At Easter in 1963, I was traveling home to ‘Blighty’ on leave from Sennelager (near Padderborn) where I was stationed, in what was then West Germany.
I traveled by train with another ‘Squaddie’ who had invited me to spend time at his family home near Guildford for the few precious days afforded us by B.O.A.R. (British Army on the Rhine). Our journey across that part of Europe was made by train and although ‘skint’, we decided that we should stop-over in Paris before catching our ferry to Dover.
Easter time in Europe can it seems, either be bloody hot or bitterly cold. Sadly for us, it was the latter. This I remember to this day, mainly because I was wearing a lightweight suit, both fashionable (No collar on the Bum Freezer jacket) as well as impractical and on reflection was, in both senses of the word, ‘cool’
I cannot recall much about Paris on this short visit that is worthy of note, other than a mandatory visit to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. I imagine that in those days, the price of a ticket was not as extortionate as it is today otherwise I would not be recounting this tale.
Arriving at the bleak viewing platform, for that is what is was then, I was not surprised to find that apart from the two of us, there was nobody else there other than some other unfortunate guys looking equally as frozen as we were. I immediately recognised who they were and as seems the accepted custom between public and celebrities, walked across to make sure that they indeed knew who they were. “You’re ‘Them’, I barked accusingly.
And indeed, they were!
The next time that I met Van Morrison was over 20 years later at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho where, as the guest of the legendary Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, he sang ‘Send in the Clowns’. Sadly this was to be Baker’s last live appearance before his tragic death in Amsterdam.
As for ‘Van the Man’, I am sure that he would agree with both me and Dave Barry that, but for our chance meeting high above Paris, he would have not have realised that ‘They’ were in fact ‘Them’ and ‘Their’ future would have turned out badly!
NB: I recommend VM’s “Scandinavia” for anyone who has not had the pleasure of hearing his wonderful ‘spiritual’ piece of music. Go well, Nuffzed! I share this article originally posted in ‘The WallStreet Journal’ for all Van Morrison fans.