31 August 2018

happy 73rd birthday Van Morrison

There are many rumours about Van the man, especially in Ireland. He's said to be reticent, bordering on rude, a loner, mysterious. Today is his birthday.

This one's a true story, I swear. A cousin of a friend of a friend told me this many years ago. And he must know, he's from Belfast:

Before he became famous Van Morrison once met said cousin in a local pub and the two started talking about a tricky boiler repair job when they were interrupted. Van Morrison left the pub and subsequently his career took off, fame etc. Many years later, said cousin met him by chance at a function and Van Morrison's first words were "About that boiler . . . ".

Anyway, in my family, we have favourite songs.

This used to be my daughter's favourite when she was a young teenager, becasue she always likes a good story and as usual, there's a story behind this song (beautifully explained in Thom Hickey's blog):

This is R's favourite because it brings back memories, he says, of listening to the radio while waiting at the hairdresser's as a secondary school boy:

This is my favourite because it reminds me of a special day in Connemara:

And this is an extra just for the fun of it:


  1. He is a jewel and a gem. I wish him happy birthday too!

  2. Thank you for the boiler story and for the opportunity to listen to your family selection of Van Morrison songs and to wish him a happy 73rd birthday. My first memories of hearing Van Morrison's voice on the radio were during my senior year in high school (1967) as I drove out to the coast in my parents' car with my best friend, Betts, hoping with all my heart that R would be there and that we would live happily ever. At one time, Van Morrison lived about 50 miles north of where I was living in Northern California. The songs from that era bring to mind images from that Northern California landscape and that time.

  3. My Boy Scout is a huge fan. The Mystic makes him cry.

    Once he went to a concert with his sisters and apparently Van was having particularly bad stage fright. He did the whole concert with his back to the audience. He said the music was great but it was a terrible concert.

    1. I've been to several concerts snd while the music was great, the rest was always terrible. That's his thing, he once (and only once because he apparently hates people who repeat themselves) said that he was not an entertainer but an artist and as far as he's concerned the audience can feck off. Charming. He has fans because of this statement.

  4. I believe there are or were other Vans. I never made the connection, thinking they were modes of transportation. I reflect: Dowland would be 392, Mozart 299, Schubert 221, Roger Quilter 141. I've sung them all and thought them out of time, beyond time, creating their own time. And I'm well aware how poncy that makes me sound but it all depends on when one was born.

    During my impressionable years (ie, like those when Van Morrison left his mark on you and yours) the highlights of popular music included How Much Is That Doggie in The Window? There's Oodles of Noodles in our Chicken Soup, and one (title forgotten) that extended an invitation to eat cake and "sing a toon or so". Oh yes, these works left an impression but never any need to reproduce them. I turned to other categories of music.

    Much later, by which time LvB and his ilk were embedded in my frontal lobes, I could afford a little ecumenicism. I bought lots of Paul Simon and commuted to the outer suburbs of Philadelphia to the strains of the Mommas and the Poppas. So I wasn't entirely lost to the music of youth. In fact when I started singing lessons I set the score of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in front of V, my teacher, and we spent a strange twenty minutes singing those oh-so-extended vowel sounds, before returning to the seventeenth century.

    I tried In the Days Before... but the video was unavailable. I turned to Into the Mystic, still uninformed, still fearing the possibility of musical extremes - barely controlled noise and deliberate electronic distortion. But here was an acoustic guitar, the simplest of tunes and agreeable lyrics. With the score to look at, and permission to transpose down a third, I could have sung that and enjoyed it. Which creates some kind of link, if mainly with the other R.

    This is one of those long comments I've been on about recently and which I'm pondering giving up. But music always breaks the vows.

    1. Comment away, as long as you like to.

      Try this version of the song: https://youtu.be/OT_ua50nJ1k

      I am so insistant because it's actually a poem by Paul Durcan, a celebrated contemporary Irish poet, up there with Heaney.

      The poem is full of clues that speak to (Irish) people becoming of age in the days before rock and roll (hence the link in my post to Thom's blog). It's also on the Leaving Cert (= Irish A-levels) syllabus.

      Paul Durcan has written extensively about Van Morrison the poet, here is one of his earlier essays:


    2. Sabine: Took me back a bit did that - as the poem says "before rock and roll". As well as knobs radios (then called wirelesses) of that era had a sort of window on which the tuning points for medium-frequency stations were marked. I often wondered where Hilversum was and have never subsequently checked, preferring to leave it a mystery. AFN was the American Forces Network, source of up-to-date jazz, but hard to keep the radio in tune. Lester Piggott (a comparatively recent phenomenon) was champion flat jockey in Britain for many years, deaf, jailed for tax evasion.

      On the basis of this poem I'd query whether Durcan is "up there" with Heaney. At the Hay Festival I had a ticket for Heaney and he was sold out. Touts were offering big money for tickets but I'm proud to say (given my West Riding upbringing) I opted for culture rather than cash. Nice guy, great poet. Bought his Aeneid Book VI translation and I don't often spend money on poetry. Though, come to think of it I spent much more on a door-stopper by Don Paterson (see Villanelles vanquished, May 31) also at Hay, though that was about poetry, not poetry itself.

      See, I let you insist me.

  5. I've always thought that Astral Weeks was one brilliant album, and he was so young. Joan Armatrading says she studied him when she was coming up...and I believe it.

    My first boyfriend was a Van Morrison fan and I always think of him when I hear Van's work. The only time I ever saw him, he stood stock still in front of the mike, no expression or movement, and sang. Weird, but whatever. He wrote, arranged and sang. What a guy.

  6. Love Van Morrison! Thank you for posting this and reminding us of his birthday. It's been a while since I listened to "Into The Mystic." On one of our music playlists we have the song "Coney Island." Absolutely love it.

  7. I never cared for Van Morrison growing up, and it's because all I ever heard on the radio was "Brown-Eyed Girl." (Which is an OK song, but not all that remarkable.) And then I heard "Astral Weeks" as an adult and I thought, "Oh, so THIS is why everyone's so wild about him!"