Galatians 4:12–20 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 by little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests Ground Floor Theatre Jack & Aiden Consider giving to Marc Pouhe's Gofundme What We Talked About Amid Falling Walls How To Dance In Ohio Merrily tickets… what? Manhatta Bear Snores on Hazbin Hotel Roe in Lousianna Eddie Izzard Hamlet Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
This Sunday, we heard the transformative words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:1-7, that we embark on a spiritual journey from bondage to freedom, from servitude to sonship. In our sermon, 'Slaves Not Sons,' we explore the profound transition that Christ empowers within us—a metamorphosis from being enslaved by the elemental forces of the world to becoming cherished children of God, heirs through divine promise. Join us as we uncover the depths of grace that redeems our identity and redefines our destiny, breaking the chains of servitude to embrace the embrace of the Father. This message is not just a theological concept; it's the heartbeat of our inheritance in Christ, a calling to live as liberated sons and daughters in the kingdom of Heaven. Tune in as we reclaim our rightful heritage and celebrate the freedom that comes from being known, loved, and claimed by God Himself.
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests Justin P. LopezGary ThornsberryConsider giving to Marc Pouhe's Gofundme What We Talked About Spamalot Big Apple Circus Hell's Kitchen & Juliet Das Musical Tammy Faye The Queen's Gambit Gwynnith Paltrow Musical Ani Defranco in Hadestown Black Theatre United Gala Titanic to stream Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
Episode 170 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Astral Weeks", the early solo career of Van Morrison, and the death of Bert Berns. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-minute bonus episode available, on "Stoned Soul Picnic" by Laura Nyro. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Errata At one point I, ridiculously, misspeak the name of Charles Mingus' classic album. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is not about dinner ladies. Also, I say Warren Smith Jr is on "Slim Slow Slider" when I meant to say Richard Davis (Smith is credited in some sources, but I only hear acoustic guitar, bass, and soprano sax on the finished track). Resources As usual, I've created Mixcloud playlists, with full versions of all the songs excerpted in this episode. As there are so many Van Morrison songs in this episode, the Mixcloud is split into three parts, one, two, and three. The information about Bert Berns comes from Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues by Joel Selvin. I've used several biographies of Van Morrison. Van Morrison: Into the Music by Ritchie Yorke is so sycophantic towards Morrison that the word “hagiography” would be, if anything, an understatement. Van Morrison: No Surrender by Johnny Rogan, on the other hand, is the kind of book that talks in the introduction about how the author has had to avoid discussing certain topics because of legal threats from the subject. Howard deWitt's Van Morrison: Astral Weeks to Stardom is over-thorough in the way some self-published books are, while Clinton Heylin's Can You Feel the Silence? is probably the best single volume on the artist. Information on Woodstock comes from Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns. Ryan Walsh's Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 is about more than Astral Weeks, but does cover Morrison's period in and around Boston in more detail than anything else. The album Astral Weeks is worth hearing in its entirety. Not all of the music on The Authorized Bang Collection is as listenable, but it's the most complete collection available of everything Morrison recorded for Bang. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before we start, a quick warning -- this episode contains discussion of organised crime activity, and of sudden death. It also contains excerpts of songs which hint at attraction to underage girls and discuss terminal illness. If those subjects might upset you, you might want to read the transcript rather than listen to the episode. Anyway, on with the show. Van Morrison could have been the co-writer of "Piece of My Heart". Bert Berns was one of the great collaborators in the music business, and almost every hit he ever had was co-written, and he was always on the lookout for new collaborators, and in 1967 he was once again working with Van Morrison, who he'd worked with a couple of years earlier when Morrison was still the lead singer of Them. Towards the beginning of 1967 he had come up with a chorus, but no verse. He had the hook, "Take another little piece of my heart" -- Berns was writing a lot of songs with "heart" in the title at the time -- and wanted Morrison to come up with a verse to go with it. Van Morrison declined. He wasn't interested in writing pop songs, or in collaborating with other writers, and so Berns turned to one of his regular collaborators, Jerry Ragavoy, and it was Ragavoy who added the verses to one of the biggest successes of Berns' career: [Excerpt: Erma Franklin, "Piece of My Heart"] The story of how Van Morrison came to make the album that's often considered his masterpiece is intimately tied up with the story we've been telling in the background for several episodes now, the story of Atlantic Records' sale to Warners, and the story of Bert Berns' departure from Atlantic. For that reason, some parts of the story I'm about to tell will be familiar to those of you who've been paying close attention to the earlier episodes, but as always I'm going to take you from there to somewhere we've never been before. In 1962, Bert Berns was a moderately successful songwriter, who had written or co-written songs for many artists, especially for artists on Atlantic Records. He'd written songs for Atlantic artists like LaVern Baker, and when Atlantic's top pop producers Leiber and Stoller started to distance themselves from the label in the early sixties, he had moved into production as well, writing and producing Solomon Burke's big hit "Cry to Me": [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "Cry to Me"] He was the producer and writer or co-writer of most of Burke's hits from that point forward, but at first he was still a freelance producer, and also produced records for Scepter Records, like the Isley Brothers' version of "Twist and Shout", another song he'd co-written, that one with Phil Medley. And as a jobbing songwriter, of course his songs were picked up by other producers, so Leiber and Stoller produced a version of his song "Tell Him" for the Exciters on United Artists: [Excerpt: The Exciters, "Tell Him"] Berns did freelance work for Leiber and Stoller as well as the other people he was working for. For example, when their former protege Phil Spector released his hit version of "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah", they got Berns to come up with a knockoff arrangement of "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?", released as by Baby Jane and the Rockabyes, with a production credit "Produced by Leiber and Stoller, directed by Bert Berns": [Excerpt: Baby Jane and the Rockabyes, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"] And when Leiber and Stoller stopped producing work for United Artists, Berns took over some of the artists they'd been producing for the label, like Marv Johnson, as well as producing his own new artists, like Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, who had been discovered by Berns' friend Jerry Ragovoy, with whom he co-wrote their "Cry Baby": [Excerpt: Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, "Cry Baby"] Berns was an inveterate collaborator. He was one of the few people to get co-writing credits with Leiber and Stoller, and he would collaborate seemingly with everyone who spoke to him for five minutes. He would also routinely reuse material, cutting the same songs time and again with different artists, knowing that a song must be a hit for *someone*. One of his closest collaborators was Jerry Wexler, who also became one of his best friends, even though one of their earliest interactions had been when Wexler had supervised Phil Spector's production of Berns' "Twist and Shout" for the Top Notes, a record that Berns had thought had butchered the song. Berns was, in his deepest bones, a record man. Listening to the records that Berns made, there's a strong continuity in everything he does. There's a love there of simplicity -- almost none of his records have more than three chords. He loved Latin sounds and rhythms -- a love he shared with other people working in Brill Building R&B at the time, like Leiber and Stoller and Spector -- and great voices in emotional distress. There's a reason that the records he produced for Solomon Burke were the first R&B records to be labelled "soul". Berns was one of those people for whom feel and commercial success are inextricable. He was an artist -- the records he made were powerfully expressive -- but he was an artist for whom the biggest validation was *getting a hit*. Only a small proportion of the records he made became hits, but enough did that in the early sixties he was a name that could be spoken of in the same breath as Leiber and Stoller, Spector, and Bacharach and David. And Atlantic needed a record man. The only people producing hits for the label at this point were Leiber and Stoller, and they were in the process of