Pay The Devil by Van Morrison


When I lived in Tunbridge Wells, I became friendly with Nicholas, who lived next door. At thirteen years old, he was a year younger than me but I was too naïve to form an opinion about whether or not I liked him. At some point, his parents told my parents that Nicholas had a table tennis table in the garage and Nicholas would like to play some games with me. I dutifully went to play at least once a week for a year or more and I quite enjoyed the games and not just because I normally (but not always) won. We developed a few schoolboy jokes such as singing the first five notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony whenever the score was 18-12. Something to do with an overture by Tchaikovsky I think. After a while though, I got fed up with playing him because every time I won, he would call me a cheat. He sort of meant it – it wasn’t aggressive but he would just shout “cheat” at me, we’d say a few words and then I would come back home to the sanctuary of my bedroom. In the end I decided that I didn’t want to play any more because the temper tantrums of a bad loser are a bit tedious as we are finding out today on the world stage.

On a much more humourous note, a very good friend of mine once had twenty friends playing a game at his house. He was on a different team to his ten year old daughter who won the game by saying “Tom Cruise” at which point my friend shouted “cheat” at his daughter. The good natured condemnation that followed brought shame on my friend and covered his daughter in even more glory. It’s not something that I ever remind him of (more than once every couple of months).

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” was written by Hank Williams in 1952. In 1944 he had married Audrey Mae Sheppard who had recently been divorced. She started playing bass in his band. However, Hank Williams found that he could only cope with the combination of a bad back and fame by excessive dependence on alcohol and morphine. As a result he divorced from Audrey Sheppard in 1952. Soon after his divorce, he started dating Billie Jean Jones, who was, at the time, dating Faron Young, a well known country singer. Whilst driving from his mother’s house in Nashville to Billie Jean Jones’ parents’ house in Shreveport, Hank Williams started talking about his previous marriage and described Audrey Sheppard as having “a cheatin’ heart”. He started making up lyrics and Billie Jean Jones wrote down the lyrics in a notebook. Hank Williams died on January 1st 1953 and the official cause of death was “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart”. Oh, the irony. “The time will come when you’ll be blue. Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.”

“Pay The Devil” was the thirty second studio album released by Van Morrison and it consists of twelve country standards along with three original compositions. Among the highlights are an outstanding version of Rodney Crowell’s “Till I Gain Control Again” which was a Country Number One for Crystal Gale and was also on “Blood” by This Mortal Coil. As always with a Van Morrison album, if you like a powerful dominating vocal performance and classy instrumentation with beautifully played solos from outstanding musicians, then this is an alum you will love. Arguably, some of the playing is cold and austere but it provides a perfect musical setting for Van Morrison’s trademark soulful and emotional voice.

I have a feeling that there may be one person in the world at this precise moment who will be shouting about a cheating heart until he gains control again.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart”
“‘Till I Gain Control Again”
“Playhouse” – written by Van Morrison

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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