, so that Robbie Robertson from The Band accepted the award on his behalf. When Morrison became the initial musician inducted into the Irish Music Hall of Fame, Bob Geldof presented Morrison with the award.Morrison's third induction was into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for "recognition of his unique position as one of the most important songwriters of the past century." Ray Charles presented the award, following a performance during which the pair performed Morrison's Crazy Love, from the album, Moondance

Morrison's BRIT Award was for his Outstanding Contribution to British Music. He was presented with the award by former Beirut hostage, John McCarthy, who while testifying to the importance of Morrison's song, Wonderful Remark called it "a song ... which was very important to us."

He has also been awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1995, the BMI ICON award in October 2004 for Morrison's "enduring influence on generations of music makers", and an Oscar Wilde: Honouring Irish Writing in Film award in 2007 for his contribution to over fifty films, presented by Al Pacino who compared Morrison to Oscar Wilde as they were both "visionaries who push boundaries". 

In April 2006 the mayor of Nashville declared a Van Morrison Day to honour the singer. 

He was voted the Best International Male Singer of 2007 at the inaugural International Awards in Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London.

Three of Morrison's songs were included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll: Brown Eyed Girl, Madame George and Moondance.

In September 2014 Van received a Slim Harpo Legend Award for his recognition of the music of Slim Harpo and for his recognition of Louisiana Blues music. Van's rendition of the Slim Harpo song Don't Start Crying Now has been performed by him throughout his career and was one of the first songs that he ever recorded with the band Them in 1964.

In October of 2014 Van received two BMI Million-Air awards for 11 million plays of Brown Eyed Girl and 5 million plays for Have I told you Lately.

In June, 2015 Van received two awards. Tom Jones presented Van with the Prudential BluesFest Lifelong Achievement Award to recognise and acknowledge Van’s contribution to Blues & Soul music. In that same month Van attended the Songwriters Hall of Fame event in New York to receive the Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honour bestowed by the organisation.

Other Awards 

Van Morrison was awarded the GQ Legend Award in September, 2014 at the British GQ Men of the Year Awards. 

Recognition on Lists 

Morrison has also appeared in a number of music lists, including the Time magazine list of The All-Time 100 Albums, which contained Astral Weeks and Moondance, and he appeared at number thirteen on the list of WXPN's 885 All Time Greatest Artists. In 2000, Morrison ranked twenty-fifth on American cable music channel VH1's list of its 100 Greatest Artists of Rock and Roll. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Van Morrison forty-second on their list of Greatest Artists of All Time. Paste ranked him twentieth in their list of "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" in 2006. Q ranked him twenty-second on their list of 100 Greatest Singers in April 2007 and he was voted twenty-fourth on the November 2008 list of Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Funny Things People Say - Part 10

Bob Dylan   -   Tupelo Honey has always existed and Van Morrison was merely the vessel and the earthly vehicle for it.

Fox   -   I personally think Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is the beginning of "album rock", and also the greatest album ever made, but that's for another day because I don't want to diminish Sgt. Pepper's legacy. Not at all.

bubba-ho-tep   -   I consider The Healing Game to be Van's Flaming Pie.

Julie   -   One of my co-workers told me yesterday that she always thinks of me when she hears Van Morrison.  That was a nice compliment.

Grant Mosesian - As far as Van Morrison, I'm not sure he even belongs on any kind of list whatsoever. When one of his "songs" comes on the radio I like to dare people to tell me what the lyrics are. No one has won yet.

The Awesome PT  -   I’d pick Van Morrison. I don’t tend to follow trends in therapy, but rather develop my own style of treatment based on things I learn from people I respect. I tend to be laid back, but not in a sleepy way (I hope…. I’m envisioning Crazy Love). I can also pep things up if necessary (Think Brown-Eyed Girl). Van also tends to use happy words, even in his more sad songs. No need for negativity.

