Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Them - The Fans Speak!


Anonymous   -   How can anyone seriously say that Van Morrison "made a BIG mistake" leaving Them? First of all, he made Astral Weeks, a singular album of such brilliance that Them could NEVER touch it. Then he made several other great albums, and had far more commercial success than Them with or without him, while not compromising his integrity.

Anonymous   -   I don't think Van Morrison regrets leaving Them! But Time out time in for is at least better than his first solo album (put out against his wishes).

Junodog4   -   Overshadowed by Van Morrison, but their brief output was stellar.  I guess they were more of a singles band (Gloria, Here Comes the Night, Baby Please Don't Go).

Blogger Constantine   -   Time out time in for and Now & Them are both better than anything Van ever put out. Especially the sloppy overrated hipster magnet Astral Weeks!

Walter   -   disillusioned by The Stones, and shortly afterwards by The Pretty Things, the jazzy style of THEM was exactly what we needed back in 1965/66.  Their Little Girl  is one of my Top songs ever. Not the official version, but an alternative one, featured on a double vinyl LP. Probably an outtake and published erroneously.

Gerard Hennessy   -   I’ve just heard that the great Alan Henderson died in Minneapolis USA in 2017. With the exception of The Belfast Gypsies, he was in every other incarnation of Them in both the 60’s and 70’s. For me, Alan more than anyone, deserves to be known as Mr Them. Since leaving music in the early 1980’s he had been working in the construction industry.

GBlueOwl   -   I've noticed something weird about old Them tracks that have been turning up on compilations lately; they're no longer credited to Them.

A couple of years ago, when the first Sopranos soundtrack album was released, it contained the track Mystic Eyes credited to Them featuring Van MorrisonFine. But earlier this year when the second Sopranos soundtrack was released it had a track listing for Gloria credited to Van.  I thought it was probably a live Van Morrison recording of the song, but later when I heard the album it turned out to be the original classic Them recording.

Also, on the Nuggets II box set there's another original Them track which is credited to "Van Morrison" on the track listing on the back of the box, although in the booklet under the entry for the song there's a notation that says something along the lines of "originally released under the name Them". I don't have the booklet available to me right now to quote exactly, but the descriptive paragraph also refers to this as a Them track, and even says that the band actually played on it, a rare event at that point in the group's history.

Skydropco   -   Billy Harrison did an intense interview in Ugly Things Magazine awhile back, they could have put a bit of that in. Billy has an ego to match Van's, and sets the record straight (on his terms) on a lot of musical ideas that made Them great. Poor Alan Henderson, hardly mentioned, was with Van right to the end and beyond. Of course, Them had a couple of dozen musicians pass through it's ranks (and that's up to only '66!), to me the golden years were '64-'65 the later stuff is good when Van leans towards more r&b soul, but it's not really Them.

Hallucalation   -   Jackie McAuley is my Facebook friend and he doesn't want to remember his Them/Belfast Gypsies years at all. Billy is right. He was the musical heart of the group, after he left, it's all went out downhill. Them Again on the whole is a weak album with too much covers. The Dutch EP is very good though as well as later singles (Richard Cory & Call My Name).

Trevor Best   -   Billy Harrison worked in GPO ( Post Office Telephones) as an engineer. Firstly in Newtownards and later in Dial House Belfast. I first met Billy when I was a young lad that hung about the local music shop in Bangor on a Saturday . I was trying to play the riff from Gloria when this unknown person turned and said to me ” That’s not how it goes” He took the guitar and played it slightly differently. Being an impetuous youth, I argued that my way was right. The guy turned to me and said ” I know, cause I wrote the effing thing, son” That was about 1976.

Billy and I became friends and we came across each other every now and again as I worked for BT as well. I remember he went off to Germany to record a solo album on a guitar that he made himself (it looked a bit like a strat with the top horn cut off ). Around the same time I used to go to the Pound club on a Saturday afternoon to see Light playing. Jim Armstrong was a legendary guitarist. I only knew that he was the guy who had replaced Bill in Them. 

