Glossary entry for
Just who Justin is, or whether there ever was an actual person named Justin
remains a bit of a mystery. It is worth noting that the lyrics to "In The Days
Before Rock and Roll" were written by Belfast poet Paul Durcan together with Van
Morrison, and from the way they divide the song up, it was probably Paul who
wrote the "Justin" references.
Hoping to solve the mystery, I went to an event billed as the "Poetry Bash" at
the 1995 "Vancouver International Writer's Festival". The Writer's Festival is a
great event, and the "Poetry Bash" is always a sell-out. I usually go, but this
year I was particularly keen because Paul Durcan was one of the poets on the
I printed out the lyrics, and planned to corner him to ask what the story
was behind "Justin", who is mentioned in the song. At the reading he read
several pieces (which were great - he has a very sly humour, and a kind of
quiet, self-deprecating manner). And his voice was definitely recognizable
to anyone who has heard the song (although I doubt that there were many
people there who had made the connection).
At the break, I went up, clutching my lyrics. The person I was with had a
book she wanted signed, which he did. When it was my turn, I asked about
Justin, with visions of clearing up the mystery once and for all. But I'm
afraid that the mystery remains. Paul Durcan answered as I'm sure most
creative writers would have, to the effect that there was no one Justin
that the poem referred to, that poetry didn't always have a "meaning" per
se. Makes sense I suppose, but it would have been nice it he had been
willing to go into a bit more about the creative process etc - how it was
co-writing a song with Van Morrison for example. Maybe if the setting had
been different: a pub perhaps...
To further fuel speculation, one Van mailing list member recently said that she
believes Justin was a pirate radio operator in England in the 1960s, which would
seem to fit the lyrics quite nicely. Another member speculates further in that vein,
suggesting that "Justin" might be a reference to (or a pseudonym for) fellow Irishman
Ronan O'Rahilly, Georgie Fame's first manager, and founder of the offshore pirate
radio station Radio Caroline. Hence the last words of the song, "Come aboard".
It would be interesting to be able to
confirm (or refute) this from some other source.
More information available at:
Van references in:
Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website