Van Morrison

 Van Morrison

 Van Morrison – circa 1968

 “And I will drink the clear / Clean water for to quench my thirst” – ‘Sweet Thing’ (Van Morrison)

Marin County, California, in the U.S.A. in 1971 is home to a significant population of hippies.  These are lovers of alternative lifestyles.  Long-haired, laid-back young people are everywhere.  There is one face among the group that doesn’t belong.  Give him credit; he is trying to fit in.  Yet Irish rock star Van Morrison is something different.  Red-haired, full-cheeked, pale and pink, a scowl never too far away…he is the product of a different environment.  But then, no matter where he is, Van Morrison is one of a kind.

The man who will come to be known as Van Morrison is born George Ivan Morrison on 31 August 1945.  He enters the world at 125 Hynford St, Bloomfield, Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The babe is the only child of George Morrison and his wife, Violet.  George Morrison is a shipyard electrician, but he is also an avid collector of blues and jazz recordings.  His future wife, Violet Stitt, was a blues and jazz singer and a tap dancer in her youth.

“I have to be an Irish writer because that’s where I’m from,” Van Morrison states.  Yet traditional Irish sounds don’t play a large role in his introduction to music.  Instead, thanks to the music collection of his parents, the youngster grows up to the sounds of the southern parts of the United States.  “I heard jazz, big band jazz…county & western, gospel, blues…,” recalls Van Morrison.  Such artists as the folk / blues artist known as Leadbelly and bluesman John Lee Hooker are formative influences.  Morrison says he first heard the latter when “I was 10, maybe 11.”  He is fascinated with the way Hooker repeats a sound, word or phrase over and over, continually finding new meaning and never becoming boring.

From the age of 11, Van Morrison is playing at local dance halls in Belfast in skiffle bands (a sort of U.K. variant on U.S. folk music or jug bands).  By the time he is 13, he can play guitar, harmonica and saxophone.  When he is 15, Van Morrison leaves school for the life of a professional musician.  He tours through Britain and Europe, playing U.S. army bases in Germany.  In this period, Van is part of a band called The Monarchs who play rhythm and blues music – which is a bit unusual for white boys, since rhythm and blues is primarily the province of African-Americans.

Returning to Belfast in 1963, Van Morrison forms Them.  Two of the members are from The Monarchs and the other two are friends.  The line-up of Them is: Van Morrison (vocals, harmonica, saxophone), Billy Harrison (guitar), Eric Wicksen (piano), Alan Henderson (bass) and Ronnie Millings (drums).  Them becomes the regular band at the newly-opened rhythm and blues club at the Maritime Hotel in Belfast where they play with ‘a fiery gritty sound.’

Perhaps the most apt description for Van Morrison’s style is to acknowledge it as a musical stew.  It takes in elements of all his influences – jazz, country & western, gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues.  From jazz there is a love for freeform improvisation.  The heartbreak of country & western is present, as is a soupcon of rural hardiness.  Gospel is barely a step removed from church music and in Van Morrison’s work there is a clear strain of spiritualism, a yearning for something higher than the life we know.  Blues, the music of pain and suffering, infuses the sound, recalling the trials of existence that mortify the flesh and spirit.  Rhythm and blues provides a jolting undercurrent, a connection to the here and now, which prevents the concoction wafting off into the ether.  It’s a heady broth.

Van Morrison’s voice changes over the years and adapts to the requirements of different songs.  The basic default setting is a harsh bark that evokes the blues singers he loves.  He is fond of rolling a phrase around in his mouth until it feels right.  When struggling to convey uplifting themes, Van’s voice can be as light as a choirboy.  Yet, increasingly as the years pass, his tone is a leathery, gruff, dark chocolate rumble coming from somewhere below most human lungs.

