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Bootleg Bonanza: Van Morrison - Mechanical Bliss

van morrison mechanical bliss

Van Morrison
Mechanical Bliss [no label, 2CD]

The notes for this show are really long, I have left them as is for this post.

Download MP3@256: Mega

Soon after the release of Veedon Fleece in 1974, Van Morrison was already talking about a follow-up album. Several titles have been associated with the album - Naked In The Jungle, Not Working For You, Stiff Upper Lip - but the one common to most fans is Mechanical Bliss. Due to whatever reasons, the album was never released and, as Wikipedia reported, “Morrison later was to say the project was nothing more than an extended jamming session.”

But the songs were recorded and Morrison fan David Chance has tried to piece together the lost album, which at one time was scheduled for a February 1975 release.

In a lengthy article (www.harbour.sfu.ca/~hayward/van/discography/mechanicalbliss.html), while reconstructing the album, Chance notes: “Keeping in mind the format of vinyl recordings in the mid-’70s (with a playing time of approximately 40-45 minutes),and a lot of (perhaps erroneous) intuition, I place the track and side listing of this album as:

Side A
1. Joyous Sound (2:23)
2. Mechanical Bliss (3:46)
3. Much Binding In The March (4:34)
4. The Twilight Zone (7:56)
5. Naked In The Jungle (3:46)
Total time: (22:25)

Side B
1. Flamingoes Fly (6:08)
2. Foggy Mountain Top (5:25)
3. When I Deliver (6:10)
4. I Have Finally Come To Realize (4:55)
Total time: (22:38)

Total play approximately 46 minutes with 7-second blank song-separations.

While Chance saw the album as containing nine tracks, a two-CD version of Mechanical Bliss has surfaced among Morrison fans:
As Shared Here:
Disc 1
1. Joyous Sound
2. Naked In The Jungle
3. Much Binding In The March (instr)
4. Mechanical Bliss
5. T For Texas
6. This Is Not The Twilight Zone
7. When I Deliver
8. Flamingos Fly
9. I Have Finally Come To Realize
10. Foggy Mountain Top

Disc 2
1. I’m Not Waiting For You
2. You Move Me
3. Feedback Out On Highway 101
4. I Shall Sing
5. Laughing In The Wind
6. Come On Out Child
7. There There Child
8. It Hurts To Want It So Bad
9. The Streets Only Knew Your Name

The artwork notes: “Mechanical Bliss - The Record Plant Sausalito, California June 1975 Session + ‘additional recordings possibly made at Mercury Studios, New York, March/April 1974 and at Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands, June 1974′.” These stereo soundboard tracks can be rated between very good and excellent minus. Unfortunately, the musicians for these sessions have never been positively identified.

In 1977, Van Morrison would go into the studio and the result was A Period Of Transition, which featured a version of Joyous Sound. The song was also released as a 7-inch single together with Mechanical Bliss in 1977. As far as we are aware, none of the tracks recorded in 1974 and 1975 have been officially released.

In his article, David Chance also mentioned an interesting anecdote regarding the proposed artwork for Mechanical Bliss:

In The Complete Guide to the Music of Steely Dan there is the following information regarding the cover art for Steely Dan’s 1976 album, The Royal Scam:

“Another superb cover showed a man asleep on a Boston bus station bench as skyscrapers and angry skies towered above him. Each building had a different animal’s snarling head superimposed onto it. At the center of the cover was a king cobra about to strike at a mongoose on the neighboring edifice. The skyscrapers had been painted by Zox for a Van Morrison album cover. When Morrison abandoned his project, photographer Charlie Ganse and Ed Caraeff came up with the idea of using Ganse’s photo of the vagrant with the Zox painting. They took the photo to a Hollywood specialist and succeeded in matching the tone of the painting.”

The (completely speculative) artwork [shown above] was sent in by Van fan Volker Klar, who modified the artwork of the Steely Dan album. To further fan speculation on Van’s “missing album”, Volker also notes encountering a reference in a German book Rock Lexikon (Schmidt-Joos/Barry Graves, Rowohlt) from February 1975: “there is a chapter about Van Morrison with a list of albums in it. On page 244 you can find ‘[…] Stiff Upper Lip (1975)’.”

