Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Like a wrung-out dishcloth"

There is one song that wasn't on Astral Weeks that is undeniably Astral Weeks-like in how it's executed: a specific feeling or sentiment or awareness or sensation blooms in Morrison, and he grips it firmly with both hands to prevent escape, stretches it taut and wide, quietly steps inside, explores with all five senses; then he lingers, waits for the appropriate point in time when he must fully articulate what he has perceived—through the strumming of his acoustic guitar, through particular phrases he binds together, through changes in the inflection of his voice, through emphasis placed on certain words—or else all will be irrecoverable: the feeling or sentiment or awareness or sensation will be sapped of its purity and vitality, faded like a photograph left out in the sun.

The song, of course, is "T.B. Sheets." Engineer Brooks Arthur, who was in the studio when Morrison cut the track for his first album, 1967's Blowin' Your Mind!, said the Irishman collapsed in on himself when he completed its recording (it was done in just two takes): "He was just torn apart. He was sitting on the floor in a heap like a wrung-out dishcloth, completely spent emotionally." Unsurprisingly, Morrison's take on the nearly 10-minute opus was a bit understated: "It's drama, isn't it? The blues are drama. That's what I picked up from it."

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