Replay: Van the Man

I repost these oldies from MyT in no particular order, This one is from November 2009 and I had been on the boat. I had evidently been chatting with Brendan, whose blog I have been neglecting recently, about Van Morrison. The man is a genius. I doubt if I’ll ever be asked onto Desert Island Discs, but I reckon Astral weeks would be the album I would want to take with me.

 I didn’t get to connect Friday, but am home and online now.

Maybe there’s a secret to it t to which I am not privy, but getting out of London on a Friday afternoon is always a nightmare. I have to travel less than seventy miles so why should the journey take nearly three and a half hours?
OK, I hate motorways, and even if I didn’t ,they are impractical given Cat’s travel sickness record. Believe me, when your car smells of cat sick and the animal responsible is crying loudly you want to be able to stop quickly and clean up, not count the miles until the next exit. But the first of my traffic problems were well before any motorway was in sniffing distance. Near gridlock in SE16.
How come so many people are free to travel in the afternoon? They can’t all be like me, part employed/part freelance can they? And was today really National Bad Driving Day, or did it just feel like ir?
Fortunately Cat slept soundly all journey apart from when I stopped for the loo and to get some food shopping..
The radio was tuned to Radio Two. It was the Steve Wright show. Normally I can’t stand then man . His continued success is a complete mystery to me, but he was playing some good tunes today and had interesting guests. But after a while I couldn’t bear listening to him anymore and , thanks to last night’s ‘conversation’ with Brendano, I had a couple of Van Morrison CDs with me. Well, more than a couple actually. And as I type I’m continuing to listen to him. And he’s glorious,
The marina is pretty empty tonight so I’m hoping no one has heard me when I have felt the need to sing along,. Because Van is a Genius. Deliberate capital G. not a typo. Moody and unpredictable ,as anyone who has been to see him live will know, but an undeniable Genius. And when you do go to see him live, .it’s part of the evening’s excitement and entertainment, not knowing whether he will be Van the Performer or Van the Sulky Bear who hides at the back of the stage barely acknowledging the audience.
So tonight I’ve been singing and dancing and remembering just how good and how wide his range is. Listening to tracks old and new and hearing how his voice has changed, and how he has continually explored and experimented. And I feel amazingly lucky that his career has spanned my life from his Them days onwards – oh Gloria!. I am so struck by the integrity of his music and the way it connects at such a visceral level. Straight to the guts and heart,
And Madame George comes on and I know I am alive, and I’m glad!
The connection tonight is dreadful, so if I manage to post this it’ll be an achievement in itself. In case that’s all I manage to do, goodnight all.

40 thoughts on “Replay: Van the Man

  1. How could anyone with taste not be profoundly moved not just by Moondance but by Astral Weeks too?

    I have more albums than I can count and I couldn’t for the life of me decide what I would take to my desert island but believe me, ‘My Life’ by Iris Dement might well be it (with her too, but that’s not allowed, is it?).

    Read what Robert Christgau (the critic I respect most) says about it: ‘Although her attack is more austere, DeMent’s voice is as country as Kitty Wells’s or Loretta Lynn’s, and her writing defines the directness sophisticates prize in traditional folk songs–she has something she wants to say, and so she proceeds from Point A to Point B in the straightest line she can draw without a ruler. She doesn’t get lost not just because she knows where Point B is, which is rare enough in this ambivalent time, but because she knows where Point A is–she knows that who she is begins with where she comes from, and she’s made her peace with that. Unlike so many American artists who outgrow fundamentalism, she’s not wracked by rage or guilt; at worst, she’s sad about her distance from forebears she loves and admires despite their strict morality–a morality she’ll never return to even though it’s the bedrock of her personality and ultimately her work. The only change her major-label move means is a firmer commitment to pleasure–that is, to melody. Her dad, who gave up the fiddle when he got saved, would surely understand. A+’

    Believe me, he is very sparing indeed with his A+ (±120 in over 40 years I believe) which he describes as ‘An organically conceived masterpiece that repays prolonged listening with new excitement and insight. It is unlikely to be marred by more than one merely ordinary cut.’

    I hope I haven’t overpowered you with this. I normally keep my comments short but I have a mission in life to spread the news about this album.

    If you do buy it and hate it then you’ll get no sympathy from me; only astonishment that there are people in this world who literally have no soul.

    • I got to see Iris at a folk festival some years ago–her work live is as good as any re-worked studio work! A couple of her songs make me cry every damn time and I’ve been listening to her since the mid-90s. I highly recommend the album The Way I Should. Highly. “There’s a Wall in Washington…” arrrggggh

    • Brendan used to irritate me (and didn’t he know it) by describing her stuff as bleak Appalachian with a whiny voice. Wrong on two. She isn’t whiny, and she grew up twenty five hundred miles west of Appalachia. Where the music can indeed be pretty bleak, but then, West Virginia’s where they shot the Deer Hunter. The queen of mountain music in my opinion is Hazel Dickens. SHE’LL make you cry. Unfortunately I can’t find ‘Old and in the Way’ (probably just as well, it’ll break your heart especially) but this one gives you an idea of why I like her so much:

      The tenuous link with Van Morrison is that Appalachian mountain music has Scots/Irish roots with a good pinch of English. No thigh-slapping German or precious French rubbish.