Jeff K.   -   Van, Bob, Frank Lloyd Wright---they can be kind of pricks because they are artistic and justifiably egotistical because it allows them to do what they do. The Eagles and people like that aren't great enough to justify it. Somehow, too, there's a difference between cantankerous and douchebag.

Glen O'Brien   -    If it was just about voice I think Van might have had a leg up on Mick Jagger.

Chyonne Kreltszheim   -   One of the partners asked for Moondance by Van Morrison, and I was only too happy to oblige. I started smoothly enough, but as the chorus approached, and the melody got higher and higher, I realised that I’d made a huge mistake. I was singing it in the wrong key!

JusBass   -   Last week I joined Bri Arden at Dubway Studios to record an acoustic cover of both Jessie J‘s Domino and Van Morrison‘s classic tune of the same name, with a little King Harvest mixed in for good measure. After all, the only thing better than a Dr. Luke creation is a Dr. Luke creation chewed up and remixed.

Christopher Laws   -   Madame George, with its sense of Shalimar’s sweet scent, drifting and lingering in the cool night-time air, both motivated and supported my fledgling interest in perfumery: there was an obvious impulse towards sharing something of the song’s atmosphere, something of its world. Shalimar was one of the first two perfumes I bought around three or four years ago – alongside Guerlain’s Vetiver – and I wear it whenever I feel so inclined.

Trawicks   -   You can find interviews with Van Morrison from the 1970s where he softened his Belfast accent to the point where he sounded nearly American (and this was only after recently moving to the states!). Interestingly, when he moved back to Ireland, the brogue came right back with him.

Gavin Keeney   -   I heard covers of Van Morrison songs from the Moondance period in bars by local folk musicians in those first years of college. I was 18 years old and the music — combined with rivers of draft beer — was a near-death experience.

Leonie Cooper   -   It's pretty easy to come up with reasons why a Van Morrison gig could disappoint:

a) He neglects to play the original version of Brown Eyed Girl, and instead kicks off a 15-minute pan-pipe jam inspired by his soul-searching travels in the Andes.
b) He rekindles his love affair with Scientology and brings Tom Cruise onstage for a skiffle paean to the wondrous ways of L Ron Hubbard.
c) The crowd find themselves banned from going to the bar to get a stiff drink to numb the dull, throbbing pain caused by two hours of incessant MOR rock.

This time, Van the Man has gone for c) - preventing his audience from quaffing booze at tomorrow night's Brighton Dome gig, and for two shows in Liverpool and Birmingham next month.

Tim Worstall   -   Decades ago Van used to come into the Old Green Tree occasionally. Absolutely fine until anyone spoke to him (whether or not they knew who he was) when he would storm out. Odd chap really.

Phil Sweeney   -   Van Morrison is called Van The Man because Van The Complete Wanker doesn't rhyme. True fact.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Van at the Harp Bar December 31, 2013

Where's Wally?

To end 2013 in style, The Harp Bar hosted none other than Belfast, blues legend, Van Morrison to start the new year off with a bang.  The Harp Bar which opened in late September, sold only 120 tickets, all without the help of any mass advertising.  With many regulars from the Duke of York and surrounding bars adopting this bar to their repertoire, word of mouth solely drove this event amongst local Belfast drinkers.  Unsurprisingly tickets sold out within fifteen minutes. On the very frosty night prior to ticket sales, a queue had formed from midnight with fans waiting in cars and on pavements outside the busy bar.  As I swept the ground outside whilst finishing my own night shift there, some fans told me they were buying tickets for family in America, who were prepared to fly over for their chance to see “Van the Man” in close proximity.