Lenny   -   Boooooooo!!!  I vastly PREFER the work he did with Them to his solo releases, and so to see Them written out of history as it were on the new triple album, and that material lumped in with the later stuff, really irks me. It seems deceptive, and a cruel blow to the band, as well.

James Saville   -   I hear people say Them was better than Van. Is it just revisionist history? Is this how people are now? You say Them was/is better than Van and somehow you're cooler? 

Gary Jackson   -   Some years ago, Decca in the UK, which had the Them material, was bought by Polygram, which is also Van Morrison's label. Maybe that's a clue

Lenny Smith   -   Van Morrison apparently freaks out when you mention THEM to him, in fact he'll just walk away. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Van: Belfast boy to Global Star


Here’s a great post from the Starts at 60 blog by Benjamin Hill mentioning Van’s father and some early Van history:

'I watched Van Morrison go from humble Belfast boy to global star'

Van Morrison's father George worked in the shipyards in Belfast. In the 1960s I was an apprentice electrician at Harland & Wolff, in its Belfast shipyard in Northern Ireland, and like all teenagers who could play a few chords on the guitar, I was in awe of The Beatles, four working-class boys from Liverpool who had turned the music scene upside down. We would always be discussing the merits of the latest groups in the charts but usually you were Team Beatles or Team Rolling Stones.        

George Morrison was an older electrician in the yard, who was a blues fanatic with a great record collection. These records were hard to come by but George would get them from the sailors on US ships that came in to Belfast for repairs. He told us that a lot of the music we were listening to originated from these Afro-American artists. But George the electrician had a real interest in a local Belfast band called Them. The lead singer of Them was George’s son, Van Morrison, who followed his father’s great love of blues.  

Van ‘The Man’ started with a band called The Monarchs, who took the same path as The Beatles by playing in sleazy night clubs in Hamburg, but when they broke up Van was back in Belfast to team up with Billy Harrison, Alan Henderson, Eric Wrixson and Ronnie Millings to form Them. They took up residence at The Maritime Hotel and were billed as Ireland’s specialists in rhythm and blues, attracting a cult following not unlike The Beatles at The Cavern or The Rolling Stones at The Crawdaddy Club.  

In July 1964 the band travelled to the London Studios of Decca and recorded Slim Harpo’s Don’t Start Crying Now.   Decca called in specialist rhythm and blues producer Bert Berns and Them had their first big hit Baby Please Don’t Go, an old Big Joe Williams standard that was also recorded by Muddy Waters. The flip-side was the Van Morrison-penned Gloria, which was a favourite with the fans at The Maritime Hotel. 

Baby Please Don’t Go raced up the UK charts when it was used as the theme tune of the TV show Ready Steady Go. Next was Here Comes The Night, which became their biggest hit, rising to number three in the UK charts. Although their live performances were great, they could not produce the same sound on records, though, so session musicians (one of which was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame) were brought in to complement Van Morrison’s vocals.  

So the band Them had a short life and Van Morrison relocated to the US in 1967, but they left behind a legacy of pure ‘Belfast blues’, highlighted by a fantastic seven-minute autobiographical track called The Story Of Them with the opening line “Who are, what are Them?”.

Reader Comments

David Fleming   -   It wasn't the Maritime Hotel, it was the Maritime Club in College Street Belfast.

Denise Doyle   -   It was an old seaman's Hostel....given the title of hotel....Van got together with Jimmy,Jerry and Gerry to form the Club having been to Ken Coleraine club in London on the groups journey home from Hamburg.

Joe Brown   -   Van the man is a legend, his compilations with Tom Jones, Cliff Richard and The Chieftains are the best, The best live album I've ever heard is Van Morrison, A NIGHT IN SAN FRANCISCO.

Maureen Croxford   -   Love his songs, been to see him in concert but have to say that he should stick to the studio because he is not comfortable in front of an audience. Best album has to be Poetic Champions Compose.

Mally Toussaint   -   Beautiful voice. Most boring stage presence ever!

