"Summertime in England
" is the longest song on Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison
album, Common One
and is approximately 15 minutes long. Although the album this appeared on was not successful critically or commercially, this song would be performed by Morrison in concert for almost 2½ decades and took on new meaning when live. The song was also released as the B-side of the 1983 single "Cry for Home". Brian Hinton believes "The song leaves most classical rock fusions dead in the water.
Van Morrison on "Summertime in England"
- "["Summertime in England"] was actually part of a poem I was writing, and the poem and the song sorta merged... I'd read several articles about this particular group of poets who were writing about this particular thing, which I couldn't find in the framework I was in.
Morrison originally wrote the song as a poem about William Wordsworth
and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
making a literary trip to the Lake District
where they worked together on the poems that were to become their landmark joint venture, Lyrical Ballads
. The lyrics also refer to Jesus
walking down by Avalon
— an allusion by William Blake
with the lines: "And did these feet in ancient time/Walk upon England's mountain green?" The lyrics verge between several layers of consciousness but always return to the central occurrence of a day in the country that the singer spent with his sweetheart and/or daughter.
The song ends with the lines:
- Put your head on my shoulder
- and you listen to the silence
- Can you feel the silence?
Clinton Heylin, one of Morrison's biographers, obviously took the title of his best-selling book from this line and is also referring to Morrison's famously uncommunicative nature. (except in his music)
Rehearsing and recording
Morrison started rehearsing "Summertime in England" in November and December of 1979 along with "Haunts of Ancient Peace" at club gigs in the San Francisco
area. According to Mick Cox, guitarist
, "we did 'Haunts' and 'Summertime in England' in 4/4 time...Van brought it right down at the end to nothing, so he's just saying, 'Can you feel the Silence?' but he's still keeping the beat, and then Pee Wee Ellis
takes his mouthpiece off and Mark Isham
takes his mouthpiece off, and they're both making quiet percussive noises in time to the rhythm." Cox felt like the rehearsal performances were "far better than the final recordings." The song on the album was recorded at a studio in the French Alps
and according to Mick Cox the second take was the one on the album. The spoken section is in 3/4 time that begins with John Allair's church organ fugue
Personnel on original release
Appearance on other albums, videos and DVDs
- A live performance of "Summertime in England" as performed by Morrison with most of the Common One band members is featured on the 2006 released DVD, Live At Montreux 1980/1974.
- "Summertime in England" is also one of the songs performed in 1989, on Morrison's second video Van Morrison The Concert, released in 1990.
- Heylin, Clinton (2003). Can You Feel the Silence? Van Morrison: A New Biography, Chicago Review Press ISBN 1-55652-542-7
- Hinton, Brian (1997). Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, Sanctuary, ISBN 1-86074169X