Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Extra Stories For Long Winter Nights

NH Lineman   -   I live in New Hampshire/USA, and have seen Van perform live many times in New England and New York, starting with the Wavelength Tour in 1978. Caught him on the waterfront in Boston, late June/1995 (6th row centre/both nights). Peter Wolf showed up at at least one of these shows, in his traditional all black get-up. Prior to the show, Wolf pranced around the audience to make sure everyone saw him...lol (wondering if that wasn't when he and Van went to the old Cambridge apt address, after the show?). Anyway, I happened to be parking the car during Van's soundcheck on the first night (thought they were playing a Van tape, at first). After Van got done, Shana Morrison, who IMHO did NOT inherit her dad's vocal pipes, gets up and belts out a great version of Wild Night. There was nobody in the audience section, and nobody else in the vast empty parking lot, but me. Great memory.

Joe Camilleri   -   I was fronting Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons at the time and no one else turned up to this party apart from Van and me. So we're sitting down in front of a TV and all he's given me is a nod. I figure, that's fair enough, I got something. But then he starts talking to me about Ray Charles. Not looking at me, though. Looking at the TV. We must have spent half an hour talking about Ray Charles and had no real eye contact. I saw him play the next night and he had his back to the audience. He was into the music, he wasn't into being an entertainer. Took me a while to sort of understand that.

orange1690   -   About twenty years ago I was in pub in Bangor, Northern Ireland. I was with my cousins who live there. Van Morrison (who I believe also lives in Bangor) was sitting at the bar. My cousin told me to go ask him for an autograph. I reluctantly did. Van Morrison told me to get lost and threatened to smash his pint glass in my face! My cousins thought it was hilarious.

Danny Holloway   -   Them played a warm-up gig before their Whiskey residency at the Cinnamon Cinder in Long Beach. I went and talked to Van and the others after the show. They had a great intro: upon being introduced, David Harvey jumped on stage and began played a pronounced kick beat, Alan Henderson soon joined him with a familiar 2 note bass line and on it went until 4 Irishmen vamped on Baby Please Don’t Go. Lastly, Van shuffled to the mic and wailed piercing notes on harmonics. So, after the show, me and drummer Steve Roosh told Them we’d see them at the Whiskey. 

The Whiskey shows were insane. Them drank as much booze as they could. One night, Van was atop a super reverb sized amp waving his arms like a bird as the amp teetered back and forth. Captain Beefheart supported Them the first week and The Doors supported the following week. Jim Morrison wore a suit and was very reserved, frequently performing with his back to the audience. I moved to London in 1970 and began writing for the NME. I interviewed Van at his home in San Rafael. As usual in interviews, Van was prickly. I left the NME and worked for Island Records. In 1975 I was doing overdubs at Island’s Basing Street studios for a reggae album  produced called Night Food by The Heptones. I’d noticed that Jackie McCauley had been gigging in London and arranged for him to overdub guitar on The Heptones songs Country Boy and play talk box on Mama Say. He came to the session dressed entirely in black and was easy to get along with.

Nuffzed   -   At Easter in 1963, I was travelling home to ‘Blighty’ on leave from Sennelager, in what was then West Germany. I travelled by train with another ‘Squaddie’ who had invited me to spend time at his family home near Guildford. Our journey across that part of Europe was made by train and although ‘skint’, we decided that we should stop-over in Paris before catching our ferry to Dover.

Easter time in Europe can it seems, either be bloody hot or bitterly cold. Sadly for us, it was the latter. This I remember to this day, mainly because I was wearing a lightweight suit. I cannot recall much about Paris on this short visit that is worthy of note, other than a mandatory visit to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. I imagine that in those days, the price of a ticket was not as extortionate as it is today otherwise I would not be recounting this tale.

