Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Van Morrison - "Brown Eyed Girl"

ARTIST: Van Morrison
OVERPLAYED SONG: "Brown Eyed Girl"
ORIGINAL SOURCE: single/Blowin' Your Mind album (Bang!, 1967)
OTHER SOURCE: The Best Of Van Morrison (Mercury, 1990)

The ever-handy resource allmusic.com describes Van Morrison's first solo hit "Brown-Eyed Girl" like this:

"Possibly Van Morrison's biggest international hit record, "Brown Eyed Girl" came between his career as the lead singer of Them and his emergence as a solo singer/songwriter. Although Morrison wrote the song, the overall feel and sound of the resulting record owes as much to producer Bert Berns as it does to Morrison. Like several other Bang releases of the era (such as Neil Diamond's records), it's based on a simple, three-chord pattern and a slightly Latin feel. Lyrically, however, is where Morrison's song contribution shines, with its semi-autobiographical tale of rural romance and fond remembrances of geographic locations. The excellent bass-heavy instrumental bridge is one of the song's most important hooks, and it's a long-remembered part of the song to almost any AM radio listener of the period, even to this day."

Further research on this song reveals that the original title of the song was "Brown-Skinned Girl". While a song reveling in interracial sex would be far from objectionable nowadays, back in 1967 apparently Bert Burns forced Morrison to change the title thanks to what Chuck D. called "Fear of a black planet" syndrome over two decades later.

But we digress. "Brown-Eyed Girl", once a revered standard, is now just plain bar band filler. Take a song that several other bar bands around the world have played to death, and that only needs three basic guitar chords, slop it around in your practice space for about 20 minutes, and voila! - instant filler material. So what if every other band in the area sleepwalks through it and you can't remember half the words? So what if your bass player is so brain-numbingly bored by the instrumental middle section that half the time, he cannot resist bringing out his inner Jaco Pastorius out in a vain attempt to put some life into a lifeless tune.

But let's face it, folks... trying to breathe life into "Brown-Eyed Girl" in the 21st century would be like Ed Wood using the same 10 minutes of silent Bela Lugosi footage he used in Plan 9 From Outer Space in a sequel shot several years later. It just doesn't work.

If you're looking to plunder something else from the Van Morrison catalogue, please don't. "Wild Night" (partly thanks to John Cougar Mellencamp's cover version) and "Moondance" are already getting just as rancid as "Brown-Eyed Girl". And don't even get us started on "Gloria".


At 8:18 PM, Blogger Alex said...

First off, you are providing a much-needed public service.

With that said, what are your thoughts re: Patti Smith's "Gloria"? Exempt from the Van Morrison cover band crisis, or fueling the fire?

I, for one, would replace "Brown-Eyed Girl" from any bar band's repertoire with all 9.5 excruciating minutes of "Madame George."

At 4:55 AM, Blogger Grotesqueticle said...

Even Van Morrison refuses to play this one anymore.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Max Sparber said...

"Whatever happened to Tuesday and So Slow?"

Not sure about Tuesday, but So Slow's problem keeping up is self-evident.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger CJ said...

I couldn't agree more that this is one of the most annoying songs in the history of music and anyopne who plays it should be instantly vaporized.

At 5:20 AM, Blogger Paul said...

I agree. When I tune into my local classic rock station, and they say Van Morrison is up next, I ponder, hmmm, gee, I wonder what song they will play? Then, it comes to me. They will break out their i Van Morrison greatest hits cd, and, sure enought, there it is, Brown Eyed Girl. Honorable mention goes to Moondance, the other Van Morrison record they own.

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At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what-ever! I STILL like the songs you are slamming here...and I'll have you know the Rick Springfield version of "Gloria" he does in concert totally Rocks...he ad libs various scenarios with Gloria and it's HILARIOUS!

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At 10:17 AM, Blogger dphilley said...

I often perform the song, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison as a busker (street musician). Not only do I get all sorts of smiles from girls with brown eyes, it is also one of the songs I do which receives the most tips in my guitar case.
If anyone is interested, you can download the guitar tab for Brown Eyed Girl at http://download-sheet-music-online.com/guitar-lessons.html

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At 10:54 AM, Blogger Khristine said...

Don't quite like this song. I prefer So Slow. This is a bit boring.

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Khristine said...

This song is boring. I like So Slow better. Wonder why some artists sound weird for the next few years.be thou my vision.

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