Disc I
Track 101 Joyous Sound (3.4MB)
Track 102 Naked In The Jungle (6.3MB)
Track 103 Much Binding In The March (instr) (5.1MB)
Track 104 Mechanical Bliss (5.1MB)
Track 105 T For Texas (7.4MB)
Track 106 This Is Not The Twilight Zone (11.5MB)
Track 107 When I Deliver (8.9MB)
Track 108 Flamingos Fly (8.8MB)
Track 109 I Have Finally Come To Realize (7.0MB)
Track 110 Foggy Mountain Top (6.9MB)
Disc II
Track 201 I’m Not Waiting For You (11.5MB)
Track 202 You Move Me (9.4MB)
Track 203 Feedback Out On Highway 101 (5.4MB)
Track 204 I Shall Sing (4.6MB)
Track 205 Laughing In The Wind (5.6MB)
Track 206 Come On Out Child (6.7MB)
Track 207 There There Child (4.1MB)
Track 208 It Hurts To Want It So Bad (5.2MB)
Track 209 The Streets Only Knew Your Name (8.8MB)

Mechanical Bliss
an attempt to reconstruct Van Morrison’s unreleased 1975 album by David Chance

Side A

Joyous Sound (2:23)
Mechanical Bliss (3:46)
Much Binding In The March (4:34)
The Twilight Zone (7:56)
Naked In The Jungle (3:46)
Total time: (22:25)
Side B

Flamingoes Fly (6:08)
Foggy Mountain Top (5:25)
When I Deliver (6:10)
I Have Finally Come To Realise (4:55)
Total time: (22:38)
Total play approximately 46 minutes with 7-second blank song-separations

Title | Songs | Musicians | Album | Artwork

In mid/late-1974 and throughout 1975 there was mention of a soon-to-be released album from Van Morrison, following Veedon Fleece. This album never made it to the public, for reasons unknown. Here I am attempting to reconstruct what that album may have been, with as many clues as I have been able to find. Acknowledgement goes to many, especially David Walker, Kevin Sheets, Art Siegel, Scott Thomas, and Joost Van Erkel for their opinions and information.

Please bear in mind that what follows is comparable to swiss cheese…lots of holes in it… dcat…

1. The Title:
Possibilities: Mechanical Bliss, Stiff Upper Lip, Naked In The Jungle, Not Working For You.

It is generally agreed that the album was to be called Mechanical Bliss. Van and Tom Donahue state this several times throughout the KSAN ‘74 radio interview. There, Van indicates the release date to be in February 1975, only 4 to 5 months after the release of Veedon Fleece, an announcement that even Tom Donahue found astonishing (”Hard on the heels, I would call that.”).

In Johnny Rogan’s book Van Morrison (1984), on page 126, it is noted that this working title was, “retitled, at least briefly, Stiff Upper Lip, the work was twice scheduled for release in 1975 and during the year the lengthy “This Is Not The Twilight Zone” and “Mechanical Bliss” were aired on American radio”. The second release date Rogan mentions would be September 1975, as noted _____?_____.

Detouring briefly, mention should be made of some other “unreleased” albums rumoured at this time. One would be an album called Highlights, as mentioned in the KSAN interview, just after playing the song “Just Like A Woman”:

“That’s gonna be on an album called Highlights, which is gonna highlight, ya’ know, various things over the years that I’ve done that I haven’t, ya’ know, gotten on an album, you know, like uh, historical things like uh, you know, um, a live performance with John Lee, and there’s a couple-a things from this performance, and uh, maybe some other kinky stuff…”
This is re-stated in the coffeehouse interview done with Van (by Donahue) in the video production of the 1974 concert at the Orphanage in San Francisco, California (39 minutes into the tape).

From “Reliable Sources”, the press-release pamphlet, circa spring 1974, from Caledonia Productions, page 12: “He is currently interested in video and is expected to do a soundtrack for a major film soon.” And on page 14: “Van has instrumental material with himself on horn and piano without vocals which may turn into an album quite different from his past albums.” The unreleased song (but played during the KSAN interview) “Much Binding In The March” may have been a likely candidate for this project, as well as the instrumentals known as “Buffyflow” and “Heathrow Shuffle” played in concerts during this period.

In “Reliable Sources”, on page 173: “I’ve definitely got a country and western album planned,” he says. “It will have songs like ‘Wild Side Of Life’, ‘Crying Time’, ‘Banks Of The Ohio’ and stuff like that.” [In some observations on this project, David Walker {Internet Nov. 9, 1997} brings up the point that Van was performing such C&W songs as Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’” and Merle Kilgore’s “More and More” in concert {The Troubadour Club, Los Angeles CA, May 7, 1973}. David also notes the unreleased studio songs in circulation among collectors, Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene”, and W. Warren & A. Carter’s “Wild Side Of Life”, which sound to be recorded around or before the time of the Tupelo Honey album.]

