Sunday, 26 November 2017

Funny Things People Say - Part 20

Earnest Prole   -   I was just thinking you should blog about Van Morrison more often.

Euwee   -   There are three great tragedies in my life and when they happened to me each time I was listening to some Van song or album. I no longer listen Van, particularly in the car. 

Mike Sylwester   -   I love Van Morrison's music, but when I attended one of his concerts he barely acknowledged his audience. He was aloof to the point of rudeness. I felt very dissatisfied at the end of the concert.

Young Hegelian   -   What you get with Van is audience "smother-love" compared to what I saw at a concert with the French harpsichordist Pierre Hantai. He said that unless the lights were darkened to the point where he couldn't see the audience & he was given a light by the harpsichord to see his music, he wouldn't play the concert.

Comanche Voter   -   Van Morrison and his recording of Carrickfergus always got my motor going, as did his Raglan Road. Now I think Carrickfergus may be as traditional tune; and the lyrics to Raglan Road came from a poem written by an Irish "working man's poet" in the late 1930s. But both are powerful performances and powerful songs.

Dave DiMartino   -   In many ways like Van Morrison, Cher is a mammal, has two legs and two arms and has been making music since the ‘60s, Cher is simply too great to ever cast aspersions on, which I wouldn’t do even if I had any!

D   -   I have no comment on Van Morrison. Nor a comparison of Street Legal to Into the Music.

Limited blogger   -   Thanks for the gentle push to listen to some Van Morrison.

Mid-Life Lawyer   -   If you are under 55, you might have actually considered Into The Mystic as a funeral song, if you ever contemplated such things. (I went through a period where I picked my three funeral songs every once and awhile for fun) Into the Mystic is a good song for your funeral when you aren't real worried about dying yet. When it gets a little more real, I don't think it works so well anymore.

IgnatzEsq   -   I agree with the need for more Van Morrison blogging. A good potential post, Van's inability to pronounce the word 'Electric' in The Last Waltz.  I've not heard or thought of Into the Mystic for funerals, but have seen it used in weddings. It's used as the first dance in the sappy wedding scene of the mediocre comedy American Wedding. The song is the best part of the movie actually.

Quaestor   -   The guitar hook is quite profound. But I remember regretting spending my money on this, because I didn't like the sound of Van Morrison's voice. I never learnt to like it later. I don't doubt that he's an excellent singer. There's just a tone to it that I find unappealing. That's natural. The Northern Irish have the most impenetrable accent in the whole of the British Isles. It's atrocious. Ulstermen don't understand anybody, including themselves. They all talk that way. 

When the Derry wife asks the Derry husband what he wants for breakfast, she's likely to spend the next hour wondering how to pan fry an anvil. Their mumbled gibberish is probably why the DeLorean was such an abortion, kinda like the Tower of Babel. Ulstermen do okay with ships, however. The din of a working shipyard is so overwhelming that talking is pointless, which works the Ulsterman's advantage. An Ulsterman is what you get if a Dubliner and a Glaswegian are passed through a Cuisinart. The Dublin speech is lilting and rhythmic, but Glaswegian is hardly melodious. Some Scots dialects are pleasant enough, but Glaswegian... Put it this way: Scots is to Glaswegian as a Cremona violin is to a musical saw.

chickelit   -   My favourite Van Morrison song is a Dylan cover. Beck sampled it in the '90's. Had the the makers of Breaking Bad just used this song in the finale, 50 years would have threaded so nicely.

Eddie Willers   -   Moondance is a Desert Island Disc!

Woot Kleever   -   Everytime I hear a new song on the radio I'm thinking how would Van Morrison have done this? This is just so unfair to Bey, Katy, Taylor, Justin, Rihanna, etc.  

Monday, 20 November 2017

"Hi, Jon"

Van Morrison: A Brush with Greatness

Here's a funny story from the Guardian in 2017 called The day Van Morrison remembered me – and impressed my girlfriend. 

A chance encounter in a restaurant in Bath with Van the Man leads to a bizarre series of events for one fan, recalls Jon Bewley.

In 1994 I was travelling around the UK visiting various arts festivals with an eye to setting up a new arts organisation, the future Locus+. At the Bath Festival, I was travelling alone. Not knowing the city, I chanced upon a small, out-of-the-way restaurant and during the meal I noticed to my great surprise that Van Morrison was eating there, too, with a companion.

I was, and still am, an enormous fan of Van Morrison and had a momentary crisis of what I should do about this opportunity to meet him. I decided to approach his table.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you during your meal,” I said.

They both looked up at me.

“But… Van Morrison?”

He nodded.

“I just wanted to say how much your music has been an important part of my life, say thank you, and wondered if I could shake your hand.”

“What’s your name?”, Van Morrison asked.

“Jon,” I replied.

He offered his hand and I shook it.

“Thank you, Jon,” he said.

