Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Van at San Francisco's Beat Museum

The Beat Museum is celebrating its fifteenth birthday.  The following is a post by founder Jerry Cimino taken from the museum's website and records the day in 2016 when Van came to visit.    

My wife, Estelle, has known I’ve been a fan of Van Morrison for a very long time. Hymns to the Silence, A Night in San Francisco, Enlightenment, The Healing Game. I could go on and on.

Two years ago Van unexpectedly stopped in to The Beat Museum. He even posted about it on his own Facebook page. Van mentions Kerouac and the Beats in a number of his songs. From the lyrics alone, you can tell On The Road and The Dharma Bums were a big influence on him.

My wife and I were just beginning a workout at the gym. She works out a lot more than I do. It’s a little game between us. She pushes me to go work out more often than I would ever think of doing. I try to get creative with excuses as to why I can’t go. I was about five minutes into a planned one-hour bicycle routine when my cell phone buzzed. It was Brandon and Bob at the museum. The text read: “Van Morrison is upstairs touring the second level.”

I stepped off the bike in a flash. I ran up to Estelle on the treadmill behind me. She had her earbuds in. I mouthed the words, “I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go.” I showed her the text I’d just received. Her eyes flashed and she smiled and said loudly as people do when they’re wearing earbuds, “You’ve got to go.”

I ran to the locker room to get my clothes, calculating how long it might take me to get from the other side of the TransAmerica Building back to North Beach. I sent Brandon and Bob a text, “I’m on my way. You guys have got to keep Van there at least another ten minutes.” I half ran and half walked fast back to North Beach. I came in to the museum huffing and puffing and spied Van standing by the ’49 Hudson. He was digging it.

We spoke, exchanged pleasantries. He really seemed to like our place and asked a few questions. I quoted a line of his from a song called On Hyndford Street (Hymns to the Silence, 1991) where he says, “Reading Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac over and over again…” He knew I was a fan.

Later, after talking about poetry and making a few purchases Van split. My wife made it back to the museum about twenty minutes later after finishing up at the gym. She walked purposeful up to Bob and Brandon. “OK, you two. How did you arrange for Van Morrison to walk in the door so Jerry could get out of his workout?”

It was a good day.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

An Unreleased Van Album from 1975

Jeff Gold’s Record Mecca is basically a music sales site specialising in high end music memorabilia.  The post about an unreleased Van album is intriguing.

Virtual Museum  - An Unreleased Van Album from 1975

I’ve been collecting rare records and music memorabilia for 46 years, and just when I think I’ve seen it all, something surfaces that blows me away.  This is one of those times.  Yesterday I listed on the Recordmecca site an impossibly rare and possibly unique reel to reel tape of rough-mixes for an unreleased Van Morrison studio album.  He recorded it in 1975 for Warner Bros, and remarkably, in the 42 years since these recordings were made, no copies have surfaced.  That’s all the more remarkable in an era of YouTube, file sharing and rampant bootlegging.

Morrison released no albums between 1974’s Veedon Fleece and 1977 A Period of Transition.   Explaining his three year absence in a May 1977 Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe, Morrison said “I didn’t really go anywhere. I just had to stop. I wasn’t getting out of it what I wanted…it just wasn’t worth the hotels and the airports and all that. I’ve been doing this since I was 12. I personally reached a place where I wanted to take it apart so I could put it together in a way that I could live with it, and could maybe even be happy with it.”

This process included several much-publicised abandoned album projects. One of them was a nearly completed album with jazz producer Stewart Levine (on which Morrison was backed by most of The Crusaders. “I backed off from it because it wasn’t feeling right. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do a whole album.”

The origins of this tape are best explained by the accompanying letter of authenticity from record producer Sunny Levine.

 “In the fall of 1975 Stewart Levine (my father) began work on an album with Van Morrison (then signed to Warner Bros. Records).  Levine assembled a stellar cast of musicians to play on the record and they spent two weeks recording at the legendary Record Plant studios in Sausalito, California.

Levine, Morrison and the thoughtfully cast band got along great and the sessions were a joyful experience.  Morrison was very relaxed and sounds extra soulful as you can hear on the tape. The whole tracking experience was a pleasure with no drama in sight.