Van Morrison writes and produces most of his work.  There are songs written by other people, cover versions, and outside record producers, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.  Sometimes Van Morrison will simply sing, but more often he plays acoustic or electric guitar as well.  He’s not a particularly outstanding guitarist, but then the purpose of his playing is to accompany his voice rather than show off as a musician.  In that sense, his playing is well-suited to the demands placed upon it.  Morrison rarely plays harmonica and guitar at the same time, preferring to use one or the other to highlight his songs.  His blues-inflected harmonica work is a treat and perhaps not capitalised upon often enough.  The odd saxophone break is perfectly acceptable but he displays even more skill in writing arrangements for a full horn section.

Lyrically, Van Morrison’s most common theme is transcendence.  This is not meant in a narrowly religious manner – though that’s undeniably one form of transcendence in his writing.  More commonly in rock, transcendence is achieved through sexuality and this too is present in Morrison’s work.  Yet unlike almost anyone else in the rock sphere, Van Morrison finds transcendence in a myriad of other sources.  Memories of his childhood; trees, water and nature; the dignity of labour; smells, tastes, scents, sights and sounds; virtually anything that makes this creative artist feel alive and inspired is lauded as a means of going beyond the muffled existence that passes for ‘normal.’  Yet for all this high-minded talk, Van Morrison remains earthy and grounded.

The popularity of Them in their native Ireland grows to a point where the band cuts their debut single in late 1964.  ‘Don’t Start Crying Now’ is a cover version of a song by bluesman Slim Harpo.  Even better is its follow-up in 1964, another cover version, this time of a Big Joe Williams blues number called ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ (UK no. 10, US no. 102).  Produced by Dick Rowe, this gives Them their U.K. breakthrough.  ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ is an explosive mix of jangling guitar, huffing organ, and Van Morrison playing harmonica just as Big Joe Williams did.  Topping it off is the desperate fire of Morrison’s vocals.

Strangely, the greatest song of Van Morrison’s career is tucked away on the flipside of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.  ‘Gloria’ is written by Van Morrison: “Yeah, she comes around here / Just around midnight,” he confides in the lyrics, “Makes me feel so good, Lord / Makes me feel alright.”  Morrison goes on to spell out her name in a chant of individual letters echoed by the members of Them.  Here Van Morrison finds transcendence in the arms of a woman, but note how it becomes an almost religious experience as he is so transported, he also invokes the name of the Lord.  Morrison will present other more sophisticated and mature works, but ‘Gloria’ tops them through the sheer basic exuberant power it harnesses, something that is perhaps only available at this stage of his career, when Morrison is young and new to the recording industry.  ‘Gloria’ is ‘among the classics of the rock pantheon.’

With the group signed to Decca Records in the U.K. and Parrot in the U.S., in 1965 the self-titled EP ‘Them’ is released.  It contains four tracks: ‘Don’t Start Crying Now’, ‘Philosophy’, ‘One Two Brown Eyes’ [the B side of ‘Don’t Start Crying Now’] and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’.  Them relocate from Belfast to London, England.  Them are now peers of acts like The Rolling Stones, The Animals and The Yardbirds, white boys leaning towards blues and rhythm and blues sounds.  The full-length album, ‘The Angry Young Them’ (1965), follows.

At this point, Bert Berns enters the story.  A New York songwriter and record producer, Berns (using the pen-name Bert Russell) co-wrote ‘Twist And Shout’ (recorded by The Top Notes in 1961, The Isley Brothers in 1962 and The Beatles in 1963) and ‘Tell Him’ (recorded by The Exciters in 1962).  He has been watching the rise of the U.K. acts that perform blues-inflected tracks.  He ‘wants part of the English action and zeroes in on Them.’  At first, Berns’ interest and influence are beneficial to Them, but his relationship with Van Morrison is complicated.  The Irishman comes to regard the American as both saviour and demon.