“One of these years, he’s going to release a Christmas album. “We tried to do one in 1972 but we were under too much pressure. You have to start making a Christmas album on January 1 if you want to get it out in time. We’ll probably do some originals and a few of the old things like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire’. All that romantic stuff.”

Joost Van Erkel notes that an album called Manchild was announced as about to be released in The Netherlands around this time, though it never was. He remembers seeing an advertisement for Manchild, for sale, in the New Music Express in July 1979, but is unclear as to when this album was first announced in Holland, perhaps as early as 1972.

2. The Songs:
In issue #8 (Nov. 1992) of The Van Morrison Newsletter, it is noted that in an interview with John Tobler in the late-’70s that Van “talked about the album, recorded in Holland in 1974 which has never been released. It came about because a promoter pulled the band out of a gig with a number of other artists and paid them for the concert. He [Van] hired a studio and went in and laid down 8 tracks in an afternoon.”

This event is what Joost Van Erkel remembers as an open air concert on June 24, 1974 in Hilversum. His words: “On June 24, 1974 Van was supposed to perform on a one day open air festival at Hilversum. I don’t remember all the acts performing that day, but in the afternoon a Canadian singer performed who was not on the original schedule. Because the municipality didn’t allow music to be played after 6 or 8 PM (I forgot the exact time) and The Allman Brothers Band (top of the bill) for contractual reasons had to perform a 2 hours show, there was no time left for Van. There is a short story (in Dutch) by Bert Jansen describing this event (Van fighting with a woman photographer while leaving the scene). It was rumored then (music papers and radio) that Van recorded in Holland the day before the festival.”

These 8 tracks are most likely the following songs recorded at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Holland: Twilight Zone, Foggy Mountain Top, Flamingoes Fly (all 3 noted so in The Philosopher’s Stone notes), Mechanical Bliss, Much Binding In The March (both aired on KSAN ‘74), Naked In the Jungle (version 1, not The Philosopher’s Stone version from 1975), Buffyflow (?), and Heathrow Shuffle (?). [Or possibly Caldonia and What’s Up Crazy Pup?, though as Joost points out, “Caldonia and What’s Up Crazy Pup? sound like these were performed with the Caledonia Soul Express, who according to Wavelength no. 12 performed in Amsterdam on April 8, 1974; see also Brian Hinton’s Celtic Crossroads page 167.”]

In the KSAN interview Van says the album will be released in February 1975. This did not occur. More studio sessions took place in June 1975 (see below). I suspect these were to alter the, at that time, track listing of the album, i.e. to add a few and lose a few. So, we are probably looking at 2 possible incarnations of the album, the first one to be titled “Mechanical Bliss” for a February 1975 release, and the second one “Stiff Upper Lip” for a September 1975 release.

I use the KSAN interview selections and notes from Howard A. DeWitt’s book (1983), Van Morrison: The Mystic’s Music, as reference points in the song selections (”Definite” and “Probable”). In the later, on page 72, it is noted:

“Best Unreleased Van Morrison Album
Recorded June, 1975 at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California
Songs in Order of Recording:
I’m Not Working For You
You Move Me
When I Deliver
I Have Finally Come To Realize
Joyous Sound
Naked In The Jungle
If The Street Only Knew Your Name”

Definite:

Mechanical Bliss [stated in the KSAN interview]
Twilight Zone [so said prior to singing it in Frankfurt, W. Germany, July 8, 1974]
Naked In The Jungle [there are 2 versions of this, one recorded in Hilversum ‘74 and the other in Sausalito ‘75 –this song was also performed in concerts during this period]
Much Binding In The March [KSAN interview] [this song, an instrumental, is sometimes erroneously titled “Much Binding In The Marshes” among collectors, a title taken from a song by the English comedian Richard Murdoch; according to one source, the copyright records show it as “March”, which is clearly the title given in the KSAN interview]
Probable:

Foggy Mountain Top [performed in concerts at the time, and at The Orphanage concert 1974, prior to singing this song Van says, “This is a new song. It’s gonna be on an album sometime when they get around to crankin’ ‘em out.”]
When I Deliver
I Have Finally Come To Realise Joyous Sound Flamingoes Fly [performed on the Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert in 1974] The Street Only Knew Your Name
Possible:

