Brilliant radio song by Van Morrison: “In The Days Before Rock’n’Roll”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Porter, who writes:

After some 20 years I have rediscovered this radio song by the UK northern Irish singer Van Morrison.

“In The Days Before Rock’n’Roll”

There are some great TX station names in the song! It’s a full 8 minutes long….

Take a listen…

Click here to view/listen on YouTube.

I don’t think I’ve heard this song in twenty years or more. Thank you for sharing this, Dave!

I’ll have to add Van Morrison to the list of radio influenced musicians we’ve featured in the past, including:

Post Readers: Do you know of any other musicians who were influenced by the shortwaves?  Please comment and share links to their work!

Spread the radio love

19 thoughts on “Brilliant radio song by Van Morrison: “In The Days Before Rock’n’Roll”

  1. philip bradshaw

    I’ve read here and there about this song and the offshore UK pirate radio stations. The first one was started in 1964 when Van was 19. For those of us of this generation THE station was 208 on MW, Radio Luxembourg. It was, in the 50’s and early 60s, the only source for rock/pop (other than an occasional half hour on BBC radio). In Ireland and England you could pick it up after dark only. The signal would come and go. It had ads (BBC didn’t, of course) for picking the football draws (for the Pools) and for Charles Atlas (thinking of The Who Sell Out).

  2. Gerry Tweedie

    In Vans song,I’d just love to know who Justin is,or was.The song reminds you of the old radio dials,especially Hilversum.If you listen VERY closely,you can hear Paul Durcan speak a line to Van Morrison just after the final note,along the lines of “We got a right few in there Van”.Turn the volume up and listen.

  3. Duane NL7X

    Raised in the Mid-West, we relied on OK City, Little Rock and border radio stations for Rock and Roll. SWLing grew from there. As for Van, I suspected his SWLing after ‘Into the Mystic’ .

  4. Ward

    Car Wheels On a Gravel Road
    By Lucinda Williams

    “Loretta’s singing on the radio”
    “Hank’s voice on the radio”

  5. Mark Fahey

    No one has listed my fave shortwave song ever!
    (As long as you consider 27MHz shortwave – its a wee bit high but shortwave goes to 30MHz doesn’t it?)

    B-52’s Planet Clare. Fred’s instrument on this great song is a 27MHz CB Handheld.
    He is a real talent at playing the ‘Tone Key’ and turning down the squelch to play radio white noise.

    If you ever get the chance to see them live you will enjoy this song, they usually play it in the encore set, and they still use a CB handheld!

  6. Michael Black

    Brown eyes girl mentions a transistor radio.

    Caravan mentions radio a few times.

    Domino too
    Probably others, none immediately come to mind.

    He was probably influenced by pirate radio.

    But the strings straddle his top-notch and more artistic hits.


  7. Adam Christian Smith

    Well, I’m mostly a rocker but because of the shortwave hobby I stumbled up this guy. The “group” (he’s solo) is The Moscow Coup Attempt. It is way better to do audio and video as his imagery is… interesting.

    Those of us that have listened to shortwave our entire lives, though, will hear some familiar sounds in his music!

    The Moscow Coup Attempt – “The Failure of Shortwave Radio”

  8. John AE5X

    The lyrics:

    Justin, gentler than a man
    I am down on my knees
    At the wireless knobs
    I am down on my knees
    At those wireless knobs
    Telefunken, Telefunken
    And I’m searching for
    Luxembourg, Luxembourg,
    Athlone, Budapest, AFN,
    Hilversum, Helvetia
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    When we let, then we bet
    On Lester Piggott when we met
    We let the goldfish go
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    Fats did not come in
    Without those wireless knobs
    Fats did not come in
    Without those wireless knobs
    Elvis did not come in
    Without those wireless knobs
    Nor Fats, nor Elvis
    Nor Sonny, nor Lightning
    Nor Muddy, nor John Lee
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    When we let and we bet
    On Lester Piggott 10/1
    And we let the goldfish go
    Down the stream
    Before rock ‘n’ roll
    We went over the wavebands
    We’d get Luxembourg,
    Luxembourg and Athlone
    AFM stars of Jazz
    Come in, come in, come in, Ray Charles
    Come in, the high priest
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
    When we let and we bet
    On Lester Piggott 10 to 1
    And we let the goldfish go
    And then the killer came along
    The killer, Jerry Lee Lewis
    A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on,
    Great balls of fire
    Little Richard
    Justin, gentler than a man
    Justin, Justin, where is Justin now?
    What’s Justin doing now?
    Just, where is Justin now?
    Come aboard

    1. Leo Schumaker

      Just heard this song on, ironically on XM/Sirius radio, and listened hard to the beautiful lyrics by Van The Man Morrison. Had to stop what I was doing just to enjoy hearing all the great names of radio and history of the radio waves. Thanks Jim Ladd and Tom Petty for playing this song on your shows.

    1. Guy Atkins

      Thanks, Gord! I gave up a couple years ago on trying to remember the name of that song, after hearing it once— on the radio, of course!

  9. Jack K

    Van has mentioned “radio” in a few songs, not withstanding the 1978 hit “Wavelength.”


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