Monday, 22 February 2016

Van Doesn't Have a No. 1 Record

The world's greatest singer songwriter Van Morrison (IMHO) has had a lot of commercial success over the years. Even now there are at least 100,000 fans who will buy anything the man puts out.  Albums like Moondance and the 1990 Best of Van Morrison album sold in the millions. However, despite all of his achievements and his 55 years in the business, Van has never had a number one record in Britain or America. 

If you had to guess which Morrison album was his highest-charting in the United States, you’d probably need plenty of attempts before guessing right.  The 1970 album Moondance is his largest seller; classic early works Astral Weeks and Tupelo Honey are certified gold, as were several of his ’90s releases. But it was the 2008 album Keep It Simple that reached #10 — his lone top-10 album in America.  Even in the UK, Morrison has never hit #1. He came closest in 2007, when the compilation album Still on Top — the Greatest Hits went to #2.

Morrison has scored only two top-10 singles in the States. Brown Eyed Girl and Domino. His profile is even lower on the British singles charts, where his 1989 duet with Cliff Richard, Whenever Got Shines His Light made #20 and is his highest-charting release.

It’s unclear whether Morrison cares about this sort of thing. He’s generally dismissive of stardom, considering himself a working artist above all. At the same time, however, he jealously guards his intellectual property. Some websites have fallen foul of Van's representatives and have had to pull content.  

Lately, though, he seems to have been a lot more enthusiastic in wanting to play the promotion game.  His facebook page is pretty folksy with rare photos of Van out in the real world.  His website has an expanding merchandise shop. In recent times he seems to be smiling a lot more and allowing fans to see him doing life in the real world.  He also has been receiving awards for his contribution to the music world including a knighthood.  

Wouldn't it be great to see him with a number 1 on the charts? Occasionally I glance at charts to see what's at number 1. They always scream at me that Van is deserving of a number 1. Some new young dance pop performers seem to be achieving number ones with virtually every release.  Have a look at the list below and then try to tell me that life is fair.

Some Multiple No 1 Single Artists in the U.S.

KC and the Sunshine Band (5)
Daryl Hall and John Oates (6)
Ludacris (5)
Usher (9)
Richard Marx (3)
George Michael (8)
Olivia Newton-John (5)
Tony Orlando and Dawn (3)
Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy (5)
Shaggy (2)
Michael Bolton (2)
Britney Spears (5)
Mariah Carey (18)

Friday, 12 February 2016

Muleskinners Blues

From Jimmie Rodgers To Van Morrison  

Mule Skinner Blues is a classic country song written by Jimmie Rodgers and George Vaughan and first recorded by Rodgers in 1930. The original title was Blue Yodel #8"George Vaughn", a pseudonym for George Vaughn Horton, is sometimes listed as co-author. Horton wrote the lyrics for New Mule Skinner Blues, Bill Monroe's second recorded version of the song.
The song tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck mule skinner, approaching "the Captain", looking for work ("Good Morning, Captain/Good Morning to you, son. / Do you need another muleskinner on your new mud line?"). He boasts of his skills: "I can pop my 'nitials on a mule's behind" and hopes for "a dollar and a half a day". He directs the water boy to "bring some water round". The term "skinning a mule" means to outwit a mule, and has nothing to do with removing the animal's hide.

Mule Skinner Blues has been performed by numerous artists including Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, and Bill Monroe, but also a few that might surprise you, such as Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Odetta, and Van Morrison. But although it’s been a popular piece for years, it wasn’t until The Fendermen came along that it hit real pay dirt. That was around 1960, when the song became the one and only top-ten hit for the duo of closely-matched guitarists, Jim Sundquist and Phil Humphries.

The two had gotten acquainted as teenagers because of their shared enthusiasm for early rock and roll, along with their love of Fender electric guitars. When they later discovered that they’d been born on the same day, it seemed to be a sign. They decided to begin performing together professionally as the Fendermen, naming themselves after their favourite instrument. They started playing in honky-tonks whenever possible and had mixed success, but began to notice that the crowd loved their rockabilly version of “Mule Skinner Blues,” which included a lot of incandescent guitar play accompanied by some laughing yodels.
A local promoter caught the act and managed to get the guys matched up with a small record company. The song took off and hit the national charts, and the Fendermen were on their way. They added a drummer and went on the road, managing to make a pretty good living for a while.

