Glossary entry for
The Band

The following description is taken without permission from the liner notes of To Kingdom Come: The Definitive Collection, which were written by Rob Bowman, "Journalist/Musicologist."
"4% Pantomime" was a fortunate one-off stroke of mastery. Co-written by Van Morrison and Robbie [Robertson] and sung by Van and Richard [Manuel], it was the result of a chance visit by then Woodstock resident Morrison to Robbie's house one afternoon. Robbie was in the process of writing a song, Van jumped in, and 'voila'.

It was recorded in one take that same night. The title refers partially to the difference between Johnny Walker Black and Johnny Walker Red and partly to the incredible visual performance of Van and Richard.

"Van and Richard were acting this whole thing out," described Robbie. "For a second when I was watching it, it became soundless and it became all visuals -- people's hands and veins and people's necks. It was almost like this movement thing was going on and the music was carrying itself."

The vocal performance is unbelievably soulful. Van and Richard wail like two great Irish poets on fire.

Robbie agreed: "It's bizarre and wild. It was a lot of fun to do it. It was an archive kind of thing that we actually put on record. I didn't know whether it ever meant anything to anybody else besides us because it was kind of a personal experience going on at the time." ("4% Pantomime", incidentally, contains the first reference to Van as the "Belfast Cowboy").

Details on the recordings of "4% Pantomime" and other Van/Band connections can be found in two books: Across the Great Divide: The Band in America by Barney Hoskyns, and This Wheel's On Fire by Levon Helm.

From contributions by Hugh Marshall and Jim Chiarelli

In the book Across The Great Divide: The Band and America there is a little excerpt describing Van's appearance in the movie The Last Waltz:

Van who was due next, almost didn't make The Last Waltz. "Twenty minutes before he was to go on he just disappeared" Harvey said who at the time had the thankless task of managing the man. "He ran back to the hotel, decided he didn't look right, and changed. Then he wasn't going to do it. He literally went to the hotel, got him back and virually pushed him on the stage." As Van was thrust on, John Simon was at the piano and Richard had just finished the second verse of a soulful Irish lullaby "To Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra" - for Dr. John the highlight of the the whole evening.

It was no wonder that he'd been concerned about his appearance, squeezed as his stumpy figure was into a hideous maroon suit. As for so many of the participants, The Last Waltz marked for Van a high watermark of sartorial bad taste in the 70's. But once he opened his mouth and let out his first roar, all the fears were dispelled and he instantly became as integral a part of the preceedings as anyone else. "It was one of the most magical performances I've ever seen him do" Harvey says.

Contributed by Rick K Maddox

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