Into The Mystic (as made famous by Van Morrison)

“Into the Mystic” is a song written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison and featured on his 1970 album Moondance. It was also included on Morrison’s 1974 live album, It’s Too Late To Stop Now.

“Into the Mystic” was recorded during the Moondance sessions at A&R Recording Studios in New York City in September to November 1969. Elliott Scheiner was the engineer.[1]

The lyrics are about a spiritual quest, typical of Morrison’s work. “Bass thrums like a boat in motion, and the song comes back to water as a means of magical transformation.”[2] “At the very end Van sings: too late to stop now, suggesting that the song also describes an act of love.” (This phrase would become a key point of many live concerts.)[3] Compared to “Yesterday” by The Beatles, it has been described as “another song where the music and the words seem to have been born together, at the same time, to make one perfectly formed, complete artistic element.“[4]

Morrison remarked on the song and how its use of homophones lent it alternate meanings:

“‘Into the Mystic’ is another one like ‘Madame Joy’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Originally I wrote it as ‘Into the Misty’. But later I thought that it had something of an ethereal feeling to it so I called it ‘Into the Mystic’. That song is kind of funny because when it came time to send the lyrics in WB Music, I couldn’t figure out what to send them. Because really the song has two sets of lyrics. For example, there’s ‘I was born before the wind’ and ‘I was borne before the wind’, and also ‘Also younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was one’ and ‘All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won’ … I guess the song is just about being part of the universe.”[2]

A Rolling Stone review by Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs described the song’s importance on the album as: “‘Into the Mystic’ is the heart of Moondance; the music unfolds with a classic sense of timing, guitar strums fading into watery notes on a piano, the bass counting off the pace. The lines of the song and Morrison’s delivery of them are gorgeous: ‘I want to rock your gypsy soul/Just like in the days of old/And magnificently we will fold/Into the mystic.'[5] The Moondance Allmusic review described it as “a song of such elemental beauty and grace as to stand as arguably the quintessential Morrison moment.”[6]

Van Morrison – vocals, guitar, tambourine
John Klingberg – bass guitar
Jeff Labes – piano
Gary Mallaber – drums
John Platania – guitar
Jack Schroer – alto saxophone
Collin Tilton – tenor saxophone

And It Stoned Me (as made famous by Van Morrison)

“And It Stoned Me” was recorded in summer 1969 at Warner Publishing Studio in New York City.[1]

As Morrison biographer Ritchie Yorke described it, the song remembered “how it was when you were a kid and just got stoned from nature and you didn’t need anything else”.[2] Morrison, in 1985, related the song to a quasi-mystical experience he had as a child:

I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.[3]

During this song Morrison sings: “…Stoned me just like Jelly Roll. And it stoned me.” That lyric is thought to be a reference to jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton, whose recordings Morrison listened to with his father as he was growing up.[4]

Van Morrison – vocals, guitar
John Klingberg – bass guitar
Jeff Labes – piano
Gary Mallaber – drums
John Platania – guitar
Jack Schroer – alto saxophone
Collin Tilton – tenor saxophone

Domino (as made famous by Van Morrison)

“Domino” is a hit song written by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It is the opening track of his fourth studio album, His Band and the Street Choir. This song is Morrison’s personal musical tribute to New Orleans R&B singer and pianist Fats Domino.

It was released by Warner Bros. Records in October 1970 as the first of three singles from the album and reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. As of 2016, “Domino” remains Morrison’s highest charting single ever, surpassing Morrison’s signature song, “Brown Eyed Girl” which had charted at number 10 in 1967.

