Classic Rock News

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 27: Singer/songwriter Van Morrison performs to a sold out crowd at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden on February 27, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Listen To The Lion)

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison was originally titled “Brown Skinned Girl.”  The title of the song was changed in the interest of greater airplay (Van Morrison has called this “a mistake.”) Some radio stations still banned the song because of the line “Making love in the green grass.”  Can you imagine if they had heard some of the pop songs of today?  Remember, this song came out in 1967.  A song about an interracial couple was definitely pushing the societal norm of that era.

His Backing Vocals Sang with Elvis

The backing vocals on the song were performed by The Sweet Inspirations. The group performed with a ton of other artists (plus their originals).  Sweet Inspiration sang on “Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin and “I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick. The Sweet Inspirations became Elvis Presley’s female backing singers in 1969. They toured and recorded with Elvis until his death.

The song was awarded a “Million-Air” certificate at the 2009 BMI London Awards. The certificate is given in recognition of songs by European artists that have reached multi-million US radio and television performances.  “Brown Eyed Girl” topped the 2009 list with an astounding nine million performances. By 2011, the song had passed 10 million plays.

Who was the “Brown Eyed Girl?

No one knows for sure and Van Morrison isn’t talking.  Despite it being considered his signature song, Van Morrison tends to downplay it.

If you’ve been to a Van Morrison concert, you probably didn’t hear “Brown Eyed Girl.”  In 2009 Time magazine interview, he said, “‘Brown Eyed Girl’ I didn’t perform for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I’ve got about 300 other songs I think are better than that.”   Here’s Morrison performing the song in 1967:

Van Morrison as an Artist

Van Morrison was only 22 when this song was released and it became his first American Top Ten single. From my knowledge base of Van Morrison’s history, he is private and eccentric.   He’s one of the most gifted Irish poets of our time, but he’s also a pain in the neck to work with.

Bang Records, Bert Berns, had worked with Morrison previously and produced “Brown Eyed Girl.”  Berns brought his pop sensibilities to the table.  Van Morrison wasn’t necessarily pleased by this. “I never wanted to be commercial, and suddenly, “Brown Eyed Girl” was making me even more commercial.”  Morrison was signed to Bert’s label, Bang Records.  his deal included management, production, and publishing.  The deal went south fast over creative differences.  Van Morrison left Bang records and legal disputes raged for years.  Bert Berns died from a heart attack in December of 1967.  Morrison signed with Warner Bros. and released Astral Works in 1968.

Van Morrison was one of the first artists to hire a Web Sheriff back in the early 2000s.  Web sheriffs policed sites to make sure that content wasn’t defamatory, incorrect, or unprovable on behalf of their clients. He has always been fiercely private.

Check out 10 of the Worst Decisions in Rock History

10 of the Worst Decisions in Rock's History

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.  Some have gotten A LOT of experience.  10 of the worst decisions in rock’s history… some have been outright EPIC for their disastrous consequences.  Entire books have been dedicated to rock stars doing dumb things.  What are the top ones that come to mind?  For me, I’d say Pink Floyd‘s free concert that became known as “The Rape of Venice,” Keith Moon dressing up as Hitler to go into Jewish bakeries, and whatever transpired with Led Zeppelin and the notorious “Red Snapper” incident. AND THIS! ELO firing their string section, my God… it’s the “O” in your name. Why would you do that?

Electric Light Orchestra, circa 1970s.

Electric Light Orchestra, circa the 1970s.

Rolling Stone recently put together a list of the “50 Worst Decisions in Music History.” Here are some of my favorite high… or rather lowlights of the list.

10 of the Worst Decisions in Rock’s History

  • #43 "Ticketmaster introduces dynamic pricing system"

    What a sh!# show this has been. Bruce Springsteen looks like he’s doing a money grab by agreeing to it and Taylor Swift is apologizing to fans for a system meltdown because she’d opted out of “dynamic pricing.” This all stems from bots snagging all the good seats and then third parties reselling at outrageous prices. Remember the good old days? You camped out for tickets and had a shot at getting good seats at the ACTUAL TICKET PRICE? I miss those days.

