Friday, March 22, 2013

Renowned itinerant blood

Folks listen to "Slim Slow Slider" and when the track comes to its spastic, otherworldly terminus, they ask, "Yes, but what does it all mean?" (One could argue such questioning is not merely reserved for "Slim Slow Slider" and that it's a typical response to much—or maybe all—of Astral Weeks.) What's implied and suggested in "Slim Slow Slider" is occasionally debated: It's examining heroin addiction, some have argued; others contend that it's identifying the ruin wrought by money.

I like to imagine it's a song about emigration because isn't the termination of a relationship—a maneuver "Slim Slow Slider"'s narrator and love interest appear to have freshly completed—akin to the act of voluntarily departing one's country? (I also like to imagine it's an emigrant's song because Van Morrison has the Irish race's renowned itinerant blood sloshing around in his veins. Seventy million people—an incredible number, no?—worldwide can claim Irish ancestry.) The emigrant and the loveless similarly endure bursts of discontent, resentment, suspicion, and ennui before they sever bonds to country and companion. They both understand that successfully moving forward means allowing for the occasional measured step backward—that personal liberty comes with a heavy cost.

"You're gone for something," Morrison sings. "And I know you won't be back / I know you're dying, baby / And I know you know it, too." It's a somber lament for the girl with the new boy and the new Cadillac, but it could also serve as a farewell statement to a recently abandoned home.

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