They went away for a week and planned to put the finishing touches on the record, which would have been the Tower of Power horns, followed by mixing.  When they returned to the studio, Morrison and Levine had an argument that abruptly ended the sessions and that was that!  The record was never released…

Sunny Levine said that he had the tape since he packed up his childhood home 20 years ago.  He had it transferred to digital at the Bernie Grundman mastering facility. He further claims it is the only known evidence of these recordings.


Joe Sample - piano, fender rhodes, Wurlitzer
Jim Gordon – drums
Ed Brown – bass
Mel Brown – guitar
Arthur Adams - guitar


1.       You Move Me
2.       Grits Ain’t Groceries
3.       Don’t Change On Me
4.       We’re Gonna Make It
5.       It Hurts to Want It So Bad
6.       The Street Only Knew Your Name
7.       Down To Earth
8.       I Have Finally Come to Realise
9.       Joyous Sound

Friday, 16 March 2018

Funny Things People Say - Part 22

Jerand   -   Van's driving me crazy with all these album releases. I'm a completist so I have to spend big to buy all this stuff he keeps putting out - Keep Me Singing (2016), Roll With the Punches (2017) and Versatile (2017). I'll have to get another job to pay for all the stuff, not to mention the merch.  

Wally Bob   -   I hate to tell you this but you will really driven crazy with Van's latest.  Get this, You're Driving Me Crazy is Van's latest and it's being released on April 27.  Sorry Jerand! 

Barbara Rodgers   -   I resonate with so many of the feelings Greta Garbo had. There’s a song by Van Morrison (another introvert), Just Like Greta, that came to mind.

Larry Schlesinger   -   As I remembered it, I hardly knew who Jim Morrison was before I saw the movie The Doors directed by Oliver Stone. It came out in March 1991 so I would have been 17, in my final year of high school. I remember, such was my musical naivety at the time, that I kept on confusing Van Morrison, the Irish folk singer with Jim Morrison, the hard-drinking, poetry-spouting Dionysian rock-god. I wince now, thinking about it.

Alex in NYC   -   Talk Talk’s 1988 Spirit of Eden album was a magnum opus that entirely erased the band's arguably ignoble beginnings (personally speaking, I still love their early stuff as well) in favour of largely uncharted, improvisational music that touched on everything from the deepest, most achingly soulful gospel to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and beyond.

Tammy Fullam   -   Happy birthday to Van Morrison. We offer a TREE-mendous happy birthday to Mr. Morrison because he honoured a variety of tree some time ago with a beautiful song titled Redwood Tree. If you've not had the opportunity to see this giant in person (we are referring to the tree, Mr. Morrison is only 5'5") you should put it on your bucket list. They are breathtaking! The tallest of trees, a Redwood can grow beyond 300 feet in height and if you need help picturing that, it's 54.5 X Van Morrisons stacked on top of each other. Redwoods can live beyond 1,500 years. If Mr. Morrison lives to be 100 as does his progeny, his progeny's progeny and so on, we've got at least 15 generations of irreverent, introverted Irishmen to see one Redwood from birth to maturity.  Stack these imagined 15 generations of Morrisons from foot to head and you're still only at 82.5 feet.  

Purvis Campbell   -   Not all of us can be a Seamus Heaney in our use of language. Nor Sir Van Morrison in our ability to communicate with words and music.

Chas McBride   -   One of my favourite artists was a young Van Morrison before he became the late night casino strip circuit guy, he wrote a couple albums when he was really young. One of them is called Astral Weeks.

Luke O’Connor   -   ‘Happy’ by Pharrell has been a big hit with crowds over the last few months but the classics still win at the end of the day. The comfort and surefire dance floor fodder of the Beatles and Van Morrison are still strong enough to keep the Bruno Mars’s and Daft Punks at bay.

Benh Zeitlin   -   I have this dream film where I get Van Morrison to play himself travelling through war-torn NATO strike era Yugoslavia after being shot down in an airplane trying to get to Belgrade where he’s set up his farewell show after seeing a TV spot about a Van Morrison cover band that’s playing “bombing-parties” where all the high school kids go out during air raids, set up speakers somewhere that’s already been hit, get drunk and play Gloria and make out. Van, if you’re out there, it’s gonna be a hit.

The Wall Street Journal   -   Sean Rowe recalls the ecstatic intensity of late-’60s Van Morrison and stark subtlety of late-era Johnny Cash.  (one more of the 8 million singers who have been compared  to Van Morrison).