stopping doing freelance work and setting up their own label, Red Bird, as we talked about in the episode on the Shangri-Las. And anyway, they wanted more money than they were getting, and Jerry Wexler was never very keen on producers wanting money that could have gone to the record label. Wexler decided to sign Bert Berns up as a staff producer for Atlantic towards the end of 1963, and by May 1964 it was paying off. Atlantic hadn't been having hits, and now Berns had four tracks he wrote and produced for Atlantic on the Hot One Hundred, of which the highest charting was "My Girl Sloopy" by the Vibrations: [Excerpt: The Vibrations, "My Girl Sloopy"] Even higher on the charts though was the Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout". That record, indeed, had been successful enough in the UK that Berns had already made exploratory trips to the UK and produced records for Dick Rowe at Decca, a partnership we heard about in the episode on "Here Comes the Night". Berns had made partnerships there which would have vast repercussions for the music industry in both countries, and one of them was with the arranger Mike Leander, who was the uncredited arranger for the Drifters session for "Under the Boardwalk", a song written by Artie Resnick and Kenny Young and produced by Berns, recorded the day after the group's lead singer Rudy Lewis died of an overdose: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Under the Boardwalk"] Berns was making hits on a regular basis by mid-1964, and the income from the label's new success allowed Jerry Wexler and the Ertegun brothers to buy out their other partners -- Ahmet Ertegun's old dentist, who had put up some of the initial money, and Miriam Bienstock, the ex-wife of their initial partner Herb Abramson, who'd got Abramson's share in the company after the divorce, and who was now married to Freddie Bienstock of Hill and Range publishing. Wexler and the Erteguns now owned the whole label. Berns also made regular trips to the UK to keep up his work with British musicians, and in one of those trips, as we heard in the episode on "Here Comes the Night", he produced several tracks for the group Them, including that track, written by Berns: [Excerpt: Them, "Here Comes the Night"] And a song written by the group's lead singer Van Morrison, "Gloria": [Excerpt: Them, "Gloria"] But Berns hadn't done much other work with them, because he had a new project. Part of the reason that Wexler and the Erteguns had gained total control of Atlantic was because, in a move pushed primarily by Wexler, they were looking at selling it. They'd already tried to merge with Leiber and Stoller's Red Bird Records, but lost the opportunity after a disastrous meeting, but they were in negotiations with several other labels, negotiations which would take another couple of years to bear fruit. But they weren't planning on getting out of the record business altogether. Whatever deal they made, they'd remain with Atlantic, but they were also planning on starting another label. Bert Berns had seen how successful Leiber and Stoller were with Red Bird, and wanted something similar. Wexler and the Erteguns didn't want to lose their one hit-maker, so they came up with an offer that would benefit all of them. Berns' publishing contract had just ended, so they would set up a new publishing company, WEB IV, named after the initials Wexler, Ertegun, and Berns, and the fact that there were four of them. Berns would own fifty percent of that, and the other three would own the other half. And they were going to start up a new label, with seventeen thousand dollars of the Atlantic partners' money. That label would be called Bang -- for Bert, Ahmet, Neshui, and Gerald -- and would be a separate company from Atlantic, so not affected by any sale. Berns would continue as a staff producer for Atlantic for now, but he'd have "his own" label, which he'd have a proper share in, and whether he was making hits for Atlantic or Bang, his partners would have a share of the profits. The first two records on Bang were "Shake and Jerk" by Billy Lamont, a track that they licensed from elsewhere and which didn't do much, and a more interesting track co-written by Berns. Bob Feldman, Richard Gottehrer, and Jerry Goldstein were Brill Building songwriters who had become known for writing "My Boyfriend's Back", a hit for the Angels, a couple of years earlier: [Excerpt: The Angels, "My Boyfriend's Back"] With the British invasion, the three of them had decided to create their own foreign beat group. As they couldn't do British accents, they pretended to be Australian, and as the Strangeloves -- named after the Stanley Kubrick film Dr Strangelove -- they released one flop single. They cut another single, a version of "Bo Diddley", but the label they released their initial record through didn't want it. They then took the record to Atlantic, where Jerry Wexler said that they weren't interested in releasing some white men singing "Bo Diddley". But Ahmet Ertegun suggested they bring the track to Bert Berns to see what he thought. Berns pointed out that if they changed the lyrics and melody, but kept the same backing track, they could claim the copyright in the resulting song themselves. He worked with them on a new lyric, inspired by the novel Candy, a satirical pornographic novel co-written by Terry Southern, who had also co-written the screenplay to Dr Strangelove. Berns supervised some guitar overdubs, and the result went to number eleven: [Excerpt: The Strangeloves, "I Want Candy"] Berns had two other songs on the hot one hundred when that charted, too -- Them's version of "Here Comes the Night", and the version of Van McCoy's song "Baby I'm Yours" he'd produced for Barbara Lewis. Three records on the charts on three different labels. But despite the sheer number of charting records he'd had, he'd never had a number one, until the Strangeloves went on tour. Before the tour they'd cut a version of "My Girl Sloopy" for their album -- Berns always liked to reuse material -- and they started performing the song on the tour. The Dave Clark Five, who they were supporting, told them it sounded like a hit and they were going to do their own version when they got home. Feldman, Gottehrer, and Goldstein decided *they* might as well have the hit with it as anyone else. Rather than put it out as a Strangeloves record -- their own record was still rising up the charts, and there's no reason to be your own competition -- they decided to get a group of teenage musicians who supported them on the last date of the tour to sing new vocals to the backing track from the Strangeloves album. The group had been called Rick and the Raiders, but they argued so much that the Strangeloves nicknamed them the Hatfields and the McCoys, and when their version of "My Girl Sloopy", retitled "Hang on Sloopy", came out, it was under the band name The McCoys: [Excerpt: The McCoys, "Hang on Sloopy"] Berns was becoming a major success, and with major success in the New York music industry in the 1960s came Mafia involvement. We've talked a fair bit about Morris Levy's connection with the mob in many previous episodes, but mob influence was utterly pervasive throughout the New York part of the industry, and so for example Richard Gottehrer of the Strangeloves used to call Sonny Franzese of the Colombo crime family "Uncle John", they were so close. Franzese was big in the record business too, even after his conviction for bank robbery. Berns, unlike many of the other people in the industry, had no scruples at all about hanging out with Mafiosi. indeed his best friend in the mid sixties was Tommy Eboli, a member of the Genovese crime family who had been in the mob since the twenties, starting out working for "Lucky" Luciano. Berns was not himself a violent man, as far as anyone can tell, but he liked the glamour of hanging out with organised crime figures, and they liked hanging out with someone who was making so many hit records. And so while Leiber and Stoller, for example, ended up selling Red Bird Records to George Goldner for a single dollar in order to get away from the Mafiosi who were slowly muscling in on the label, Berns had no problems at all in keeping his own label going. Indeed, he would soon be doing so without the involvement of Atlantic Records. Berns' final work for Atlantic was in June 1966, when he cut a song he had co-written with Jeff Barry for the Drifters, inspired by the woman who would soon become Atlantic's biggest star: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Aretha"] The way Berns told the story in public, there was no real bad blood between him, Wexler, and the Erteguns -- he'd just decided to go his own way, and he said “I will always be grateful to them for the help they've given me in getting Bang started,” The way Berns' wife would later tell the story, Jerry Wexler had suggested that rather than Berns owning fifty percent of Web IV, they should start to split everything four ways, and she had been horrified by this suggestion, kicked up a stink about it, and Wexler had then said that either Berns needed to buy the other three out, or quit and give them everything, and demanded Berns pay them three hundred thousand dollars. According to other people, Berns decided he wanted one hundred percent control of Web IV, and raised a breach of contract lawsuit against Atlantic, over the usual royalty non-payments that were endemic in the industry at that point. When Atlantic decided to fight the lawsuit rather than settle, Berns' mob friends got involved and threatened to break the legs of Wexler's