Saturday 24 February 2007

Celebrity Deathmatch: Van Morrison vs. Mick Fleetwood

Christmas season 1977, and the Roxy (coolest nightclub in Hollywood) is hosting Rick Danko’s new group. Rick was in The Band and has joined forces with the film actor Gary Busey, newly famous for his portrayal of Buddy Holly. It’s a residency guaranteed to attract the famous.

At a table just inside the VIP area a quietly celebrating party surrounds a long, accommodating table. Van Morrison sits in the middle of one side. Mick Fleetwood sits at the end. Van has recently overcome prolonged writer’s block to start recording the album 'Wavelength'. Mick, drummer with Fleetwood Mac, is enjoying the biggest selling album the United States has ever known.

We wait, we talk, we drink. The room is suffused with an atmosphere that glows like the sound of cellophane being crumpled, wafting perhaps from the stream of well-groomed ladies gently rubbing their noses while stepping from the restroom.

When Rick and the boys fail to appear 30 minutes late and counting, we assume that they are, as Billy Idol said on this very stage six years later, "waiting for the record company drugs to take effect". Mick sits with regal abstraction, exuding a charisma that only comes from being, right at this very moment, in the most famous band on Earth. Contrary to his image of tortured Belfast gypsy of the soul, Van leans forward, engaged and engaging, expectantly waiting to be entertained. Though he is considered one of the most important figures in music, creator of Number One records, compare the sales figures and he is a cult artist.

A California-beautiful young woman – peach-tanned skin, blonde hair falling across her sparkling eyes – tentatively leans over Van's shoulder and thanks him for the place his music has in her life. He looks straight into her eyes and thanks her. She asks for his autograph and he signs her paper with an attention that signals this gesture is important. She glows all the way back to her seat. Mick looks mildly miffed.

A few minutes later another lady touches Van and opens her heart to him in the same way that he in his music has to her. Van smiles. Then another. His back straightens. Another. He starts to glow. No-one approaches Mick. He is invisible. As each lady looks into Van’s eyes, asks for his autograph, takes her photo with him, touches him intimately on the shoulder, Mick slumps a little lower over the table. The mantle of fame lies clammy and glacial. Annoyance and despair roam his features. “How much longer?” he grumps.

Finally the band appears in a haze of starry egos, ready to play for their peers. They’re terrible.

© J Ingham 2007

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