Van Morrison – the secret stories behind 10 of his best albums

Morrison and his collaborators lift the lid on his extraordinary art

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A stunning document of Morrison’s 1973 tour with the 11-piece Caledonian Soul Orchestra. Recorded at the Troubadour, Santa Monica Auditorium and the Rainbow – his first dates in London for six years – the double set remains one of the most electrifying concert albums ever.

JEF LABES (ORGAN, PIANO, BAND LEADER): That tour was a wonderful time. The band were great, and we played a wide array of material. We majorly rearranged a lot of his old songs, like “Cyprus Avenue”, and he also was revisiting a lot of old blues and R’n’B. Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Sonny Boy Williamson, he was blowing that stuff brilliantly. It was very easy to lead that band. There wasn’t a lot of tension or sarcasm, everyone was into supporting Van’s energy and being focused on him. He never liked to rehearse. I’d work the band up without him, which meant when he did finally step in it was almost like a holy person was in the room. He was looking for the spark. He was looking to the band for it, but actually he was the one who delivered it. When he connected with that spark he set everyone else on fire, and there wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t struck by it. There was a lot of that on that tour.


DAVID HAYES (BASS): If he went for it then the rest of us were drawn into that. The focus among all of us was sometimes so powerful that when we topped that wave on something like “Listen To The Lion” you could actually see it in the atmosphere! It was transcendental. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that with anybody else. He didn’t micro-manage the band, he left it to Jef and us. It wasn’t very sophisticated, the stage setup was pretty simple. I don’t even think we had monitors when we played the Troubadour, but we were a low-volume band with hardly any equipment, and we could hear each other pretty well. I really remember the Rainbow. The excitement around that was pretty extraordinary. The electricity was tangible. I found it quite startling what a big deal it was, him playing in London again. I think it was a big deal for him, too. He was coming home in a sense, and I’m sure he was aware of it.

JOHN PLATANIA (GUITAR): Especially in Europe, Van and I would hang out, have dinner. He liked his own space, but he wasn’t anti-social as people sometimes perceive him as being. I didn’t consider him to be a superstar. I was in awe of his talent, but I considered him more as a brother. I didn’t walk on tiptoes around him on tour.

HAYES: There are no overdubs on the album. It’s totally live, what you hear is what you get. We seemed to record every other show. There were as many songs again that were mixed but didn’t get released. I remember listening to mixes with him and he had already narrowed it down. He passed over some of his biggest songs, like “Moondance” and “Brown Eyed Girl”. He deliberately left ’em off. He was keen to do something different, to do something for himself.


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