Jake Houlsby   -   Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan taught me the true power of words. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell taught me that the most beautiful things you can say are normally the most simple. Nick Drake very much taught me that a great record is bigger than the sum of its parts by far. Van Morrison and Nina Simone taught me the importance of capturing a moment.

Amarillo Bill   -   Rita Coolidge murdered Van Morrison's Crazy Love, playing down all the jagged surfaces of the original.

Alayna West   -   Let's discuss Van Morrison. As he is one of my absolute favourite musicians of all time, I have been wondering about his type for quite some time. Some say ISTP, but I do not think his songs are very S-like. One could argue that it is his lesser Ni-Fe kicking in but I just don't see it. He is a very, very private man who did not appreciate attention from the media. If you have an interest in Van Morrison, what do you think his type is? I am thinking INTP, first and foremost. I am still trying to decide if he operates with Ne or Ni, according to books I've read and interviews I've watched. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Meeting Van Morrison: Part II

winterof79   -   A friend had a lunch date with Van in the mid eighties before mobiles, she took an extended lunch with the knowledge of her co workers, he met her at the restaurant and asked the maitre d that they have some privacy , have a table tucked away at the back, and not be disturbed. After a longish while a waiter approached and interrupted the tete-a-tete, he got very upset and asked why they had ignored his request for peace and quiet. The waiter very politely said "Apologies Mr Morrison, it's a phone call for the lady". Seems the office needed her back.

Lynton Crosby   -   My cousin gave Van Morrison guitar lessons.

mrsiegal   -    I saw Van in a pub in Wells and he told me to go f### myself

EastHem   -   Belfast is a very friendly place and Van is too, but just not after 50 years of being recognised. Your story makes more sense as he usually hates being accosted by members of the public!
devonboy    -   I'd be honoured if Van Morrison took two seconds out of his life and told me to f*** off. The man's a genius.

kandk   -   Someone I knew saw him in a coffee bar in Notting Hill, went up and did the 'just want to say how much your music means to me etc." thing. He said "well that's fucking made my day, hasn't it?"

slimpanatella   -    An ex-colleague of mine once worked as a barman in a pub. Every night for a fortnight, Van Morrison popped in for a pint after recording tracks at a studio up the road. The colleague was a massive Van fan. He wanted to tell the great man what an impact his music had had on his life. But he'd heard that Van could be a bit of a curmudgeon. On being told by a member of studio staff that Van had finished the album and his visit to the pub that day would be his last, colleague plucked up courage to speak to the balding legend as he came to the bar to place his order. *deep breath* "Mr Morrison... I'd just like to tell you wha..." "Just pour the f###ing drinks."

Telboy1999   -   I met Van in the Bokhara restaurant in Hollywood, Co Down a few years ago. Apparently it was one of his favourite places to eat when he was at home. I was dying to ask him for his autograph, but my wife tried to dissuade me, worried that the famous curmudgeon might tell me to feck off. I figured that having Van the Man tell me to feck off was good enough for me. Walked over, apologised for interrupting his meal, and asked. He looked me up and down, apparently decided I wasn't worth a "Feck off" and wrote a very nice note to me on a napkin. Lovely bloke. Magical music too. Looked like a homeless person though.

Mealiepudding   -   Now this is just a bit different from a story I heard about my colleague's friend meeting Van Morrison. That was not nice at all......

OtherguyOverby   -   Had that Van Morrison in the back of the cab once....

BornCynic   -   Met someone in Bath who described him as a "curmudgeonly old sod". But when you get the world coming up to you and saying thank you, I want to shake your hand it must get on your nerves - especially if you have had decades of it.