I arrived on NYE at 6 o’clock to hear the final sound check and hear the extremely talented, American-born, backing singer Deena rattle off “Amazing Grace” into her microphone.  Little did I know what raw talent all members of Van’s band had; after more sound checks the staff were not only astounded by the ease at which the musicians performed but now eager to hear the man himself.  The stage was extended to fit in a small brass section and a keyboard for musical accompaniment but unfortunately the stage was still too small for Van’s ego.  After seeing a lengthy set list before Van entered the stage, the accompanying band and bar staff were astonished (but probably not really surprised) to find Van leaving after a 40min set.  I had asked to work the event, being a Van Morrison fan and was hoping to hear classics like Days like This and Into the Mystic.  The only songs I recognised were Brown Eyed Girl (classic but tedious) which was a quarter through the list and also “Moondance” which was nearing the end of his set.  An initially nervous audience had just started to loosen up and interact with the introduction of Brown Eyed Girl which little did we know would turn out to be his final song.

Nonetheless, after speaking with customers after Van’s performance the general consensus was satisfaction.  Many were just grateful Van showed up in the first place and were grateful to hear the ageing blues legend.  On reflection, I was too.  Due to Van’s requests such as no air conditioning (it hurts his throat) and particularly no alcohol to be served during his performance, I was free to watch him play a lukewarm albeit( physically) hot set.  Although initially disappointed with the set list, I considered that although people pay to hear their favourite songs, the appearance of this once great man was enough to sell tickets and keep punters happy.  It was a once and a lifetime experience to hear Van’s laid-back, bluesy vocals projecting into his golden microphone and of course watch him play his saxophone with ease.

Finally The Big Kahuna ended the night with a real high with their energetic and audience-rallying performance.  Jokingly thanking Van Morrison for opening for them, the Big Kahuna automatically sympathised with the audience and set the jovial tone for the night.  Van’s backing trumpet player (a haemophiliac whose wife makes Van a lovely lemon drizzle cake) stayed on for the first half of the performance and was nothing short of electric (and a nice chatty man as you can see.  Apologies for lack of names lovely trumpeter, I forgot to write them down L).  

The other stand out performer for me was Big Kahuna member and also Van’s backing saxophone player, Dave Howell.  Dave’s solos continually got the crowd on their feet with his amazing musical ability and was also extremely modest when being flooded with compliments from adoring fans.  Finally, the husband and wife (and baby bump) duo of Karen and Robin Martin on vocals made the audience feel at home with their natural onstage energy and inclusive performance.  The Big Kahuna played well known, dance rousing covers such as “Valerie”, “Mustang Sally” and “Proud Mary” with their own Kahuna touch.  Staff and customers alike were dancing, singing and hugging together, creating a lively communal atmosphere which ended everyone’s night in a smile.

What a lovely bunch to warm up the crowd after what some felt as a tepid performance from Van the man. All in all it was a hugely successful night.  Customers and staff both came away feeling happy, slightly boozy and definitely entertained.  Although it may appear to some that I may not have been so complimentary to Van, you must understand the singer’s infamous grumpy behaviour and diva-ish demands prior to performing.  But to give “the man” his dues, for a 68 year old (who has received world-round critical acclaim, including six Grammy Awards, the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, being inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame) to play in a small Belfast venue knowing his fame and age, was an honour to watch.

I had one of the best NYEs of my life despite the fact that I was working.  Have I changed my attitude to Van Morrison? No, not at all I still love him!  

(Footage from this night can be accessed at Youtube.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Dancing the Light of Four Blood Moons: King Harvest and Van

Jason Wendleton's Defending Axl Rose blog represents everything I like about music blogs.  He writes from a real love of music and isn't constrained by the responsibility of churning out words for profit.  And unlike the professional, you feel the love of the true fan. Along the way artists, obscure or otherwise are explored. 


I’m sure I’ve bragged about it before, but I have a near-supernatural ability to recall the names of songs. When driving together, I frequently drive my wife nuts playing the “what song is this?” game. She hates it. Unlike me, she didn’t fill her head with useless musical trivia and is unable to name both the song title and artist (and sometimes even the album) to every random classic rock castaway. I bring this up because recently, I was wrong. And though I come across like a smug professor, I actually really enjoy the (albeit rare) occasions where I do not recognise a song or artist. I sometimes feel like Alexander The Great, sitting alone with no more worlds to conquer. When a new/old song hits my radar I feel the thrill of discovery I’ve mostly lost while listening to classic rock radio.

