Saturday, January 31, 2015

For all the people who know

BBC Radio 2 is airing a four-part series titled "Too Late to Stop Now—The Van Morrison Story." You can catch the first two episodes here. The next one will air on Feb. 5.

Since Morrison's habitually and famously distrustful of anyone who comes bearing questions, the BBC managed to nab one of his former sideman, saxophonist Leo Green, to handle the interviewing. The second episode features Morrison and Green talking at length about Astral Weeks.

I particularly liked the below quote, which has Morrison touching upon the album's remarkable dichotomy. During the sessions, lyrics flowed stream-of-conscious-like and the assembled jazz musicians were instructed to play "whatever they felt like playing" (per drummer Connie Kay), yet at the same time, this was not an extemporaneous outpouring. Morrison had been refining this material for over a year, removing its impurities, like a craftsman sitting next to a crucible filled with molten gold, skimming off the dross that rises to the top. Here is the quote:
It just didn't happen out of the blue, you know? It was kind of an evolvement. And that's another thing. Years later I'm reading all this stuff about ... "Oh, Astral Weeks just happened" ... It didn't all happen. The material was like rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed and worked and worked on live gigs and rehearsed more and re-written before I actually went in the studio to do it. So all this stuff about it just [snaps fingers] kinda happened. It didn't just happen. The songs had been worked on since, what? Sixty-seven?
The episode also offered up this wonderful little exchange regarding the giant gulf that exists between how Astral Weeks was received by critics and how it was received by the buying public.
Morrison: It still is not the biggest seller, actually. It's the biggest in terms of critical acclaim. Is that what they call it?

Green: Acclaim from who?

Morrison: Well, I suppose the people who know.

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