      What a wonderful breed we are, eh?

      Oh, I probably needn’t say this, but you do listen with decent cans and not just the computer’s speakers, right?

    • Positively the last word Isobel and I won’t post in this thread again. Buying over the counter is loony. Far too expensive. I spend an awful lot of money on Books, CDs and DVDs (my latest addiction, well over 800 in the last 18 months).* I know for a fact that I’ve saved over £1,000 on DVDs alone by using plus a quick look on eBay.

      To defeat the tinny speakers, plug in your mobile or iPod or MP3 earphones. You owe it to the music.

      * I can’t resist this recommendation, I do it to everyone when films are mentioned. I even sent it as a stocking filler to my ex-wife. Das Leben der Anderen (the Lives of Others). One of the Great Films and it’s only £3.49 at Amazon!

      You will thank me in the New Year.

      I now return to Terse Comment Mode.

  2. Ha!

    Lahgitana. I’m not breaking my vow not to comment further on the thread because I’m talking to you, not Isobel (I know, I’m wriggling a bit) but I just HAVE to mention ‘The Nasty Girl.’ Another German film that delighted me, but the current Amazon price is absolutely ridiculous. I think I paid about £3 earlier this year for a used copy.

    I have ± 830 dvds and a lot are used and I’ve only had two really dud ones, and both were new. A pre-ordered ‘The Killing’ series 1 (I have Series 2 pre-ordered too) which locked in the middle of the 18th episode! Amazon sent me a replacement by courier I think, it was so fast. The other one was, funny enough, last Friday night and that was new too, ‘Jeux Interdits’ but that was a fiver from Korea and it’s too much hassle to send it back, so I emailed them what had happened and I’m hoping they’ll send me another. If they don’t, I’m not much out of pocket and simply won’t use them again. But it locked 2/3 the way through, so I just have to get another copy anyway.


    Remember: ‘The Nasty Girl.’ It’s definitely 5* – don’t take any notice of the reviews that give it less.

    • I didn’t know Raymond Briggs, but I saw a brief description and a fantastical drawing. Which sort of that Father Christmas would be Badger?!

      (We put The Nasty Girl on our Netflix list. Love Netflix! Do you have it over there?)

    • hee hee! We just watched Shaun of the Dead. Again. Love that movie!

      Also, 1970s Gerard Depardieu, or anything with him, to be truthful!

      I wasn’t clear in my question about Father Christmas vis-a-vis Badger: would he resemble the drawing or the description, Isobel?!

  3. ‘…a compilation for lahgitana and me as a Christmas present?’

    Hmm…it’s strictly me, not trying to find something I think you might like, I can’t be sure how much our tastes overlap. Still, using the 8 disc Desert Island rule* for music, movies (how unselfconsciously we use that American word these days) and books, and leaving out the stuff we’ve talked about, here we go. In no particular order, these gave me (and still do) a huge amount of pleasure and I can listen to and watch them repeatedly (within reason of course).

    * – it’s impossible. 100 would be impossible, it all depends on my mood at the time. I’ve bumped it up to ten, twelve it could just as easily be a different ten twelve. Ten Twelve times over.

    Music (I normally exclude compilations, since my own are far superior to any music industry product, but the Presley is an exception. I could only improve it by adding “Stranger in my Own Home Town)

    Exile on Main Street: The Rolling Stones

    Blood on the Tracks: Bob Dylan

    Rough Mix: Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane

    Graceland: Paul Simon

    Twelve Songs: Randy Newman

    Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Kate & Anna McGarrigle

    30 #1 hits: Elvis Presley

    Nebraska: Bruce Springsteen

    The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground

    Laurie Anderson: Strange Angels

    One for the Road: Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance

    Jack Johnson: Miles Davis (I’ve left out all my jazz favourites, but I include this ‘cos it’s jazz/rock fusion – just possibly the best of the twelve)

    Movies + Director

    Come and See: Elim Klimov

    4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days: Cristian Mungiu

    Jud Süß (Jew Süss):: Veit Harlan (to be watched before ‘Shoah’ and then when you’ve had a couple of showers and a few days to recover you’ll be ready for

    Shoah: Claude Lanzmann (the most important film ever made)

    All About Eve: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

    Consequences Of Love: Paolo Sorrentino

    Three Colours Trilogy (cheat! – ‘Red’ if I have to pick one): Krzysztof Kieslowski

    Hidden (Cache): Michael Haneke

    House of Sand and Fog: Vadim Perelman

    My Neighbour Totoro: Hayao Miyazaki

    Of Gods and Men: Xavier Beauvois

    Spirit of the Beehive: Víctor Erice

    Books (including * which sit glaring at me on my bookshelves, untouched and unread for years) Just the ones that spring to mind, some I have read quite recently, there are no doubt ones that affected me more if I were to think about it. I could have cheated and picked from the 100 best books in the world or whatever and tried to sound erudite, but I didn’t.