Things start out well, with Bert Berns gifting Them with his composition ‘Here Comes The Night’ (UK no. 2, US no. 24).  A piece of shimmering 1960s rock, ‘Here Comes The Night’ has a pained chorus, but lifts its heels in the verses.  Moving into 1966, Them release the single ‘Mystic Eyes’ (US no. 33) and the album ‘Them Again’ (1966).  Bert Berns insists on using more session musicians on these recordings, feeling Van Morrison’s companions are not up to the task.  Amongst those employed is guitarist Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin.  Morrison ‘makes no attempt to hide his displeasure’ at the manipulation of his band.  He grumbles that ‘the only real Them was the one that played at the Maritime Hotel.’  The official line-up of Them shifts, with Eric Wicksen being replaced on keyboards by, first, Jackie McAuley, and then, Peter Bardens.  After a 1966 U.S. tour, Van Morrison quits Them.  Soured, the experience leaves the singer ‘extremely suspicious of those who call the tune in the music business.’

Although Van Morrison disbands Them, they reform without him.  With Ken McDowell as lead vocalist, they cut two more albums, ‘Now And Them’ (1967) and ‘Time Out, Time In For Them’ (1968).

Years later, Van Morrison is asked if there is anything he would have done differently in his career.  “I wouldn’t have been famous,” he rumbles, but adds he “had no choice.”  This may sound contradictory but it seems the point he is making is that the recording industry is a commercial proposition.  In order to make another album, it is necessary to achieve a certain level of financial success for the record company to consider it a worthwhile investment.  Not enough profit means a contract is left to lapse and the artist is out on the street.  In the modern era, there are recording acts that exist on a sort of subsistence level.  These are cult favourites who do not court commercial success, but resolutely follow their own muse.  Such acts, if they have enough dedicated followers, can earn sufficient funds to keep body and soul together, if not become wealthy.  In the late 1960s, the rock music industry was less accommodating.  You either had hits or you were history.  This seems to be what Van Morrison means when he claims he had no choice but to be famous.  He doesn’t care for the celebrity and attention, but without some level of notoriety, he can’t make another album.

This conundrum may explain why Van Morrison’s next move is to sign as a solo act with Bang Records in the U.S., a company owned by Bert Berns.  He may have resented Berns’ approach to Them, but the American still has faith in Morrison’s ability and invites him to New York to cut four trial singles.  One of those songs is the wonderful ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (UK no. 60, US no. 10), released in May 1967.  This is a piece of charming gypsy folk pop with hand-claps and acoustic guitar.  Morrison is giddy with love for this girl, remembering, “Standing in the sunlight laughing / Hiding behind a rainbow’s wall.”  He is so moved that he admits when, “[I] cast my memory back there, Lord / Sometimes I’m overcome thinkin’ bout it.”  Though less burningly sexual, this recalls the themes of ‘Gloria’.  Yet Morrison huffs that ’Brown Eyed Girl’, ”was like a throwaway song.”  Van Morrison’s first solo album is ‘Blowin’ Your Mind’ (1967) (UK no. 11, US no. 182) in September.  This ‘dark, bluesy’ album features ‘T.B. Sheets’, a song about tuberculosis, otherwise known as consumption, a disease of the lungs.  The only problem with the album is that it is assembled from what the singer thought were just sessions for singles, so he is justifiably angry at it being issued as an album.

Yet when Bert Berns tries to make amends by allowing Van Morrison to make an album his way, the resulting ‘The Best Of Van Morrison’ (1967) only finds the artist grumbling that its title should have been ‘The Worst Of Van Morrison’.

In 1967 Van Morrison marries Janet Planet (a.k.a. Janet Rigsbee, Janet Minto) in New York.  She is a jeweller.  Allegedly, the nuptials are partly undertaken so Morrison can remain in the U.S.A. and avoid being deported.  Van Morrison and Janet Planet go on to have a daughter, Shana (born 1970).

Bert Berns dies suddenly of a heart attack on 1 December 1967.  This unexpected tragedy has the effect of leaving Van Morrison a free agent once more.  He plays some gigs with a trio along the east coast of the U.S.A. until Warner Brothers sees fit to pick up his contract and put him back in the recording studio.