Morrison had written the song several years before it was released in 1970. With Lewis Merenstein as producer, it was recorded on three takes dating back to sessions in autumn 1968 at Warners Publishing Studio in New York City. Another eight takes of the song were recorded during several sessions in 1969 at the same studio and again with Merenstein as producer. The version released on His Band and the Street Choir was recorded in spring 1970 at A & R Recording Studios in New York City with Elliot Scheiner as engineer.[1] Music journalist Erik Hage writes that one of the reasons for not releasing it until 1970 may have been that Morrison believed it could be a hit single and held it back to avoid it falling under the year-long single clause in his contract release with Web IV. This release stated that the music publishing company would be entitled to one half of the copyright to any single released by Morrison in the year between September 1968 and September 1969.[2] Morrison had received some high-profile promotion when he appeared on a cover of Rolling Stone and was interviewed by Happy Traum in July 1970.[3] As related by Morrison, he was subsequently encouraged by Warner Bros. to release radio-friendly singles: “The record company was asking me for singles, so I made some like “Domino”, which was actually longer but got cut down.”[4] In fulfilling Warner’s desire for a hit song, Hage wrote that the “bright, tight, and groovy “Domino” fits the bill. The lyrics hit on a frequent Morrison theme, renewal, (‘I think it’s time for a change’), and the vocal dynamics, punctuated by ‘Lord have mercy’ nod to gospel and James Brown (who pulled heavily from gospel himself).”[2]

Robert Christgau, writing in the Village Voice in 1971, described “Domino” as one of the “superb examples of Morrison’s loose, allusive white r&b.”[5]

Biographer Brian Hinton described it as “a punchy affair, with words that mean little, though threatening the whole feelgood thrust of the album… The music is something else again, toughly joyful, with an early Van hymn of praise to the radio…”[6]

In a 1996 review, Thomas Ryan called the song “a riff-heavy and remarkably contagious example of Van Morrison’s desire to pay tribute to his well of inspiration. Melodically and structurally, the song is purely his own, with horn charts and a syncopated riff that keep it continually exhilarating.”[7]

“Domino” was performed during the 1974 BBC 2 and Radio 2 simultaneous broadcast that consisted of one of Morrison’s July 1973 performances at the Rainbow Theatre, London.[8] In 1977, Morrison performed the song on The Midnight Special.[9]

Buddy Rich covered the song on his 1971 album, Different Drummer.[13] In 1997, The Buckinghams covered it on Places in Five.[14]

Van Morrison – vocals, rhythm guitar
Alan Hand – piano
Keith Johnson – trumpet
John Klingberg – bass
John Platania – electric guitar
Jack Schroer – alto and baritone saxophones
Dahaud Shaar (David Shaw) – drums, backing vocals

Brown Eyed Girl (as made famous by Van Morrison)

“Brown Eyed Girl” is a song by Northern Irish singer and songwriter Van Morrison. Written by Morrison and recorded in March 1967 for Bang Records owner and producer Bert Berns, it was released as a single in June 1967 on the Bang label, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It featured the Sweet Inspirations singing back-up vocals and is considered to be Van Morrison’s signature song.[1] “Brown Eyed Girl” has remained a staple on classic rock radio, and has been covered by hundreds of bands over the decades.

After finishing his contract with Decca Records and the mid-1966 break-up of his band, Them, Morrison returned to Belfast seeking a new recording company. When he received a phone call from Bert Berns, owner of Bang Records, who had produced a number of recordings with Them, he flew to New York City and hastily signed a contract (which biographer Clinton Heylin says probably still gives him sleepless nights).[2] During a two-day recording session starting 28 March 1967, he recorded eight songs intended to be used as four singles.[3] The recording session took place at A & R Studios and “Brown Eyed Girl” was captured on the 22nd take on the first day.[4] Of the musicians Berns had assembled, there were three guitarists – Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken,[5][6] and Al Gorgoni – plus bassist Russ Savakus, pianist Paul Griffin and drummer Gary Chester.[7][8] It was released as a single in mid-June 1967.[9]

Originally titled “Brown-Skinned Girl”,[10] Morrison changed it to “Brown Eyed Girl” when he recorded it. Morrison remarked on the original title: “That was just a mistake. It was a kind of Jamaican song. Calypso. It just slipped my mind. I changed the title.”[11] “After we’d recorded it, I looked at the tape box and didn’t even notice that I’d changed the title. I looked at the box where I’d lain it down with my guitar and it said ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ on the tape box. It’s just one of those things that happen.”[12] It has also been stated that the song was about an inter-racial relationship and Morrison changed the title to “make it more palatable to radio stations.”[13]

