Monday, August 31, 2015

"It had just blown them away"

When I spoke with John Payne last August, here is what he had to say regarding the legendary extended ending of "Slim Slow Slider"—and ending we will now apparently get to hear thanks to Astral Weeks finally, finally, finally! getting the reissue treatment.
He's thumping and I'm playing weird outside jazz stuff. He fades it out. What actually happened—I don't know how long it was; I'd say three or five minutes—of instrumental improvisation went on with Richard and me, and Van was improvising single string on his guitar, which he never does. But he can apparently, because he did. Now we even got baroque for a little while. It was wild.

What happened with that tune ... We were all playing with the drums and this and that and the other thing. Then the producer said, "Okay, I want everyone in the control room except for Richard and John and Van." He just got the idea it should be sparse. It was a brilliant idea because everything else was dense with lots of stuff. And they put all this echo on the soprano sax so it doesn't even almost sound like a saxophone. It sounds like sort of a flute—or who in the hell knows. It sounds like it's coming over the mountains. I don't know whose idea that was. And at the end, we just keep playing, instrumentally playing. We go into this whole thing—it's about three or five minutes long. Just something at the end where we started going crazy.

And then I can remember we walked back into the session, to the control room, the three of us, and there was dead silence, like no one said a word. Because it just had blown them away ... The ones who knew Van, probably because they didn't know Van could do that. He listened to jazz his whole life. But it was just this moment—just something happened.