Monday, June 4, 2007

I asked Van Morrison for his autograph - and lived

First, let's put this in context. I didn't want Van's autograph. This was the early 80s, I was 20 or something and cultivating my I'm-not-impressed-by-anybody pseudo-cool. But I was out on one of the earliest dates with my wife, who had recently seen him in concert. The fateful confrontation occured in a hotel in Bangor, County Down. It was a Tuesday night or something and the bar was deserted except for us, Van Morrison and a female companion. Van is - surprise, surprise - in a bad mood, his mid-Atlantic accent carrying all thru the place. I have a bad feeling.
'There's Van Morrison...'
'Uh-huh, ' I awknowledge while trying and hide my whole face inside my half-pint glass.
'I'd love his autograph...'
Of course you would. And you want me to get it. And we've only just starting going out so, you know, I want to impress. I gird my loins, get a piece of paper and a pen and get up and start walking towards Van.
In an empty bar, it's pretty clear that I'm headed for him. I'd like to tell you that I strode proudly towards him, head held high but actually I was staring at the ground. There was a lot of bar to cover and always the possibility that Van would start lobbing glasses or something.
Eventually, I reach his table. I've worked out a strategy. Mea culpa, I will confess that I am intruding but promise to leave him alone as soon as the deed is done.
I get as far as saying,'Look, I'm sorry, I know you don't like this sort of thing...' when VAn responds.
'So, why are you doing it, then?' the great man asks.
I start to say my girlfriend is a big fan, go for the all-lads-together approach but, no, he's off. For the next 10 minutes he tells me how pathetic this is, how everybody bothers him, how he wants to left alone...10 minutes! He could have a) signed the thing or b) told me to bugger off in two seconds and it would all be over. But no. I stand there, looking at the ground while Van tells me how I'm symptomatic of everything difficult in his life. All I was lacking was a flat cap to twist between my hands while he delivers his message. Finally, he does sign the thing with a contemptious gesture, and I back away muttering embarassed thanks and we leave the bar soon after. I don't wave.
The autograph? Lost many moons ago.
Still think he's produced some works of genius but nothing worth paying too much attention to since No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. Well, I'm going to be a sucker for a title like that, aren't I.
So, that's it. I'll be back soon. After all, it's too late to stop now.



Blogger Mark said...

Hi Brian,
It was good to call in tonight - thanks for the hospitality, coffee and cheesecake. Took me a full 3hrs to get home from your door to mine, but it was a nice evening and Johnny Cash kept me company (American V). Keep bloggin' - and thanks for the books forbye,

June 4, 2007 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Charles Frith said...

Great story. 10 minute ticking off and then you still get the autograph. Most amusing.

June 5, 2007 at 1:19 AM  
Blogger MattM76 said...

Maybe you should have opened with "It's not for me, it's for my Brown Eyed Girl".

A sucker punch of intrusion coupled with throwing his work back in his face in a flippant and nonchalant style would have totally flabbered his ghast.

June 6, 2007 at 2:59 AM  
Blogger John Gilligan said...


Thanks for sharing your story. I've heard from other Van fans about meeting the man and getting the cold shoulder. I also heard plenty of stories of fans having a meeting him and having a pleasant experience.

Van quit drinking a few years ago and so I think he's mellowed a bit.

Thanks for your blog.

I have a Van blog in case you are interested:


June 8, 2007 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Yeh, old Van...
Actually, I don't have a problem with him being Mr Grumpy. To me, artists should be judged by their work, not their personalities. Miles Davis doesn't sound like the world's most wonderful human being but that doesn't make Kind of Blue any less important. Van could be as miserable as he liked if only he produced some great work again.

June 12, 2007 at 1:34 AM  
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