Eventually they got back to the studio and recorded enough additional songs to fill an album, but none really caught the ear of the listening public. After just two years, the Fendermen were no more and the guys went their separate ways — but are still remembered by some of us for their outrageously enjoyable signature song.

Van has played the song numerous times in concert and even recorded a version of it for the 1997 Jimmie Rodgers tribute album called The Songs of Jimmie Rogers: a Tribute.  The incredible Vanomatic website by Gunter Becker notes that Van played the song 115 times during the period October, 1995 to April, 2007.  

The People's Opinion

katlaughing   -  When my great-uncle was a mule skinner it meant he drove a team of mules hauling ore in the Colorado Rockies. That's the only definition I've ever heard.

Sorcha   -   I don't know why "skinner", but it is a mule team driver, or drover. In the Great Basin (US) long teams of mules were used to haul borax from the mines to the railroads. Up to 10 pairs of mules on one wagon.

Katlaughing   -   The term muleskinner means someone who can "skin" or outsmart/train a mule.

Bobbi   -   A mule skinner was an individual that travelled the 'Old West' and slaughtered buffalo... taking hides only, for cash and barter at trading posts. The owner of these trading posts were respectfully addressed as Capt'n (if you wanted a respectable price for your hides)... "Good mornin' Capt'n, good mornin' to you!..." They drove mule teams as the mules could bear the weighty load of all the hides they collected and the heavy wagons they pulled... Unfortunately, they left the meat to rot on the plains, and while the buffalo herds were diminished, the native Americans starved. A mule skinner didn't have a very honourable standing in the community.

Bobbi   -   Mule skinners travelled the hot barren plains in groups of wagon teams.. It would hardly be worth it to take one wagon out in hostile Indian territory and only hope for one load of hides... An important member of that wagon team was the water boy... After the buffalo slaughter, skinners were busy all day, getting the hides off their kill, and the water boy would run a bucket of water between the skinners so they wouldn't dehydrate and also to rinse their hands from the sticky, slicky blood and hides. Mule skinners didn't smell pleasant.. It was a nasty, gross job, that eventually wiped out a nation, but is was lucrative.

Dicho   -   Captain was a term commonly used for the boss, or other person of importance. The buffalo slaughterers used muleskinners, but much more importantly, merchants who organised supply trains and trading parties, the mining camp merchants and miners and anyone involved in haulage of all kinds. Mule teams were faster than oxen and are very smart in picking their way through rough bits where mis-steps could mean a broken leg. A good mule team and skinner could get work when others used the pick or begged. As an employee or self-employed, the muleskinners were important in the development of the west and anywhere else where railroads,rivers and canals were lacking.

Sorcha   -   Mules are smarter than horses and can haul heavier loads but you have to treat them right. Mules "know" how much they can haul and will refuse to haul more than that. All the whipping in the world will not get a mule to haul a load too heavy. Hence, stubborn as a mule. Mules also do not need as much water or feed as horses so they were preferred as draft animals. 

Amos   -   The same candidate states he can "pop his initials down on a mule's behind". I believe long trains of mules in team were used, and a long-lashed whip was used to supplement the emphasis of traces and reins. Not as punishment which as anyone who has ridden a mule knows is directly counterproductive. More as incentive. You pop the tip of the long lash just offside their head and they pull off in the opposite direction. The term skinner, I have always believed, meant someone who could manage mules, but derives from the concept that one could pop the whip artfully enough to flay them, not that one would.

