Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time..?'

Happy 65th Birthday today to the Belfast Cowboy, the one and only George Ivan Morrison.

From Hyndford Street, to Cyprus Avenue; from Orangefield to Coney Island, the geographical and linguistic references to our shared hometown that permeate his poetry are always superbly evocative, while his melodies are soulful perfection.

Here's a great song from a great album: "Days Like This" from 1995, with just a terrific band, including Brian Kennedy on vocals and Nicky Scott on bass. (I played in a band with Nicky's younger brother Tony a long time ago.)

There's a wonderful book by Clinton Heylin called "Can You Feel The Silence" which is a nice portrait of Van's work, while there's just a great video here of the excellent Greil Marcus talking about "When That Rough God Goes Riding", his book on listening to Van's music.

I've seen Van live several times, at home and in London; the first time in 1979 at the Whitla Hall on the campus of Queens University in Belfast, the first time he'd played in the city for some years. The next occasion was the following year at an open-air show at the Balmoral Showgrounds, where I got first-hand experience of how temperamental a performer he could be.

His songs have been covered extensively, by the likes of John Mellencamp, Glen Hansard and of course, Patti Smith and a million garage bands the world over.

From his 40-odd album catalog, these are my favorites:

Live At The Grand Opera House
Into The Music
Astral Weeks
(Bootleg) Live At The Waterfront Hall
Beautiful Vision
Avalon Sunset

Here's a video interview "Ten Questions from Time Magazine":

and here's part of a CBS Sunday Morning interview - with some great archive footage - where he describes himself, understatedly, as "an introvert in an extrovert world".

Whatever's happening in his personal life, Van's a musical genius and a Belfast treasure. And for his fans and his kinfolk, there's never any doubting how he makes us feel.

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