Ruby West   -   Them also played The Jazz Club in Belfast . We were all proud of his success then and now. Belfast was the best place to live in the 60s. I went to every dance hall, club anywhere where music was.

Catherine McCullough   -   They also played in Sammy Huston's Jazz Club on Thursday nights!

Jenny England  -   One of my favourites - so sexy!

David Martin   -   I am the same age and lived close to Van. I was a regular at the Maritime and Jazz Club - possibly 7 nights a week. I remember him from the beginning. I used to have a drink at the Fiddler's Arms round the corner from the Maritime and the Crown close to the Jazz Club. I was close friends with Billy Kennedy the son of Eddie Kennedy and Kerry Scott who was his nephew. Those three bouncers Gerry, Jerry and Jimmy could be quite aggressive and threatening at times. Lucky I was on good terms with them. My three friends got involved with two deadheads in the Jazz Club that were getting a bit nasty with Van. He was recently returned from Them's first USA tour and slipped into the club and was standing by himself minding his own business. We give them a bit of a send off. There were a few good stories he related about the scene in the USA and the famous stars he met in Hollywood. Sadly things began to break down out there amongst the Them members, but then upwards and onwards as an outstanding solo career lasting 50 years.

Kenny Kate Dowden   -   Van was the sax player in the Monarch show band. I was the bass player in the 60 sixties. He was a great muso and a good friend. 

Jim Fitzsimmons   -   Met him in person...a rude twisted twat!

Michael McPhee   -   Van bought a friends home up in Hollywood out of Belfast turned it into a studio. Bit of a miserable dour bugger if you asked me but I have about a dozen of his albums. First record I bought was Gloria.

Barbara Kahi  -   Have been waiting years for Van the man to come to Australia/New Zealand.

Linda Barber   -   I'm a huge Van fan. Absolutely love him. Saw him in concert years ago in Australia and wish he would come out again.

Mary Veronika Porter   -   I stood in the back queue with him in Mill Valley, California. We talked.

Monday, 2 October 2017

(Don't) Shut up and play music!


Here is Stephen Walker’s post on a media blog from Australia almost 10 years ago. It includes some comment about Van and his less than people friendly ways with his audience.  Most of us don’t care how crowd friendly he is.  But some people do apparently.  The article also indirectly points out that Bob Dylan is also not much of a people person in concert.  By contrast some artists like to include at least half an hour with either folksy stories to try to prove how ordinary they are or, worse still, diatribes about the latest gender issue to prove how politically correct they are.

(Don't) Shut up and play music!

Sick of being ignored by your favourite performer or band? I'm not suggesting that you are a stalker, but perhaps you are a modern day concert-goer. Someone who has bought the albums and now buys a seat to see their chosen musical heroes as they play either exactly like the record or utterly unlike it, both of which can be good, but between songs don't talk to their audience! This is not a rehearsal in an empty hall, there are people paying rapt attention to every nuance and gesture, listening intently and yet the on-stage patter is often non-existent or mumbled. Surely they could have anticipated the situation and thought of something to say by now! Are they incapable or just rude? Imagine if we sat in silence between numbers, no applause or whistles or worse still, simply mumbled amongst ourselves and ignored them until they played another song!

Years ago Van Morrison was castigated for his Melbourne concert because he did not say a word to the audience (and turned his back on them for most of the time), Neil Young who also played the same week opened his concert with the facetious "They canned Van for playing music and not talking, so tonight we're gonna talk and not play music!" But surely something in between is not too much to ask. Bob Dylan on his never ending tour does not say anything to the awaiting throng, making you wonder if he is really so phobic about being a spokesman for anything that he dare not even speak. Mind you he rarely even speaks to his band, years ago after a show at the Palais one of his stunned band members was seen wandering around muttering "He spoke to me!" as if the sky had opened up. And this was half way through a world tour!

