Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #49 Cleaning Windows

I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon
On the street where I was born
Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee,
Muddy Waters singin’ “I’m A Rolling Stone”
I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys’ book on Zen
Curiosity killed the cat
Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” and “On The Road”

TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Quotes
  3. Lyrics
  4. Live versions
  5. Cover versions

Facts

 

Wikipedia:

Cleaning Windows” is a song written by the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, recorded on his 1982 album Beautiful Vision.The version of “Cleaning Windows” that was released as a single and was included on the 1982 album was recorded at the Record Plant Studios in Sausalito, California on 27 July 1981.

 

According to Steve Turner in “Cleaning Windows” “Van sketched the details of his life during 1961 and 1962, and captured the balance between his contentment at work and his aspirations to learn more about music. It conveyed the impression that his happiness with the mundane routine of smoking Woodbine cigarettes, eating Paris buns and drinking lemonade was made possible by the promise that at the end of the day he could enter the world of books and records…”

Other releases:

Morrison chose “Cleaning Windows” to be one of the songs included on The Best of Van Morrison, his first “Best of” album, which was released in 1990. A live version was performed on the 1984 album Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast. As performed at the Austin City Limits Festival on 15 September 2006 it is included on the limited-edition album Live at Austin City Limits Festival. It has been re-mastered in 2007 and included on the compilation album Still on Top – The Greatest Hits. “Cleaning Windows” is also one of the songs performed in 1989, on Morrison’s second video Van Morrison: The Concert, released in 1990. A previously unreleased version of this song features on the 2008 reissue of the 1994 live double album A Night in San Francisco.

Allmusic:

In keeping with the Morrison sprit, the lyrics are just allowed to flow, the song singing the singer (or, rather, the music pouring through), relatively unadulterated or fussed over. This is also the theme of the song: working, reading, making music, not getting too heavy or heady, but learning about life and enjoying the freedom that comes with being out on one’s own. (Bill Janovitz)

Musicians

  • Van Morrison – vocals
  • John Allair – organ
  • Pee Wee Ellis – tenor and baritone saxophones
  • Mark Isham – trumpet
  • Mark Knopfler – guitar
  • Gary Mallaber – drums
  • Chris Michie – lead guitar
  • Michele Segan – percussion
  • Rob Wasserman – bass

Production

  • Producer: Van Morrison
  • Engineers: Jim Stern and Hugh Murphy
  • Assistant Engineer: Ann Fry

Live:

  • Known Performances: 756 (28. July, 2020), 133 times as part of a medley
  • First performance: 27th of July 1981
  • Last performance: 7th of February 2020

Here is the Midem France 1984 live version:

Quotes

– The Telegraph (2016)

 

“Hung on a metaphor as clear as glass, ‘Cleaning Windows’ applies one night’s notions to a lifetime. It’s the LP’s musical highlight as well, with a guitar-organ combination reminiscent of the Band, and a jumping sax solo to boot. Shaking himself awake each morning, the dedicated romantic looks to see how he’s grown. Peppered with fraternal details that recall ‘And It Stoned Me,’ ‘Cleaning Windows’ boldly restates the self-help maxim that you are your own best friend.”
– John Milward (Rolling Stone Magazine, 1982)

The message of the song is simple – the window cleaner’s happy in his work – and the lyrical vignettes combined with delicate, upbeat R&B (with Mark “That ain’t working” Knopfler on guitar) convey that feeling wonderfully.
-Paul Macinnis (The Guardian)

Lyrics

Oh, the smell of the bakery from across the street
Got in my nose
As we carried our ladders down the street
With the wrought-iron gate rows
I went home and listened to Jimmie Rodgers in my lunch-break
Bought five Woodbines at the shop on the corner
And went straight back to work.

Oh, Sam was up on top
And I was on the bottom with the V
We went for lemonade and Paris buns
At the shop and broke for tea
I collected from the lady
And I cleaned the fanlight inside-out
I was blowing saxophone on the weekend
In that down joint.

What’s my line?
I’m happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I’ll see you when my love grows
Baby don’t let it slide
I’m a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows (number a hundred and thirty-six)

I heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon
On the street where I was born
Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee,
Muddy Waters singin’ “I’m A Rolling Stone”
I went home and read my Christmas Humphreys’ book on Zen
Curiosity killed the cat
Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” and “On The Road”

What’s my line?
I’m happy cleaning windows
Take my time
I’ll see you when my love grows
Baby don’t let it slide
I’m a working man in my prime
Cleaning windows

Live versions

Rockpalast Germany 1982

 

Van Morrison with The Jim Condie Band 1988 – Fife Aid (near St. Andrews):

Cover Versions

Jason Wilson Band with Pee Wee Ellis – Cleaning Windows (Toronto, 2008):

 

Jon Knight & Soulstack Live at The Bar(n) (outside Ottawa, 2015):

 

Check out:

Sources

-Hallgeir

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