Wednesday, 11 January 2017

What's Up With Van Morrison?


Every Van fan must know the Steve Hoffman Music Forums?  There's an incredible amount of discussion on Van (and, of course, a wide variety of other bands, albums and musicians).  Here's a sample of what one can expect.  In this thread Bubb-ho-tep starts off by asking What’s up with Van Morrison? (Only a few of the 250 or so replies are included.)

Bubba-ho-tep   -   First, he shuts down all "unofficial" Van info websites, proclaims his official site the only true source of info on our man, and promptly shuts down his official site. Then, he starts a new reissue campaign only to cancel midway through due to, I suppose, disagreements with the distributor thus leaving a big chunk of his back catalogue out of print. Even his recent Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl has seemingly fallen out of print (on CD at least) and no word at all on the To Be Born Again documentary that was going to be released.

I know that he's had his issues with the business in the past, but this is the first time (at least since the mid-70s) that he's cut himself off so abruptly. Any thoughts on what gives?

Davmar77   -   Moody isn't even the word for him. I gave up trying to figure him out a long time ago. I'm amazed he still has a fan base the way he does things these days.

Sid Hartha   -   I once had a blog entry removed blogger.com due to a complaint from his (then) record company. All I did was write a paragraph about a record of his, and posted a picture of the cover (which was also deleted from the hosting site, due to a complaint of copyright infringement).

Bubba-ho-tep   -   I find it amazing that Van (or his record company) would go out of his way to squash any online discussion of his recent work while at the same time bemoaning the fact that nobody pays attention to his recent work.  There's a really telling scene in the preview for To Be Born Again where there's a Van fan standing on the street holding a copy of one of his classic albums (can't remember which one) as Van drives by. Van makes a comment to the effect of "why don't you f***ing listen to my new stuff?" as he drives away. Maybe if he would be a little more willing to promote his new stuff, more people would listen to it. I for one think he's been on a hot streak for over a decade.

Jpmosu   -   Ahh, that makes me want to give the big ol' sociopath a bearhug.  Seriously, I suspect Van has some pretty serious issues--which is too bad--I'm a huge fan, and I hate to see someone so tortured.

Chickendinna   -   He certainly seems willing to alienate his fans, doesn't he? I've been hearing about his cantankerous demeanour for years, so it's not surprising. I'm in agreement about his recent output too. His releases have been very uneven. It's as if he turned off the quality control button.

Petrofsk   -   It's so difficult to discuss him. Like everyone else posting on the thread, I'm a hug Van Morrison fan. And, just like everyone else, I have a hard time figuring out what is with him. On the one hand, I find him without question to be a brilliant artist. I respect the fact that he still makes music, and, even thought I haven't enjoyed all his recent efforts, I still respect him for taking some chances & trying stuff out. And then you read stuff like this. And you wonder if there's a self-destructive side to him. 

Joelee   -   The guy has alcohol banned from shows for the reason he doesn't like people getting in and out of their seats. He then gives performances that has the audience getting up and leaving before the shows over.

Mark   -   Apparently, the behaviour reaches backstage as well. A few years ago, he played at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford. The local promoter, Jimmy Koplik, has been around a very long time and is known for making backstage a very pleasant experience for performers. Likewise, he never has a bad word to say about the artists. After the Van show, Koplik was interviewed on local radio and said, in no uncertain terms, that he would never promote another Van Morrison show.

Gordon Johnson   -    Never been to a bad Van performance ever. That said not been to see him for a decade. That's due to his more recent releases being not all to my liking. Still that should not alter the fact that he has always been on top of his game when I have attended any of his concerts here in Liverpool.

Jpmosu   -   Van's response to his fans reveals his utter self-absorption. Which strikes me as the ultimate artistic double-edged sword. Van's ability to be so "interior" (for lack of a better word)--that quality that makes him such a spellbinding performer at times--is the very thing that seems to make him unable to relate to people. Because he is so solipsistic, it's perfectly reasonable that he can't step outside of himself enough to understand why his songs touch other people, and then why people feel compelled to share this with the man who wrote those songs.  Sad, but reasonable.

jeffrey walsh   -   Aren't most musical artists a little crazy?

jupiter8   -   He also alienates casual fans as well. My brother saw him in Houston recently (and his knowledge of Van basically begins and ends with Brown Eyed Girl) and was not impressed with Van's attitude, the shortness of performance , and the aforementioned absence of beer, (especially since it was an outdoor sit-on-the-grass type of event).

davmar77   -    I've only seen him several times but the shows could be night and day. my first was in the summer of 1970 supporting Moondance as opening act for The Byrds during their untitled era. What an amazing concert top to bottom. I didn't see him again until 1978 for Wavelength. Rockpile opened and he couldn't follow them. I think he ended up cutting that tour short. I saw him in 92 and it was as good as the first time. A couple other times he just stared down at the stage or sped through every song just seemingly wanting to get things over with as fast as possible. 

