Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #33 Fair Play

Fair play to you
Killarney’s lakes are so blue
And the architecture I’m taking in with my mind
So fine

TOC

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

Facts


Wikipedia:

The opening track on the 1974 album Veedon Fleece, it derived its name from Morrison’s Irish friend, Donall Corvin’s repeated use of the Irish colloquialism “fair play to you” as a wry compliment. The 3/4 ballad name checks Oscar WildeEdgar Allan Poe and Henry David Thorea, and according to Morrison, the song derived from “what was running through his head”, and marked a return to the stream of consciousness channeled song-writing that had not been evident since several of the songs contained in his 1972 album Saint Dominic’s Preview.

Allmusic describes the song as “a jazzy folk song which opens the album with soft strains of an acoustic guitar, upright bass, and natural-sounding piano that slowly start to come to life”. The aforementioned sounds were described as “the kinds of sounds that bring to mind an autumn Sunday morning, when things seem rested, meditative, solid, and complete”. As Veedon fleece is often overlooked in favor of critically lauded Van Morrison’s first major artistic breakthrough Astral Weeks, the album still picks up where the former record left off and more fully realizes the spiritual and musical quests set forth on Astral Weeks. The song is also described as deep, and “a soul number in the literal sense of the term”.

Musicians

  • Van Morrison – vocal, guitar
  • Ralph Walsh – guitar
  • David Hayes – bass
  • Dahaud Shaar (David Shaw) – drums
  • Nathan Rubin – violin
  • Terry Adams – viola
  • James Rothermel – flute, recorder
  • Jack Schroer – soprano saxophone
  • James Trumbo – piano
Production
  • Producer: Van Morrison
  • Engineers: Jim Stern, Dahaud Shaar (David Shaw), Jean Shaar, Elvin Campbell
  • Photography: Tom Collins
  • Art Direction: Ed Caraeff
  • Arrangements: Van Morrison, Jef Labes (string and woodwind)
  • Remastering: Ian Cooper, Walter Samuel

Live:

  • Known Performances: 60
  • First performance: June 20, 2009 in Bristol, UK
  • Last performance: October 24, 2017 in San Francisco, US

Here are the Bristol 2009 version:

And here the San Francisco 2017 version:

Quotes

In album opener `Fair Play, he uses a strange, back-of-the-throat style, which brings a kind of watery, melancholic smile to the tone of his voice. The key lyrics in this song are, unexpectedly, `architecture, `Geronimo’ and the line `only one meadow’s way to go. That `o’ sound is central to the slow wisdom of this performance, formance, the voice possessed of sensual openness which is also at one remove from the appetites and rhythmic diktats of the body. The voice does not simply suggest or reflect this state of temperate bliss, it somehow is it. Thus the appeal to the mind offered and requested by `Tell me of Poe / Oscar Wilde and Thoreau’ is also physically slow and sensuous. He doubles `mystery’ (2.12) and at 2.38-45 allows the word `dream’ to slide into a soft mist of sound, as he does on the `love that loves to love section of `Madame George.
–> Peter Mills. Hymns to the Silence: Inside the Words and Music of Van Morrison

It’s title adapted from an expression favoured by a friend, “Fair Play” opens the album with an oddly graceful tumble of references and ruminations ranging from Poe and Thoreau to the Lone Ranger and Geronimo. Ambling along the path created by Hayes’ bassline and James Trumbo’s exquisite piano part, Morrison returns to the world of his boyhood and the paperbacks that fuelled his imagination.
–> Jason Anderson – The Ultimate Music Guide Van Morrison (UNCUT Magazine)

Lyrics

Fair play to you
Killarney’s lakes are so blue
And the architecture I’m taking in with my mind
So fine

Tell me of Poe
Oscar Wilde and Thoreau
Let your midnight and your daytime turn into love of life
It’s a very fine line
But you’ve got the mind child
To carry on
When it’s just about to be
Carried on

And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And you say “Geronimo”
There’s only one meadow’s way to go
And you say “Geronimo”

A paperback book
As we walk down the street
Fill my mind with tales of mystery, mystery
And imagination

Forever fair
And I’m touching your hair
I wish we could be dreamers
In this dream, oh
Let it dream

And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And you say “Geronimo”
And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And you say “Geronimo”

Fair play to you
Killarney’s lakes are so blue
High-ho silver, tit for tat
And I love you for that
High-ho silver, tit for tat
And I love you for that, love you for that, love you for that
High-ho silver, tit for tat, tit for tat
And I love you for that
High-ho silver, tit for tat, hah!
Yeah, yeah
And I love you for that

And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And I, and I say “Geronimo”
And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And we say “Geronimo”
Geronimo
And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And we say Geronimo
And there’s only one meadow’s way to go
And we say Geronimo

Fair play to you

Live versions

July 18, 2010 – Peer, Belgium

 

August 7, 2010 – Rogers Place, Vancouver

 

October 24, 2010 – RAH, London, UK

 

November 12, 2011 – Manchester, UK

 

Cover Versions

Ryley Walker

Sources

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