‘Astral Weeks’ (1968) (UK no. 140) is recorded in a mere forty-eight hours, though Van Morrison claims the basic tracks were laid down in one three-hour session.  The album is produced by Lewis Merenstein and features acoustic bassist Richard Davis and drummer Connie Kay of The Modern Jazz Quartet.  Legend has it that Morrison never told the musicians what he wanted from them or what the lyrics meant.  An insouciant flute teases Morrison’s wandering vocal on ‘Sweet Thing’: “And I will walk and talk / In gardens all wet with rain / And I will never, ever, ever, ever / Grow so old again.”  Songs like ‘Cypress Avenue’ and ‘Madame George’ seem to sketch out his childhood in Belfast.  Van Morrison’s apparently improvised singing on ‘Beside You’ and ‘Ballerina’ is as exploratory as the jazz-tinged, primarily acoustic, musical settings.  Commercially, at the time, ‘Astral Weeks’ makes little impact, but its status has grown over the years.  Many consider it ‘Morrison’s masterpiece’ and ‘one of the greatest records ever made.’  Typically, Van Morrison is dissatisfied with the editing of his ramblings and the sequencing of the tracks.

Although ‘Astral Weeks’ is highly regarded, Van Morrison’s best album is ‘Moondance’ (1970) (UK no. 32, US no. 29), released in February.  The acoustic jazz-orientation of ‘Astral Weeks’ is still present.  However here it is augmented with a punchy horn section and a livelier, more indelible approach.  “That was the type of band I dig,” Morrison asserts. “Two horns and a rhythm section – they’re the type of bands I like best.”  Lewis Merenstein again officiates as producer.  The title track, ‘Moondance’ (US no. 92), is not issued as a single until years later in 1977.  It’s a slinky number that achieves a gravity-defying balance between horns and flute that is executed with the precision of the best jazz.  “And all the leaves on the trees are falling / To the sound of the breezes that blow / And I’m trying to please to the calling / Of your heart strings that play soft and low,” insists Morrison in the lyrics, which he renders with a more forceful tone than the words alone would indicate.  ‘And It Stoned Me’ is another youthful reverie, the horn-laden music as organic and rich as loam.  Yet it is another natural material that is the focus of the lyrics: “Oh the water / Get it myself from the mountain stream.”  ‘Into The Mystic’, a wildly exploratory effort, is a virtual statement of intent from Van Morrison.  The disc also includes the dreamy ‘Caravan’ and uplifting ‘Everyone’.  At least some acknowledge that ‘Moondance’ ‘is actually better than ‘Astral Weeks’,’ but, taken together, they comprise the height of Van Morrison’s art.

‘Van Morrison: His Band And The Street Choir’ (1970) (UK no. 18, US no. 32) in November is produced by Morrison himself.  “Don’t wanna discuss it / Think it’s time for a change,” he sings against the clock-ticking rhythm of the opening of ‘Domino’ (US no. 9).  The song busts into a show-stopping chorus, blown away with good nature.

By this time, Van Morrison and Janet Planet are living in rural Woodstock, New York.  In 1971 they relocate to Marin County in California where Janet grew up.  This takes place in time for Van Morrison’s next album, ‘Tupelo Honey’ (1971) (US no. 27).  This set is ‘largely a suite of love songs to his wife, Janet.’  Not exactly fitting the mould is ‘Wild Night’ (US no. 28), a guitar-riffing, itchy, young man anthem: “And all the girls walk by / Dressed up for each other / And the boys do the boogie-woogie / On the corner of the street.”  Ted Templeman co-produces this album and Morrison’s next.