fourteen-year-old daughter, and the mob ended up with full control of Bang records, while Berns had full control of his publishing company. Given later events, and in particular given the way Wexler talked about Berns until the day he died, with a vitriol that he never used about any of the other people he had business disputes with, it seems likely to me that the latter story is closer to the truth than the former. But most people involved weren't talking about the details of what went on, and so Berns still retained his relationships with many of the people in the business, not least of them Jeff Barry, so when Barry and Ellie Greenwich had a new potential star, it was Berns they thought to bring him to, even though the artist was white and Berns had recently given an interview saying that he wanted to work with more Black artists, because white artists simply didn't have soul. Barry and Greenwich's marriage was breaking up at the time, but they were still working together professionally, as we discussed in the episode on "River Deep, Mountain High", and they had been the main production team at Red Bird. But with Red Bird in terminal decline, they turned elsewhere when they found a potential major star after Greenwich was asked to sing backing vocals on one of his songwriting demos. They'd signed the new songwriter, Neil Diamond, to Leiber and Stoller's company Trio Music at first, but they soon started up their own company, Tallyrand Music, and signed Diamond to that, giving Diamond fifty percent of the company and keeping twenty-five percent each for themselves, and placed one of his songs with Jay and the Americans in 1965: [Excerpt: Jay and the Americans, "Sunday and Me"] That record made the top twenty, and had established Diamond as a songwriter, but he was still not a major performer -- he'd released one flop single on Columbia Records before meeting Barry and Greenwich. But they thought he had something, and Bert Berns agreed. Diamond was signed to Bang records, and Berns had a series of pre-production meetings with Barry and Greenwich before they took Diamond into the studio -- Barry and Greenwich were going to produce Diamond for Bang, as they had previously produced tracks for Red Bird, but they were going to shape the records according to Berns' aesthetic. The first single released from Diamond's first session, "Solitary Man", only made number fifty-five, but it was the first thing Diamond had recorded to make the Hot One Hundred at all: [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Solitary Man"] The second single, though, was much more Bert Berns' sort of thing -- a three-chord song that sounded like it could have been written by Berns himself, especially after Barry and Greenwich had added the Latin-style horns that Berns loved so much. Indeed according to some sources, Berns did make a songwriting suggestion -- Diamond's song had apparently been called "Money Money", and Berns had thought that was a ridiculous title, and suggested calling it "Cherry Cherry" instead: [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Cherry Cherry"] That became Diamond's first top ten hit. While Greenwich had been the one who had discovered Diamond, and Barry and Greenwich were the credited producers on all Diamond's records as a result, Diamond soon found himself collaborating far more with Barry than with Greenwich, so for example the first number one he wrote, for the Monkees rather than himself, ended up having its production just credited to Barry. That record used a backing track recorded in New York by the same set of musicians used on most Bang records, like Al Gorgoni on lead guitar and Russ Savakus on bass: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "I'm a Believer"] Neil Diamond was becoming a solid hit-maker, but he started rubbing up badly against Berns. Berns wanted hits and only hits, and Diamond thought of himself as a serious artist. The crisis came when two songs were under contention for Diamond's next single in late 1967, after he'd had a whole run of hits for the label. The song Diamond wanted to release, "Shilo", was deeply personal to him: [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Shilo"] But Bert Berns had other ideas. "Shilo" didn't sound like a hit, and he knew a hit when he heard one. No, the clear next single, the only choice, was "Kentucky Woman": [Excerpt: Neil Diamond, "Kentucky Woman"] But Berns tried to compromise as best he could. Diamond's contract was up for renewal, and you don't want to lose someone who has had, as Diamond had at that point, five top twenty hits in a row, and who was also writing songs like "I'm a Believer" and "Red Red Wine". He told Diamond that he'd let "Shilo" come out as a single if Diamond signed an extension to his contract. Diamond said that not only was he not going to do that, he'd taken legal advice and discovered that there were problems with his contract which let him record for other labels -- the word "exclusive" had been missed out of the text, among other things. He wasn't going to be recording for Bang at all any more. The lawsuits over this would stretch out for a decade, and Diamond would eventually win, but the first few months were very, very difficult for Diamond. When he played the Bitter End, a club in New York, stink bombs were thrown into the audience. The Bitter End's manager was assaulted and severely beaten. Diamond moved his wife and child out of Manhattan, borrowed a gun, and after his last business meeting with Berns was heard talking about how he needed to contact the District Attorney and hire a bodyguard. Of the many threats that were issued against Diamond, though, the least disturbing was probably the threat Berns made to Diamond's career. Berns pointed out to Diamond in no uncertain terms that he didn't need Diamond anyway -- he already had someone he could replace Diamond with, another white male solo singer with a guitar who could churn out guaranteed hits. He had Van Morrison: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Brown-Eyed Girl"] When we left Van Morrison, Them had just split up due to the problems they had been having with their management team. Indeed, the problems Morrison was having with his managers seem curiously similar to the issues that Diamond was having with Bert Berns -- something that could possibly have been a warning sign to everyone involved, if any of them had known the full details of everyone else's situation. Sadly for all of them, none of them did. Them had had some early singles success, notably with the tracks Berns had produced for them, but Morrison's opinion of their second album, Them Again, was less than complimentary, and in general that album is mostly only remembered for the version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", which is one of those cover versions that inspires subsequent covers more than the original ever did: [Excerpt: Them, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"] Them had toured the US around the time of the release of that album, but that tour had been a disaster. The group had gained a reputation for incredible live shows, including performances at the Whisky A-Go-Go with the Doors and Captain Beefheart as their support acts, but during the tour Van Morrison had decided that Phil Solomon, the group's manager, was getting too much money -- Morrison had agreed to do the tour on a salary, rather than a percentage, but the tour had been more successful than he'd expected, and Solomon was making a great deal of money off the tour, money that Morrison believed rightfully belonged to him. The group started collecting the money directly from promoters, and got into legal trouble with Solomon as a result. The tour ended with the group having ten thousand dollars that Solomon believed -- quite possibly correctly -- that he was owed. Various gangsters whose acquaintance the group had made offered to have the problem taken care of, but they decided instead to come to a legal agreement -- they would keep the money, and in return Solomon, whose production company the group were signed to, would get to keep all future royalties from the Them tracks. This probably seemed a good idea at the time, when the idea of records earning royalties for sixty or more years into the future seemed ridiculous, but Morrison in particular came to regret the decision bitterly. The group played one final gig when they got back to Belfast, but then split up, though a version of the group led by the bass player Alan Henderson continued performing for a few years to no success. Morrison put together a band that played a handful of gigs under the name Them Again, with little success, but he already had his eyes set on a return to the US. In Morrison's eyes, Bert Berns had been the only person in the music industry who had really understood him, and the two worked well together. He had also fallen in love with an American woman, Janet Planet, and wanted to find some way to be with her. As Morrison said later “I had a couple of other offers but I thought this was the best one, seeing as I wanted to come to America anyway. I can't remember the exact details of the deal. It wasn't really that spectacular, money-wise, I don't think. But it was pretty hard to refuse from the point of view that I really respected Bert as a producer. I'd rather have worked with Bert than some other guy with a bigger record company. From that angle, it was spectacular because Bert was somebody that I wanted to work with.” There's little evidence that Morrison did have other offers -- he was already getting a