Arriving at the bleak viewing platform, for that is what is was then, I was not surprised to find that apart from the two of us, there was nobody else there other than some other unfortunate guys looking equally as frozen as we were. I immediately recognised who they were and as seems the accepted custom between public and celebrities, walked across to make sure that they indeed knew who they were. “You’re Them, I barked accusingly.

The next time that I met Van Morrison was over 20 years later at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho where, as the guest of the legendary Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, he sang Send in the Clowns. Sadly this was to be Baker’s last live appearance before his tragic death in Amsterdam.

Eddy   -   I saw Van and Them in the Public Rooms, Tunbridge Wells in June 1965. I was 14 years old. It was a fantastic gig. I don’t think they had any alcohol on the premises. I remember I was drinking Coca Cola mixed half and half with milk. My favourite drink at the the time. Coca Cola was pretty new in England at that time. I remember inventing The Ski dance to Them.  Great show. Most people there were doing the Twist or some sort of rendition of it. I got so high with the night that I could have skied upwards any mountain. Well, here it comes.Here comes the night. Marvellous memory. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Polls at Fanpop

The polls at the Van Morrison site at Fanpop show some interesting and, at times, bizarre public opinion out there about the man.  Any survey question can be posted at the Fanpop Van Morrison site. Most ask "which of these albums do you like the most?" and these questions produce odd results like Keep it Simple is more popular than Astral Weeks!  Here are some of the results from 20 of the current 50 polls regarding Van Morrison.  

 1. Now that Morrison has crashed his second marriage, who would be right for him?
          1. Jim Nabors   -   67%
          2. Pamela Anderson   -   17%

 2. Have you seen Van Morrison live in concert?
          1. No   -   83%
          2. Yes   -   17%

3. Do you think a singer named Vince McConaghy replaced the real Van Morrison in the 70s?
          1. Vince is better than the real Van anyway   -   40%
          2. Where there's smoke and mirrors there is often broken glass and burn                          marks.   -   33%

 4. Which of Van Morrison's compilation albums do you like best?
       1.  The Best Of Volume 3 (2007)  -  42%
       2.  Still on Top - The Greatest Hits (2007) -  32%

 5. What country should Van visit next?
          1. Japan   -   25%
          2. India   -   19%

 6. What do you think Van's favorite movie would be?
         1. American Beauty   -   26%
         2. Raging Bull   -   24%

 7. Why isn't Van more popular?
         1. Doesn't promote himself  -  61%
         2. Too good for public taste  -  30%

8. What's Van's best studio album?
      1. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher   -   26%
      2. Veedon Fleece   -   24%

 9. What's your favorite song on Keep it Simple (2008)?
     1.  Behind the Ritual   -   53%
     2.  Lover Come Back   -   13%

10. What kind of Van song do you like best?
         1.   Mystical song e.g. Summertime in England   -   61%
         2.   Nostalgia song e.g. Coney Island   -   20%

11. Which of these two Van songs is better, Here Comes the Night (1964) or Here Comes the Knight (1987)
           1. Here Comes the Knight  -  59%
           2. Here Comes the Night  -  41%

12. What is the best Them song?
             1. Mystic Eyes   -   27%
             2. Gloria   -   24%

13. What's your favourite album title?
             1. No Guru, No Method, No Teacher   -   35%
             2. Inarticulate Speech of the Heart   -   22%

14. What kind of album should Van do next?
             1. a Christmas album   -   60%
             2. a normal Van album   -   14%

15. Which is your favourite live Van album?
             1. A Night in San Francisco (1994)   -   63%
             2. It’s Too Late To Stop Now (1974)   -   21%

Martin Freeman?
16. Which is Van's best period?
             1. 1980s   -   33%
             2. 2000s   -   25%

17. What's Your favourite Van Morrison album cover?
             1. Hard Nose the Highway   -   29%
             2. The Philosopher’s Stone   -   24%

.   18.  Which version of Gloria do you like the best?
         1. The Version With John Lee Hooker   -   90%
         2. The Usual Van Version   -   10%