‘Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)’ (US no. 61) is the highlight of ‘St Dominic’s Preview’ (1972) (US no. 15).  Jackie Wilson is a real-life rhythm and blues singer best known for the hits ‘Reet Petite’ in 1957 and ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher’ in 1969.  The former is quoted in the lyrics for this Van Morrison song: “Jackie Wilson said / It was ‘Reet Petite’ / Kinda love you got / Knock me off my feet.”  This hook-laden tune is notable for its handclaps and perhaps the most impressive use of brass yet in Van Morrison’s catalogue.  ‘Listen To The Lion’ also hails from this album.

‘Hard Nose The Highway’ (1973) (UK no. 22, US no. 57) is not a live album, despite the inference of the title.  ‘Warm Love’ comes from this album.  It is a gentle and tender track.  A flute accompanies Van Morrison’s voice just as his lover lingers at his side in the lyrics: “The sky is cryin’ and it’s time to go home / And we shall hurry to the car from the foam [of a seaside visit].”

Van Morrison is touring with The Caledonia Soul Orchestra, an eleven-piece band including strings and horns.  Many of the players have been working with Morrison since ‘Moondance’.  [Note: ‘Caledonia’ figures in some of Van Morrison’s work.  Technically, it’s a romantic or poetic name for Scotland.  The name ‘Scotland’ is derived from ‘Scoti’, a Latin term first used for Ireland.  The ‘Scoti’ peoples originated in Ireland and resettled in Scotland.  For Van Morrison, ‘Caledonia’ is a sort of mythical homeland of the Irish.]

Van Morrison and Janet Planet divorce in 1973.  He returns to Belfast.

A tour of the U.S. and Europe with The Caledonia Soul Orchestra leads to the creation of a double album of concert recordings, ‘It’s Too Late To Stop Now’ (1974) (UK no. 167, US no. 53), in January.  This is highly regarded, the more so because, at Van Morrison’s insistence, it is truly live with no overdubs used to correct or improve the sound.  Yet, in the wake of this achievement, Morrison disbands The Caledonia Soul Orchestra in 1974.

‘Veedon Fleece’ (1974) (UK no. 41, US no. 53), released in February, consists of songs written in Ireland.  It is a more personal work and ‘chronicles Morrison’s emotional turmoil’ after his divorce.

Van Morrison has some difficulty following this album.  He works on a number of aborted projects, one of which is reported to be an album with jazz group The Crusaders.  Morrison begins recording…and stops…again and again.  This may be attributed to perfectionism or just ennui.  He is said to be suffering from stage fright.

In 1976 Van Morrison announces he is going to reside in Britain – but he returns to the U.S.A. to complete the album that is finally issued as ‘A Period Of Transition’ (1977) (UK no. 23, US no. 43).  This is followed by ‘Wavelength’ (1978) (UK no. 27, US no. 28).  It is noted that ‘his performances are becoming more erratic.’  This culminates in Morrison stalking off stage – and not returning – in the middle of a show at the New York Palladium in 1979.

‘Into The Music’ (1979) (UK no. 21, US no. 43) in August is something of a return to form.  It boasts the breezy and optimistic ‘Bright Side Of The Road’ (UK no. 63, US no. 110).  ‘Full Force Gale’ features an acoustic guitar and is driven by an insistent rhythm section.  Van Morrison’s Christian beliefs are given strength by his declaration in this song that “I was lifted up again by the Lord.”

‘Common One’ (1980) (UK no. 68, US no. 73) tries to be humble.  ‘Beautiful Vision’ (1982) (UK no. 31, US no. 44) hosts ‘Cleaning Windows’ in which the song’s narrator finds fulfilment and contentment in simple physical labour.  ‘Dweller On The Threshold’ is more yearning and couches its spiritual quest in more magical terms: “Let me pierce the realm of glamour / So I know just what I am.”  ‘Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart’ (1983) (UK no. 24, US no. 116) is Van Morrison’s final album for Warner Brothers.  He contributes ‘Wonderful Remark’, produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band, to the soundtrack of the Martin Scorsese movie ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983).