Amos   -   The Mule skinner was a professional individual sometimes called a teamster whose sole purpose was to keep his wagon pulled by mules, under control and moving. The mule skinner actually rode one of the mules and guided the entire team with a single rein which was called a jerk line. An experienced mule skinner knew the personality of every one of his mules and could make them into a magical running machine whereas an inexperienced teamster found them to be obstinate and stubborn

Speed was of essential importance out in the west and the mules could pull wagons at 2 miles per hour. A team of oxen usually pulled at about 2 1/2 miles per hour. General stores would specify mule teams to carry their freight of food and other perishable items. The draw back to mules were that their grain had to be hauled with them, the Indians would steal mules to ride them and mule meat tasted terrible according to the teamsters.

Jody Gibson   -   Before May of 1957, The only way anyone sang Muleskinner Blues was the way Jimmy Rogers or Bill Monroe sang it. Then in May 1957 The Control Tower Chief Controller at Suffolk County Air Force Base, T/Sgt Jody Gibson (me) recorded Good Morning Captain an entirely different way of singing this song, and with an entirely different melody. It was an instant "Hit". Only distributed in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it sold 400,000 + 45rpm records and 75,000 78 rpms. 

One of the reasons for it's success is that Alan Freed was my manager's father in law so it got a lot of play on the AM pop and rock and roll radio programs. It was instantly covered by Sheb Wooley, who sang it "word for word and note for note" exactly the same as I'd done it. Dolly Parton also recorded my version years later. Now, this is the way all the "Traditionalist" and "Folk Music Purists" (folk music fascists?) sing it. That is, until they read this post, then they'll be frantically searching for old Jimmy Rogers records.

Metchosin   -   A mule seems to have a greater sense of self preservation than a horse, therefore it requires more finesse to bend their will or rather assure it enough, that it should do man's bidding. Or maybe it is just simply that they are, in fact, smarter than horses. Can't see what could be more straight forward than that, but then again, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Arkie   -   The purpose of the whip was not to beat the mule team or to cause them to pull harder to avoid the pain of the whip. The crack of the whip was the critical part. The driver might lightly touch an animal with the whip, or pop the whip above their ears. He prided himself upon his delicate use of the whip. As has already been stated here the term "skinner" was not applied literally. A team of mules was far too costly to have a driver that raked their backs with a whip causing gashes and open sores that would get infected or draw flies.   Anyone who caused any harm or damage to a mule in the team would likely discover just how much damage a bull whip could do when applied directly to the flesh.

anonymous   -   You won't find any good mule skinner without a whip. Many times, he'd have a cat o' nine tails hanging by a thong on his wrist. Whips work. That's why they have songs about the prowess of skinners with their whips. How can you doubt it? A good mule skinner could whip a mule to death in less than half an hour. Of course, that would be foolish. But he did raise a bit of blood now and then getting a balky mule to get with the program.

Put yourself in the mule skinner's place. You are given X amount of time per trip. If the mule refuses to move, you lose your job. There is no time to train, cajole, or pamper the mule. It moves, or you and your family go hungry. You start off by popping it around his tail. Then his ears. Then you drag it across his back slowly. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Reminds Me of You

Reminds Me of You is typical Van fare: a deceptively brilliant little song.  It was the seventh song on Van's 1999 album Back on Top. He has hundreds more gracing his albums.  As far as Van's songs go, there are the classic ones and then there are second-tier songs which the committed fans claim to love more. Then there's the whole live versions thing which Vanatics discuss endlessly much to the boredom of their poor spouses.  

Here are some opinions about this fairly obscure song that doesn't usually rate with the casual fan: 

nhgirl60323   -   I am a huge Van fan and never heard this song until a couple of months ago. It just totally affected me. In Avery good bluesy way. My husband passed away 5 years ago. He too was a huge Van fan. Our first song we ever danced to was Have I Told You Lately That I Love You live!!!! This song  allowed me to feel all those emotions grief loss happiness sorrow joy you feel when you lose someone special. Just amazing. Thank you Van. 

nhgirl60323   -   I am a huge Van fan and never heard this song until a couple of months ago. It just totally affected me. In Avery good bluesy way. My husband passed away 5 years ago. He too was a huge Van fan. Our first song we ever danced to was Have I Told You Lately That I Love You live!!!! This song  allowed me to feel all those emotions grief loss happiness sorrow joy you feel when you lose someone special. Just amazing. Thank you Van. 