19.  Which Van Morrison album do you dislike the most?
         1. A Period of Transition   -   45%
         2. You Win Again   -   38%

20.  Who do you like better, Van Morrison or Paul McCartney?
         1. Van Morrison   -   97%
         2. Paul McCartney   -   3%

Friday, 16 December 2016

Violet Morrison (1925 - 2016)

Van’s mother Violet Morrison died this year on May 31 at the Richmond Private Nursing home in Holywood, Northern Ireland aged 94.  Her funeral service was held at St Donard's Parish Church in east Belfast, where Van performed three songs in tribute to his beloved mother.  St Donard’s Church was where Van’s parents were married in on Christmas Day 194 and was mentioned in two of Van’s songs On Hyndford Street and Beside You

Mrs Morrison was a talented singer in her own right.  Recordings of Mrs Morrison's songs were played during the service, which was for close friends and family only. The service was a simple one and there were few mourners from the music industry.  Indeed, apart from Van's grown-up daughter Shana, who lives in America, and his wife Michelle Rocca, who was there with their two young children, the majority of the people in the church were old friends with whom the singer had grown up. Mourners included various boyhood pals who played with Van in various fledgling groups before Van’s professional career began.  They were Gilbert Irvine, broadcaster George Jones, former guitarist Billy McAllen and Van's cousin Sammy Stitt, who was a drummer.

Van Morrison sang three of his own songs during the service, accompanying himself on guitar with his American backing singer Dana Masters, who lives in Northern Ireland.

The first song was By His Grace is from Hymns to the Silence and the lyrics refer to "living your religion deep inside when you try for the kingdom on high".  Granddaughter Shana, who six years ago called her up to sing at a concert in Belfast and introduced her as "my wee granny", recited the Poem of Life in honour of the woman she said was one of her best friends in the world. Her father then sang a second duet with Dana - On Hyndford Street, an evocative remembrance of Van's early life. Shana joined her father and Dana for the third musical tribute Joyous Sound, from his Period of Transition album that talks of the grace that "will follow us until we meet again".

Pastor Bill Dunn, who paid a moving tribute to Mrs Morrison during the service, is another friend from Van's past.  He quoted the words of a famous old Irish song, A Mother's Love's a Blessing, as he offered his condolences to Van and his children.  He said Mrs Morrison had an "engaging and outgoing personality" adding that he remembered her singing at a private birthday party for Van a few years ago when she also danced the twist.

Pastor Dunn said he'd gotten to know Mr and Mrs Morrison after he, George Jones and Van got caught up in the skiffle mania that swept the UK back in the mid-1950s.  "A few cheap guitars, a washboard, and a tea chest attached to a brush shaft by a piece of string was all that was needed for a skiffle group," he said.

After the service, which was conducted by Canon Ken Higgins from St Donard's, Van emerged holding the hand of his young daughter Aibhe and his son Fionn Ivan grasped the hand of mother Michelle Rocca.

Mrs Morrison was buried in Redburn cemetery in Holywood beside husband George’s grave, who died in 1988.

Funerals are often a time people think about their beliefs about God and eternity. I remember decades ago when as an angry atheist I attended a child's funeral.  As my mind wandered to the big questions of life, death, eternity I can remember getting angry that any sentimentality had crept into my thinking.  

Now, as a Christian, I see things completely differently.  Death holds no fear for me (except the pain of dying, I suppose).  My own mother is in a care facility in an advanced state of dementia.  She no longer knows me but I know I'll see her again in heaven with her mind completely restored.  It's the able bodied angry atheists I feel sorry for, not my mother who asked Jesus to be her Saviour a long time ago. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Funny Things People Say - Part 16

Bill Wyman   -   well, if you’re in Van Morrison’s band, I don’t think Van Morrison would say the keyboard player helped me write this song, you know what I mean?