Not Working For You
You Move Me [these 2 songs have a very similar sound instrumentally, both very charged “rockers” complete with stinging electric slide guitar–although it isn’t known who the guitarist is performing here, I would guess it to be Elvin Bishop, with whom Van performed at The Keystone in Berkeley CA, Dec. 30, 1974]
Down To Earth
Don’t Change On Me [as David Walker suggests, these 2 songs have a very similar “feel” to them musically as the other songs recorded in Sausalito; and to my ears, Van’s occasional fit of scream/singing in these songs also links them–see {hear} also the concert performance from the G.A.M.H. in San Francisco @April 21, 1975 where Van rips his lungs out on a medley of “St. Dominic’s Preview / Walk On The Wild Side / You Can’t Always Get What You Want”]
Western Plain [Sausalito CA 1975]
Buffyflow [live & studio? 1974]
Heathrow Shuffle [live and studio? 1974]
Caldonia
What’s Up Crazy Pup?
There There Child [performed live in 1974]
There are a number of other songs from circa 1973-75 that are possibilities, but I feel the above may be the strongest. I also omit “(I’m) Not Working For You” for the reason that due to the lyric line, “What the fuck do they care”, it is unlikely that Warner Brothers would have allowed it to appear on an album, censorally (and future release elsewhere is also doubtful, for the same reason). “You Move Me” is sparse lyrically and seems an unlikely candidate (to my ears) for inclusion on an album; it sounds like more of a workout to loosen up the band.

3. The Musicians:

Mercury Studios, New York, New York circa March/April 1974 (?):
[this is noted in the KSAN interview, and Van was playing in this area in mid-March 1974, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This may be the studio source of Caldonia and What’s Up Crazy Pup?]

Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum, Holland circa June 1974:
Van (acoustic guitar, sax, piano, harmonica), Peter Van Hooke (drums), Pete Wingfield (piano), and Jerome Rimson (bass). [At the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1974, Dallas Taylor is on drums in place of Peter Van Hooke.]

March 24-25, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco:
Bernie Krause (keyboards) and David Hayes (bass) [the other backing musicians are not readily known].

April 21, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco:
Van (sax and harmonica), Mark Jordan (keyboards), John Blakely (guitar), Tony Day (drums), and David Hayes (bass).

The Record Plant, Sausalito, California June 1975 session:
Van (sax, harmonica), Mark Jordan (piano), John Allair (piano), Smith Dobson (piano), Bernie Kraus (moog synthesizer), John Blakey (guitar), Tony Day (drums), David Hayes (bass), Judy Clay (backing vocals), Elvin Bishop?? (slide guitar).

4. The Album:
Keeping in mind the format of vinyl recordings in the mid-’70s (with a playing time of approximately 40-45 minutes), the notes above, and a lot of (perhaps erroneous) intuition, I place the track and side listing of this album as shown above…

5. The Artwork:
Thanks to John Miller for spotting this tidbit; could Van’s ‘abandoned project’ mentioned in the quote have been Mechanical Bliss?

In The Complete Guide to the Music of Steely Dan there is the following information regarding the cover art for Steely Dan’s 1976 album The Royal Scam:

“Another superb cover showed a man asleep on a Boston bus station bench as skyscrapers and angry skies towered above him. Each building had a different animal’s snarling head superimposed onto it. At the center of the cover was a king cobra about to strike at a mongoose on the neighboring edifice. The skyscrapers had been painted by Zox for a Van Morrison album cover. When Morrison abandoned his project, photographer Charlie Ganse and Ed Caraeff came up with the idea of using Ganse’s photo of the vagrant with the Zox painting. They took the photo to a Hollywood specialist and succeeded in matching the tone of the painting.”
The (completely speculative) artwork shown above was sent in by Van fan Volker Klar, who modified the artwork of the Steely Dan album. To further fan speculation on Van’s “missing album”, Volker also notes encountering a reference in a German book Rock Lexikon (Schmidt-Joos/Barry Graves, Rowohlt) from February 1975: “there is a chapter about Van Morrison with a list of albums in it. On page 244 you can find ‘[…] Stiff Upper Lip (1975)’.”

16 Responses to “Bootleg Bonanza: Van Morrison - Mechanical Bliss”

  1. Grant Says:

    Cool! Thanks for this rare Van piece, Mat - I’d heard about it but never seen it on a blog. Thanks!

  2. Tony Says:

    Many thanks for this.
    Some real gems here!

  3. Derek Says:

    Mat, the link doesn’t work - or am I missing a trick? I would really like to have this.

  4. Mat Brewster Says:

    I think you are missing the trick. What that trick is I don’t know. anybody want to give Derek some pointers?

  5. Derek Says:

    Sorry Mat, problem with browser. Now sorted! And by the way, thanks for all the Van stuff. Can’t get enough of him. Health and happiness to you and yours.

  6. Mat Brewster Says:

    Glad it got worked out. Now If I could just get my internet issues worked out. For the last two days I have gone to bed with a few shows in the queue to upload only to awaken the next morning and find they didn’t upload at all. Curses.