Davide Jorge   -   Van Morrison, father for the music of Ireland.

teambodily   -   My passed away grandfather. Some of this song is a double edged sword with certain portions of the lyrics. Makes me think of his final days when he decided to give up the fight for staying alive and how much it hurt to see him quickly start to go. The most amazing man he was, and stood for everything a man should be about. Miss you my Monkey we will one day meet again. Keep watching over me during these rough and worrisome times. Grandpa, have some medical things that need a lot of prayer.

teambodily   -   This man's voice invokes the beauty of the blues, he’s one of my all time favourites. I associate a lot of this song with my passed away grandfather.

Joshua Bailey   -   I broke up with my ex a couple of weeks ago and I’ve found this song, I broke down in tears but it’s odd, it makes me feel so much better.

Thewsca   -   Beautiful.

Geonats   -   Love Morrison’s music but this makes me sad, so I remove it from my like list.

James Clark    -   About ten years ago, lost my Aunt, my mom and a very special love all in about a year.  I could barely move someday in my grief, and this song helped me, in some strange way to move through that, maybe just because Van knew and sang the depths of his loss of love, and how your heart just breaks with memories that haunt, and feelings that keep overwhelming any reason, just like the waves overwhelm and erode the beach.

Jon Phillips  -   I lost the love of my life 3 years ago. When I cry late at nite by myself I get out my guitar & try to play this wonderful ballad!

Bate N. Switch   -   So sad, yet so beautiful and soulful.

Irene Legault   -   If you need to cry over some one... this will help!

Lisa Crossan   -   I lost my youngest son 6 years ago to a terrible motorcycle accident.  My pain is constant.  This song makes me feel him deep within my heart.  I miss you so much and everything I do, reminds me of you.  God Bless you my son!

Rudy Campilii   -   Geez Van, why don't you just rip my heart out and tear it up. Thank you for all the really great musical gifts you have given us throughout the decades. You are a true genius. Wow, so much emotion.

Bpvogel   -   I couldn't stop listening to this song after my wife passed away.  There isn't another song that better conveys the grief I was feeling, and it really helped my healing process.   I hope others that have lost loved ones will find some comfort in this song as well. 

Dr Roger Bleen   -   People are basically going "disassociative" with this song. Emotional wounds are best fixed with an emotional leech.  That's what this song does - sucks out all the poison.  

Driftingloneliness   -   This song is heartbreaking an I know the broken heart of a mother...I lost my angel, my son Ashton Wyatt after his 2 year long battle with cancer.

rpierre1157   -   Absolutely love it.  Still brings a tear to my eye.

Teambodily   -   But all in all, I DO love this song and for that matter, pretty much all of his songs. Van’s the Man!

jschuler53   -   I agree with all these comments, this song gets me every time, the emotion is so genuine, for me, it is my son, remembering the sweet young boy, young adult, and then leaving, going a wayward path, and now, gone from my life. But as one comment says, this song make you go through all these feelings and you feel better at the end.

veronica246able   -   This song touches my heart and soul beautiful.

Gloria Forever   -   This song is just so wonderful…what lyrics and who else but Van could write them. Van ignore the gutter press.  Your fans adore you. Your Belfast and Dublin shows said it all. You are the Man
Anna Eaton   -   This was a song that I listened to after my husband died, it comforted and helped release the tears and kept me going. Music is an amazing healer.

Pink N. Sheers   -   Simple song. My 183rd favourite Van song.  Too much vibrato in the upper registers. 
Frabn   -   1st  class.

EternalAngel318   -   Epic underrated song.  One of my favourites from Van. The emotion in this song is so powerful. Love it!

rsthebestbandever   -   Outstanding. Incredible song by an incredible artist.

susanp508   -   Love this song, Van you're the man!!!

Sherry baby   -   LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!
LIL' ED Baretta   -   Love Van and this song!!!