Park Engineering

 John Park, 32 the Loaning, Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Strathclyde, Scotland, U.K. ML1 3HE

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        Van Morrison Singer reveals career's humbIe beginnings.  Love's playing Scotland. When I first toured we rehearsed in the garden of a Pollock council house.  01 08 2016

 The Mountains of Mourne in County Down are home to numerous legends, one of which suggests the hills lead to another world. The scenery in the beautiful part of Northern Ireland also inspired Ulsterman CS Lewis's Narnia in the Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe. Today, at the foot of the mountain in the Slieve Donald Hotel, it is a much lionised musician -- Sir Van Morrison. And while the stunning landscapes of his homeland and the backstreets of Belfast feature prominently in Van's back catalogue, Scotland has also enjoyed a significant role. He grew up hearing the sound of his mum Violet -- who died last month, aged 94, -- playing the pipes at his home in 125 Hyndford Street in Belfast, and first sang of sailing to Caledonia on listen to the lion from 1972 album St Dominic's preview.   As a teenager, it was a Glaswegian who handed him his first tour gig, plying saxophone in a showband.   Van, who will return to Glasgow on Thursday for Summer Nights at the bandstand in Kelvingrove Park, cast his mind back to a first visit of the city in the summer of 1963, aged 17.  He said: "I love playing Scotland, when I first went on the road that's where I went first actually. "When I was a kid there was this place in Belfast that had a coffee bar and juke box. "Me and a couple of guys in the band were having coffee and someone put on Ray Charles on the Juke Box. His name was Frank Cunningham, he was from Glasgow and he became our manager."  Maybe one day a blue plaque will be fixed to 33 Levernside Road in Pollock. It was in the council house's garden  that Van first rehearsed before a six week summer tour which included performances in Strathpeffer and Tain in Easter Ross. He said: "We brought a couple of guys into the band from Glasgow, the five of us from Belfast all ended up staying at Frank's house in Pollock. He booked a tour which finished at the beach ballroom in Aberdeen. From there we drove down to London and ended up in Germany. 'That was my first experience of touring and the start for me.'  After joining Them the following April, Van secured a run of Jukebox classics, Baby Please Don't Go, Here Comes The Night, and Gloria. The latter was one of the songs Them sang in 1966 as they jammed with their support act, The Doors, during their residency at the L A night club, Whisky A Go Go. Van's high energy performance, which also saw both bands perform Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour together, was cited as a significant influence on singer Jim Morrison.  Van said: 'the whiskey was great. It was all very exciting, we were young kids. They (The Doors) weren't really known then  --  they were local at the time. I'd hang out with Jim a lot, we were in there playing for a few weeks. I liked the residency gigs.   It was shortly after this, almost 50 years ago, that Van left the group to make tentative plans for his solo career. This Autumn, the singer will release his 36th studio album, Keep Me Singing. Scottish themes continue to inspire, this time on Caledonia Swing.  'It was originally called Ulster Scots Swing and I changed it', he explained. 'They are interchangeable -- it could be either. 'This part of the world has alot of people that are called Ulster Scots. They don't consider themselves to be Irish, even though it is in Ireland, their identity is Ulster Scots.  'Even if you go back to my history lessons at school, the curriculum for history taught that the Scots came from here and when they went to Scotland they called them Scots but they were from here originally. Caledonian Swing Is my Take on it'.    Among Van's most memorable Scottish shows was an intimate performance at Govan Town Hall in 1988 with the cheiftains. The pairing was seen as a cultural coming together of North and South as well as catholic and protestant during the troubles. Van said : 'It was a good night.' Last year, Sony Legacy obtained half a century's worth of Morrison's studio and live recordings, allowing a new digital and streaming platform. The re-issues allowed fans to hear long-out-of-print albums such as Hard Nose and the Highway (1973) which closed with folf star Purple Heather, wkich is perhaps better recognised as Wild Mountain Thyme and Will Ye No go Lassie, Go. Van said 'I have an album by Robin Hood and Jimmie Macgregor which says it's Scottish. I liked their version. It was also claimed to be by the McPeak family from Belfast. I heard them do the song. I just liked it, I always liked that song. Last year van celebrated his 70th birthday with two performances on Belfast's Cyprus Avenue, name checked on his 1968 album Astral Weeks. He also played his old school. Van who became Sir Van in February said: 'It's great because it proves a lot of cliched stuff wrong like prophet is never accepted in his own country.   'I'm not saying I'm a prophet but they used to say that about myself or George Best that we were not accepted here. I think that shows that's wrong.

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There is no plan B

A true original Van Morrison has come over all nostalgic on us in recent years. 2015 saw him tinker around with his own body of work giving us Duets: Re-working the Catalogue. But now he's ready to look forward with the release of Keep Me Singing, his first studio album of original material since 2012's Born To Sing: No Plan B. For the Northern Irish singer, it was always Plan A. He fed off Musical greats such as Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson and Leadbelly. It was the latter that really drove his passion. Van said: "Singing is my profession -- this is all I wanted to do. It's my job and my life. "When I first heard "Goodnight Irene" by Leadbelly, that was it. "A lot of people have talent and they throw it away. I always tried to hold on to mine. "I think that people can be afraid -- they're to put themselves out there. "I'm glad I got that chance. I don't buy into the fame thing. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to." Due out shortly , Keep Me Singing spans 13 tracks. Van explained the challenge he faces to keep on writing new material. "Well, you're actually competing against what you've done previously," he said. "It's a challenge when you have such a massive catalogue because is there a need or want to do it anymore? You have to question that all the time. "If you feel like you have something to say, then you want to say, then you want to get out there and get it off your system -- that's what music and making records is all about." Active now for at least five decades, is there more to come? "We'll, I'm getting on a bit!" he chuckled. "ButI do feel better about this album. "I feel the majority are just a lot better and it's more expansive. "I'll just keep going for as long as I can." Van also heads out on tour this Autumn an it's something that he never grows tired of. "When you're in your element, things just come. "A lot of people don't like touring but I still need to play music. There are all different kinds of gigs but I love them all.  "I can't -- and don't want to do anything else." Keep Me Singing is out on September 30. Tickets