Robert Horning   -   Van Morrison is a deeply strange performer—just check out the footage of him in The Last Waltz, where, in his unitard and cape, he looks as though he were just beamed down from Mars for his exuberant, bizarrely histrionic performance of Caravan, which seems largely out of sync spiritually with everything around it.

Charlene Ross   -   I really didn’t start listening to Van Morrison much until I met my husband. Introducing me to Van the Man might just be the reason I agreed to marry him.

John Martin   -   I quite like background music. I leave Deep Purple and ZZ-Top on the shelf but I wrote my first novel playing Van Morrison and Neil Young over and over. If anyone knows those guys, I have a business proposition to put to them. They can have an equal share of my royalties if I can have an equal share of theirs. That just seems fair.

Mindseyephotography   -   No matter what else runs amok, there is always Van Morrison. No Van Morrison = bad.  After the zombie apocalypse, while the rest of you are talking to a volleyball, filtering water through a complex tubing system and hoarding weapons, I will be in my tent humming Caravan.

Karen Edmisten   -   I started up some music before starting up the dishes this morning. "Wait! What's that?" asked Ramona. "Is that the Blue's Clues music?" "No, honey," I laughed, "it's Ball and Chain. It's a song by Van Morrison."

Jim Linderman   -   The only time I saw Van Morrison perform was the early 1980s and he was short and round like a giant freckled toad. When he took out his saxophone and raised it to his lips, the instrument rested nearly horizontal on his belly and the horn pointed directly at his face, but I knew the stage held greatness.

Austin Kleon   -   Van Morrison immortalised his old job as a window cleaner in 1982 with the song Cleaning Windows.  Composer Philip Glass wasn’t able to quit his jobs as a plumber and a taxi-driver until the age of 41.

Jonathan Hohensee   -   Say what you will about Van Morrison and his personal life, Hot For Teacher has what is one of the best guitar riffs of all time.

Dan Zorg   -   One of Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi’s greatest triumphs was getting to talk to Van Morrison when Morrison was in Canada to play a couple of concerts in places like Montreal and Toronto.  During Jian’s interview (sorry, “feature chat”) with Morrison, Morrison said he was still pissed off about the Last Waltz movie; clearly, he felt he’d been stiffed by it.  Wheedling, cringing, desperately unctuously hyperventilating, Jian kept wondering why Morrison “was so sad.”  It was so painful to hear.  An intelligent veteran of the music business, with countless song credits to his name, being tearily honeyed and cloyed by a hushy-gushy boy who only wanted to know why Morrison was so sad.  

Monday, 5 December 2016

Arik's Bootleg Collection

Arik Hesseldahl has shared his impressive list of Van bootleg albums online in an effort to make the rest of us jealous.  This just shows one small glimpse into the collecting mania that has been inspired by Van.  For brevity’s sake I’ve left off his comments for some of the albums and his list of compilation bootlegs.  Access the full list here.