Even The Beatles and The Rolling Stones back when they were powering through 25 minute sets that would put The Ramones to shame still managed to engage with the audience with a quip or two, at least letting us know that they knew which town or country they were in and who the hell they were playing to. Mind you that can have its pitfalls; you can come across as a "Yo Cleveland!" Spinal Tap cliche or as happened when a Festival Hall full of B Boys and B Girls turned from a rap-along horde to a booing and abusive beast when Public Enemy's Flavor Flav yelled " Yo Sydney! " He may have known what time it was, just not exactly where he was.

But at least they made an effort. Most of these people are intensely ambitious, it's taken years of radio and TV appearances, interviews , magazine articles, meet and greets and photographic sessions to get to this point and now they're suddenly shy and "aw shucks" incoherent? Surely someone would have pointed out to them by now that a concert was not just about the music, that it was also about performance and that might require one or two words in an hour or so.

I guess the exception to all this would be the current crop of doom and gloom fragile folkies, whose lyrics would indicate that they find it difficult to walk out their own front door, let alone walk on stage and put two words together. This new sincerity thing is making for some excruciating moments. Speaking of which, anyone who witnessed the stunning slomo-car-crash performance of The Brian Jonestown Massacre's lead singer's on stage Melbourne meltdown a few years ago, that was one long stream of consciousness rant interspersed with the occasional song fragment, would attest that too much talking is more than enough .

What drags a lot of us away from our home stereo and the money out of our wallets and into the live music venues is the human factor, a curiosity and fascination with the person or people behind the work that we've come to love and intimately know, the desire to watch and hear the creator creating their creation. It's a special kind of magic. And by being there we are part of the process, witnessing a series of once only moments that will perhaps never be repeated again; that it's different because we are there. If it were just the music we could almost make do with the CD or DVD, but it's not, it's a lot more than just the music, there's a yearning to commune, to mesh with the moment and it is a bit of a jolt to suddenly have an awkward silence, a self conscious snigger, an embarrassed shuffle or eyes averted mumbled "thanks" as the punctuation between works of such eloquence, style and dignity. An actor doesn't relax and scratch his arse on stage just because they're not talking, the art continues.

Reader Comments

Vinylman   -   I attended Michael Buble's concert last Friday night. After seeing Bob Dylan in concert at the same venue ten years ago and a number of other great albeit taciturn artists in concert I was struck by how much Buble engaged with his audience. There was plenty of music alongside much off the cuff, spontaneous banter with the audience and even a video tribute to our great city on a giant screen behind the band. I was really impressed. Also saw John Fogerty there a few months back and he too connected with the audience to just the right extent striking a good balance between the music and talk.


Stu-man-chu   -   I've seen some huge contrasts in crowd interaction & performance. I've seen Korn bring the house down with engaging & energetic performance in 97', then all apart with a car crash of a gig in 06'. Vice versa for Cat Power, whose recent tour was hindered only by amusing quarrels between her band, a stark contrast from her drunken breakdown at the Corner a few years back. There’s any number of factors that can determine what a given performance may be like.


Mark   -   By far the best communication I've seen from an artist to the audience was seeing The Who at Vodafone in 2004. A little from Roger Daltrey, but mainly of course due to Pete Townshend. He can waffle on a bit at times, but he is the only major artist I've ever seen who talks to the crowd like they're a bunch of his mates, and we're all in on the joke. They played a blinder of a show too.


Dave   -   I attended Van Morrison's 3 Melbourne concerts (Feb,1985) and 1 in Belfast (1990). The music & band were great, but Van ignoring the audience overshadowed them. In contrast, this year I travelled to Wisconsin & attended a concert by the audience-friendly Gordon Lightfoot, who I found warm & down-to-earth backstage after the show. James Taylor is also very approachable. I can't understand a music star turning their back on the people who have bought their albums & concert tickets & made their work acclaimed forever.

Jac   -   I also attended one of Van the Man's gigs in '85, and have to say, I went to hear the music - NOT listen to some overseas musician comment on politics or the weather in Melbourne. So the guy is shy. Big deal. I got what I went for ... entertainment and brilliant music. And if he never returns to our shores, which looks likely, at least I can say I've seen him... 3 rows from front and taken photos.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

VAN MORRISON – Like A Jelly Roll


Tanya Headon claims to ‘hate music … all of it”.  Here is her attack on Van Morrison.

