Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #32 Hard Nose The Highway

Seen some hard times
Drawn some bad lines
No time for shoeshines
Hard nose the highway

HARD NOSE THE HIGHWAY: The title track of the first album over which Morrison said he had total artistic control is a stirring and powerful statement of intent. “Put your money where your mouth is / Then we can get something going,” he sings.


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



Hard Nose the Highway is the seventh studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, released in 1973 (see 1973 in music).

The title song, “Hard Nose the Highway” is explained by Morrison as: “the theme running through the whole song is ‘Seen some hard times’ which I have ‘Drawn some fine lines’ which I definitely have, and ‘No time for shoe shines’ when you’re trying to make a living.”



  • Van Morrison – acoustic guitar, vocals
  • Jack Schroer – tenor, alto, baritone and soprano saxophones
  • Jules Broussard – tenor saxophone, flute
  • Joseph Ellis – trumpet on “Hard Nose the Highway” and “Bein’ Green”
  • Bill Atwood – trumpet
  • Nathan Rubin – violin
  • Zaven Melikian – violin
  • Nancy Ellis – viola
  • Theresa “Terry” Adams – cello
  • John Tenney – violin
  • Michael Gerling – violin
  • Jef Labes – piano
  • John Platania – guitar
  • David Hayes – bass
  • Gary Mallaber – vibraphone, drums
  • Rick Shlosser – drums
  • Jackie De Shannon – backing vocals on “Warm Love” and “Hard Nose the Highway”
  • SPIRIT, MORALE AND LAUGHTER – Ed Fletcher (alias Iversen)


  • Producer: Van Morrison
  • Engineers: Neil Schwartz, Jim Stern
  • Arrangers: Van Morrison, Jef Labes (strings), Jack Schroer, (horns)
  • Album Cover Art: Rob Springett


  • Known Performances: 67
  • First performance: February 15, 1973 San Anselmo, US
  • Last performance: August 4, 2019 Boston, US

Los Angeles 1973:


San Anselmo 1973:


Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic’s Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion.”
– Stephen Holden(1973 Rolling Stone magazine)

During the recording sessions held between August and November 1972, there were nearly thirty songs recorded in all, at least three quarters of them original compositions. A few leftover tracks were saved or re-recorded for future albums like Veedon Fleece, but most would not see release until 1998’s compilation of outtakes, The Philosopher’s Stone, when nine of the songs would be used. Biographer Clinton Heylin suggested that “only ‘Warm Love’ and ‘Hard Nose the Highway‘ could have sat comfortably alongside ‘rejects’ like ‘Madame Joy’, ‘Bulbs’, ‘Spare Me a Little’, ‘Country Fair’, ‘Contemplation Rose’ and ‘Drumshanbo Hustle’.”

The 7 minute version from the bootleg, The Genuine Philosopher’s Stone 3 (55:48 in):



Hey kids dig the first takes
Ain’t that some inspiration
When Sinatra sings against Nelson Riddle strings
Then takes a vacation


Seen some hard times
Drawn some bad lines
No time for shoeshines
Hard nose the highway


I was tore down at the dead’s place
Shaved head at the organ
But that wasn’t half as bad as it was oh no
Belfast and Boston


Put your money where your mouth is
Then we can get something going
In order to win you must be prepared to lose sometime
And leave one or two cards showing

Live versions

Manchester, England – 1994


Cover Versions

Milton, NY, 2007:


Vernon Webb, NY, 2013:


  • Wikipedia
  • Heylin, Clinton (2003). Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography
  • (wonderful website for VM statistics)