My thoughts on Hallowe’en

It’s that time of year, the 31st October that is; Halloween, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, which is celebrated in a majority of countries.
Halloween originated apparently with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and dressed up to ward off roaming ghosts. During the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs, hence All Saints Day. In other words, some people would use the tradition to pay their respects to the deceased. The term ‘Halloween’ didn’t originate until the mid-18th century and is of Christian origin. It refers to ‘hallowed evening’ or ‘holy evening’. Those would probably explain why Halloween takes place a day before All Saints Day.
As of today, Halloween remains a popular vacation and I have to say; I’m most certainly one of them guys who celebrates Halloween. I’d probably be over-estimating if I was to say it’s as popular as, say, Christmas. Mind you, it does take place a couple of months before Christmas which could be why people start over-thinking about Christmas days before Halloween comes and personally, that irritates me, because for one thing, Christmas ain’t come yet, duh(!) and for another thing, people like myself are trying to think about Halloween. I also say the same thing about Guy Fawkes Night.
Anyway, enough of my moaning. Halloween is celebrated in a variety of ways. As a kid, I mostly celebrated it by what we call trick-or-treating. Basically, I would dress in a costume, go round the streets with a group of friends and knock on doors, then call “trick or treat”. The resident(s) would then give us some candy. Some trick-or-treaters would egg houses, but myself and the others never thought of that. Of course, trick-or-treating is more of a kids’ activity. Other activities include parties, carving pumpkins and lighting them, apple bobbing, telling haunting stories and watching horror films. These could be celebrated by any age really. And yes, also plain dressing up. Most Halloweens, I remember dressing up as a vampire. This year, I dressed as David Bowie as his character in the music videos to Blackstar and Lazarus. I was going to dress up as the Penguin (one of Batman’s enemies), but I was still struggling to get over losing one of my true heroes. Ziggy Stardust or Jareth from Labyrinth were also options, but I thought I’d keep it more simple. Some of my family don’t seem to celebrate the vacation as much as I do and they used to. I remember when my dad once dressed up as Herman Munster from the Munsters. But then, I’m living in Britain and Halloween has been known to be an American vacation. Some Brits have pointed that out and don’t understand the point of celebrating it as a result. But I see no reason why I have to avoid it, just because it happens to be mainly associated with America. Of course not everybody celebrates Halloween. I have no problem with that.
Speaking of horror films and the media, we get plenty of those films suitable for celebrating Halloween, such as John Carpenter’s Halloween. Recently I was watching Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, an animated feature update of his famous short from 1984 and gee it was awesome! Other horror films I watched this month include Daddy’s Deadly Darling (aka Pigs), two of Roger Corman’s films (The Raven and The Little Shop Of Horrors) and Saw. It’s also amazing how very few TV shows contain Halloween specials. These include The Simpsons (with most of its episodes labelled Treehouse Of Horror and boy such classics they are!) and Psychoville (which had one Halloween special). And yet, there are fewer Halloween specials than there are Christmas specials (sorry to bring that up again). But it doesn’t mean that some TV episodes can’t be set during Halloween, just because they’re not called specials. There’s that Malcolm In The Middle episode, Halloween Approximately, where the boys have their older brother arrive a week late for the vacation, but still celebrate it. There’s South Park (Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery), My Family (Friday the 31st) and that pilot episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. Then you have TV shows which relate to the horror genre as a whole. Many episodes of shows such as The X-Files, The Munsters and The Addams Family could be viewed in celebration to Halloween.
On the subject of ghosts, personally I don’t believe in ghosts. I once had a conversation with one of my work colleagues about the time during 1998 when a ‘ghost’ happened to be spotted in Belgrave Hall in Leicester, where I reside. I’m kinda like Dana Scully from The X-Files in a way and believe there must be some logical explanation; I mean it could be a white cloth of some sort or a bed sheet. That would certainly make a great X-Files episode.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Top 11 Van Morrison songs

Some of you may have heard that earlier this year, George I(Van) Morrison was knighted. This is definitely one of the highlights to 2016, which made up to some of the traumatic moments that occurred so far. I also have to point out that Van is one of my favourite singers of all time. I admire his song-writing talent and what a distinctive singing voice he has. He truly earned the title ‘sir’.

So in celebration to his knighthood, I’m counting down my personal top eleven songs performed by Sir Van Morrison. Why top eleven? Because I’m going one step beyond.

 

Number 11;…

Have I Told You Lately

One of the most unforgettable ballads ever to have been released. The majority of love songs are cliché and would usually send me to sleep, but Have I Told You Lately is pure genius. Van Morrison didn’t just write ballads, but there’s noting wrong with releasing one now and then. This one has an Everything I Do I’d Do It For You feel to it and is one that ought to be played sometimes at the end of prom discos.