I then left them to it.

The next day I was walking down one of the many pedestrian precincts in Bath in the sunshine when I noticed Van Morrison coming towards me talking on his mobile phone. As he approached our eyes met and as he passed he raised his hand and mouthed, “Hi Jon,” to me as he continued on his way. I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t believe it – twice in two days.

The following day I had finished in Bath, so travelled back to Newcastle. It was my girlfriend’s birthday and I had a plan to surprise her with a weekend break in Dublin. We flew to the city and after checking into our hotel, decided to walk up O’Connell Street to St Stephen’s Green for early evening cocktails in the famous Shelbourne Hotel.

The bar was horseshoe-shaped and we had seats at the end of one side. After a few minutes my girlfriend turned to me and said: “Oh my God! You are not going to believe who has just walked in – Van Morrison!”

I almost choked on my margarita.

I turned around and Van Morrison had taken a seat at the bar opposite us. Our eyes met and after what seemed to be an eternity, he slowly raised his hand and mouthed: “Hi Jon.”

I was speechless with shock. Looking me in the eye, my companion said: “I didn’t know you knew Van Morrison.”

Monday, 13 November 2017

2017 Van Buyer's Guide

I thought late last year was a great time to buy Van product.  But he's gone even better this year with two new releases in under three months.  Doesn't Van know the meaning of the word 'retirement'? I urge all fans, both casual and the obsessed, to get out there and support the Van product release with your cards or wallet.  There is so much great music on offer.  

What about some special purchases for Christmas? You owe it to the next generation to pass on the Van legacy. Buy those CDs or vinyl versions for the kids or grandkids. Forget about their initial contemptuous looks. They'll come around in time.  What about that ungrateful son-in-law?  Get him hooked on Van and his negatives won't irritate you so much! Got any ex-wives?  Buy them the gift of Van and your divorce settlements won't crush you as much.  

Anytime is a good time to buy Van merchandise.  Here are some recent albums: 

1. Versatile (2017)  -  On December 1st, Van releases Versatile which similarly to Roll With the Punches sees Van releasing some originals among an album of covers.  Basically, the formula is one third Van and two thirds covers.  Roll With the Punches was bluesy whereas Versatile is more Jazz oriented.  Like Roll, Van also re-releases some songs.  It's a winning formula and it is sure to please fans.  Check out Van's official site for information.  

2. Roll With the Punches (2017)  -  it was only two months ago that Van released this deceptive little gem.  It's one of those records that grows on you with each listening.  It's Van's homage to blues and possibly Bob's Theme Time Radio Show

3. Keep Me Singing (2016) -  Keep Me Singing is a wonderful album, and, in my humble opinion, is easily in his Top 10.  Keep Me Singing is Van's 36th studio album and consists of 13 tracks - 12 original songs written and performed by Morrison, as well as a cover of the blues standard Share Your Love With Me - written by Alfred Baggs and Don Robey and previously recorded by artists such as Aretha Franklin and Kenny Rogers.

4. It's Too Late To Stop Now - Vol. II, III, IV + DVD (Released 10/6/16)

It's Too Late To Stop Now (Volumes II, III, IV & DVD) is a three CD and one DVD collection of previously unreleased live concert recordings from Van Morrison's mythic 1973 tour with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra.  Total run time is 313 minutes.

CD1: Recorded live at The Troubadour, Los Angeles, May 23, 1973
CD2: Recorded live at the Santa Monica Civic, California, June 29, 1973
CD3: Recorded live at The Rainbow, London, July 23 & 24, 1973
DVD: Recorded live at The Rainbow, London, July 24, 1973

5. The Essential Van Morrison (Released August 28, 2015)

A great 37 song overview of the man’s career.  I’m assuming some of your other best of Van CDs are worn out.  Very similar to the various Still on Top compilation albums but still great.

6. Moondance (2 CD version) (October 22, 2013)

The two CD version of the expanded Moondance album is a good choice. It contains a remastered version of Moondance and another CD of highlights from the multi-disc expanded version.

Other Product

Go to the official Van site and check out the merchandise.  There are vinyl versions of the albums, souvenir T -Shirts, hoodies, posters, caps, prosthetic limbs, etc. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Van's Best - Another Poll

Steve Hoffmann Music Forums is a fantastic site with a lot of Van material and comment.  Someone started a thread where people could vote on 21 Van albums.  I note that Common One, The Healing Game and Keep it Simple aren’t on there. Keep Me Singing wasn't around when the poll was constructed.  