  7. Bruce Says:

    I haven’t listen to it yet, but the download was really fast. Thanks Mat.

  8. Jersey Tom Says:

    Having issues w/ Mega. Anyone help me out? I’m on Firefox and when I agree to Mega’s terms of service & try & download it only gets to 7% before d/l freezes. Anyone know what I’m doing wrong? Thanks x1000

  9. DylanDave Says:

    Jersey Tom,
    Hang in there I have had the odd problem with specific d/ls ‘freezing’ occasionally. Usually it resolves itself. Try another mega link or two to see if the issue is more general for you. I think these odd issues relate to the beta nature of mega and are server routing related. That’s my conclusion as i had issues in the past using Chrome browser too. Overall I find it good and haven’t had a ‘freeze’ for a while.
    I don’t know exactly why certain users have issues with particular links but I doubt whether you are doing anything wrong. If patience doesn’t work and you are despearate enough then install Chrome (don’t register!!) d/l and then uninstall and delete the Chrome setup file too, every malware cleaner i use is suspicious of it every time i scan.
    For persistent issues always update pc/antvirus/java/flash etc. If updates are pending they can have weird and unforseeable consequences!!

  10. Mat Brewster Says:

    Thanks DylanDave. Are your cleaners suspicious of Chrome in general or some kind of Mega add-on?

  11. DylanDave Says:

    Hi Mat

    I am suspicious of Chrome in general but specifically I noticed the cleaners kept spending a few minutes on the Chrome setup file every time i scanned the pc. This is NEVER a good sign. I was keeping it in case I was driven to reinstall it by the kind of issues Jersey Tom is having. In reality though I have had far fewer hassles using the Firefox MEGA extension. In fact I can’t remember the last time i had a problem and the cleaners don’t seem bothered by the mega extension at all. In short Chrome is bad news and you just don’t need it or want it on your pc.
    I can’t really understand a good reason to deal with Google at all. Unless of course you want to open up the kind of late night eating establishment which serves up classic Van boots or the equally classic Bob and blues you have put up today. I can still remember the exciting day i first heard that John Hurt Skip James radio set - I was definitely born too late and in the wrong place
    ps Chrome doesn’t have a specific MEGA extension but, by virtue of being newer it can inherently deal with the advanced protocols etc which MEGA seeks to utilise

  12. DylanDave Says:

    sorry - PS the reason MEGA released the Firefox extension is due to the presence of lots of people who agree with my view of Chrome/Google. It was a realisation that they were going to miss out on a lot of potential market share if they didn’t do something. despite Firefox being built on far older architecture the MEGA d/l speeds are comparable with Chrome

  13. Bruce Says:

    I used FireFox and had no issues. I did get a pop up warning from Firefox saying MEGA is trying to store more then 50MG on my computer and I clicked OK and it worked fine.
    It worked different then other websites. MEGA seems to download first then ask me where I want to save it. It’s always worked the opposite on all the other download sites.

  14. Mat Brewster Says:

    Interesting stuff Dave. I know lots of folks who swear by Chrome. I’ve tried it a few times but it didn’t add enough to my experience to make me switch from Firefox so I gave it up. It still exists on my computer and strangely it is the only browser that will allow me to see my bandwidth usage via my internet companies site.

    Everytime I use Mega I get several people who are having problems and a bunch more who swear by it.

  15. DylanDave Says:

    It’s not really the primary basic functionality of Google products and services I have an issue with. Also I’m sure as a fully signed up registered ‘googler’ it works a lot more smoothly and exists more peacefully on your pc. I fully realise the trade off you must accept for ‘free’ google services, personally I prefer a more transparent and ‘controllable’ model. As someone who tries to resist giving Google any more info thatn is strictly necessary the presence of Chrome on my pc proved to be a right pain, and I certainly had a more peaceful and useable plc from the moment I uninstalled it.
    However, I must add I found absolutely no evidence to suggest that MEGA works any better with Chrome, quite the contrary in fact.
    I just wish the latest Firefox update was a bit more stable with the adobe plugins, definitely work to be done there. Also the latest Flash from Adobe was an absolute shambles - faulty, incomplete install (known reported issue), I lost all sound on playback in Firefox and IE and had to manually uninstall/delete and grab an earlier version

  16. G Says:

    Great - have a version of this but trust, due to previous experience from your site, have a pretty good idea that this will sound great.
    Saw some comments about Mega - well, how to put it, can’t find any issue with it and this is/was the first time I ever used a/o tried it and it came down faster than somebody leaving his gig after he left the stage!!!
    Mega rules at The Midnight Cafe
    Thanks

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