By Martin Buzacott and Andrew Ford
ABC Books, 2005
Not another biography but something rare in pop music and unique in the literature about Van Morrison: a detailed examination of his words and music, and of how they collide and intersect when he sings them.
Speaking in Tongues falls into two main parts. Part One, “A Sense of Wonder”, examines the themes and variations in his songs: images of childhood; musical heroes; transcendence and religion; responses to nature and literature; and Morrison’s consistently truculent relationship with the rest of the world’s population. Building on this exploration of the building blocks of Morrison’s work, Part Two, “A Working Man in His Prime”, looks at Morrison’s studio work album by album, song by song. Finally the book returns the reader to the central concern in any Morrison song – the sound of his voice.
It must be said that Speaking in Tongues is not for the casual acquaintance with Morrison’s work. If you used to hum Jackie Wilson Said and like Michael Buble’s version of Moondance and think that makes you a Morrison fan, this book, with its exhaustive critiques of each album going back to 1968 and lists of the musicians and writers namechecked in Van the Man’s songs (Ray Charles, Piaf, Blake, Camus, Plato and so on) will disabuse and confuse you.
But for the devotees, and there must be many of them, because his albums still make it into the charts and his concerts always sell out, this will be like an extended soak in a gigantic bath of warm Golden Syrup.
Shaun Carney, The Age
You can order this title directly from Andrew at the price of $25.