    BETHEL, NY - AUGUST 14: Janet Huey holds her original concert ticket as the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival approaches August 14, 2009 in Bethel, New York. On August 15-17 in 1969 an estimated 400,000 music fans gathered on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, N.Y. for the most celebrated music festival ever. The 40th anniversary concert will take place tomorrow. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)


  • #38 "Roger Waters Dares Pink Floyd To Do It Without Him"

    Well, that backfired.  When Roger Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, he figured all the fans would follow him.  He had been the main creative and writing force of Pink Floyd since Syd Barret was basically kicked out of the band in 1968.  Waters did not count on the BRAND of Pink Floyd being so strong.  His first tour had so many empty seats (while Pink Floyd was filling stadiums) that he didn’t tour for ten years after.  Most people LOVE the music, but they don’t follow the details.  The remaining members brought in outside help for songwriting and managed to keep the Pink Floyd brand going.
    Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett

    (photo: Keystone Features/Getty Images)

  • #29 "Guns N’ Roses begin work on ’Chinese Democracy’"

    Axl Rose started working on Chinese Democracy in 1994.  He had broomed every member and was working with hired guns. It took SO LONG to make this album that the record company offered Axl a ONE MILLION DOLLAR bonus if he could finish the album by 1999. Zero checks were written for that bonus. Fast forward to 2008. The album was released to not much aplomb.

    25. "Better" - 'Chinese Democracy' (2008)

  • #28 "Van Halen hire the guy from Extreme to be their new singer"

    I like Gary Cherone. “More Than Words” is a great song. However, he is to Van Halen what George Lazenby is to the James Bond brand… one and done and nobody celebrates him as a win. Van Halen dug him a hole. In the early ’90s, Grunge had taken hold and MTV wasn’t spinning Van Halen’s videos like they used to… what do you do? VanHalen decided to fire Sammy Hagar, tease a reunion with David Lee Roth on the MTV video awards, and then hire Gary Cherone. Hagar said in a fairly recent Rolling Stone interview, “That was the biggest mistake the band has ever made.”

    Van Halen - 'Van Halen III'

    While certainly not the fault of then-new singer Gary Cherone, ‘Van Halen III’ wasn’t well-received by fans or critics.

  • #24 "Dee Dee Ramone quits the Ramones and makes a rap album"

    OH MY GOD.  This is just horrendous.  Dee Dee Ramone is so talented… in the genre of Punk Rock.  Rap?  Not so much.  He started wearing “full hip hop regalia” to Ramones shows and then decided to release a rap album as Dee Dee King.  Later that same year he quit The Ramones.  I am not trying to be judgy here.  Check out “Funky Man” for yourself… if you dare.

  • #17 "The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton make a film version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’"

    I honestly didn’t even remember this existing.  The drugs of the ’70s, dude.  It’s the only reason I can think of as to how anyone thought this was a good idea. “Kids today don’t know the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper,” Robin Gibb said at the time. “When ours comes out it will be, in effect, as if theirs never existed.”  And yet… it’s almost like YOURS never existed, Robin.  Here’s the trailer… again, watch it if you dare.

  • #10 "Billy Squier obliterates his career with one cheesy music video"

    At first blush, I thought this was a bit harsh.  Billy Squier has a lot of jams. How bad could one video be? Turns out, it’s just painful. Billy Squier said,When I saw the video, my jaw dropped. It was diabolical. I looked at it and went, “What the f@$# is this?” Fair, but also, Billy, bro… you didn’t see this being a bad idea when you filmed it?  You are rolling around on silk sheets. You RIPPED YOUR SHIRT OFF and then put on another one.  You danced in a window.  You slid down a pole.  Do you even remember recording this?  I hate to say it AGAIN but watch the video… if you dare.

  • #9 " U2 give their new album away for free in iTunes"

    I still can’t get this off my phone.  Sometimes I hit the wrong button and it tries to share a song from the album that I never asked for.  Did you know there’s a way to remove it?  I may be the last to the party, but I didn’t know until I read Rolling Stone’s article that Apple “created a tool to allow users to delete it in a single click.”  I’ll be right back… I need to google that.

  • #3 "Decca Records passes on signing the Beatles"

    Ouch.  That left a mark… on your Decca wallet. The Beatles gave a 15-song demo to Decca in 1962 and they were rejected. Instead, Decca signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and The Beatles found George Martin.

  • #1 "The Rolling Stones hire the Hells Angels as security guards for their rock festival"

    I feel like “free” concerts usually end up paying a price.  This one was the steepest.  The Rolling Stones decided to wrap their 1969 tour with a free concert in California.  Problems: it was incredibly poorly planned.  They didn’t have enough toilets or food and the stage was 39 inches off the ground so they had to hire security.  They hired the Hell Angels for security on the word of either The Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane, but the only thing that matters is the result.  Four people lost their lives at the show including Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old who was stabbed to death by a Hell’s Angel security guard.

    You can check out Rolling Stone’s full 50 when you CLICK HERE.

Donielle Fynn is a Michigan native with two kids, two dogs, two cats, a love of yoga, and all things classic rock.

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