Oatsdad   -   I warned my friend that I'd heard iffy/bad things about Van's shows, but she really wanted to go. She didn't care about the beer thing - she never mentioned it, so I didn't realise that was the case - but she thought the show was too short and too "by the numbers". She felt it was a show by some guy who didn't want to be there.

ManFromCouv   -   For someone who has demonstrated profound spiritual and religious assertions in both his music and personal life, Van seems to have a certain dislike for mankind. Those conflicting fundamentals lead me to suspect what a few others have mentioned; there are mental/emotional problems at play.

bRETT   -   He certainly seems unduly miserable for someone with an apparently pretty good life.  Saw him three years ago (behind Keep It Simple) and the show was truly perfunctory-- Some songs were rushed, no great vocal moments, everything ran like clockwork. He was onstage precisely at 7:30 and the show was over at precisely 9pm. Top ticket price was $350. He played a much better show at the NO Jazz & Heritage Fest this May-- better singing, more interesting setlist. But he spent 40 minutes beforehand having people monitor the audience for cameras-- at an outdoor festival! He does have a professional obligation to deliver professional performances and I know he's fallen short on that front... he deserves whatever criticism he gets for that.

Larry Mc   -   I think he's uncomfortable with his celebrity and would be happy just releasing recorded music and skip the live shows. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way anymore, hasn't for quite some time.  I'm very grateful that I have all his old music to enjoy and I hope he can look back and enjoy his work. Lots of amazing music has come out of this guy.

Gordon Johnson   -   If you don't put the man on a pedestal you won't be disappointed. 

Clarkophile   -   I think Van vacillates between loving the road and despising it. He's a mass of conflicting impulses, part of the reason he, like Lennon, is such a fascinating guy. I forget which bio it was, maybe Heylin's, but there's one quote from an ex-manager or somebody who said Van, on occasion, called him up and vowed to quit touring, only to have Van call him up in a few months' time eagerly asking him to book some shows. That's our Van.

Alylemoss   -   I don't expect to get a lot of support for what I'm about to say, but I personally find his open contempt for the audience kind of hilarious. And I say this as someone who paid $150-plus to see him in D.C. last year. I never wonder what Van thinks about his fans behind the scenes - I know he hates me, and it's a testament to his talent and artistry that so many people stick with him in spite of this. I also try not to take it personally. It doesn't seem like he treats his bandmates very well either. My theory is that the only people he respects as human beings are dead blues artists. While odd, that doesn't make his music any less great.

bubba-ho-tep   -   He's scaled back quite a bit on singing about being wronged by the business/friends. It still crops up from time to time, but NOTHING like it did in the mid-90's (Too Long in Exile, Days Like This, The Healing Game). For a few years, it got pretty bad. Couple that with those obnoxious Brian Kennedy echo vocals on Days Like This and The Healing Game and you have a pretty rough patch during that period.

(A buddy and I always used to joke about how Brian Kennedy would never be able to do a solo album because he wouldn't have anybody to echo....)

slstokes2216    -   When did you guys first begin to suspect he was a bit...off? For me it was A Town Called Paradise off the No Guru record. All that 'copycats ripped off my lyrics, copycats ripped off my songs' stuff made me wonder if he was losing it.

Too much time on Echo Beach?
frank3si   -   I know someone who lives just a couple of doors down from Van. His pleasant personality graces Van's dealing with his neighbours as well as his fans.

prof. stoned   -   I would rather say he was 'troubled'.  He was like that at age 18 already, back when he was still a nobody and performed with Them in the Maritime HotelSome eyewitness told a story of how 'incredibly rude' he was and how he thew a burning cigarette butt away at somebody without looking where it went. He also had 'the nerve' to throw a huge tantrum at Dick Rowe & the session musicians who showed up at Them's first recording sessions (the one where they did Gloria). Still, you gotta love this guy for being such a great artist.

Rstamberg   -   All this stuff's S.O.P. for Van Morrison, if you ask me. He's an artist. He always delivers the goods in the end.

Jim N.   -   To me it's sad that someone who has accomplished so much seems to be so bitter and angry. He's managed to work in the business pretty steadily for 45 years, has control of a large part of his catalogue, has written and performed an incredible number of artistically transcendent songs but seems to derive little or no joy from all of it. Such a sad waste! I really wish he could have enjoyed his success more.  I long ago gave up on Van the person and Van the performer. I will always love many of his albums and that is enough for me. I lost interest in his new material many years ago when he seemed to be cranking out albums according to a schedule, not when he had enough material to warrant one. 

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