reputation as someone who it was difficult to work with -- but he and Berns had a mutual respect, and on January the ninth, 1967, he signed a contract with Bang records. That contract has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, but it was actually, *by the standards in operation in the music business in 1967*, a reasonably fair one. The contract provided that, for a $2,500 a year advance, Bang would record twelve sides in the first year, with an option for up to fifty more that year, and options for up to four more years on the same terms. Bang had the full ownership of the masters and the right to do what they wanted with them. According to at least one biographer, Morrison added clauses requiring Bang to actually record the twelve sides a year, and to put out at least three singles and one album per year while the contract was in operation. He also added one other clause which seems telling -- "Company agrees that Company will not make any reference to the name THEM on phonograph records, or in advertising copy in connection with the recording of Artist." Morrison was, at first, extremely happy with Berns. The problems started with their first session: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Brown-Eyed Girl (takes 1-6)"] When Morrison had played the songs he was working on for Berns, Berns had remarked that they sounded great with just Morrison and his guitar, so Morrison was surprised when he got into the studio to find the whole standard New York session crew there -- the same group of session players who were playing for everyone from the Monkees to Laura Nyro, from Neil Diamond to the Shangri-Las -- along with the Sweet Inspirations to provide backing vocals. As he described it later "This fellow Bert, he made it the way he wanted to, and I accepted that he was producing it... I'd write a song and bring it into the group and we'd sit there and bash it around and that's all it was -- they weren't playing the songs, they were just playing whatever it was. They'd say 'OK, we got drums so let's put drums on it,' and they weren't thinking about the song, all they were thinking about was putting drums on it... But it was my song, and I had to watch it go down." The first song they cut was "Brown-Eyed Girl", a song which Morrison has said was originally a calypso, and was originally titled "Brown-skinned Girl", though he's differed in interviews as to whether Berns changed the lyric or if he just decided to sing it differently without thinking about it in the session. Berns turned "Brown-Eyed Girl" into a hit single, because that was what he tended to do with songs, and the result sounds a lot like the kind of record that Bang were releasing for Neil Diamond: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Brown-Eyed Girl"] Morrison has, in later years, expressed his distaste for what was done to the song, and in particular he's said that the backing vocal part by the Sweet Inspirations was added by Berns and he disliked it: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Brown-Eyed Girl"] Morrison has been very dismissive of "Brown-Eyed Girl" over the years, but he seems not to have disliked it at the time, and the song itself is one that has stood the test of time, and is often pointed to by other songwriters as a great example of the writer's craft. I remember reading one interview with Randy Newman -- sadly, while I thought it was in Paul Zollo's "Songwriters on Songwriting" I just checked that and it's not, so I can't quote it precisely -- in which he says that he often points to the line "behind the stadium with you" as a perfect piece of writing, because it's such a strangely specific detail that it convinces you that it actually happened, and that means you implicitly believe the rest of the song. Though it should be made very clear here that Morrison has always said, over and over again, that nothing in his songs is based directly on his own experiences, and that they're all products of his imagination and composites of people he's known. This is very important to note before we go any further, because "Brown-Eyed Girl" is one of many songs from this period in Morrison's career which imply that their narrator has an attraction to underage girls -- in this case he remembers "making love in the green grass" in the distant past, while he also says "saw you just the other day, my how you have grown", and that particular combination is not perhaps one that should be dwelt on too closely. But there is of course a very big difference between a songwriter treating a subject as something that is worth thinking about in the course of a song and writing about their own lives, and that can be seen on one of the other songs that Morrison recorded in these sessions, "T.B. Sheets": [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "T.B. Sheets"] It seems very unlikely indeed that Van Morrison actually had a lover die of tuberculosis, as the lover in the song does, and while a lot of people seem convinced that it's autobiographical, simply because of the intensity of the performance (Morrison apparently broke down in tears after recording it), nobody has ever found anyone in Morrison's life who fits the story in the song, and he's always ridiculed such suggestions. What is true though is that "T.B. Sheets" is evidence against another claim that Morrison has made in the past - that on these initial sessions the eight songs recorded were meant to be the A and B sides of four singles and there was no plan of making an album. It is simply not plausible at all to suggest that "T.B. Sheets" -- a slow blues about terminal illness, that lasts nearly ten minutes -- was ever intended as a single. It wouldn't have even come close to fitting on one side of a forty-five. It was also presumably at this time that Berns brought up the topic of "Piece of My Heart". When Berns signed Erma Franklin, it was as a way of getting at Jerry Wexler, who had gone from being his closest friend to someone he wasn't on speaking terms with, by signing the sister of his new signing Aretha. Morrison, of course, didn't co-write it -- he'd already decided that he didn't play well with others -- but it's tempting to think about how the song might have been different had Morrison written it. The song in some ways seems a message to Wexler -- haven't you had enough from me already? -- but it's also notable how many songs Berns was writing with the word "heart" in the chorus, given that Berns knew he was on borrowed time from his own heart condition. As an example, around the same time he and Jerry Ragavoy co-wrote "Piece of My Heart", they also co-wrote another song, "Heart Be Still", a flagrant lift from "Peace Be Still" by Aretha Franklin's old mentor Rev. James Cleveland, which they cut with Lorraine Ellison: [Excerpt: Lorraine Ellison, "Heart Be Still"] Berns' heart condition had got much worse as a result of the stress from splitting with Atlantic, and he had started talking about maybe getting open-heart surgery, though that was still very new and experimental. One wonders how he must have felt listening to Morrison singing about watching someone slowly dying. Morrison has since had nothing but negative things to say about the sessions in March 1967, but at the time he seemed happy. He returned to Belfast almost straight away after the sessions, on the understanding that he'd be back in the US if "Brown-Eyed Girl" was a success. He wrote to Janet Planet in San Francisco telling her to listen to the radio -- she'd know if she heard "Brown-Eyed Girl" that he would be back on his way to see her. She soon did hear the song, and he was soon back in the US: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Brown-Eyed Girl"] By August, "Brown-Eyed Girl" had become a substantial hit, making the top ten, and Morrison was back in the States. He was starting to get less happy with Berns though. Bang had put out the eight tracks he'd recorded in March as an album, titled Blowin' Your Mind, and Morrison thought that the crass pseudo-psychedelia of the title, liner notes, and cover was very inappropriate -- Morrison has never been a heavy user of any drugs other than alcohol, and didn't particularly want to be associated with them. He also seems to have not realised that every track he recorded in those initial sessions would be on the album, which many people have called one of the great one-sided albums of all time -- side A, with "Brown-Eyed Girl", "He Ain't Give You None" and the extended "T.B. Sheets" tends to get far more love than side B, with five much lesser songs on it. Berns held a party for Morrison on a cruise around Manhattan, but it didn't go well -- when the performer Tiny Tim tried to get on board, Carmine "Wassel" DeNoia, a mobster friend of Berns' who was Berns' partner in a studio they'd managed to get from Atlantic as part of the settlement when Berns left, was so offended by Tim's long hair and effeminate voice and mannerisms that he threw him overboard into the harbour. DeNoia was meant to be Morrison's manager in the US, working with Berns, but he and Morrison didn't get on at all -- at one point DeNoia smashed Morrison's acoustic guitar over his head, and only later regretted the damage he'd done to a nice guitar. And Morrison and Berns weren't getting on either. Morrison went back into the studio to record four more songs for a follow-up to "Brown-Eyed Girl", but there was again a misunderstanding. Morrison thought he'd been promised that this time he could do his songs the way he wanted, but Berns was just frustrated that he wasn't coming up with another "Brown-Eyed Girl", but was instead coming up with slow songs about trans women. Berns overdubbed party noises and soul backing vocals onto "Madame George", possibly in an attempt to copy the Beach Boys' Party! album with its similar feel, but it was never going to be a "Barbara Ann": [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Madame George (Bang version)"] In the end, Berns released one of the filler tracks from Blowin' Your Mind, "Ro Ro Rosey", as the next single, and it flopped. On December the twenty-ninth, Berns had a meeting with Neil Diamond, the meeting after which Diamond decided he needed to get a bodyguard. After that, he had a screaming row over the phone with Van Morrison, which made Berns ill with stress. The next day, he died of a heart attack. Berns' widow Ilene, who had only just given birth to a baby a couple of weeks earlier, would always blame Morrison for pushing her husband over the edge. Neither Van Morrison nor Jerry Wexler went to the funeral, but Neil Diamond did -- he went to try to persuade Ilene to let him out of his contract now Berns was dead. According to Janet Planet later, "We were at the hotel when we learned that Bert had died. We were just mortified, because things had been going really badly, and Van felt really bad, because I guess they'd parted having had some big fight or something... Even though he did love Bert, it was a strange relationship that lived and died in the studio... I remember we didn't go to the funeral, which probably was a mistake... I think [Van] had a really bad feeling about what was going to happen." But Morrison has later mostly talked about the more practical concerns that came up, which were largely the same as the ones Neil Diamond had, saying in 1997 "I'd signed a contract with Bert Berns for management, production, agency and record company, publishing, the whole lot -- which was professional suicide as any lawyer will tell you now... Then the whole thing blew up. Bert Berns died and I was left broke." This was the same mistake, essentially, that he'd made with Phil Solomon, and in order to get out of it, it turned out he was going to have to do much the same for a third time. But it was the experience with Berns specifically that traumatised Morrison enough that twenty-five years later he would still be writing songs about it, like "Big Time Operators": [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Big Time Operators"] The option to renew Morrison's contracts with Berns' companies came on the ninth of January 1968, less than two weeks after Berns' death. After his death, Berns' share of ownership in his companies had passed to his widow, who was in a quandary. She had two young children, one of whom was only a few weeks old, and she needed an income after their father had died. She was also not well disposed at all towards Morrison, who she blamed for causing her husband's death. By all accounts the amazing thing is that Berns lived as long as he did given his heart condition and the state of medical science at the time, but it's easy to understand her thinking. She wanted nothing to do with Morrison, and wanted to punish him. On the other hand, her late husband's silent partners didn't want to let their cash cow go. And so Morrison came under a huge amount of pressure in very different directions. From one side, Carmine DiNoia was determined to make more money off Morrison, and Morrison has since talked about signing further contracts at this point with a gun literally to his head, and his hotel room being shot up. But on the other side, Ilene Berns wanted to destroy Morrison's career altogether. She found out that Bert Berns hadn't got Morrison the proper work permits and reported him to the immigration authorities. Morrison came very close to being deported, but in the end he managed to escape deportation by marrying Janet Planet. The newly-married couple moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get away from New York and the mobsters, and to try to figure out the next steps in Morrison's career. Morrison started putting together a band, which he called The Van Morrison Controversy, and working on new songs. One of his earliest connections in Massachusetts was the lead singer of a band called the Hallucinations, who he met in a bar where he was trying to get a gig: [Excerpt: The Hallucinations, "Messin' With the Kid"] The Hallucinations' lead singer was called Peter Wolf, and would much later go on to become well-known as the singer with the J. Geils Band. He and Morrison became acquaintances, and later became closer friends when they realised they had another connection -- Wolf had a late-night radio show under the name Woofa Goofa, and he'd been receiving anonymous requests for obscure blues records from a fan of the show. Morrison had been the one sending in the requests, not realising his acquaintance was the DJ. Before he got his own band together, Morrison actually guested with the Hallucinations at one show they did in May 1968, supporting John Lee Hooker. The Hallucinations had been performing "Gloria" since Them's single had come out, and they invited Morrison to join them to perform it on stage. According to Wolf, Morrison was very drunk and ranted in cod-Japanese for thirty-five minutes, and tried to sing a different song while the band played "Gloria". The audience were apparently unimpressed, even though Wolf shouted at them “Don't you know who this man is? He wrote the song!” But in truth, Morrison was sick of "Gloria" and his earlier work, and was trying to push his music in a new direction. He would later talk about having had an epiphany after hearing one particular track on the radio: [Excerpt: The Band, "I Shall Be Released"] Like almost every musician in 1968, Morrison was hit like a lightning bolt by Music From Big Pink, and he decided that he needed to turn his music in the same direction. He started writing the song "Brand New Day", which would later appear on his album Moondance, inspired by the music on the album. The Van Morrison Controversy started out as a fairly straightforward rock band, with guitarist John Sheldon, bass player Tom Kielbania, and drummer Joey Bebo. Sheldon was a novice, though his first guitar teacher was the singer James Taylor, but the other two were students at Berklee, and very serious musicians. Morrison seems to have had various managers involved in rapid succession in 1968, including one who was himself a mobster, and another who was only known as Frank, but one of these managers advanced enough money that the musicians got paid every gig. These musicians were all interested in kinds of music other than just straight rock music, and as well as rehearsing up Morrison's hits and his new songs, they would also jam with him on songs from all sorts of other genres, particularly jazz and blues. The band worked up the song that would become "Domino" based on Sheldon jamming on a Bo Diddley riff, and another time the group were rehearsing a Grant Green jazz piece, "Lazy Afternoon": [Excerpt: Grant Green, "Lazy Afternoon"] Morrison started messing with the melody, and that became his classic song "Moondance": [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Moondance"] No recordings of this electric lineup of the group are known to exist, though the backing musicians remember going to a recording studio called Ace recordings at one point and cutting some demos, which don't seem to circulate. Ace was a small studio which, according to all the published sources I've read, was best known for creating song poems, though it was a minor studio even in the song-poem world. For those who don't know, song poems were essentially a con aimed at wannabe songwriters who knew nothing about the business -- companies would advertise you too could become a successful, rich, songwriter if you sent in your "song poems", because anyone who knew the term "lyric" could be presumed to know too much about the music business to be useful. When people sent in their lyrics, they'd then be charged a fee to have them put out on their very own record -- with tracks made more or less on a conveyor belt with quick head arrangements, sung by session singers who were just handed a lyric sheet and told to get on with it. And thus were created such classics prized by collectors as "I Like Yellow Things", "Jimmy Carter Says 'Yes'", and "Listen Mister Hat". Obviously, for the most part these song poems did not lead to the customers becoming the next Ira Gershwin, but oddly even though Ace recordings is not one of the better-known song poem studios, it seems to have produced an actual hit song poem -- one that I don't think has ever before been identified as such until I made a connection, hence me going on this little tangent. Because in researching this episode I noticed something about its co-owner, Milton Yakus', main claim to fame. He co-wrote the song "Old Cape Cod", and to quote that song's Wikipedia page "The nucleus of the song was a poem written by Boston-area housewife Claire Rothrock, for whom Cape Cod was a favorite vacation spot. "Old Cape Cod" and its derivatives would be Rothrock's sole evident songwriting credit. She brought her poem to Ace Studios, a Boston recording studio owned by Milton Yakus, who adapted the poem into the song's lyrics." And while Yakus had written other songs, including songs for Patti Page who had the hit with "Old Cape Cod", apparently Page recorded that song after Rothrock brought her the demo after a gig, rather than getting it through any formal channels. It sounds to me like the massive hit and classic of the