The best according to this poll were as follows: 

  1.  Moondance
  2.  Astral Weeks
  3.  St Dominic's Preview
  4.  Tupelo Honey        
  5.  Veedon Fleece
  6.  His Band and Street Choir
  7.  It's Too Late to Stop Now
  8.  Into the Music
  9.  Hymns to the Silence
10.  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
11.  Them
12.  Poetic Champions Compose
13.  Hard Nose the Highway     
14.  Avalon Sunset
15.  Wavelength
16.  Enlightenment
17.  Blowing Your Mind
18.  A Night in San Francisco
19.  Days Like This
20.  Irish Heartbeat
21.  Too Long in Exile

My own Top 21 might look like this just at the minute:

  1.  Astral Weeks
  2.  Moondance
  3.  Veedon Fleece
  4.  Keep Me Singing       
  5.  It's Too Late to Stop Now
  6.  St Dominic's Preview
  7.  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
  8.  The Healing Game
  9.  Them 
10.  Into the Music
11.  Enlightenment
12.  Hard Nose the Highway
13.  A Night in San Francisco  
14.  Tupelo Honey
15.  Wavelength
16.  Common One
17.  His Band and Street Choir
18.  Keep it Simple
19.  Days Like This
20.  Hymns to the Silence
21.  Best of Volume 3

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Extreme Van Fan Anecdotes

Donna Lethal   -   Astral Weeks and T.B. Sheets both held - and hold - special places for me (you breathe in, you breathe out) not only from my Cambridge days when they still talked about Van - a decade and a half after he had left the neighbourhood - but as the soundtracks to great loss and the aftermath. I still can't listen to Into the Mystic because of the anguish that it accompanied. In Cambridge, I would wander around Harvard Square hungover early in the morning, out to buy cigarettes, unable to get the image of the 90-something drunk man playing knucklebones or the jailbird with "1%" hand tattoos who both shared our table the night before, not knowing how or why I had ended up there, until finally it was time for the movie theatre to open where I spent days away from my stifling apartment. Most nights I slept in my giant claw-foot tub. Eventually, I fled to New York.

Rob Muszynski   -   Living in the Bay area, I have had the chance to not only see him many times but I've had several conversations with him.  I made a case of Vin Morrison for some guests that I took to one of his concerts. Van kept one bottle and signed another for me. It's in a little trophy case. 

Rod Stewart   -   In 2006 I took my daughters to see Van play in LA. The promoter tells me Van would love to meet me backstage. So off I go. Van walks towards me and I stand up to give him a friendly hug and he just barges past me. Unbelievable. Why can't he just be nice to people?

Maya Webb   -   We all used to go to a dive bar after work.  This bar had a juke box and on that juke box was the album by Van Morrison called T.B. Sheets.  I would watch Mike across the room as he would smoke, drink, flirt with girls, play pool and at the end of the night he would put money into the juke box and play the title song from the album. It is 9 minutes and 34 seconds and I wished it would go on forever.

Unknown   -   I've always heard that Morrison still has stage fright after all these years and he's only effusive when well lubricated, which can put a show on one side or the other of falling apart or being classic.  I've seen him three times. Once in LA on his ill-considered tour with Linda Gail Lewis. I don't know how he could have thought that album was a good idea.  And twice in Atlanta both of which times were great, though he did not interact either time. As far as concert quirks: A) For some reason he's rarely able to pull off Moondance live and B) he tends to use the lyric "made of rattleskin hide" instead of "made of rattlesnake hide" when he's doing Who Do You Love?  And speaking of concerts, his shows are widely torrented and bootlegged, and many of them sound better than commercial live recordings by other artists. 

Hey Vinyl Man   -   As I understand it, it's not because he "doesn't address his audience" that people consider Van Morrison contemptuous. It's because he's been known to be outright rude to them on occasion - pretty much the definition of contemptuous. There's surviving video of a concert in 1974, I think in San Francisco, where some poor misguided soul called out for Brown Eyed Girl and he took more than five seconds to tell the guy off. (His response was something like, "If you keep your mouth shut, you might get what you want, otherwise you're just boring me to death and probably everybody else!")

vanderleun   -   The origin of T. B. Sheets is, figuratively and literally, in nightmare.  His mother, Violet Morrison, said that the song originally had emerged from a nightmare her son had and that he had felt it so strongly that he couldn't tell it to her but sang it instead with verses lasting for an hour.
An hour? The song on the album runs nearly 10 minutes, twice the length of any of the others, and an eternity for a pop album of the mid-60s. But an hour? Just to stay in that mental space for 10 minutes is enough for most people. (The song did not chart.) But an hour is inconceivable.  Still, I'd like to hear it. It's a song that first insinuates itself deep into your lungs and then crawls down your bones:

So open up the window and let me breathe,
I said, open up the window and let me breathe
I'm looking down to the street below
Lord, I cried for you, Oh, Lord.

The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets, on your sick bed.

I gotta go, l gotta,
And you said, please stay.
I want, I want a drink of water,
I want a drink of water,
I went to the kitchen to get me a drink of water,

I gotta go baby.
I send, I send, I send somebody around here later,
You know we got John comin' around

Later with a bottle of wine for you, babe."