A concert recording, ‘Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast’ (1984) (UK no. 47) opens Van Morrison’s account at Mercury Records.  This is followed by ‘A Sense Of Wonder’ (1984) (UK no. 25, US no. 61) in December and ‘No Guru, No Method, No Teacher’ (1986) (UK no. 27, US no. 70).  These continue a string of albums offering ‘serenely beautiful musical backdrops to explore themes of faith and healing.’  Since entering the music business, Van Morrison resolutely ploughs his own furrow, not attempting to assimilate trends like glam, punk, new wave, disco or synth pop as they come along.  He insists, “I just listen to the stuff that got me into it in the first place: jazz, blues…”

‘Poetic Champions Compose’ (1987) (UK no. 26, US no. 90) takes its name from a line in ‘Queen Of The Slipstream’: “There’s a dream where the contents are visible / Where the poetic champions compose / Will you breathe not a word of this secrecy / Will you still be my special rose?”  This album also boasts the polite, yet cool, ‘Did Ye Get Healed’, another spiritual ode.

Van Morrison may have grown up with blues and jazz rather than traditional Irish music, but that doesn’t stop him collaborating with Celtic folk band The Chieftains for ‘Irish Heartbeat’ (1988) (UK no. 18, US no. 102).

‘Avalon Sunset’ (1989) (UK no. 13, US no. 91) is described as a ‘commercial rebirth.’  Certainly, ‘Have I Told You Lately’ (UK no. 74) is quite accessible, with its oceanic, soothing calm.  It’s notable though that even in what is on the face of it a straight-forward romantic song, Van Morrison adds, “We should pray and give thanks to The One.”  If that is not sufficiently explicit, the delicate, yet firm, ‘Whenever God Shines His Light’ (UK no. 20) seems to erase any ambiguity.  This song is a duet with another high-profile Christian, pop singer Cliff Richard.

‘Enlightenment’ (1990) (UK no. 5, US no. 62) and the ‘ambitious’ double album, ‘Hymns To The Silence’ (1991) (UK no. 5, US no. 99), close out Van Morrison’s time at Warner Brothers.

In 1992 Van Morrison meets Michelle Rocca, a former Miss Ireland.  Despite being substantially younger than the singer, she later becomes his new love.

At Polydor Records, Van Morrison’s output is ‘impressively eclectic.’  ‘Too Long In Exile’ (1993) (UK no. 4, US no. 29) consists of cover versions of old rhythm and blues songs and blues classics.  This is followed by a live album, ‘A Night In San Francisco’ (1994) (UK no. 8, US no. 125).  Van Morrison’s daughter by Janet Planet, Shana (now 25), duets with her father on ‘You Don’t Know Me’, a track from ‘Days Like This’ (1995) (UK no. 5, US no. 33).  Pianist Georgie Fame records a whole album of traditional jazz with Van Morrison, ‘How Long Has This Been Going On’ (1995) (UK no. 76, US no. 55), which is released in June, the same month as ‘Days Like This’.  As the title says, ‘Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison’ (1996), is an album of Morrison’s interpretations of Allison’s work.  A white blues and jazz vocalist and pianist, Mose Allison himself appears on the recording too, though it falls on hard ground commercially.  ‘The Healing Game’ (1997) (UK no. 10, US no. 32) is Van Morrison’s last Polydor album…for a while.

From here, Van Morrison’s work is released on various labels on an almost individual basis.  ‘Back On Top’ (1999) (UK no. 11, US no. 28) is the first of three discs for Virgin / Point Blank.  ‘Back On Top’ is an album of new original material.  Van Morrison harks back to his early influences again for ‘The Skiffle Sessions – Live In Belfast 1998’ (2000) (UK no. 14) with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber.  ‘You Win Again’ (2000) (UK no. 34, US no. 161) in September follows eight months after the last release.  This is an album of duets with Linda Gail Lewis, the younger sister of 1950s rocker Jerry Lee Lewis.

