Rock stars and their dinners: Van Morrison
"Stop off at Ardglass for a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings in case we get famished before dinner. On and on, over the hill and the craic is good. Heading towards Coney Island”
- Van Morrison - Coney Island, from Avalon Sunset 1989.
There is plenty of evidence that Van is a man who likes his food. Firstly there’s his figure – revisit his albums, particularly from the mid 70’s onwards and see how he grows. I don’t mean musically.
Secondly there are ample references to food and drink in his songs. Of all of them I like the above quote from the spoken word Coney Island best - these are words said with real relish and Van displays an affecting concern that he might find his tummy rumbling with nothing on hand to satisfy his appetite. Wisely he decides to get some supplies in just “in case”. And then when he says “famished” I don’t think he means famished at all. Peckish would be more accurate, like Winnie the Pooh when he fancies a little “smackerel” of something – which is just about always, no matter how long since lunch or how soon until dinner.
On my 34th birthday I spent the day travelling through the places in the song with my wife and two sons whilst playing the track incessantly. We didn’t pick up any jars of mussels or potted herrings at Ardglass but instead I ate local oysters with pints of Guinness in the bar of the Portaferry Hotel on the banks of Strangford Lough when I got back. Later I had a good dinner too, there was even a cake.
I once saw Van play in a tiny venue in Newport Gwent – a last minute barely announced warm up gig for his European tour sometime in the late eighties I think. I was with my wife and a work colleague Ian, a true Van fanatic, and we arrived at the small hotel venue early to check the start time of the show. My friend walked across the lobby to where a security guy stood sentry at the foot of the stairs that led to the ballroom where Van was due to play. As he returned to us he gently collided with a small balding man in a too tight green sweater that accentuated the dome of his protruding belly. Come to think of it the man’s silhouette would have been almost indistinguishable from that of Winnie the Pooh. “he’ll be on at 9.30” said Ian. I was speechless for a moment, and then said - “you don't know who you just collided with?” “I didn’t notice.” Van hadn't taken much notice either. He was heading for the dining room from where I detected the unmistakable aroma of a carvery. I like to think he went up for seconds.