Fans of Van Morrison will know him for his soulful, bluesy sound that has captivated audiences for decades. However one of his lesser-known tracks, “Streets of Arklow,” is a hidden gem that showcases Morrison’s talents as both a songwriter and performer.
Released in 1974 as part of his album “Veedon Fleece,” “Streets of Arklow” is a mellow tune that features Morrison’s trademark vocals, backed by a smooth piano and horn section. The song describes a perfect day in “God’s green land”. It is a homage to a holiday trip Morrison took to Arklow in 1973. Many fans would struggle to pin the small coastal town in County Wicklow on a map but the love the Belfast-born singer has for the location shines through from start to finish.
“And as we walkedThrough the streets of Arklow Oh the color Of the day wore on And our heads Were filled with poetry And the morning A-comin’ on to dawn”
The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of the town, with Morrison describing the “little streets where oil lamps spread a yellow light” and the “old Georgian houses looking down on you.” He sings of the town’s history and its connection to the sea, with lines like “Sailin’ boats on the river flow”, “Blossoms on the hawthorn tree” and “Springtime comin.”
The track is dotted with a sense of nostalgia and longing as if he is reminiscing about his youth and the memories he made. It captures the essence of small-town life and the simple pleasures that can be found in a close-knit community.
“And as we walkedThrough the streets of Arklow And gay perfusion In God’s green land And the gypsy’s rode With their hearts on fire They say “we love to wander”
Musically, “Streets of Arklow” is a departure from Morrison’s more upbeat, soulful tracks. The song is a slow, languid ballad that allows his vocals to take center stage. The horn section provides a warm, rich backdrop, while the piano adds a delicate touch that perfectly complements Morrison’s voice.
One of the most striking elements of the song is Morrison’s use of imagery. He describes the town with such detail and nuance that listeners can almost picture themselves walking down the streets of Arklow. He sings of the “tumbled down walls” and the “old pawn shop on the corner” with a sense of affection and familiarity as if he was a long-time resident.
“And as we walkedThrough the streets of Arklow In a drenching beauty Rolling back ’til the day And I saw your eyes They was shining, sparkling crystal clear”
“Streets of Arklow” may not be one of Morrison’s most well-known tracks, but it is a testament to his talent as a songwriter and musician. The song showcases his ability to tell a story with his music, and his deep connection to his roots in Ireland.
In many ways, “Streets of Arklow” is a love letter to small-town life. Morrison sings of the simple pleasures that can be found in a close-knit community, and the beauty of a town steeped in history and tradition. The song is a reminder that sometimes the most meaningful experiences can be found in the places we call home.
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