July 27, 2021

When Van Morrison fled the mob | Culture

When Van Morrison fled the mob | Culture


Last week, we spotted the white whale. By surprise, it appeared on sale in the British iTunes store perhaps the most wanted disc of Van Morrison. Live in Boston 1968 It contains its only recordings known in Massachusetts, while preparing its watershed, Astral Weeks. Spread so far in pirated editions, Live in Boston 1968It was presented without a cover, letters on a white background. Very suspicious

Effectively: the next day, Live in Boston 1968 It disappeared from the iTunes offer. Surely, this fleeting "publication" was a legal trick, to avoid that -five years later- the recording passes into the public domain. Since it offers an improved sound on the illegal versions, we assume that at some point it will be launched in a conventional way; the musicians involved have already signed an authorization in that sense.

When Van Morrison ran away from the mafia

In 1968, Van Morrison came out of New York. He was an artist at Bang Records, where he achieved the greatest success of his career, Brown Eyed Girl, but I was not happy. The premature death of his producer, Bert Berns, revealed a nightmare backroom: Bang had fallen into the hands of one of the families of the New York Mafia. Those criminals threatened to denounce him so that he could be expelled from the country, but more violent reactions were not ruled out.

To avoid deportation, Morrison married his American girlfriend, Janet Planet. And to avoid the mobsters, he escaped to Boston. What ingenuity: only 350 kilometers separate that town of New York, little distance if the maledic insisted on giving a lesson. It did make professional sense: adding Cambridge, the nearby university city, Boston is an excellent ecosystem for a singer-songwriter.

Boston and Cambridge were going through a dark period. Lou Reed was a regular visitor, attracted by his esoteric circles (he gave a treatise of white magic to a local fan, Jonathan Richman). Mel Lyman, a renowned folk musician, had founded a commune of fearsome reputation. Peter Wolf, vocalist of the J. Geils Band, played discs on the night shift of the WBCN station; Soon he would get used to Morrison's calls, asking for obscure blues titles.

Van tried different instrumentalists. In August, like the Van Morrison Controversy, he performed at a jazz club, The Catacombs, in a trio format, with Tom Kielbania and John Payne. And he asked Wolf to record his performance with a tape recorder. The resulting tape is what, for 24 hours, has been sold as Live in Boston 1968.

When Van Morrison ran away from the mafia

While hiding in Boston, his situation was clearing. Warner Brothers wanted to sign him and contacted the owners of his contract. They did not really want to work with a rebellious guy and negotiated a transfer for $ 20,000, payable in cash. In September-October, Morrison was back in New York, embodying what would be Astral Weeks.

A different album that would take years to acquire its current classic character. Much mystery regarding its development: they say that Van barely communicated verbally with his companions, veterans of jazz; if it was pure improvisation, they were all close to divine trance. The story may be more complicated: the themes of Astral Weeks included in Live in Boston 1968 -Remember, interpreted two months before- reveal that both concept and structure of some songs had already been fixed. With Van Morrison, we should know, nothing is as simple as it seems.

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