VAN MORRISON – Like A Jelly Roll

Van The Man. What kind of nickname is that? Its as if he was so dull that the couldn’t think of any distinguishing factors of his personality to hang a sobriquet on. Truth is of course that a lot of people have been brought up with the ridiculous notion that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Suddenly the name Van The Man makes sense. Well, I have no such compunction.

Van Morrsion is a fat, curmudgeonly old Irish git – whose success lies squarely at the feet of Irish isolationism and racism. His version of red-eyed soul was the nearest the Republic got to Motown, which is to say that it was significantly distanced by an ocean in between. Adding more Celtic lyrical touches ended up with the boglands version of Joe Cocker wibbling pointlessly about shaking his tush in the moonlight, before losing it all completely on Astral Weeks. What is it about Irish popsters that compels them to write songs about dancing under the light of the moon? Surely a lack of light would be the only thing that would make the corpulent Morrison and the stick thin (and rotting significantly) Lynott look good.

Back to the Moondance album though, when Van was supposedly at the height of his powers – before he started doing Christian rhymes with Cliff Richard. It kicks off with And It Stoned Me, a song whose drug pretentions are so hidden that even a nun could work them out. But how – you ask – did this mythical substance stone Morrison? Well, it stoned him – and I quote – “Just like a jelly roll”. Suddenly it all makes sense why Van is so damn fat. A roll. Full of jelly. Lawks a lordy, I bet it isn’t a fruit set jelly either – more the scrapings off of the side of a tin of corned beef.

Of course Van, being the God botherer he is, could mean stoned in the biblical sense. The jelly roll line still makes no sense, but the fact that he was getting stoned by people who had bought his other records – and not for the first time. And its happy thoughts like that which will stop me from completely crucifying Morrison in the way he deserves.

Reader Comments

DAN MCALLISTAIR   -   Van Morrison’s nickname is the Belfast Cowboy moron. Do some research before you slam the classics.

DUNCAN RICH   -   Van is not particularly fat. Howard Taft was fat. Henry VIII was fat. Big Bill Broonzy was fat. Van Morrison is not.

EDDY BOYD   -   What can one say about Van Morrison except that he was at the right place at the right time. In fairness tho, he does have a few catchy tunes (but nothing that could possibly explain his popularity). One of his songs which caught my ear some time ago was “and it stoned me”. When I looked up the lyrics I found they were sloppily written and ambiguous. but not even in an interesting way.

BARRINGTON   -   I just can’t believe there’s someone tragic enough to regularly waste their life away writing about things that they really, really dislike.

DAVID   -   I know I shouldn't really respond to a post from someone who doesn't even know what COUNTRY Van Morrison is from (Irish? The Republic?) or the chronology of his albums, but I felt I had to. I know you were probably being flippant, but to focus on your misinterpretation of ONE song from a cannon of hundreds is just ridiculous. Not as ridiculous, however, as your accusation that Van (the Man) is racist a mere sentence before calling his home country a ‘bogland’.

SHANNON   -   WOW! who wrote this? Jelly Roll is a slang term for the female genitalia.

JESSICA   -   Van Morrison is a legend. And I am a 16 year old Australian girl. Who cares if his lyrics don't make sense to you, if you don’t like his country, or if you think he is fat, his music is still great. And if you haven’t noticed, which obviously you haven’t, he is/ was from a different era. His music strange lyrics or not, is ten times better than this stuff everyone listens to in the 21st century. The man has a voice, and a bloody good one at that, it seriously does not take much, if any, talent these days to be called a singer.