Number 10;…

I’d Love To Write Another Song

Van kept himself busy through the years and I believe I’d Love To Write Another Song clearly states that he ain’t never going to give up writing his material until he dies. I’d Love To Write Another Song is a simple blues rhythmic song and I have to say I’m always in favour for a bit of blues. Maybe I could recommend this one for the music teachers to use when teaching their students.

Number 9;…

Gloria

In my opinion, Van’s signature tune with Them. It’s hard to believe how young Van was back then; like 18 or 19, somewhere in his late-teens and already, he’s reached his seventies. Also, have you noticed the voice he used when he sang Gloria? It’s like he’s already exited his youth and reached pure maturity, or just hit pubety at an early age (just kidding!). Mind you, Johnny Cash sang with an extremely deep voice ever since he started his music career. But it ain’t just Van’s singing which is the highlight of this song. Listen to the simple three chord guitar rhythm and try having a go at playing it while singing the lyrics, which I swear some of it was improvised!

Number 8;…

Moondance

Now onto the jazz man! So said Mr T. Some people say you can only dance to disco or dance music or hip-hop. But they’re not always right, hence Moondance. It’s a jazz tune, but I’m in favour of jazz and who says you can’t dance to this one. It has plenty of rhythm, it has a relaxing effect, it’s a nocturnal classic. Did you know that Moondance is one of very few songs to have been played over a thousand times?

Number 7;…

And It Stoned Me

Another lovely song from the Moondance album. And It Stoned Me taught us an important lesson; even though country music is more of an American thing and Van is Northern Irish, you don’t have to be American to be a country musician. Of course, the majority of Van’s music seemed to be more popular in the USA than in the UK, according to the charts. Like many country anthems, And It Stoned Me provides a detailed story-telling theme. It’s based on a quasi-mystical experience Van had when he was 12. He talks about how he used to go to a place called Ballystockart for a fishing trip, at one time, hitch-hiking (“Almost let a pick-up truck nearly pass us by/So we jumped right in and the driver grinned/And he dropped us up the road/Yeah, we looked at the swim and we jumped right in
Not to mention fishing poles”). The title and the chorus also give me the impression that he got drunk whilst he was there. Easy there Van, lol. There’s also a bit of jazz mixed in. Have a listen to the sax riffs.

Number 6;…

When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God

I may not be a religious person, but I have nostalgic memories of this song. When Will I ever Learn To Live In God to me is what I see in a great example of an easy listening song. To me, God is a symbol of positivity. We had Avalon Sunset on cassette and we would often play it in the car. When Will I Ever Learn is one of the most memorable.

Number 5;…

Wonderful Remark

Wonderful Remark was written for the hilarious Martin Scorsese film The King Of Comedy, which is about a guy who persuades a fictional comedian to give him a slot on his show. Pity it wasn’t nominated an Oscar, because it’s such a nice gentle tune and it goes so well with the film’s atmosphere; consisting of Martin’s obsession with New York and showbiz.

Number 4;…

Brown Eyed Girl

Brown Eyed Girl seems easy to cover, hence the guitar chord sequence, but then, you have the lead guitar bit, which is so awesomely written that it’s so difficult to cover. I can get away with playing the intro alright, but the rest of the melody, blimey! Where’s Eric when you need him? That’s what makes the song so great. Even the bass solo contributes to the rhythm.

Number 3;…

Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)

The next entry is a swinging tribute to the r&b/soul singer Jackie Wilson (duh!). Well actually, it was written sometime before Jackie’s death, but Van was definitely ready and prepared to pay his respects to him with a mix of pop, rhythm & blues and jazz. Listen to Van’s opening vocals and the sax and your already in the groove with this classic.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners later covered this one. Maybe not as classy, but it still holds up.

Number 2;…

Whenever God Shines His Light

And this is the song Van duetted with another sir, Cliff Richard that is, on. What better way to group together a growling soul/r&b dude with a baby-faced guy with an angel’s voice (don’t take that the wrong way Cliff) to perform such a classic rhythmic if indeed gospel masterpiece. Taken from Van’s Avalon Sunset, Whenever God Shines His Light was an appropriate song for Cliff to contribute to. We all know Cliff’s a Christian and quite dedicated to his religion. Plus, it comes from a mostly gospel album, likely the best gospel album in the world!

Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;

Precious Time

Warm Love

Bright Side Of The Road

Chick-A-Boom

Baby Please Don’t Go

 

And the number 1 song by Van Morrison is;…

Wild Night

And we’ve hit the jackpot! Wild Night is a perfect song to play at public events and parties, one great song to pick out whilst using the jukebox. I kid you not. This is one song I never get tired of listening to. Fast paced, groovy, relates to the pros of partying out in public. And you can remember the words. Too much to say about this one. Let’s just enjoy!

I’d also check out the Martha Reeves version. It’s the one which was included on the soundtrack to Thelma & Louise, one of my all time favourite films.

 

So that was my personal top 11 pick of the songs by Van the Man. I hoped you enjoyed reading it. Thank you very much and do feel free to leave your comments below.