Given where I’m from and the fact that I spent most of my lunch money on albums, I think my theme song could only be something by Belfast’s own Van Morrison. Perhaps something upbeat like “Brown Eyed Girl” which I sang to my green-eyed girl when she was a toddler, or the downright jaunty “Bright Side of the Road,” which always made me think of the terraced house I lived in off Sunnyside Street in Belfast during college. The song was so jaunty in fact, I recall it was even used as the promotional jingle for a “Belfast’s got the buzz” campaign.
The one I love the most, however, is “When the Healing has Begun,” unquestionably a tour de force on “Into the Music,” my first Van the Man LP. I bought it Ronnie Miller’s Pop-In record store in Antrim and found it much more satisfying than the school lunch I was supposed to buy instead. What a thrill to find, some twenty years later, a German import, still in its protective plastic, at Tracks on Wax a treasure trove for lovers of vinyl in Phoenix, Arizona.
I wore that song out. Literally. This was in the days before record players like mine had to compete with tape decks, CD players, and MP3 files. The days, when if I wanted to hear a song again or just the beginning of it, there was no pause or replay button, simply the knack of placing the stylus just right in the groove, in “the sweet spot,” where it would pick up the familiar repetitive rhythm, the violins, a “yeah” from Van, and then “we’ll walk down the avenue again.” Cyprus or Fitzroy … it matters not. We could be anywhere, underneath the stars. Even Van himself seems captivated by the song that takes him from a roar through a hypnotic half-mumbled slurred monologue to a barely audible whisper at the end.
I remember the first time I saw him perform it live, at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. Leaning forward from the good seats in the balcony, we knew we’d better be quiet if he was going to take this song all the way. Moving us forward with him. And he did. And the healing had begun …
And we’ll walk down the avenue in style. And we’ll walk down the avenue and we’ll smile. And we’ll say baby ‘aint it all worthwhile. When the healing has begun.