26 April 1970   -   Fillmore West, San Francisco
09 October 1970   -   Fillmore West, San Francisco
05 September 1971   -   Pacific High Studios, Marin, CA
27 April 1972   -   Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
28 April 1972   -   Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
15 February 1973   -   The Lion’s Share, San Anselmo, CA
26 May 1973   -   The Troubador, Los Angeles
29 June 1973   -   Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
24 July 1973   -   Rainbow Theatre, London
16 November 1974   -   Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
22 June 1977   -   Hilversum, The Netherlands
20 and 22 February 1979   -   Whitla Hall, Belfast and National Stadium, Dublin
21 October 1979   -   Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA
23 May 1981   -   NCRV Festival 81, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
26 January 1984   -   Nouveau Palais, Cannes, France
29 September 1986   -   Carre Theatre, Amsterdam
01 October 1986   -   Koningin Elisabethzaal, Antwerp, Belgium
30 November 1986   -   The Playhouse, Edinburgh
01 June 1987   -   Glastonbury Festival, Pilton, Somerset
19 July 1987   -   Edward Herbert Hall, Loughborough University, England
10 September 1988   -   National Stadium, Dublin
07 March 1989   -   Beacon Theater, New York
15 July 1989   -   Imst Festival, Tirol, Austria
12 August 1989   -   Lake Hulingen Hultsfred, Sweden
30 November 1989   -   The Beacon Theater, New York
17 January 1990   -   The Church of Our Lady St. Mary, Stogumber, Somerset
20 April 1990   -   Orpheum Theatre, Boston
11 July 1990   -   Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland
31 March 1991. — North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague
18 January 1992   -   Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
22 April 1992   -   Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
19 September 1992   -   Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands
05 August 1995   -   Helsingor Jazz Festival, Helsingor, Denmark
06 August 1995   -   Edinburgh Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Castle
17 December 1995   -   The Point Theatre, Dublin
28 April and 1 May 1996   -   The Supper Club, New York
13 July 1996   -   North Sea Jazz Festival, Den Haag, Netherlands
03 February 1997   -   The Waterfront Hall, Belfast
19 July 1997   -   Auditorium Stravinski, Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux
19 May 1998   -   Venue Unknown, San Jose, California
23 May 1998   -   Arrowhead Pond Arean, Anaheim, CA
09 July 1999   -   Loreley Festival, St. Goarshausen, Germany.
27 July 1999   -   Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain
25 May 2001   -   TP Music and film festival, Sala Kongresowa, Warsaw
07 and 08 February 2002   -   The Opera House, Buxton, England
06 June 2002   -   Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany
12 July 2002   -   Estival Jazz, Piazza Della Riforma, Lugano, Switzerland
14 June 2003   -   FleetBoston Pavilion, Boston
30 March 2004   -   Madison Square Garden, New York.
31 March 2004   -   Madison Square Garden, New York.
03 September 2004   -   Molson Amphitheater, Toronto
05 August 2005   -   Schloss Neuhardenberg, Germany
14 January 2006   -   Palacio De Congresos, Madrid
02 March 2006   -   Rancho Nicasio, Nicasio, CA
03 March 2006   -   Nob Hill Masonic Center, San Francisco
19 May 2006   -   Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany
29 April 2007   -   The Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York
30 April 2007   -   Opera House, Boston
13 October 2007   -   The United Palace, New York
10 March 2008   -   BBC Maida Vale Studios, London
13 March 2008   -   Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
15 March 2008   -   The United Palace, New York
12 June 2008   -   Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, England
08 July 2008   -   Rosemont Theater, Rosemont, Ill., USA
16 August 2008   -   Kenwood House, London
03 October 2008   -   Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
04 October 2008   -   The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England
20 July 2010   -   Peer Blues Festival. Peer, Belgium
07 July 2010   Auditorium Stravinski, Montreux, Switzerland
20 October 2010   -   Europa Hotel, Belfast

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

George Formby Vs Van Morrison

Holy Hughes’ blog The Song in my Head Today has lots of great stuff about music.  Here’s an edited sample of one of the Van Morrison posts.  

Cleaning Windows by Van Morrison

Still reading that book about 1960s British pop, and the author mentioned a song by George Formby called When I'm Cleaning Windows as a typical example of British songwriting before the Beatles. Now, I know hardly anything about George Formby except that he played the ukelele and sang corny music-hall-style comedy numbers in the 1930s and 1940s.  The only song of his I recognize is Leaning On the Lamppost, which later became a sort of novelty hit for Herman's Hermits in the US . But as soon as I read that song title When I'm Cleaning Windows, I thought of this copasetic track from Van Morrison. I'll bet anything Van knew that Formby song, but what he did with it is worlds away from a plinking ukelele and yuk-yuk comedy.

Infuriating as Van Morrison can be, I'm still willing to forgive him everything when he swings like this. This is from his 1982 album Beautiful Vision. It lands squarely in his "I'm just an ordinary guy" line of songs, which are completely contradicted by his Celtic mystic songs, but so be it. The recurring line that seems to be the heart of this song is in the chorus, a swiftly rapped-out bit of Formby-esque patter: "I'm a working man in my prime / Cleaning windows."