American songbook "Old Cape Cod" started life as a song-poem -- and if you're familiar with the form, it fits the genre perfectly: [Excerpt: Patti Page, "Old Cape Cod"] The studio was not the classiest of places, even if you discount the song-poems. Its main source of income was from cutting private records with mobsters' wives and mistresses singing (and dealing with the problems that came along when those records weren't successful) and it also had a sideline in bugging people's cars to see if their spouses were cheating, though Milton Yakus' son Shelly, who got his start at his dad's studio, later became one of the most respected recording engineers in the industry -- and indeed had already worked as assistant engineer on Music From Big Pink. And there was actually another distant connection to Morrison's new favourite band on these sessions. For some reason -- reports differ -- Bebo wasn't considered suitable for the session, and in his place was the one-handed drummer Victor "Moulty" Moulton, who had played with the Barbarians, who'd had a minor hit with "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?" a couple of years earlier: [Excerpt: The Barbarians, "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?"] A later Barbarians single, in early 1966, had featured Moulty telling his life story, punctuated by the kind of three-chord chorus that would have been at home on a Bert Berns single: [Excerpt: The Barbarians, "Moulty"] But while that record was credited to the Barbarians, Moulton was the only Barbarian on the track, with the instruments and backing vocals instead being provided by Levon and the Hawks. Shortly after the Ace sessions, the Van Morrison Controversy fell apart, though nobody seems to know why. Depending on which musician's story you listen to, either Morrison had a dream that he should get rid of all electric instruments and only use acoustic players, or there was talk of a record deal but the musicians weren't good enough, or the money from the mysterious manager (who may or may not have been the one who was a mobster) ran out. Bebo went back to university, and Sheldon left soon after, though Sheldon would remain in the music business in one form or another. His most prominent credit has been writing a couple of songs for his old friend James Taylor, including the song "Bittersweet" on Taylor's platinum-selling best-of, on which Sheldon also played guitar: [Excerpt: James Taylor, "Bittersweet"] Morrison and Kielbania continued for a while as a duo, with Morrison on acoustic guitar and Kielbania on double bass, but they were making very different music. Morrison's biggest influence at this point, other than The Band, was King Pleasure, a jazz singer who sang in the vocalese style we've talked about before -- the style where singers would sing lyrics to melodies that had previously been improvised by jazz musicians: [Excerpt: King Pleasure, "Moody's Mood for Love"] Morrison and Kielbania soon decided that to make the more improvisatory music they were interested in playing, they wanted another musician who could play solos. They ended up with John Payne, a jazz flute and saxophone player whose biggest inspiration was Charles Lloyd. This new lineup of the Van Morrison Controversy -- acoustic guitar, double bass, and jazz flute -- kept gigging around Boston, though the sound they were creating was hardly what the audiences coming to see the man who'd had that "Brown-Eyed Girl" hit the year before would have expected -- even when they did "Brown-Eyed Girl", as the one live recording of that line-up, made by Peter Wolf, shows: [Excerpt: The Van Morrison Controversy, "Brown-Eyed Girl (live in Boston 1968)"] That new style, with melodic bass underpinning freely extemporising jazz flute and soulful vocals, would become the basis of the album that to this day is usually considered Morrison's best. But before that could happen, there was the matter of the contracts to be sorted out. Warner-Reprise Records were definitely interested. Warners had spent the last few years buying up smaller companies like Atlantic, Autumn Records, and Reprise, and the label was building a reputation as the major label that would give artists the space and funding they needed to make the music they wanted to make. Idiosyncratic artists with difficult reputations (deserved or otherwise), like Neil Young, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, the Grateful Dead, and Joni Mitchell, had all found homes on the label, which was soon also to start distributing Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys, and Captain Beefheart. A surly artist who wants to make mystical acoustic songs with jazz flute accompaniment was nothing unusual for them, and once Joe Smith, the man who had signed the Grateful Dead, was pointed in Morrison's direction by Andy Wickham, an A&R man working for the label, everyone knew that Morrison would be a perfect fit. But Morrison was still under contract to Bang records and Web IV, and those contracts said, among other things, that any other label that negotiated with Morrison would be held liable for breach of contract. Warners didn't want to show their interest in Morrison, because a major label wanting to sign him would cause Bang to raise the price of buying him out of his contract. Instead they got an independent production company to sign him, with a nod-and-wink understanding that they would then license the records to Warners. The company they chose was Inherit Productions, the production arm of Schwaid-Merenstein, a management company set up by Bob Schwaid, who had previously worked in Warners' publishing department, and record producer Lewis Merenstein. Merenstein came to another demo session at Ace Recordings, where he fell in love with the new music that Morrison was playing, and determined he would do everything in his power to make the record into the masterpiece it deserved to be. He and Morrison were, at least at this point, on exactly the same page, and bonded over their mutual love of King Pleasure. Morrison signed to Schwaid-Merenstein, just as he had with Bert Berns and before him Phil Solomon, for management, record production, and publishing. Schwaid-Merenstein were funded by Warners, and would license any recordings they made to Warners, once the contractual situation had been sorted out. The first thing to do was to negotiate the release from Web IV, the publishing company owned by Ilene Berns. Schwaid negotiated that, and Morrison got released on four conditions -- he had to make a substantial payment to Web IV, if he released a single within a year he had to give Web IV the publishing, any album he released in the next year had to contain at least two songs published by Web IV, and he had to give Web IV at least thirty-six new songs to publish within the next year. The first two conditions were no problem at all -- Warners had the money to buy the contract out, and Merenstein's plans for the first album didn't involve a single anyway. It wouldn't be too much of a hardship to include a couple of Web IV-published tracks on the album -- Morrison had written two songs, "Beside You" and "Madame George", that had already been published and that he was regularly including in his live sets. As for the thirty-six new songs... well, that all depended on what you called a song, didn't it? [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Ring Worm"] Morrison went into a recording studio and recorded thirty-one ostensible songs, most of them lasting one minute to within a few seconds either way, in which he strummed one or two chords and spoke-sang whatever words came into his head -- for example one song, "Here Comes Dumb George", just consists of the words "Here Comes Dumb George" repeated over and over. Some of the 'songs', like "Twist and Shake" and "Hang on Groovy", are parodying Bert Berns' songwriting style; others, like "Waiting for My Royalty Check", "Blowin' Your Nose", and "Nose in Your Blow", are attacks on Bang's business practices. Several of the songs, like "Hold on George", "Here Comes Dumb George", "Dum Dum George", and "Goodbye George" are about a man called George who seems to have come to Boston to try and fail to make a record with Morrison. And “Want a Danish” is about wanting a Danish pastry. But in truth, this description is still making these "songs" sound more coherent than they are. The whole recording is of no musical merit whatsoever, and has absolutely nothing in it which could be considered to have any commercial potential at all. Which is of course the point -- just to show utter contempt to Ilene Berns and her company. The other problem that needed to be solved was Bang Records itself, which was now largely under the control of the mob. That was solved by Joe Smith. As Smith told the story "A friend of mine who knew some people said I could buy the contract for $20,000. I had to meet somebody in a warehouse on the third floor on Ninth Avenue in New York. I walked up there with twenty thousand-dollar bills -- and I was terrified. I was terrified I was going to give them the money, get a belt on the head and still not wind up with the contract. And there were two guys in the room. They looked out of central casting -- a big wide guy and a tall, thin guy. They were wearing suits and hats and stuff. I said 'I'm here with the money. You got the contract?' I remember I took that contract and ran out the door and jumped from the third floor to the second floor, and almost broke my leg to get on the street, where I could get a cab and put the contract in a safe place back at Warner