Which is why my world was recently turned upside down by Pandora recently with Dancing in the Moonlight. First of all, please don’t confuse this song with the fantastic Thin Lizzy song Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight) off their classic 1977 album BAD REPUTATION. No, I’m talking about the hit single from 1972 released by Van Morrison. At least, I always thought this was a Van Morrison song. But I was wrong. Dancing In The Moonlight does have a very ‘70s Van Morrison-ish vibe and would have fit nicely on Van Morrison’s classic album MOONDANCE (though it came out two years later). In fact, I attribute my own person confusion to Moondance. Sure, I guess it was weird to think that Van Morrison had two moon-themed songs during this time period, but I’ve always found the guy kinda strange. Anyway, I was wrong: Dancing In The Moonlight is actually a King Harvest song. What a silly mistake, right?

"Everything is serious and sad"
“Everything is serious and sad”

So who the hell was King Harvest? Well the reason why I’d never really heard of them (and you probably haven’t either) is that they were one-hit wonders. That one-hit being Dancing In The Moonlight. According to a quick Internet search, the band was formed in Paris, France by a group of Americans. The brother of the their drummer, a guy named Sherman Kelly, wrote the song in 1969. I think that’s a pretty cool story: guy writes song, gives it to his brother’s band, they have their one-hit. Everybody wins. Except for me, the guy who 43 years later is walking around thinking it’s a damn Van Morrison song.

Besides the obvious references to the moon, both songs share a similar jazzy feel. King Harvest’s lead singer, Dave Robinson, is a very fine vocalist and shares enough similarities to further compound the confusion. Though to be honest, a real Van Morrison fan would instantly spot the difference as I did when I listened to both songs back-to-back (800 times while writing this post). The production on the ’72 released Dancing In The Moonlight is scratchier and masks Robinson’s voice in a way that (at least to me) does make him sound like a younger Van Morrison. I’m assuming Moondance sounds better because a superstar recorded it with a superstar’s recording budget. Perhaps I could have avoided all this confusion had someone just spent a little more money.

Listening to all three songs, I think that King Harvest’s song is more akin to Thin Lizzy’s Dancing In The Moonlight in that it’s a simple, joyous ode to hanging out late at night, dancing. Van Morrison’s song is more complex and has 100% more saxophone. Also, because it’s Van Morrison, the track is fun but in a really stuffy, intellectual way.

It better look JUST like this...
It better look JUST like this…

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now and tonight’s blood moon phenomenon got me thinking about this mix-up. I know I’m crazy, but am I crazy in regards to this mix-up? What songs have you wrongly attributed to other artists? I’m sure that this happens all the time to music fans. Please share you semi-embarrassing gaffs below in the comments (unless you’re gonna tell me about how you were confused by Steeler's Wheel Stuck In The Middle With You, everybody thought that was Dylan).


lpon45   -   I always assumed Rescue Me was Aretha Franklin … nope, it was Fontella Bass. And it wasn’t until last year I realised Tina Turner pretty much copied Ann Peebles’ every inflection on her cover of Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain.

Jason Wendleton   -   Rescue Me isn’t Aretha? Oh, man…mind blown.

King Harvest   -   Thanks Jason. Enjoyed the article immensely. Love Van but we’ve been fighting this urban legend that he did Dancing in the Moonlight since 1973. All started with a blurb in Billboard about us that said “sounding a bit like Van Morrison”. Oh well, at least they didn’t say we sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks! All the best to you, King Harvest. 

Jason Wendleton   -   Wow, thanks for stopping by and reading my little blog. I’ve heard your songs before, but for some reason Pandora has really been putting you guys in heavy rotation. I’ll continue to do my best to educate that this is not a Van Morrison song! And, should I win a few bar bucks at my local bar’s trivia–so much the better.

Kathy Bishoff   -   Is Van Morrison the real Van Morrison or Vince McConaghy? Now that’s an urban legend.