But the only thing Van's song shares with Formby's, really, is the subject and a certain sort of chirpy upbeat tempo. Van really did work as a window cleaner at some point in his life; whereas Formby was all about the window cleaner leering through the glass for naughty glimpses of people's lives, Van's has the ring of experience in the jaunty way he describes carrying ladders past wrought-iron railings, or cleaning a lady's fanlight. More than anything, though, it's a testament to a slacker lifestyle. Sure, he's got this menial job, but in his spare time he's having a damn good time. "I went home and listened to Jimmie Rodgers / In my lunch-break / Bought five Woodbines at the shop on the corner / And went straight back to work....We went for lemonade and Paris buns / At the shop and broke for tea ... I was blowing saxophone on the weekend / In that down joint." He doesn't even bother to make things rhyme; this is more like a diary than a crafted song. He cheerfully insists that he's happy cleaning windows. But it's not all that he's about.

In the second verse, Van lays out chapter two of his musical autobiography in a nutshell: "I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon / On the street where I was born / Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, Muddy Waters singing 'I'm a rolling stone' / I went home and read my Christmas Humphrey's book on Zen / Curiosity Killed the Cat / Kerouac's Dharma Bums and On the Road." It's like he turned to his turntable and nightable and just transcribed what was sitting there. It's poignant to think of this kid in Belfast greedily sucking in American blues and beat lit, as if real life was gonna happen somewhere else. But there's no mistaking how deeply he absorbed that stuff; this song has such an irresistible R&B groove, with delirious flourishes from a tight horn section, and Van's voice is a rare and beautiful thing, the way it shades from growl to croon to bark to flutter to howl.

"What's my life?" he triumphantly announces; "I'm a-happy cleaning windows / Take my time / I'll see you when my love grows ." You can just hear the grown-up rock star yearning back to that innocent, uncomplicated time; hell, he's making me nostalgic for it, and I've never set foot in Belfast. This is wonderful stuff indeed. Who needs George Formby?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Funny Things People Say - Part 15

Maui Surfer   -   Is-a-pre-emptive-strike-against-iran-inevitable? ... In a word, NO! I speculate you may like McQuack's Beach Boy song version, "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran!" a lot more, despite the folly it represents. As to Vietnam, so, you think it was a good idea to prop up a repressive CATHOLIC regime the Church had inserted into Asia? Maybe you are a Van Morrison fan too, "Whoa-oh Domino!"

Elsbar   -   I give a thumb's up to Astral Weeks and Moondance, and bits and pieces of all the rest.

Steve Bradshaw   -   Anthropocene tells the story of the planet from its inception to a distant future when humans have long since vanished.  and the whole biosphere. And all this is happening quite suddenly.  Nobody knows how long the Anthropocene will last. In that case the Anthropocene would be – to borrow the title of a Van Morrison album – a period of transition and little else.  

Plaxico   -   Van Morrison is really weird, why is this man shouting at me about how much he loves me? Stop shouting at me!

Tom D.   -   wtf are you playing at Van? God bless the damn Queen, long may she reign over us?

Cat Grant   -   You’ve heard of Van Morrison, right? You probably know him as the guy who sang Brown-Eyed Girl. But when I hear his name, I think of his album Astral Weeks. Van’s reedy tenor and the folk-rock-with-a-touch-of-jazz arrangements sound deceptively simple, until you close your eyes and really listen. (A little weed helps too, but if you’re in a non-legal state, you didn’t hear this from me.) It’s Morrison’s masterpiece, but even back in the day, it didn’t sell.

Money Magnet Magnate   -    That's nothing new - Van Morrison has been known to be speechless many times...usually when he is so hammered he can only slur and make rude hand gestures.

