Van Morrison Bob Sarlin - Essay

Bob Sarlin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[TB Sheets] is, substantially, a rerelease of Morrison's 1967 solo album …, Blowin' Your Mind, the album that produced "Brown Eyed Girl."…

For Morrison fans this album is a necessary addition to the collection. For those who've never heard the [earlier] releases except for the ubiquitous "Brown Eyed Girl," it should be an exciting listening experience, defining some of the unfilled corners of this man's development as an artist. (p. 69)

The title tune, "T. B. Sheets" is a nightmare set to music. The liner notes explain that Van broke down in tears after recording this memory of life with a girl dying of tuberculosis. Whether or not this girl lived in Van's flat or his imagination, this song to her remains an amazing document. Here he tries to reconcile the emotions summoned up when someone is dying young: the bitterness, the sorrow, the disgust and the anger. A painful track and worth crying over. You can, indeed, almost smell Julie's T. B. sheets and it's not a pleasant experience—but it's a claustrophobic killer of a song.

"Ro Ro Rosey" is a throwaway rock number, sister to "Brown Eyed Girl," which follows and caps the album. But even here, in throwaway land, Van's lyrical qualities have a way of peeking out from behind the crass…. [A] bit of Irish folk song slips into even this mindless little number.

The same Irish poetry dominates "Brown Eyed Girl," a fabulous and innovative single when it first appeared and still a delightful song…. Here, replete with falsetto choir, clearly structured music and charming, wild poetic lyrics is the essence of the early, the middle, the late, the eternal Van Morrison. (p. 70)

Bob Sarlin, "Records: 'T. B. Sheets'," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1974 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all right reserved; reprinted by permission), April, 1974, pp. 69-70.