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The Meaning of Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me”

As the opening track to Van Morrison’s famous 1970 album, Moondance, “And It Stoned Me” is one of the songwriter’s most iconic songs. The song introduced an album that is beloved on a near-universal scale and thus became ingrained in the hearts of many whom connected with Morrison’s songwriting.

Lyrically, “And It Stoned Me” recalls a singular experience from Morrison’s childhood during which he had an out-of-body experience. The way that the song is strung together taps into a special feeling of nostalgia that many of us have towards our own childhoods, and certain experiences that stand out in our minds for invoking certain feelings within us.

Of course, the song also has a natural appeal to those who like to partake in the consumption of marijuana or other mind-altering substances, because drugs can also have this same effect. Both of tapping into a feelings of nostalgia, and making you “stoned”.

Morrison discussed the particular memory that inspired “And It Stoned Me” during a 1985 interview, which was later quoted in his 1993 biography:

I suppose I was about 12 years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.

Van Morrison on the meaning of “And It Stoned Me”, 1985.

As he describes, this memory of being quite thirsty and drinking water from an old man stuck with him into adulthood and became the basis for the song.

“And It Stoned Me” Lyrics Meaning

Now that we’ve got the background covered, let’s dive into the lyrics and see how Morrison paints the picture of his childhood in a way that manages to be relatable to many listeners, despite the fact that none of us share this particular experience.

Starting with the first verse:

Half a mile from the county fair
And the rain came pourin’ down
Me and Billy standin’ there
With a silver half a crown
Hands are full of a fishin’ rod
And the tackle on our backs
We just stood there gettin’ wet
With our backs against the fence

First verse to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

Here, Morrison sets the scene. He’s with his friend Billy, about half a mile away from the fair and it just starts pouring down rain.

Neither Van nor Billy has much money, merely a silver half crown coin, which is equivalent to 1/8 of a pound. But they’ve got fishing poles and a tackle bags, and it’s implied that the rain doesn’t bother them too much.

They simply stand there fishing, without much of a care in the world. However, from the pre-chorus, we can see that he at least hopes it stops raining:

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Hope it don’t rain all day

Pre-chorus to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

This builds up into the first iteration of the chorus:

And it stoned me to my soul
Stoned me just like Jelly Roll
And it stoned me
And it stoned me to my soul
Stoned me just like goin’ home
And it stoned me

Chorus to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

These experiences that Morrison says “stoned” him are examples of certain moments from growing up that become part of one’s core memories.

Although they seem like fairly normal days, there was something unique about his experience that washes the whole memory over in a warm, fuzzy feeling. It was so profound that he felt it all the way to his soul.

Many of you reading this right now are probably remembering a special time or two from your own childhood that stands out in your mind, for one reason or another.

One line from the chorus that has been debated is the meaning of “Jellyroll”. The general consensus is that the lyric refers to Jelly Roll Morton, the jazz musician whom he listened to with his father.

However “Jelly Roll” itself is a nickname taken from a slang term for sex that was popular in 19th century black culture, particularly among blues musicians. Hence, the line has also been taken to reference a profound sexual experience.

Morrison also sings about going home as a feeling that is particularly powerful. The feeling of home itself carries with it a certain weight and a special kind of nostalgia. After an absence from either a physical or emotional sense of “home”, the return can have quite an effect on the soul.

Next up we have the second verse, which continues the story from that fateful day:

And the rain let up
And the sun came up
And we were gettin’ dry
Almost let a pick-up truck
Nearly pass us by
So we jumped right in
And the driver grinned
And he dropped us up the road
And we looked at the swim
And we jumped right in
Not to mention fishing poles

Second verse to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

It stopped raining and the sun came out and dried them off. They were done fishing for the day and hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck on the way home.

After the driver dropped them off a ways up the road, they noticed the water beside the road and decided to go for a swim, fishing poles and all.

The pre-chorus comes again, and this time instead of hoping for the rain to stop, Morrison blesses the water and invites it to run all over him.

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Let it run all over me

Second pre-chorus to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

After this the chorus hits again, followed by a gentle acoustic guitar solo, accented by piano, that leads into the third and final verse:

On the way back home
We sang a song
But our throats were getting dry
Then we saw the man
From across the road
With the sunshine in his eyes
Well he lived all alone
In his own little home
With a great big gallon jar
There were bottles too
One for me and you
And he said “Hey! There you are”

Third verse to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

Here, Morrison completes the story from that day, finally reaching the part of the day that he discussed in the interview. After first being covered by torrential downpour, then drying off in the sun, and jumping back in the water, the boys were on their way home and feeling thirsty.

They encounter an old man with “sunshine in his eyes”, which implies that this old man is very happy. He lives all by himself and he had a big gallon jar filled with water, and enough bottles to share some with the boys. He was more than happy to do so.

While the verse does not directly mention anything about drugs, it is perhaps implied that this man is high as a kite on whatever substance might be in that big gallon jar he’s holding. Again, for all intents and purposes, it could just be water and a very happy old man.

The song ends with another pre-chorus and chorus combo, this time with the final line in the pre-chorus being changed to reflect the old man telling the boys he gets the water himself from the mountain stream:

Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Oh, the water
Get it myself from the mountain stream

Final pre-chorus to “And It Stoned Me” by Van Morrison.

Listen to “And It Stoned Me” below.

Here’s a peppy live version from 1980:

And here’s Van Morrison performing the track with Bob Dylan in Athens, GA 1989:

“And It Stoned Me” Covers

Many musicians also felt a connection with this song, it seems, as there have been quite a few notable covers played and recorded over the years. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has been jam bands and their members who have

Enjoy a few notable versions of the song by other artists below.

Jackie DeShannon – “And It Stoned Me” (1971)

Jerry Garcia Band – “And It Stoned Me” (Live 10/31/92)

Jerry Garcia performed this one a lot. Perhaps because he liked to get stoned. This particular version of the son, from Halloween 1992 was released on GarciaLive Volume 19 (2022) and is a fantastic rendition.

Widespread Panic – “And It Stoned Me”

John Mayer – “And It Stoned Me” (Live 4/13/14)

Joe Higgs – “And It Stoned Me” (2015)

Rome & Duddy – “And It Stoned Me” (2020)