Van Morrison’s 50 Greatest Songs Countdown – #29 A Sense of Wonder

I walked in my greatcoat
Down through the days of the leaves.
No before after, yes after before
We were shining our light into
The days of blooming wonder

TOC

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

Facts


Wikipedia:

From the album “A Sense of Wonder” released in 1985.

Musicians (album)

Live:

  • Known Performances: 109
  • First performance: October 14, 1984 in Cardiff, Wales
  • Last performance: July 14, 1997 in Hamburg, Germany

Here is the Hamburg 1997 version:

Quotes

‘A Sense of Wonder’ is, of course further testament to Van’s belief in the existence of a higher power; but alongside his preoccupation with the “eternal presence” and “fiery visions”, the song also documents Morrison’s fascination with eating. He concludes with spoken recitation, in the compelling and quietly unique Celtic-American burr, listing a litany of half-remembered meals and childhood snacks: pastie suppers, Wagon Wheels, snowballs…
–> Patrick Humphries, The Complete Guide to the Music of Van Morrison

“A Sense of Wonder” is hymnal, written for friends’ children, and goes back to Van’s own youthful translation into eternity, “the eternal presence, in the presence of the flame”. He calls his love “Philosophy”, just like that odd stray Them track. “Told you, darling, all along, I was right and you were wrong”. Van returns to the rich specifics of his childhood, which he can somehow make seem like our own. The details change, but the glow of recollection is universal. “The man who played the saw outside city hall. Pastie suppers down at Davey’s chipper, gravy rings, barnbracks, wagon wheels, snowballs. A Sense of Wonder.” Similarly wondrous is the backing by Moving Hearts, the electric counterpart to Planxty, with Donal Lunny and Christy Moore its original twin pilots. Van Morrison and Moving Hearts in concert, now there’s a thought. ..
–> Brian Hinton, Celtic Crossroads – The Art of Van Morrison

Among Morrison’s finest songs of the decade, it’s a metaphysical meditation which moves from the esoteric (“You may call my love Sophia, I call my love philosophy,”) to the deeply personal. Unfolding languidly over seven minutes, it returns Morrison once again to a vividly reimagined Belfast childhood. Working towards a mood of ecstatic nostalgia, the singer summons up humdrum memories and elevates them to the epiphanic: “Pastie suppers down at Davey’s chipper/Gravy rings, barmbracks, Wagon Wheels, Snowballs… a sense of wonder.”
In contrast to the album’s otherwise polite, familiar blend of soul, jazz and R’n’B, “A Sense of Wonder” features Irish folk-rock collective Moving Hearts, led by bouzouki wizard Donal Lunny and Uilleann piper David Spillane. ..
–> Graeme Tomson, The Ultimate Music Guide – Van Morrison  (UNCUT Magazine)

The title track is seven minutes of Van at his best – or at least pretty close to it. It is a lovely, picturesque number, which is characterised by the floating keyboard and charming female backing vocals. A Sense of Wonder is a thoroughly uplifting song, which begins with Van putting on his greatcoat. Of course, donning a greatcoat has far more impact than telling everyone you’re slapping on the old waterproofs.  It isn’t that clear to me whether Van goes on a trek through his past and/or delving into his spirituality. What is palpably clear is that the song makes a superb title track where the 7+ minutes fly by and the tale winds down with its closing, sentimental imagery. Van sounds in an upbeat, yet reflective mood, which works a treat.
–> Mark Holmes, Van Morrison 20 Best Albums: A Guide (Kindle Edition)

Lyrics

I walked in my greatcoat
Down through the days of the leaves.
No before after, yes after before
We were shining our light into
The days of blooming wonder
In the eternal presence,
In the presence of the flame.

Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision bright
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame.

On and on and on and on we kept singing our song
Over newtonards and comber,
Gransha and the Ballystockart Road.
This spike an boffyflow
I said I could describe the leaves
For Samuel and Felicity
Rich, red browny, half burnt orange and green.

Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision bright
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame.

It’s easy to describe the leaves in the autumn
And it’s oh so easy in the spring
But down through January and February
It’s a very different thing.

On and on and on, through the winter of our discontent.
When the wind blows up the collar and the ears are frostbitten too
I said I could describe the leaves for Samuel and what it means to you and me
You may call my love Sophia, but I call my love philosophy.

Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame.

Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder
Didn’t I come to lift your fiery vision
Didn’t I come to bring you a sense of wonder in the flame.

Wee Alfie at the castle picture house on the Castlereagh Road.
Whistling on the corner next door where
He kept Johnny McBride’s horse.
O solo mio by Mcgimsey
And the man who played the saw
Outside the city hall.
Pastie suppers down at Davey’s chipper
Gravy rings, wagon wheels, barmbracks, snowballs.

A sense of wonder
A sense of wonder
A sense of wonder

Live versions

November 13, 1984 – BBC Studios, London, UK

 

December 17, 1984 – San Francisco, US

 

March 7, 1985 – Sydney, Australia

 

March 1988, Voss, Norway

 

July 24, 1988 – St. Andrews, Scotland

 

Sources

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