    Under the Volcano: Malcolm Lowry

    The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: Or: How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead: Heinrich Boll

    Peeling the Onion: Gunter Grass

    Remembrance of Things Past: Marcel Proust*

    20,000 Streets Under the Sky: Patrick Hamilton

    An American Tragedy: Theodore Dreiser

    The Anatomy of Melancholy: Richard Burton*

    Candide: Francois Voltaire

    Madame Bovary: Gustave Flaubert

    Lord of the Rings (wonderful when I read it in the 70s, I’m not so sure now): J R Tolkien

    Pilgrims Progress: John Bunyan (the first ‘proper’ book I read, before I even started school)

    The Once and Future King: T H White

    Oh, mustn’t forget TV series, these are absolutely indispensible, as near perfect as makes no difference

    The Killing, Series 1. (I have series 2 pre-ordered so I can’t comment on that.

    The Wire.

    The Corner (quartet precursor to The Wire)

    The Sopranos (of course, all 94 [I think] episodes, not a single dud)

    Then maybe half a star less:

    Six Feet Under, Series 1 and 2 (it nose-dived after that and series 5 was positively unpleasant. Watching men kiss each other literally makes my stomach churn. Women, now that’s different…)

    …and following closely behind, ‘Homicide, Life on the Street’ which no doubt sowed the seed for the other two Baltimore crime series, Corner and Wire, and a French cop series that, unusually, actually gets better, episode after episode, ‘Spiral.’ And watching ‘Wallander’ on TV a while back was like watching a classy foreign film every Saturday night, but the DVDs are inexplicably and outrageously expensive. So I don’t own any.

    I hope I haven’t overpowered you.

    • Not possible to overpower: you share energy and passion!

      Thank you for taking the time to compile these lists. We do overlap here and there, especially in music! I’d like to return the favor and post a list also. It will have to wait until I finish these temp gigs because I get too tired to think. But I will do it!

      That Isobel is powerful, isn’t she?! Geez, what else should we have her ask for?!

  4. p.s. – if parts of my contribution look a little odd, it’s because this site doesn’t handle certain HTML code like underline and strike-through.

    p.p.s – a friend sent me a present last week which I would highly recommend. Again, not a single mere ordinary track on it and one song that’ll bring tears to your eyes. ‘Raising Sand’ with Robert Plant and Alison Krause.


    • And thank you for that recommendation! I was just bemoaning to myself the lack of clever gift to husband for Xmas. We’ve been broke since I got laid off almost 2 years ago, so I have to be clever-er about choosing a gift. (Last year, I made him a notebook all about veg gardening.)

      I didn’t know I could do HTML in comments, but my fingers fly too fast when I’m pouring words to stop and code!

    • PS. Just purchased it after previewing the songs! Husband will like it and so will I! The Amazon review made me laugh: “Perhaps only the fantasy duo of King Kong and Bambi could be a more bizarre pairing than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. ”

      Thank you again! I am now clever for Christmas!

  5. Hi lahgitana. Thank you for your thanks! Been off for two years, hmm…? I’m so sorry to hear that. Still, so long as there’s the two of you, you can be happy. Who needs high-class problems anyway?

    Where are you? Canada or the States?

    There is one book I intended to include and got side-tracked checking spelling and ended up forgetting what I was looking for.

    Ann Frank’s diary got all the attention, but I think, without in the least wishing to belittle her experience, ‘The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto’ is an utterly bleaker picture of the Holocaust Jew and is a much better book. These notebooks were nearly burned for heat one winter and by a miracle were preserved for posterity. It deserves to be as widely read as Ann’s book. It definitely belongs in the list, but I don’t know what I’d chuck out to make room for it, so it’s now 13 books.

    You can tell from some of my DVD picks that I am, as well as lighter topics (‘Amelie,’ ‘Savages,’ ‘Spirited Away,’ ‘Zazie dans le Metro,’ ‘The WC Fields Collection’ – see how I sneakily added another 21?), interested in the dark side of recent history, not a typically feminine subject.

    Can’t get Netflix here at the moment but they’re working on it. I really should watch a movie first and THEN decide whether to buy it; that would save money. But I doubt I will. You see I have an addictive personality.

    Soon be time for my evening’s fix. ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’? (Jennifer Jason Leigh, sigh…)

    • Don’t worry Badger. You’re the only one counting.
      Just watched the youtube. thanks. yes, I can see that that may have to join my CD collection very soon. I was rather concerned about the state of Rachel’s arm when she was hanging over a white cloud, but I am hoping that was down to someone’s over-enthusiastic use of photoshop rather than some deadly wasting disease.

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