Emma Hartley   -   Van Morrison came on. What a dude, with his gold microphone stand bearing his initials and his collection of unanswerable bluesy hits. As the late afternoon sunshine suffused the crowd with a sense of well-being and a swallow swooped overhead, the two very tall men to my left decided it might be fun to sit on each other's shoulders, which gave them a combined height of around 11 feet and a strong risk of imminent collapse. The temporary distraction of a copy of Private Eye sticking out of the back pocket of the one underneath abated when Moondance started up and Christopher Ecclestone arrived in the crowd nearby during a storm of unrelated applause. He'll always be Dr Woo-Hoo! to me now.

Dave Q.   -   Van Morrison equals Meat Loaf with a Celtic burden of significance instead of cheesy American humour.

Dr C   -   Since THEM, Van equals a Turdburger.

June Grant   -   That man Van Morrison has no personality, no etiquette, nothing. He simply doesn't know how to treat an audience. I actually preferred the band to him. He's grumpy and he left the stage without saying goodbye or good night. He didn't even bother saying 'thank you for coming'. 

Anonymous   -   Those Bang demos have been released on various semi-legit comps - Garbage Van is my fave!

Nolan Dalla   -   Van Morrison’s concert on the night of January 15th, 2016 at the famed Shrine Auditorium on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles was terrible.  And, I loved every single note of it.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Van-Inspired Writings

There's a whole world of Van-Inspired writings out there.  There are sentimental poems, fake anecdotes where the author imagines meeting Van, short stories with Van as a character and even manga with a character named Van Morrison.  Guy Bartlett Williamson wrote the following piece as at least, some kind of tribute.  (If you could call a story where the millionaire artist Van Morrison steals food from a farmer a tribute.) 

Adventures With Van Morrison

From 1975-1987, my great friend Van Morrison and myself would take the month of September and hit the open road – in the guise of two old-fashioned travelling gentlemen (‘tramps’, in the English vernacular; hobos if you are American). Van wore a floppy hat sporting a partridge feather, while I preferred a battered old derby.  Our money would be left at home: all we has was a greasy coat, a rope belt and the freedom of the open road.  So, with just a couple of scones in a handkerchief, we would set off on an adventure, walking the back-roads of the English countryside, sleeping in barns, hedgerows or, if nothing else offered itself, a humble ditch.

On our very first outing in 1975, hunger hit in very quickly.  We had walked just ten country miles, when our conversation was interrupted by two rumbling bellies.  Something had to be done.  Van spotted a farmhouse up ahead.  And we were in luck: as we approached, the window rattled up and a pair of hands lay a fine, fat bramble pie on the windowsill to cool.  A fine, fat pie for the taking, I thought.  The enigma that is Morrison wiped his nose on his sleeve and whispered Fantabulous!  I looked at Van.  Was he thinking what I was thinking?  I’m sure he was, because we soon found ourselves sneaking up to the cottage window. 

Seconds later found us pelting down a country lane heading for an open field, sweat on the brow, pie in the coat, a dog on our tail.  As we climbed the fence, Van got his trousers caught in barbed wire, but he managed to hold on to the pie.  Mid-way across the field, Van froze.  “Holy Roman potatoes!” he cried out.  And I understood why.  There, heading our way, was the largest bull I ever had the misfortune to set my eyes on.  But, again, luck was on our side: the bull had his eye not on the two tramps tearing towards it, but the angry dog in hot pursuit.

Extremely relieved, we settled in a secluded shady grove in the woods and made camp.  It is well known in the rock ‘n’ roll world that Van Morrison makes an incredible cup of tea.  I have often watched him, and let me tell you, it’s like watching an artist at work, mixing the pigments, preparing the oil, the turps, etc.  But Morrison’s alchemical ingredients are the leaves, the hot water, the cups, the milk, and most crucially, the teapot.  Tea and bramble pie never taste as good as when made in a small clearing in the woods on a late-summer’s afternoon, with wood cracking in the fire and smoke scenting your clothes.

