Van Morrison – 1970 Demo Session

Van Morrison
1970 Demo Session

Download FLAC: Google Drive

You Got the Power
Bit By Bit
Coming Down to Joy

Notes taken from the artwork.

The three songs on this disk originate from a reel-to-reel demo tape which was found in 2003 at a flea market in the USA. Apparently the buyer had no idea about the rarity of the tape and offered it for sale at an auction. Starting price was $9.99 and the tape was finally sold for $16.05 to the only collector noticing the item and knowing what it was about – if only the actual contents of the tape matched the label placed on the outside of the box. Luckily it did, and despite the age of the recording and the first part of the tape being in a mess, it was generally found to be in good shape.

Probably, this is a first generation copy of a master tape from a session at the Warner Bros. demos studio for songwriters. Whoever the engineer, he does not seem to have had one of his better days. Especially the bass seems in places somewhat distorted, and at one point on “You Got the Power” the speed gets a little uneven. The label on the outside of the box lists the three tracks and appears to have been printed for a 45rpm record. However, this is a bit of a mystery. The recordings on this tape were clearly not intended for release and even if a few copies were pressed and handed out to artists interested in recording one of the songs, it seems unlikely that you could fit 14 minutes of music on on 7 inch and 45rpm records were not available at the time.

Concerning the time of the recordings, it seems likely that these tracks with a small band of bass, drums, piano and organ accompanying Morrison have been recorded in late 1970, possibly 1971. The late bearing the mark of Warner Bros. sets the date to be after Morrison’s signing a contract with Warner Bros. during the early summer of 1968. The sound seems gospel-influenced which suggests the time of the session to have been around the recording of “His Band and Street Choir” during the fall of 1970. Furthermore, the rather rhythmic piano in my ears tends to sound like Alan Hand (who joined Morrison’s band not long before recording “His Band and Street Choir”) and John Klinberg seems to be the most likely guess as part of the band from that album. The lack of a guitar player on the recordings makes it even more obvious that it should be this band. Morrison’s guitar player at the time, John Platania is known to have had a falling out with him for a short period in the Autumn of 1970 (and even if he does appear on “His Band and Street Choir”, he was not present for the photo session for the cover of the album). The missing guitar could also indicate that it might be Morrison himself play9ng the piano but it does not seem likely.

All three tracks on this CD were previously unavailable. All three songs are written by Van Morrison. A later recording of “You Got the Power” was released as a b-side of “Jackie Wilson Said” in 1972 and an acoustic version of “Bit by Bit” can be found on several bootlegs. Interestingly country singer Roy Head, around 1971 released his versions of both “You Got the Power” and “Bit by Bit” probably after hearing the demos versions on this very tape. “Coming Down to Joy” is the real gem of this demo session. The title has never been mentioned anywhere – and no recording of this Van Morrison has ever surfaced until now. In fact Morrison does not even seem to have had this song registered for copyright.

Jay – August 2003

Two Track Stereo Analog Tape converted to digital using Revox A77 and Son SBM1. Mastering on Macintosh.

3 thoughts on “Van Morrison – 1970 Demo Session

  1. Thank you! Don’t think I’ve heard these versions anywhere before and I’ve never heard the song “Coming Down To Joy”. The story of the songs and how the tape came to be found (included in the download) is also interesting!

    • Yes the info is really fascinating. I was going to include it all in the post but since its all on an image I’d have to type it all out and I got lazy. But well worth reading once you download.

  2. Holy crap, this is an amazing find – thank you so much for sharing it, Mat. And the backstory and analysis (listed on the back-CD art in the download) is really astute and interesting. Amazing that these songs were “in a box” for so long!!

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