Brothers." But the problem was solved, and Lewis Merenstein could get to work translating the music he'd heard Morrison playing into a record. He decided that Kielbania and Payne were not suitable for the kind of recording he wanted -- though they were welcome to attend the sessions in case the musicians had any questions about the songs, and thus they would get session pay. Kielbania was, at first, upset by this, but he soon changed his mind when he realised who Merenstein was bringing in to replace him on bass for the session. Richard Davis, the bass player -- who sadly died two months ago as I write this -- would later go on to play on many classic rock records by people like Bruce Springsteen and Laura Nyro, largely as a result of his work for Morrison, but at the time he was known as one of the great jazz bass players, most notably having played on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch: [Excerpt: Eric Dolphy, "Hat and Beard"] Kielbania could see the wisdom of getting in one of the truly great players for the album, and he was happy to show Davis the parts he'd been playing on the songs live, which Davis could then embellish -- Davis later always denied this, but it's obvious when listening to the live recordings that Kielbania played on before these sessions that Davis is playing very similar lines. Warren Smith Jr, the vibraphone player, had played with great jazz musicians like Charles Mingus and Herbie Mann, as well as backing Lloyd Price, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin. Connie Kay, the drummer, was the drummer for the Modern Jazz Quartet and had also played sessions with everyone from Ruth Brown to Miles Davis. And Jay Berliner, the guitarist, had played on records like Charles Mingus' classic The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: [Excerpt: Charles Mingus: "Mode D - Trio and Group Dancers, Mode F - Single Solos & Group Dance"] There was also a flute player whose name nobody now remembers. Although all of these musicians were jobbing session musicians -- Berliner came to the first session for the album that became Astral Weeks straight from a session recording a jingle for Pringles potato chips -- they were all very capable of taking a simple song and using it as an opportunity for jazz improvisation. And that was what Merenstein asked them to do. The songs that Morrison was writing were lyrically oblique, but structurally they were very simple -- surprisingly so when one is used to listening to the finished album. Most of the songs were, harmonically, variants of the standard blues and R&B changes that Morrison was used to playing. "Cyprus Avenue" and "The Way Young Lovers Do", for example, are both basically twelve-bar blueses -- neither is *exactly* a standard twelve-bar blues, but both are close enough that they can be considered to fit the form. Other than what Kielbania and Payne showed the musicians, they received no guidance from Morrison, who came in, ran through the songs once for them, and then headed to the vocal booth. None of the musicians had much memory of Morrison at all -- Jay Berliner said “This little guy walks in, past everybody, disappears into the vocal booth, and almost never comes out, even on the playbacks, he stayed in there." While Richard Davis later said “Well, I was with three of my favorite fellas to play with, so that's what made it beautiful. We were not concerned with Van at all, he never spoke to us.” The sound of the basic tracks on Astral Weeks is not the sound of a single auteur, as one might expect given its reputation, it's the sound of extremely good jazz musicians improvising based on the instructions given by Lewis Merenstein, who was trying to capture the feeling he'd got from listening to Morrison's live performances and demos. And because these were extremely good musicians, the album was recorded extremely quickly. In the first session, they cut four songs. Two of those were songs that Morrison was contractually obliged to record because of his agreement with Web IV -- "Beside You" and "Madame George", two songs that Bert Berns had produced, now in radically different versions: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Madame George"] The third song, "Cyprus Avenue", is the song that has caused most controversy over the years, as it's another of the songs that Morrison wrote around this time that relate to a sexual or romantic interest in underage girls. In this case, the reasoning might have been as simple as that the song is a blues, and Morrison may have been thinking about a tradition of lyrics like this in blues songs like "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl". Whatever the cause though, the lyrics have, to put it mildly, not aged well at all: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Cyprus Avenue"] That song would be his standard set-closer for live performances for much of the seventies. For the fourth and final song, though, they chose to record what would become the title track for the album, "Astral Weeks", a song that was a lot more elliptical, and which seems in part to be about Morrison's longing for Janet Planet from afar, but also about memories of childhood, and also one of the first songs to bring in Morrison's fascination with the occult and spirituality, something that would be a recurring theme throughout his work, as the song was partly inspired by paintings by a friend of Morrison's which suggested to him the concept of astral travel: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"] Morrison had a fascination with the idea of astral travel, as he had apparently had several out-of-body experiences as a child, and wanted to find some kind of explanation for them. Most of the songs on the album came, by Morrison's own account, as a kind of automatic writing, coming through him rather than being consciously written, and there's a fascination throughout with, to use the phrase from "Madame George", "childhood visions". The song is also one of the first songs in Morrison's repertoire to deliberately namecheck one of his idols, something else he would do often in future, when he talks about "talking to Huddie Leadbelly". "Astral Weeks" was a song that Morrison had been performing live for some time, and Payne had always enjoyed doing it. Unlike Kielbania he had no compunction about insisting that he was good enough to play on the record, and he eventually persuaded the session flute player to let him borrow his instrument, and Payne was allowed to play on the track: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"] Or at least that's how the story is usually told -- Payne is usually credited for playing on "Madame George" too, even though everyone agrees that "Astral Weeks" was the last song of the night, but people's memories can fade over time. Either way, Payne's interplay with Jay Berliner on the guitar became such a strong point of the track that there was no question of bringing the unknown session player back -- Payne was going to be the woodwind player for the rest of the album: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"] There was then a six-day break between sessions, during which time Payne and Kielbania went to get initiated into Scientology -- a religion with which Morrison himself would experiment a little over a decade later -- though they soon decided that it wasn't worth the cost of the courses they'd have to take, and gave up on the idea the same week. The next session didn't go so well. Jay Berliner was unavailable, and so Barry Kornfeld, a folkie who played with people like Dave Van Ronk, was brought in to replace him. Kornfeld was perfectly decent in the role, but they'd also brought in a string section, with the idea of recording some of the songs which needed string parts live. But the string players they brought in were incapable of improvising, coming from a classical rather than jazz tradition, and the only track that got used on the finished album was "The Way Young Lovers Do", by far the most conventional song on the album, a three-minute soul ballad structured as a waltz twelve-bar blues, where the strings are essentially playing the same parts that a horn section would play on a record by someone like Solomon Burke: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "The Way Young Lovers Do"] It was decided that any string or horn parts on the rest of the album would just be done as overdubs. It was two weeks before the next and final session for the album, and that featured the return of Jay Berliner on guitar. The session started with "Sweet Thing" and "Ballerina", two songs that Morrison had been playing live for some time, and which were cut in relatively quick order. They then made attempts at two more songs that didn't get very far, "Royalty", and "Going Around With Jesse James", before Morrison, stuck for something to record, pulled out a new lyric he'd never performed live, "Slim Slow Slider". The whole band ran through the song once, but then Merenstein decided to pare the arrangement down to just Morrison, Payne (on soprano sax rather than on flute), and Warren Smith Jr: [Excerpt: Van Morrison, "Slim Slow Slider"] That track was the only one where, after the recording, Merenstein didn't compliment the performance, remaining silent instead – Payne said “Maybe everyone was just tired, or maybe they were moved by it.” It seems likely it was the latter. The track eventually got chosen as the final track of the album, because Merenstein felt that it didn't fit conceptually with anything else -- and it's definitely a more negative track than the oth