After our simple but sumptuous feast, Van took out his long-stemmed brier pipe and the stories would begin: tales of troubadours of old, of mythical journeys, of poets. And there, sadly, I will have to leave the scene: the sun shining down on two men with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and the dreams in their hearts.  But maybe some day I’ll tell you more of those crazy, carefree days.

‘Til then, stay on the bright side of the road.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Van Morrison Changed My Life

Scottish author Michael Logan described the night Van changed his life in his "One Monkey With a Typewriter" blog.  Can we create a texting abbreviation based on the above title?  VMCML?  The following post has been edited for brevity's sake.   

August 31, 2009   -   Van Morrison changed my life

Nats was telling me last night that she was glad she started fencing and met me because I had helped in the creation of Charlotte. I guess it is just common courtesy to thank the sperm donor, but I’ll take any kind of compliment I can get. Anyway, this led to a discussion of life-changing moments. All our lives are full of little crossroads that would send us down different paths.  Most of the time we don’t notice these moments as they slip by or we don’t appreciate quite how much they would change our lives. I actually do have a moment from which I can clearly trace a path to where I am now.

It is 1992. I am 21 and sitting upstairs in the Horseshoe Bar in Glasgow with my relatively new work colleagues from Linn Products – the high end music system company. I have taken a job stuffing components into circuit boards after dropping out of university due to a combination of factors, including laziness, poverty and a lack of self-esteem. The job is boring, but the people are great and my immediate boss is the exact double of Zelda from the Terrahawks, which somehow makes it more bearable. I have no clear idea of what I am going to do next. I am just content to be making some money to spend on records, booze and chemicals.

I am a terrible singer, but have glugged down just the right number of beers to be cajoled into singing on the Karaoke machine. I elect to sing ‘Gloria’ by Van Morrison, partly because I love Van the Man, but also because it is a shouty song and therefore suits my singing voice. My performance is what you would expect. Even above my amplified screams I can hear giggles and abuse. I content myself by spraying the ungrateful buggers with spittle every time I shout ‘G-L-O-R-I-A’.

Finally it is over, and I return to the table. Callum, who runs the test department - which comprises three or four guys whose diplomas from Cardinally College give them a faint air of superiority over the plebs – comes over and demands to buy me a drink. He is a huge Van Morrison fan, and wants to congratulate me on my performance (he is very, very drunk). We get even more drunk and talk about Van Morrison for an hour, then move onto other things, such as the fact I had finished 2.5 years of Physics at Strathclyde University. Callum and I become work buddies, and within three weeks he asks if I would want to go back to university to study electronics, with the fees paid by Linn (I had lost my right to fee payment in 2nd and 3rd year by dropping out). Of course I say yes. I go to Glasgow University, get my degree and promptly show my gratitude to Linn and Callum by going off to work for OKI in Cumbernauld.

So, here’s the chain of events leading to now: I sing a Van Morrison song in a bar, and as a result get friendly with Callum. Consequently, I go back to University and get a degree. My degree gets me a job at OKI, where I meet Andy McVeigh. I rent a room in his flat. In a casual discussion one day, I tell Andy I used to fence. He gets all keen and says he wants to start it (Andy is a major womaniser, despite being bald since 19 and looking kind of like a turtle, and is sure he can get some action at fencing). I am not so keen, remembering how angry/upset I used to get when I lost at competitions, but he persuades me to come along with him. We join Glasgow West End Fencing Club, where I drink a lot, make some great friends and kind of fence. This goes on for six years, until I am just about to quit fencing because it has lost its appeal. Then Nats joins Glasgow West. After some ups and downs, we get together. She is going to Bosnia for a year, and after a few months decide we are in love, are going to get married and that I am coming to Banja Luka, the capital of Bosnia's Serb Republic. I sell my house and car and go to Bosnia, where I trade in my soldering iron for a notebook and pen.