JIM MORRISON   -   Well though I like the spirit of this blog post, there are far too many factual errors and ignorance of history to actually like it. As for Van Morrison, I dislike him for his voice which is grating, inexpressive (unless yelling is expression), near tuneless and unpleasant. The man can’t hold a note for longer than three seconds and has a one octave range. Keeping your eyes closed when you sing does not mean you have soul. Perhaps people mistake soul for being an unsmiling and unpleasant prick to both his fans and band mates? Van Morrison has all the charm of an irritable puffer fish inflating himself in order to seem impressive. But puffer fish are more useful, at least one can eat them (if you’re careful). And though friends of mine have tried to convince me of Van’s worth, he’ never been less than irritating or more than mediocre to me.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

10 Outrageous Van Moments



1. Van's contractual obligation album  -  When Van was trying to leave Bang shortly after the death of Bert Berns, he was reminded by Berns' widow that he still owed Bang an album.  He sat down and recorded 31 "tracks" and handed over the masters. The "songs" revolve around twin themes of mocking Berns' songwriting and Van's stupidity to have even been a part of Bang records.  Unfortunately, it has come back to bite him as these songs have turned up on various compilations and I'm sure people listening must have said "this Van fellow isn't much chop".  Many have urged Van to buy the rights to these things and either work on them o delete them.

2. It ain't easy being green  - Van recorded Joe Raposo's gentle song at the height of Kermit mania.  It was a bizarre move for a performer who claims that "it's all about the music" to record something that can only be called a 'novelty song'.  Since when did 'whimsy' trump Van's usual homage to the great blues and rhythm and blues artists of the past?

3. No beer at shows  -  Van is ever the man to get a "bee in his bonnet" about something.  A few years ago it was the serving of alcohol at concerts.  Van was understandably upset with patrons going in and out of the concert hall mid-concert carrying pints.  As a person who has courageously battled a struggle with alcohol he was less than impressed with the multiple interruptions and ordered alcohol sales to stop before show-time. Audiences weren't amused. 


4.  Linda Gail Lewis  -  The partnership with LGL was always likely to end badly. Van assumed the sister of Jerry Lee Lewis had more of the Lewis musical DNA than she had.  Also, when they met she was touring Britain with a Welsh "band" called the Red Hot Pokers.  I hesitate to call them "amateurish" because all musicians should be respected but they weren't up to the usual high standard of artists who usually grace the stage with Van. Some comical moments ensued for long term Van fans and, dare I say, 'connoisseurs' of his music.  There were threats of harassment lawsuits and eventually everything was settled out of court.  The country album they recorded together was released but eventually it was allowed to drift into obscurity. Like a scene from Orwell's 1984, Van seems to be trying to erase all memory of the album. A bit like his changing of the cover of the album Days Like This to remove Michelle Rocca's photo.  

5. The Baby crisis and tragedy  -   The baby and Gigi Lee controversy started as a fiasco that gave birth to a wealth of punny headlines and ended in tragedy.  Van really must have suffered emotionally through this time. Of course, the main tragedy was the death of both mother and child.


6. Richard Gere fiasco  -  As much as Van claims on Keep Me Singing that the 'home boys welcome me back' he really has been chummy with some famous celebrity names  -  Pamela Anderson, Farrah Fawcett and Richard Gere to name a few. Sometime in the 1990s Richard Gere even joined Van on stage for a few shows. Then there was the much-publicised bromance break up.  Some said it was because Richard's cachet with the ladies was outshining Van.  Others said it was because Richard's peace and love Hollywood version of Buddhism was only skin deep and he was real jerk underneath. Whatever it was Richard Gere is now officially off Van's Christmas card list.


7. Web Sheriff  -  Sometime in the first decade of the new millennium Van attacked the Internet via the web sheriff.  Anything anyone published that Van didn't like, he allowed the web sheriff to threaten them.  He has a point with so many people specialising in offering illegal downloads of Van materials. But the attack affected great sites like Wavelength and the famous SFU site by Michael Hayward.  All those sites ever did was promote Van interest and scholarship and probably helped generate sales for Van.

8. Complaint songs  -  For awhile Van songs were all sweetness and light.  Except maybe for T.B. Sheets.  Then one of these complaints songs found its way onto an album.  Then another and another until there was a veritable cottage industry of complaint songs.  We half expected an album of complaints songs to be released,  but that hasn't happened yet. From comments online, it really turned a lot of people off. They often point out the fact that Van has had a pretty damned charmed life compared to most people. 


