I searched for Van the Man after reading Marcus' description in Stranded, and eventually found it somewhere for a reasonable amount in a Goldmine listing. (Jeez, those were the days! Imagine the eyestrain now of old-fart boomers trying to find their latest obsessions in Goldmine ads.) Just like the illustrious rock-crit had said, Van the Man was a masterpiece, and it became one of my favorite Van Morrison albums.
This is a rather involved story so please hang in there.
Van the Man is one of Van Morrison's finest albums. However, it also happens to be a bootleg, an unauthorized, illegal, and raw recording that I first read about waybackwhen in Stranded, a collection of essays edited by Greil Marcus.
Although in Stranded the other writers could only choose one recording (usually an album) to take to their desert island, Marcus spent two weeks compiling his own list, which was actually the most interesting part of the book. Getting to
take tons of records to his desert island was Marcus' prerogative--after all, he was the editor.
Among some of the recordings in Marcus' list that I didn't own or had never heard of at that time was an album called Van the Man, a collection of passionate studio material that Van Morrison had recorded during the early '70s.
Here is a good description of the desert-island classic, Van the Man, that I "bootlegged" from somewhere.
“Sometimes I almost feel/Just like a human being.”
–Elvis Costello, “Lipstick Vogue,” 1978
The discovery of self, getting to know the inner you, is the very stuff of our troubled and crazy times. The growing number of support groups, the proliferation of psychotherapists, and the overwhelming and seemingly all-powerful self-help sections at bookstores attest to this fact. “Feel the pain,” sez Zippy the Pinhead as he hands a friend a box of Milk Duds just before he heads spiraling into a nervous breakdown.
Pop music abounds in such eccentric edifices of the inner self. In fact, pop music is such a refuge for so many selves in search of self that pop and rock are probably nothing more than the babble generated by a series of cathartic experiences. Many of rock’s landmark albums are probing works, painfully introspective, almost dull in fact, until you hear them in the isolation of your empty room after a long night of dark fear and sweaty terror.