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests Different Stages Miss Lulu BettAustin Shakespeare El CidConsider giving to Marc Pouhe's Gofundme What We Talked AboutWatch Night Harmony Danny and the Deep Blue Sea Uncle Vanya Jimmy Awards Date Oklahoma Sherman TX Mean Girls Trailer Sag/AFTRA strike over Bring Them Home Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
In Afghanistan, United States General Stanley McChrystal referred to “insurgent math” to explain how every civilian killed by US forces led to 10 new insurgents.This is the same problem Israel is creating for itself by killing massive numbers of innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to US Representative Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who fought in Iraq.“I want Israel and Palestine to have peace,” Moulton tells host Steve Clemons. But for that to happen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to put forth a political solution and “explain to the Palestinians what their future is”.Subscribe to our channel http://bit.ly/AJSubscribeFollow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/AJEnglishFind us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aljazeeraCheck our website: https://www.aljazeera.com/Check out our Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/aljazeeraenglish/Download AJE Mobile App: https://aje.io/AJEMobile@AljazeeraEnglish#Aljazeeraenglish#News
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests Early Era Collective Of Thee I SwingSt Eds Mary Moody Northen Theatre The Wolves What We Talked AboutPal Joey I Need That Spamalot Museum of Broadway Sh/e Danny and The Deep Blue Sea No defund of NEA Sherman Texas…REALLY? Here Lies Love Scenic Design Plays to end gun violence (Moms demand action) Girls just wanna have fun Harmony Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
Books That Make You Tuck In With a Great Mystery We all love a book that makes you want to pour a cup of joe and cozy up by the crackling fireplace. And that's what Donalee Moulton delivers in her debut novel, Hung Out to Die. The mystery follows Riel, a California-born transplant to Nova Scotia, where he is CEO of the Canadian Cannabis Corporation. Things seem to work out—until Riel finds his world hanging by a thread as a killer emerges. It doesn't take the police long to determine all is not as it appears … and that includes Riel himself, now pulled into a world not of his making. A freelance journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Donalee's byline has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Canadian Business, The National Post, Chatelaine, Maclean's, and The Lawyers Weekly. In addition, Donalee is the author of The Thong Principle: Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say, as well as the co-author of Celebrity Court Cases: Trials of the Rich and Famous. Her short story, Swan Song, was one of 21 selected for Cold Canadian Crime, an anthology published by the Crime Writers of Canada. Find out more on Books That Make You. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
In this episode, the fabulous Rochelle Moulton, business coach, cohost of The Business of Authority podcast, and now(!) creator of her new podcast, Soloist Women, shares her journey from working with small boutiques to focusing primarily on soloists and creating a platform for women to share their stories and expertise. A few takeaways from Rochelle's episode:Redefining Wealth: Wealth is not just about revenue. It is the balance of what is important to you and brings you joy–whether money, free time and/or flexibility. We each get to define our own version of wealth. This redefinition of wealth is especially important for soloist women because we often face distinct challenges due to traditionally shouldering domestic responsibilities. The perfect mix isn't static, and may change during different seasons of business and life.The Importance of Building Assets: Don't underestimate the value of your unique knowledge and methods. Turn your methodologies and processes into valuable assets like books or unique tools, like creating licensable content or training programs. But be careful not to fall into the trap of misfit ideas that don't align with your business model.The Power of Listening: Rochelle embarked on a Listening Tour to understand the challenges soloist women face, their aspirations, and what frustrates them. By truly listening to their stories and experiences, she gained valuable insights that helped shape her offerings and connect with her audience more effectively. I particularly love this lesson Rochelle shares about listening tours that I can't hear often enough: “They gave me the sales copy for the landing page, because they told me stories. They told me experiences. They told me things that had happened to them. They told me what they did not want. Like they were so clear about what they didn't want. And I use that language on my website.”Don't miss out on this empowering episode of Hourly to Exit! Tune in now on your favorite podcast platform, and let Rochelle's story inspire you to embrace your own journey to success.
Why does God's covenant stand above the law? How can embracing this truth transform our faith journey? This Sunday, Pastor Charlie preached a sermon into Galatians 3:15-18 and explored the unshakable nature of God's promises and the inferiority of the law in comparison. Listen to this powerful message on finding freedom in faith and living in the light of God's eternal promises!
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests Jarrott Productions Death TrapSalvage Vanguard Decapitated What We Talked About Cabaret – Eddie Redmayne Here We Are New Peter Pan American Theatre – Top 10 Plays/Top 20 Playwrights Fewer people going to the theatre – too expensive Red Bucket – Should we do it here. New Bill Russell Musical Has Anyone Seen My Mind Elle Fanning – Appropriate Stage Manager's Association – Dell Hughes Awards Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
When He was on earth Jesus went about modeling what it looks like to be on God's mission. He told the people of His day that he would “only do what he saw His Father doing”. And the Father's mission was a mission that was compelled by great love!As God's children we now get to follow in Jesus' footsteps. God is sending us out on a mission to release His love and freedom into the world around us. However, just because He sends us doesn't mean that we won't have to contend as we go.In this message Rosie looks at a day in the life of Jesus and the disciples from the story in Mark 4, where Jesus crosses over to the other side of the lake, but has to calm a storm on the way.Rosie unpacks a number of myths that we can sometimes buy into as we follow in Jesus footsteps and looks at the ways God seeks to strengthen and grow us as we walk with Him.
Moulton did not call for an Israeli ceasefire, but said that the U.S. needs to "carefully calibrate" the support it is providing for Israel to make sure it isn't counterproductive or in violation of human rights.
In a world that often prizes wisdom and knowledge, the Apostle Paul confronts the Galatians with a startling question: "Who has bewitched you?" Be prepared to dive into Galatians 3:1-9 this week, as we will explore the dangers of drifting from the simple truth of the gospel and the pitfalls of trying to earn God's favor. Join us for a thought-provoking sermon on "Playing the Fool" and discover the enduring power of faith over folly. #PlayingTheFool #Galatians3 #SundaySermon
Listen to the Show Right Click to Save Guests The VORTEX Salvador Dali's Naked FeastAustin Community College Bat Boy the MusicalZM3 & Hyde Park Theatre Chronicles of an Indigenous Offspring What We Talked AboutGuttenberg Death of a Salesman in Bejing Jesse Green behind the scenes The Big Flop Always a Boy Arts and the Economy Black Wall street Musical Thank you to Dean Johanesen, lead singer of "The Human Condition" who gave us permission to use "Step Right Up" as our theme song, so please visit their website.. they're good! (that's an order)
This week Kelly and Katai read "The Insatiable Volt Sisters" by Rachel Eve Moulton, a new gothic ghost story with sea monsters and sisters! They talk sad girls, time jumps, beautiful prose, and just generally praise the shit out of the book. SUBSCRIBE TO THE TEEN CREEPS PATREON to get ad free episodes, bonus episodes, merch, and more: https://www.patreon.com/teencreeps CONNECT W/ TEEN CREEPS: https://twitter.com/teencreepspod https://www.instagram.com/teencreepspod https://www.facebook.com/teencreepspod BUY TEEN CREEPS MERCH: https://www.teepublic.com/stores/teen-creeps TEEN CREEPS IS A FOREVER DOG PODCAST https://foreverdogpodcasts.com/podcasts/teen-creeps *All creepy opinions expressed are those of the hosts and guests. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In a world that often measures our worth by our works, achievements, and accolades, the Apostle Paul reminds us of a profound spiritual truth: our true righteousness comes not from our own efforts but through faith in Jesus Christ. This week, we dive deep into Galatians 2:15-21, exploring the transformative message that we are "Justified by Faith."
U.S. Representative Seth Moulton joined Dan on NightSide to discuss the ongoing war in Israel with Hamas. Moulton took to X, formally Twitter, 10/11 with a statement saying, “Just like antisemitic speech and actions are unacceptable, hate crimes against Palestinians and the broader Muslim community are equally reprehensible and should be condemned loudly.”