- 11 Sep 20
As part of our ongoing celebrations for Van Morrison's 75th birthday, Andrea Corr, Tim Wheeler of Ash and Andy Cairns of Therapy? share their reflections on Van's music and legacy.
Since rising to global attention as the lead singer of The Corrs, Andrea Corr has built up a reputation as one of the country's most treasured artists. Over the course of her career, she has topped charts around the world, received an honorary MBE, found major success as a solo artist, and released her acclaimed memoir, Barefoot Pilgrimage, last year.
It was really through my parents Jean and Gerry that I connected with Van’s music. They had a band called The Sound Affair that would perform his music. So basically from infancy, I’ve been listening to Van Morrison.
The fact that every song sounded like a classic made a big impact on me.
Also, the universality of his music makes him unique and very special. I do feel a connection to him as an Irish artist, but I also think I would feel it even if he weren’t Irish.
I’ve covered ‘Moondance’, which is quite simply a classic.
Tim Wheeler of Ash
Tim Wheeler rose to international attention while still in his teens, as the frontman of alternative rock band Ash – formed in Downpatrick, Co. Down in 1989. He released his acclaimed debut solo album, Lost Domain, in 2014.
When I was 18, the journalist Stuart Bailie told me I should check out Astral Weeks. It was just before our first US tour, so I picked it up before I left. I have memories of being homesick, listening to it on the tour bus and loving all the name-drops of places back home.
Astral Weeks set the benchmark for what an album could be, as a work of art. There’s a narrative in it that I want to understand, but I know I never will – and that mystery keeps me coming back to it. Another favourite of mine is ‘And the Healing Has Begun’. That song has got me through some tough times.
Van is a brilliant writer, a brilliant singer and a great experimenter. He’s creatively restless and often pulls off things that shouldn’t work on paper. He's had hits in so many different styles because of it. Most of all, you can tell he intensely means what he’s singing about, he really puts his soul into his music.
I definitely feel a connection to his legacy as an Irish artist – and I’m very proud of the fact he’s from just up the road from me.
‘Jackie Wilson Said’ is a great upbeat pop song that I’ve always loved – so I thought it would be a fun one to try.
Andy Cairns of Therapy?
Originally formed in 1989, Therapy? built up a reputation in the '90s for their powerful hard rock sound. Over the course of their remarkable career, the band have sold over two million albums worldwide – releasing their most recent album, Cleave, in 2018.
In 1984, having a summer job enabled me to buy a lot of records. I’d always been curious about Astral Weeks, as it appeared in so many ‘best of’ lists. I bought it in Caroline Music in Belfast and spent the following months having it on heavy rotation. I love it because it exists in a universe of its own. It transports you. The sound field seems to float and it carries you with it.
I’d loved the singles that I’d heard by Them (especially ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here Comes The Night’), but Astral Weeks was something else. Much like other favourite albums of mine – like Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart, Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division and Untrue by Burial – it’s an album you exist within rather than listen to.
The impact of his music changes from record to record. There’s a bawdy snark in his early garage rock, which has a galvanising effect when played at volume. Or there’s the transformative tranquility of the likes of ‘Into The Mystic’ or ‘And the Healing Has Begun’. As a fledgling musician, it made me realise that there wasn’t just one blueprint or formula for expression – that the joy of the story is in its telling.
His mercurial nature, where eloquence and stubbornness fight it out until something affecting takes shape, add a bruised beauty to his art. He could only have been born in Belfast. His fearlessness, strength and belligerence have proved more inspiring to us as the years have gone on.
We had been playing ‘Gloria’ since the band began in 1989. It’s a wonderful song to play in rehearsals, and as younger musicians fuelled by the hardcore scene, its proto-punk relevance wasn’t lost on us. In our version, we’ve applied a Beckettian brio to boil the tune to its barest bones.
The Hot Press 'Rave On, Van Morrison' Special Issue is out now. Pick up your copy in shops now – or order online below:
You can find all the 'Rave On, Van Morrison' performances on the Hot Press YouTube channel.