‘Down The Road’ (2002) (UK no. 6, US no. 25) is, again, issued on Polydor.  Blue Note / EMI releases ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture’ (2003) (UK no. 43, US no. 32).  ‘Magic Time’ (2005) (UK no. 3, US no. 25) comes from Exile / Polydor, the first of three albums for that label.

By now, Van Morrison is married to Michelle Rocca.  They have two children, a daughter (born January 2006) and a son (born August 2007).

‘Pay The Devil’ (2006) (UK no. 8, US no. 26) is a ‘country tinged’ album.  This is succeeded by ‘Keep It Simple’ (2008) (UK no. 10, US no. 10).  ‘Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl’ (2009) (UK no. 61, US no. 33) is a new concert recording of that seminal album in total.  It is issued on Listen to the Lion / EMI, a boutique label named after the Van Morrison song from ‘St Dominic’s Preview’.

Van Morrison goes back to Blue Note for ‘Born To Sing: No Plan B’ (2012) (UK no. 15, US no. 10).

‘Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue’ (2015) (UK no. 5, US no. 23) is, as the name implies, an album of Van Morrison revisiting previously recorded songs from his career and turning them into duets.  His co-vocalists here include Steve Winwood and Mark Knopfler.

The self-produced ‘Keep Me Singing’ (2016) (UK no. 4, US no. 9, AUS no. 11) is issued by Caroline International.

‘Versatile’ (2017) (UK no. 38, US no. 119, AUS no. 31) is also produced by Van Morrison and released by Caroline International.  Much of the content of this disc is made up of Morrison’s interpretations of pre-rock popular songs (e.g. ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, ‘Makin’ Whoopee’, ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’ and ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco’).  Along with these songs is a cover version of ‘Unchained Melody’ (made famous by The Righteous Brothers in 1965) and a few original pieces.

In Marin County in 1971 Van Morrison was out of place.  A fiercely individual recording artist, fitting in with the images, scenes or plans of others was never high on his agenda.  Morrison was one of a kind and proud of it.  His best work dates from his days with Them up to the mid-1970s.  Increasingly after that time Van Morrison was preaching to the choir – but his fans were very devoted.  Given his own distaste for fame, this sort of cult popularity would appear to suit Van Morrison very well.  Yet just as his lyrics continually return to the theme of transcendence – sexual, natural or religious – so too did Van Morrison’s best recordings transcend a narrow audience of passionate fans.  At his peak, his music had a wider appeal, translating his own love for blues, jazz and the like to all and sundry.  In its own way, that’s as miraculous as anything described in his lyrics.  ‘[Van] Morrison…was a man on a quest.’  ‘Equal parts blue-eyed soul shouter and wild-eyed poet sorcerer [he was] subject only to the whims of his own muse, his recordings covering extraordinary stylistic ground.’


  1. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 162, 163
  2. as at 5 August 2013, 1 January 2016, 4 January 2017, 3 January 2018
  3. You Tube – Van Morrison video documentary – Part 1 of 4 (1991)
  4. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 149, 229, 240, 246
  5., ‘Van Morrison’ by Jason Ankeny, Steve Leggett as at 7 September 2013
  6. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 149, 229, 240, 246
  7. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 76
  8. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘The Girl Groups’ and ‘Van Morrison’ both by Greil Marcus (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 191, 444, 445, 447
  9. ‘The Best Of Van Morrison’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Polydor Ltd., 1990) p. 3, 8
  10., ‘Them’ by Richie Unterberger as at 10 September 2013
  11. ‘Time Magazine’ – Video interview with Van Morrison conducted by Tim Morrison (no relation) (28 February 2009)
  12. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 39, 45
  13. Notable names database – – as at 5 August 2013

Song lyrics copyright Warner Bros. with the exceptions of ‘Gloria’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (both Polygram) and ‘Full Force Gale’, ‘Dweller On The Threshold’, ‘Queen Of The Slipstream’ and ‘Have I Told You Lately’ (all four – Intersong)

Last revised 7 January 2018


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