Van Morrison, Manumission the Movie and the making of a myth.

We were in London editing Manumission the Movie and had convinced Telstar that we only ever stayed at The Portobello Hotel, at 22 Stanley Gardens. It was partly true. We stayed there whenever we could. But we had never stayed for two solid months! Like we did in the winter of 99.

THE PORTOBELLO HOTEL – NOTTING HILL, W11 LONDON

‘In room 16, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp filled the Victorian bath with champagne; Alice Cooper kept his snakes in it; and Tim Burton flooded the room by leaping from the bed into the bath and back. The Stones, U2, Tina Turner and many other starry names, from music, fashion and show business, also stayed at The Portobello in its heyday.’ 

I was lounging on the circular bed in Room 16 as Mike wrote the list of great stars he wanted us to work with. It was in no particular order: David Bowie, Van Morrison, Bono, Madonna… After breakfast, we wandered down the colonial stairway. I was talking on the phone and paid no attention to the guy with the umbrella, who was checking in and checking me out. Nor was I paying attention to Mike, who was hiding behind one of the grand columns in the elegant reception.

Van Morrison had been placed in our path. 

‘If he is still in the hotel tonight, we will find him in the 24-hour bar.’ Mike assured me as we walked out into the London rain. 

Not 100% sure who was with us that particular night. The usual London suspects – Jon Carter, Daniel Peppe aka Agent Dan were definitely there. There’s a strong chance Derek Dahlarge was also part of the posse, there was a gang of us. We had already closed several bars before descending upon the hotel – with our sites on the 24 hour bar.

Mike was smoking a joint out the bedroom window when on the balcony of the room next door he spotted Van’s umbrella.

‘Right, everyone down to the bar.’ We tumbled down the stairs.

Beers, wine, vodka, Jack & Coke ordered and consumed. Once we were in fine spirits, Mike surveyed the room – and sure enough Van the Man was there – quietly enjoying a late night drink in the alcove by the window. Mike approached the musical legend.

‘We are having an interesting conversation over there.’ Mike pointed back to me sitting with the table full of our DJ friends. ‘I thought you might like to join us.’

‘Well what are you talkin’ about!?’ asked Van the Man. Mike paused to consider the question. The beer, the wine, the joints, the stimulants momentarily stumped him.

‘Let me just go back and check.’ When Mike returned, Van and his manager had a better idea.

‘Well why don’t you and your friends join us, over here?’ Once we had squeezed around their table his manager tried to explain to Van who we were.

‘Manumission!’ he exclaimed with glee. Van of course had no idea what Manumission was so the manager went on…

‘Van, you remember when you were the top of the top of the top?’ The manager enthused in his thick Irish accent.

Van growled into his glass.

‘Well that’s where these guys are right now, they are at the top of the top of the top.’

Whiskey, vodka, wine, beer ordered – the conversation went on and on as did the boozing. Mike had always been a big fan of Van Morrison’s music and told him about Brimful of Asha and the Fatboy Slim remix, which had transformed it into a number 1 hit.

‘You know, you know, if like – you know if you take Gloria and if you do, if you do a remix of Gloria you know, it would go straight to Nº1 and loads of people who haven’t heard of you…’

Van slammed his whiskey and eyed Jon Carter’s girlfriend Clare, who was flirting outrageously with the redhead he had eyed earlier at the reception. Van’s manager stepped in.

‘The kids Van, think about the kids.’

Mike took over enthusiastically. ‘A whole new generation would discover you and get into you, and love your music like I do.’ Mike gesticulated wildly. This friendly banter went on for some time, several hours in fact – talking, smoking and drinking in the tucked away basement bar where we had pleasantly ended many a London night.

The session finally concluded with Van proclaiming: 

‘I wanna do a remix, I wanna do a remix…’ Occasionally interjected with ‘and I want some pussy!’

We all stumbled off in our own directions. I of course ended up in the bathtub in room 16. But not with Van! Our paths have not crossed since.

‘Very naughty, but very nice!’ The hotel manager tutted at us the following morning.

Mike excitedly called Norman Cook and asked if he wanted to do the remix. However Norman politely declined as he didn’t want to touch a song that was already a hit!

People often said we should have been filming the making of the movie. Behind the scenes was as much fun as what went on in front of the camera. Sometimes more! Including a pressing slow-dance with a red-suited, white haired cabaret host in Paris on a night out with the art director of Paris Vogue – Donald Schneider, to an encounter with Keanu Reeves and our little Ibiza street dogs at the Chateaux Marmont in LA. But those are other stories…

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