Let Me Hear the Song

I love the “La, la, la’s” on the Van Morrison song ‘Caravan’, which was released on his third studio album Moondance from 1970.  Moondance peaked at #29 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart and the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.  ‘Caravan’ includes images and impressions from different parts of Morrison’s life, including his observations of gypsy life.  On another song from this album ‘Into The Mystic’ Van Morrison sings, “I want to rock your gypsy soul” and he also recorded ‘Gypsy Queen’ and ‘Gypsy’.  After Van Morrison left Them, where he had hits with ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here Comes the Night’, Jackie and Pat McAuley recorded an album titled Belfast Gypsies.  Bob Dylan wrote a song ‘Went to See the Gypsy’ on his New Morning album and many people feel that he was inspired by Van Morrison.  ‘Caravan’ is about merry gypsies and campfires and turning up your radio to enjoy the music better.  Van Morrison is from Ireland, a Belfast-native, and there gypsies are known as travelers.

Van Morrison spent 1970 and 1971 in Woodstock, New York, and he met The Band when he was in LA in 1970, where he ran into his Woodstock neighbor, Robbie Robertson.  Van was invited to play with The Band on their fourth album, the critically reviled CAHOOTS.  The line “turn up your radio” from ‘Caravan’ was inspired from the time he spent in Woodstock with his then-wife, Janet Planet where the nearest house was far down the road, and after that they moved to a hilltop home in Fairfax, California.  Janet Planet seems to have believed in fortune telling which was popular with gypsies, as she wanted to leave Van because their babysitter had gone to a fortune teller who had a vision that astronauts had seen a piece of California break off into the ocean and then Janet had a dream that the Big One was going to hit their house in Marin County.

His reference to the radio becomes a symbol of simple contentment, joy, and pure hope, or it can be a clenched-fist triumph, producing heavenly cheerful sounds.  Morrison believes that radio can open a door to understanding others, and that it is even capable of bringing people closer together through the universal language of music, and that sentiment is what makes this song infectious.  This song mentions a caravan that is filled with his friends, and they stay with him till the end.  Gypsies have seemingly carefree attitudes which seems strange to most people and the word “Gypsy” is actually derived from the word “Egyptian”, based on the assumption that these travelling people came from the Middle East.

Gypsies first appeared in Europe in the fifteenth century with the collapse of feudalism, and during this time many people in Europe took to the road, banding together for a number of mobile occupations and they traveled in caravans.  Life has not been easy for gypsies, as in the British Isles up to 1793 you could be hanged just for being a Gypsy.  The Nazis eliminated a quarter of a million Gypsies in concentration camps because they were seen as a ’foreign element’.  Even today in communist states travelling gypsies are banned and their wagons may be seized and destroyed.  It is certainly not the happy life that Van Morrison sings about moving from the gypsy campfire to his lover and back again.

“Emma Rose” is a very popular first-middle-name in Ireland and it means Beautiful.  Van Morrison rose to prominence in the mid-1960s as the lead singer of the Northern Irish R&B band Them, with whom he recorded the garage band classic ‘Gloria’.  His solo career began under the pop-hit oriented guidance of Bert Berns with the release of the hit single ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in 1967.  It is thought that Van wrote ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ about Janet Planet who was a very attractive brown-eyed girl.  Nick Hornsby has requested that ‘Caravan’ should be played at his funeral.  Van Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Yeah the caravan is on its way
I can hear the merry gypsies play
Mama mama look at Emma Rose
She’s a-playin with the radio
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
Yeah the caravan has all my friends
Yeah they’ll stay with me until the end
Gypsy Robin, Sweet Emma Rose
Tell me everything I need to know
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
Turn up your radio
And let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long to hold you tight so I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you
Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher radio
Turn it up, turn it up, so you know, radio
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
Yeah the caravan is painted red and white
That means everybody’s staying overnight
Yeah, a barefoot gypsy player round the campfire sing and play
And a woman tells us of her ways
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la
Turn up your radio and let me hear the song
Switch on your electric light
Then we can get down to what is really wrong
I long just to hold you tight so maybe I can feel you
Sweet lady of the night I shall reveal you
Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher, radio
Turn it up, that’s enough, so you know it’s got soul
Radio, radio turn it up, hum
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

Written for Song Lyric Sunday La a Note to Follow So.

24 thoughts on “Let Me Hear the Song

  1. Love this song…I always thought it should have been a single. I’ve played this song a few times…always had good reactions from audiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was such a fun Song Lyric Sunday for me as the “la” songs were really good this week. I got a chance to do some research on Van Morrison which I enjoyed and I am happy with the way that my post on this song turned out. This would have made a great single, but it did get some airplay after the Last Waltz. I am still waiting to hear some of your music.

      Like

  2. Most interesting back story on this one.I can’t help but laugh when I think of the ‘big one’ taking Fairfax off the map as it is quite a distance from the coast, Makes me wonder if Janet didn’t have some other ulterior motives…..

    Liked by 1 person

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