9. the kaftan  -  Groovy baby.  The 60s and 70s were a time of great experimentation and it lead to some of the best popular music of all time.  (Who can forget Up, Up and Away and Tie a Yellow Ribbon?) Clothing too was getting brighter and drawing on influences from around the world.  The kaftan, the Nehru jacket (still worn by evangelist Benny Hinn), the fez, etc were being worn by performers who should know better.  Then Van joined in with a little kaftan number on the back cover of Astral Weeks.
10.  the high kicks and 'onesie' on The Last Waltz  -  Apparently Van was very nervous on the day of the Band's last concert dubbed The Last Waltz.  Martin Scorcese was signed to do a concert film and Van's performance is captured for the world to see.  Yes, he's wearing a spangly purple onesie. Yes, he finishes the song off with a series of dramatic high kicks.  In between it's an absolutely brilliant performance that blows them all away.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Jackie Wilson Said


“Mike T's A Boat Against the Current Blog has has a good piece about Van's Jackie Wilson song.  

A few years ago, hearing Van Morrison’s classic rock hosanna on my friend’s car radio, I suddenly had the urge to leap to my feet, clap, jump on the roof, and sing at the top of my lungs to innocent bystanders. I had to settle for turning up the volume, snapping my fingers, and rocking back and forth in the passenger seat.

My friend eyed me in the same quizzical way he had at the end of a Bruce Springsteen concert two decades ago, disbelieving my transformation from a sedate passenger to someone possessed. “What’s with you?” he asked.

“I’m so wired up/Don’t need no coffee in my cup,” I sang, by way of answer.

“Well, obviously not,” he said with a chuckle.

I learnt later that he had reason to be understanding of my passion for this song—his girlfriend had jumped up in an ecstatic dance as soon as she heard the opening chords of this same tune in concert.

Enlightenment was the title of a Morrison album from the 1990s, but perhaps, in terms of what he’s always sought, that was a misnomer. What he’s really wanted all along has been rapture, a kind of ecstatic transport. Yammering incessantly about the experience only drives it away—which is why Morrison might be the most notoriously cranky introvert in rock ‘n’ roll history. But rapture was exactly what he found and transmitted in less than three minutes of this infectious tribute to soul man Jackie Wilson.

Wilson was one of the African-American R&B artists whose rhythms Morrison and other Belfast lads absorbed “down by the pylons” in their adolescence. As a youngster, I wondered what Reet-Petite meant. I even speculated that I might have misheard the phrase.

I finally found out what it meant in a fine essay by Brian Doyle—titled, concisely and inevitably, Van, that appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of American Scholar Magazine. The phrase, Doyle revealed, came from Wilson’s first chart hit, penned by Motown-mogul-in-the-making Berry Gordy Jr., from 1958.

Morrison acknowledges Reet-Petite not just in words but in the exuberance that lifts this tribute immediately from its famously inviting opening—“Da, da, da, da, da,da, da, da…” Both works celebrate the joy generated by the mere sight of a woman—“the finest girl you’ll ever want to meet,” Wilson calls her, while Morrison simply declares, “I’m in Heaven when you smile.”

Wilson’s career was tragically cut short by a 1975 heart attack suffered in concert that rendered him, helpless and in agony, until he died a little more than seven years later. His commercial peak was even more truncated. Though his greatest hit, (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, came out in 1967, he had to hit the oldies circuit a mere two years later.

But, though death took Wilson far too soon, he had already lived his life at the fullest every moment he was onstage.  And you don’t have to look very far to find his DNA elsewhere at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll.

That dynamism carries over into both Morrison’s performances (when he’s in the moment and not royally pissed off at someone or other, that is), and the same urge to raise the roof, to hold a rock ‘n’ roll counterpart to an old-fashioned revival meeting, can be seen in almost every live Springsteen performance.

So now “lonely teardrops” for Jackie Wilson today. Turn on his music and exult that he and his apostles—Morrison and Springsteen—make you happy to be alive. Let it all hang out!