Last night’s news! Van Morrison has a knighthood. Sir Van The Man! How wonderful! How well deserved. Heads up today East Belfast. Be proud. From your streets came an icon of modern music with his take on blues, jazz, folk and country all mixed into an era called pop and rock. He has an imagination like few others, a rare ability to cross genres and blend them. His love songs, his spiritual songs and his songs about Belfast streets and Ireland. Fantastic!
If I still had my radio show I would ask for a three hour special and play these for starters!
Shakin All Over/Gloria from A Night In San Francisco
From show bands including The Monarchs where he might well have covered Shakin All Over and its like Morrison formed Them and his song Gloria became a monster covered by any rock star that was a rock star. In a recent gig at the Europa hotel I marvelled at how it sounded as representative a slice of late 60s rock as anything else.
Brown Eyed Girl from Blowing Your Mind
A throw away pop song Van might call this one but has a pop song ever been more perfect or poetic or given such a sense of place. Sha la la la la la indeed!
TB Sheets from Blowin Your Mind
When Van went solo he started writing incredible songs like this. Where did this stuff come from? TB Sheets was on his first solo record that he never sanctioned.
Ancient Highway from Days Like This
Love this song. One of Brian Kennedy’s best contributions. Lot’s of East Belfast in there. Particularly love - “In a factory in a street called Bread in East Belfast/Where Georgie knows best.”
On Hyndford Street from Hymns To The Silence
Wonderful spoken word piece of transcendence, That wee claustrophobic street and “dreaming in God”. Thank you Gordon Ashbridge for opening this one up to me. Stunningly beautiful.
Madame George from Astral Weeks
I always thought I’d get a call to Bloomfield Presbyterian as the sign for Cyprus Avenue is right outside it. Should have realised that Madame George mentions Fitzroy. That’s where I ended up!
Sense Of Wonder from Sense Of Wonder
Sums up those 80s years and his sense of wonder. A race through Belfast too. Love his use of our street names.
Cyprus Avenue from Astral Weeks
Of all the street names. This is THE one. Oh the transcendence. And he is going to gig there on his 70th birthday on August 31st. Sweet mercy!
Northern Muse (Solid Ground) from Beautiful Vision
She moves on the solid ground in the County Down. My wife did just that.
Behind The Ritual from Keep It Simple
Making a sacramental thing out of the ordinary. It is what he does!
When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God from Avalon Sunset
When we did our Gospel According To Van Morrison in Fitzroy (we are doing another one on August 30th @ 11am) Scott Jamison, now singer with Go Wolf, did an astonishing version of this and opened up its wonder to me all over again.
See Me Through Part 2 (Closer Walk With Thee) from Hymns To The Silence
This will be part of our Gospel According To Van Morrison on August 30th. Great hymn stunningly done. Friends left their wedding to this and it kicks spiritual ass!
Give Me My Rapture from Poetic Champions Compose
I always felt Poetic Champions Compose was like what King David must have played to King Saul to soothe his soul. This is a great prayer.
In The Garden from No Guru, No Method, No Teacher
Maybe his greatest ever moment. Van speaks of seeking to cause meditation at the end of this song and there have been times live when it does move into a higher realm. Astonishing.
Full Force Gale from Into The Music
I had this as the introit to my Installation Service in Fitzroy. An energetic Gospel song about the Holy Spirit.
When the Saints Go Marching In from Avalon Sunset
Love this extra track on the reissue of this album.
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You from Avalon Sunset
It is sometimes over looked that Van Morrison is a great writer of love songs. This brings the romantic and spiritual together beautifully. I remember phoning Janice once and when she answered just playing it down the phone to her.
Tupelo Honey from Tupelo Honey
Another great love song that includes one of my Granny’s sayings, If I had all the tea in China.”
Someone Like You from Poetic Champions Compose
Janice and my song. I was… and she is!
Crazy Love from Moondance
Sometimes We Cry from The Healing Game
Van blues. Simply genius writing.
Not Supposed To Break Down from Philosopher’s Stone
Another fabulous East Belfast man, Sammy Wilson MLA, pointed out this wee gem to me. About being vulnerable and honest.
The Weight from The Healing Game
Another powerful wee joust with Brian Kennedy. Tender of heart.
Comfort You from Veedon Fleece
Comforters in the heart ache. Only discovered this one recently.
Saint Dominic’s Preview from Sult
Originally on a record of the same name. This is a wee stripped back Irish version. I used this title for the name of my Queen’s 5-s-side team back in early eighties. What a song? Belfast from a distance.
Take It Where You Find It from Wavelength
I like Wavelength where he took on Springsteen territory after Bruce had pretty much ripped him off! Lost and found dreams in America before the journey back across the Atlantic.
The Healing Has Begun from Into The Music
We used this as a theme at an Arklight Festival in 1994.
Into The Mystic from Moondance
Someone sang this when I was in Vancouver on sabbatical in 2005. When it got to the fog horn blowing and coming home I was on Belfast lough in my mind and tears sneaked down my cheek. No one can conjure my home city like this man.
Mystic From The East from Born To Sing
He is… and he is now also a Sir.
Moondance from Moondance
Go on East Belfast, have a Moondance Festival all summer long. Celebrate the Man!