The song’s nostalgic lyrics about a former love were considered too suggestive at the time to be played on many radio stations. A radio-edit of the song was released which removed the lyrics “making love in the green grass”, replacing them with “laughin’ and a-runnin’, hey hey” from a previous verse. This edited version appears on some copies of the compilation album The Best of Van Morrison. However the remastered CD seems[clarification needed] to have the bowdlerised lyrics in the packaging but the original “racy” lyrics on the disc. Lyrically, it “shows early hints of the idealized pastoral landscapes that would flow through his songs through the decades, a tendency that links him to the Romantic poets, whom Morrison has cited as an influence” according to music journalist Erik Hage.[14]

Because of a contract he signed with Bang Records without legal advice, Morrison states that he has never received any royalties for writing or recording this song.[15] The contract made him liable for virtually all recording expenses incurred for all of his Bang Records recordings before royalties would be paid, and after those expenses were recouped, the revenue would become the “subject of some highly creative accounting.”[16] Morrison vented frustration about this unjust contract in his sarcastic nonsense song “The Big Royalty Check.” Morrison has stated that “Brown Eyed Girl” is not among his favorite songs, remarking “it’s not one of my best. I mean I’ve got about 300 songs that I think are better”.[17]

To capitalise on the success of the single, producer Berns assembled the album Blowin’ Your Mind without Morrison’s input or knowledge. Released in September 1967, the album contained the single as its lead-off track as well as songs recorded by Morrison at the March recording sessions for Berns. The album peaked at No. 182 on the Billboard 200.

Morrison’s original recording of “Brown Eyed Girl” remains widely familiar today, as the uncensored version is regularly played by many “oldies” and “classic rock” radio stations. In 2005, Van Morrison received a Million-Air certificate by BMI as a “Top European Writer” for reaching 7 million US radio and television airplays for “Brown Eyed Girl” and again in 2007, Morrison was awarded another Million-Air certificate by BMI for 8 million air plays of “Brown Eyed Girl”.[18][19] In 2009, “Brown Eyed Girl” was at the top of the list for most played songs at the BMI London awards winning a Million-Air certificate for nine million air plays.[20] In 2011, “Brown Eyed Girl” joined an elite group of songs as it was honoured for having 10 million US radio air plays and therefore becoming one of the ten songs that have been registered with BMI that have received that number of radio plays.[21] As of 2015, “Brown Eyed Girl” remains the most downloaded and most played song of the entire 1960s decade.[22]

Paul Williams included “Brown Eyed Girl” in his book Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles,[23] writing that:

“I was going to say this is a song about sex, and it is, and a song about youth and growing up, and memory, and it’s also — very much and very wonderfully — a song about singing.”

This song proved to be the impetus for Morrison’s career. It was his first single after leaving his position as lead singer for the Belfast-formed Them and led to his relocation to the United States and an eventual contract with Warner Bros. Records, where he recorded his career-defining album, Astral Weeks.

Dave Marsh in his 1989 book, The Heart of Rock and Soul, The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever, rated it No. 386.[24] In 1999, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) listed it as one of the Top 100 Songs of the Century.[25] In 2000, it was listed at No. 21 on the Rolling Stone/MTV list of 100 Greatest Pop Songs[26] and as No. 49 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs.[27] In 2001, It was ranked No. 131 as one of the RIAAs Songs of the Century, a list of the top 365 songs of the 20th century chosen with historical significance in mind.[28][29]

In November 2004, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison was ranked No. 110 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[30] At the same year, it was listed as No. 79 on the All Time 885 Greatest Songs compiled by WXPN from listeners’ votes.[31] In January 2007, “Brown Eyed Girl” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[32] It was ranked as the 152nd greatest song of all time, as well as the tenth best song of 1967, by Acclaimed Music.[33] It is also one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[34]

Van Morrison – vocals, guitar
Eric Gale – bass guitar
Gary Chester – drums
Al Gorgoni – guitars
Hugh McCracken – guitars
Garry Sherman – organ
The Sweet Inspirations – back-up vocals