Van Morrison first came to my notice as the lead singer of the Northern Irish band ‘Them’, in 1964. I bought their single, ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, and ‘Gloria’ was the B-side. He later became a solo artist, prolific songwriter, and something of a household name. Most people could name one or more of his hits, and possibly the titles of his albums too. It would be fair to say that at least a few of his recordings have earned the status of ‘standard’. With this in mind, it would be correct to say that this is a man of great musical talent, and a significant figure in the music industry, still performing to this day, aged almost seventy.
From the time of his second solo release, ‘Astral Weeks’, in 1968, I collected every record he ever made, until 1999. I counted them, 26. Although there have been many more since then, I haven’t bought any. My relationship with him as a performer has been unusual. I only ever got to see him once, after waiting what seemed to be a lifetime to do so. And I hated it. Expensive seats at the Albert Hall were not justified by the appearance of a rather grumpy, disconnected performer, who rushed through his repertoire as if on fast-forward. He left much of the job of entertaining the crowd to British jazz man, Georgie Fame, as he just stared at the floor, mumbling a selection of his hits. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement of how I felt that night.
Despite this, his music still gets to me, and it undeniably endures. His songs are like a soundtrack to a large part of my life. From the early blues hits before I was even a teenager, through to the haunting Celtic melodies when I was well over forty. Here is one of my favourites.