Terence Cass   -   The first time I met Van was when he was in Them at the Selby Folk Festival in Yorkshire and was desperate to make friends who would buy him a drink. We shunned him.

binmandom   -   It was my 23rd birthday and myself and a few friends went to see Van in Bournemouth at Winter Gardens as I seem to remember. After the gig it was suggested we go to the Highcliff Hotel for cocktails to carry on the birthday vibe. When we got to the hotel bar we noticed that Van's band were all sitting on one table enjoying some post-show drinks. We were on another table. When the waiter or whoever told us to finish our drinks as we couldn't be served after 11 as non-residents, one of our lot went over to the band and asked if we could continue drinking on their room keys. They said yes and we spent a couple of hours joking and drinking with them. Then just after about 1 am, Van came to the table and bought a round of drinks. He was introduced to the interlopers and noticed my copy of that month's Q Magazine which I had bought to read on the train down from London. 'Whose is that?' Said Van, fairly grumpily. (The edition had a picture of Mick Hucknell on the cover as Stars had just been released). ' Er, It's mine' I said almost apologetically - ' Well, he can't sing a note and YOU WILL NEVER MAKE ANYTHING OUT OF YER LIFE!!' Charming man. Prescient too as he was not wrong.

Motivepower   -   Prior to a gig in a northern industrial town my elderly mother, a fan, who is in her 80's approached him with apprehension and asked for an autograph. He told her he was on his way to the hall where he was playing that evening for the sound check etc. My mother is a bit of a battleaxe and would have no truck with any of his supposed rudeness had it been on display. She said he was charm and warmth personified. Just thought I'd put it out that he might not always be a complete twat.

PaulyP   -   I don't have many stories myself, but a former colleague was a big Van Morrison fan (named his daughter after one of his songs) and would do as best he could to buy a ticket for every Van Morrison gig whenever he played in London, and usually succeeded. Having seen him play one night at Hammersmith Odeon, he went to the next gig the following night. He claimed that while he was in the bar (where you would usually find him) the PA announced that the concert was about to begin. The crowd eventually emptied into the auditorium. However, he knew that VM did not come on until well after the announcement so casually finished his pint. By then the bar was empty and then Van Morrison next appeared and sat down close by with a pre-concert drink. As a massive fan he approached him and asked him if he would kindly autograph a program, making it out to his daughter. He said Van Morrison looked up from his table, glanced at his watch, and said 'I don't start work till 9'

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Legacy Recordings Story

I had been wondering about recent Van releases being listed as Legacy Recordings. In the past several years the The Authorised Bang Collection (3 X CD)(April 2017), It’s Too Late To Stop Now - Volumes II, III, IV  (3 X CD, 1 X DVD) (June 2016), Versatile (1 X CD) (December 2017), The Complete Them 1964-1967 (3 X CD) (December 2015) and Essential Van Morrison (2 X CD) (August 2015) have been released as Legacy Recordings

Legacy Recordings is Sony Music Entertainment’s catalogue division and produces and maintains probably the world’s most significant catalogue of music. It was founded in 1990 by CBS Records and eventually came under the combined Sony BMG Music Entertainment group.

Legacy has now acquired Van’s back catalogue consisting of 50 albums, video recordings and compilations, including Van's Solo Recordings from 1971 to now and work from the 1960s with Them. Legacy plans numerous re-issues including compilations, Deluxe Legacy Editions and a full catalogue digital roll out. The albums listed above are part of the release process that's already happening. 

The following is a list of albums included under Legacy Recordings holdings.

The Angry Young Them / Them (1965)
Them Again (1966)
Them featuring Van Morrison (compilation, 1972)
The Story of Them featuring Van Morrison (compilation, 1997)
St. Dominic's Preview (1972)
Hard Nose the Highway (1973)
It's Too Late to Stop Now (Live) (1974)
Veedon Fleece (1974)
A Period of Transition (1977)
Wavelength (1978)
Into the Music (1979)
Common One (1980)
Beautiful Vision (1982)
Inarticulate Speech of the Heart (1983)
Live at the Grand Opera House, Belfast (Live) (1984)
A Sense of Wonder (1984)
No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1984)
Poetic Champions Compose (1987)
Irish Heartbeat (w/the Chieftains) (1988)
Avalon Sunset (1989)
Enlightenment (1990)
Hymns to the Silence (1991)
Too Long in Exile (1993)
A Night in San Francisco (Live) (1994)
Days Like This (1995)
How Long Has This Been Going On? (1995)
Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (1996)
The Healing Game (1997)
The Philosopher's Stone (2CD outtakes compilation, 1998)
Back on Top (1999)
The Skiffle Sessions: Live in Belfast (Live) (2000)
Down the Road (2002)
What's Wrong with This Picture? (2003)
Magic Time (2005)
Pay the Devil (2006)
Keep it Simple (2008)
Astral Weeks "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" (Live) (2009)