Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison

Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison

by Clinton Heylin

This groundbreaking biography of a brilliant but disturbed performer explores the paradox of the man and the artist.

Based on more than 100 interviews, this intelligent profile explores Morrison's roots; the hard times he went through in London, New York, and Boston; the making of his seminal albums Moondance and Astral Weeks; and the disastrous business arrangements that left Morrison hungry and penni while his songs were topping the charts.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Music
  • Rating: 3.42
  • Pages: 576
  • Publish Date: October 1st 2004 by Chicago Review Press
  • Isbn10: 1556525427
  • Isbn13: 9781556525421

What People Think about "Can You Feel the Silence?: Van Morrison"

He was kicking me and yelling youre the bastard who writes Amazon reviews which say that I havent done anything worth bothering about since Avalon Sunset! By this time his band members had gathered round the fracas as if we were in a schoolyard (but we were in a chair factory). So as I held the chair (elegant, faux Chippendale) above my head and Van hovered between life and death it suddenly occurred to me yet again that all my encounters with major popular musicians end in violence. But then I remembered the fat bastard himself had started it, he came after me, I was just telling the truth in my Amazon reviews, if he cant take the fact that hes a burnt-out case then he needs to hire a few more therapists. Crash the chair came down but by then the Caledonian soulster had rolled and scuttled away, he was faster than I thought, like a rat or a water vole. So in the end this natty geezer in a suit came running up and said if I didnt go to the press or the police and if I didn't twitter any of this whole sorry episode I could have complimentary tickets to the next gig and a free copy of every Van Morrison cd. Two days later this great big package came and Ive been listening to the whole lot of them.

Despite a bit of pedantry throughout the book and the trivial focus on Morrison's ridiculous spiritual adventures, this is a really good piece of professional, non-flattering work on modern music.

Unlike Rogan's 2/5 and Hinton's 3/5, Heylin's is a very promising and critically perceptive biography of Van Morrison. Is that how it should be grabbed, or if it's grabbed like that maybe that's in the end just 'grasping for straws'? Not song lyrics now, as digressions to color the research, but little slices quoting the people themselves (colleagues, etc.) or Morrison himself (during an interview, or in the between-song patter of some obscure-but-recorded concert, might pass a slight reminiscence). I don't dig all of Heylin's music criticism, especially overblowing some Them stuff I could take or leave as well as giving short shrift to The Bang Masters (I think "Chick-A Boom", "It's All Right", and "Send Your Mind" are all A+ songs myself). After Blowin' Your Mind!'s disgraces, Van the Man said an album was "roughly forty minutes of music, that's all" (158). Or as Van the Man reflected in 1985 about the events of more than a decade earlier, when Saint Dominic's Preview had come out, in a certainly longwinded but always rather intriguing way, "Then you have a couple of albums out and you get these reviews, and these people are saying, 'Well, this means this about that, and he was going through that when he wrote this.' You read these things and you go, 'Who are they talking about?'... So it seems like you're searching, but in fact you're just telling little stories" (279). But maybe he wasn't lost (as much as Dylan in those same years) but just searching in a New Age way? I sometimes wonder what Heylin's brackets and ellipses are changing/excluding -- for instance, was something said after 'mad' that would amuse me, like 'absolutely frickin balls-out mad'? Rogan in a sense declared Morrison 'no poet' (just a working musician, petty, no mystery) and Hinton in a sense declared him 'poet' (not just a working musician, somebody great, with troubling ideas, a misfit), so wouldn't it be just perfect if Heylin declared him 'kinda poet'? That would be very great, but I don't think it works quite like that. Heylin leans a bit too hard for my taste into Rogan's 'no poet' conclusion for instance, and a 100% middle-of-the-road balance between all three doesn't seem sustainable at all, so maybe 'not really a poet' would better fit than 'kinda'. No one's clarified yet, though, how a person can work for years and years -- getting more and more watery, objectively (some like water, but I think almost everyone would agree it's watery), with each new output -- and still be pretty rich and well-supported.

A pet peeve of mine is music books (like this one and most) that do not include the actual music. For me, the best part of this book was discovering "Summertime in England," which, somehow, I had missed.

After reading it, I can say that I did learn more, so that's good.

This apparently was a difficult book to write since Morrison was unwilling, for the most part, to contribute any insights directly. The author extracts what he considers clues in Morrison's lyrics and in the history of music related events.

Fascinating read about a fascinating man with incredible talent who never seems to stop searching for spiritual fulfillment.