Van Morrison – ‘Moondance’

By 1988 I had developed an unhealthy relationship. Charivari had been my chapel of joy, but for a year or two it was the gym, or a swimming pool, or a very steep hill. My employ had changed too. Still retail, but I was selling cricket bats, football boots and tennis rackets instead of shit clothes. I’d go swimming before work, to the gym straight after and punched bags, skipped, did squats, pull ups, aerobics, ran up zig-zags at Bournemouth beach and generally anything to generate a pool of sweat. I was about to get as fit as fuck, but become a bore. Fitness became a shallow addiction. My passion for music however, was flourishing as much as my strength.

I’ve no idea how I came about Van Morrison, and Moondance in particular, but it was bound to happen at some point. I was aware of his legend and had dug his stuff with Them in the mid ’60s, but another beautiful musical discovery was about to unfold. I love Van’s story, his musical heritage and knowing he could be a cantankerous sod, up there with the best of them in his stubborn single-mindedness. Astral Weeks was a year or two down the line for me, and would rival Moondance for top spot, but Moondance was my first love, and for that reason alone, the best.

Moondance has a swing, a groove, it’s a beat more uptempo and a touch less dark than Astral Weeks and therefore slightly more accessible. I’ll listen to either endlessly, depending on my mood, but it’s the soul and the gorgeous overwhelming feel of Moondance that gripped me. Van’s lilt bleeds emotion, whether it be the subtle beauty of Crazy Love or the gypsy soul of Caravan.

“I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles
And the heavens open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song

She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love
She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love”

Crazy Love

My Van Morrison catalogue would expand to double digits over the years with his ’74 live double LP It’s Too Late To Stop Now blowing my mind, but since this first purchase one song has remained my favourite. Into The Mystic has it all. The aura, the sentiment, the arrangement lifts me, coming as close as any song to affect me spiritually.

Then there’s the subtle simplicity and Van’s restrained passion, cut loose when the fog horn blows…

“And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float
Into the mystic”

The few times I’ve seen Van Morrison live have been a disappointment, but I’ll forgive him anything for the sheer beauty contained in his music, being one of those artists that just connects with your soul. Van, is indeed, the Man.

Elvis Costello – live at Glastonbury CND Festival 1987

I’ve been to the Glastonbury Festival twice, first in 1987 and again in 1990. 1987 brings back much better memories due to the music, the sheer excitement and the love I felt amongst 60,000 mud-soaked revellers, in particular my comrades and fellow peacenicks, Gary and Simon. The latter supplied the transport. A 2CV. A cool choice, even when being gang-pushed up a muddy hill upon exit. In ’87 it was still the Glastonbury CND Festival, by ’90 the acronym was dropped, and that year I have no magical musical memories, although I do remember the Happy Mondays being shit and our total festival hash fund being wasted (not in a good way) on day one. That lump of rubber looked so real!

It intermittently lashed down both years, but the mud was nothing compared to the memory of the gut-wrenching stench emanating from the trenched pits of piss and crap (see shit pic below). On the plus side, in ’87 we parked a few hundred metres directly in front of the Pyramid Stage, just because we could. I was yet to discover the magnificence of Van Morrison, so he passed me by, but I loved World Party’s album, Private Revolution. Karl Wallinger radiated much needed warmth and positivity, with Ship Of Fools sounding like a glorious stream of sunshine as the rain fell relentlessly. Julian Cope was at it too, aboard his climbing frame mic, rocking out World Shut Your Mouth, Trampolene and Teardrop’s Bouncing Babies.

toilets-glasto

So, Elvis Costello. We were fans. I owned Armed Forces and Get Happy and he was clearly an all round dude de force having produced The Specials’ iconic debut album. I played him plenty at Charivari and of all the acts playing at Glastonbury, he was the only one not to be missed. Here’s what I remember. He played solo, a mixture of classics and albums tracks, including a spine-tingling version of Shipbuilding. Mostly acoustic, never less than totally captivating he finished after about ninety minutes. A great gig, almost worthy of the entry money alone.

Encore one. Encore two. Encore three! A boombox assisted Pump It Up / Sign Of The Times mash-up. I’d have very happily walked away there. But, behind Elvis were large drapes covering the width of the stage. He pulled a cord, the curtains parted, and there were the Attractions who immediately launched into Oliver’s Army! What’s the sound of about 30,000 people deliriously gobsmacked? Oliver’s Army was followed by an hour or more of full band action, including Watching The Detectives and climaxing with Instant Karma. Three hours of pure joy.

I loved Elvis Costello’s early stuff, Spike in ’89 was a big favourite, and ten years later came my most played Elvis album, his stunning collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory. An absolute masterpiece of classic songwriting. But, that evening, THAT moment as the band appeared and that classic piano intro kicked in… Oliver’s Army will always mean Glastonbury 1987.