Friday, 27 July 2012

Kevin Rowland Encounters Astral Weeks

I found this piece on the  Kevin Rowland And Dexys Official Blog on myspace.  It was supposedly written by Kevin Rowland in 2007 and talks about the life-changing experience of encountering Astral Weeks for the first time.  Now over to the notorious Kevin Rowland for part of the article.  Click on the link above if you want to find the full article.

It was during the boiling hot summer of 1976 that I first heard it. Punk was about to happen, but this album, showed me something really different. Before that, Van Morrison had been, in my perception, some American type singer and songwriter; long hair, jeans, country rock kinda thing. No thank you very much sir, not my cup of tea. Then I heard Astral Weeks. What was it? I couldn't understand it, it sounded bizarre and tuneless at first, as if he was making it up as he was going along. Oddly, it happened that I heard the whole album three times that same evening.

The circumstances were: I was in a wine bar in Birmingham my girlfriend. It was a lovely hot night and we spent the whole evening there. The woman running the bar, was clearly very into the album, she had it on an 8 Track cartridge machine {popular in the 70s} and instead of stopping when it came to the end of the record, she let it go around and around. The process in my head went something like this; the first time I heard it; I thought, it sounds like he is just making up the words and the tune, as he goes along, crazy. The second time, I thought, there's more to it than I first realised. I was starting to hear some melody in it, by the third time, I knew there was something powerful going on.

That was how I got into Astral Weeks, Van Morrison's first masterpiece. The long term effect it had on me, is something else entirely. That, and one of his other great works of genius; Its Too Late To Stop Now, brought my understanding of what music could be and mean, to another level. They showed me some of what was possible with music. Those records expanded the boundaries. I related to the pain and I'd never heard music that touched me so deeply. I hadn't known that music could express and mean so much, and be so serious. The seriousness suited me, that's how I felt. People were always telling me to cheer up.

Some Reader Comments

Martin Booth   -   Kevin,  I too remember It's too Late to Stop Now from Birmingham. I was at the Polytechnic School of Photography working part time at The Westerner (Jeans and Cowboy boots) in New Street Shopping Centre. The manager there was friends with the manager of Take Six (on New Street). I think his name was Maurice. As a proponent of the burgeoning punk/new wave scene, I remember being introduced to you by Maurice. You may remember I produced an video of one of your Killjoys rehearsals (I think at Barbarella's). Anyhow at The Westerner we had It's too Late to Stop Now on 8 track. Which I believe we borrowed this from Take Six. We played it and played it - FANTASTIC! Does any of this ring a bell? The album has been extremely influential in my own life and is still a critical part of my musical survival pack.

ACRYLIC STAR   -   I don't think that anyone ever "got" Astral Weeks on the first listen...I knew that it was "special" cos everyone told me that it was...but I had to grow into it as I learnt about music...  and then, all of a sudden you revisit an album like that and - Bingo! It washes over you. It makes you rethink all of your old allegiances to your fave bands. Bands that had a couple of brilliant singles, a decent debut album followed by that notoriously difficult 2nd....  Genius? Probably.

David   -   I saw Van Morrison at Glasgow's Govan Town Hall in 1988, a Victorian red sandstone building, next to an orange lodge decorated with an enormous union flag.  The gig was tied in with Glasgow's hosting of the Garden Festival.  Some of the audience were yelling out, Astral Weeks, Van responded, "astral freaks!" to fewer guffaws.
Adam Grace   -   The first Van Morrison album I really took notice of was Beautiful Vision in 1982. I had spent most of the summer in Arklow, County Wicklow and Dublin, staying with my cousins. I was 15 years old, and DMR were just having success with Come on Eileen and the release of Too-Rye-Aye.   I was already heavily into DMR since 1980 and my older cousins introduced me to Van Morrison. Too-Rye-Aye and Beautiful Vision were the theme music for the best summer I have ever had. Looking across the lake at Glendalough, whilst listening to Vanlose Stairway, Celtic Ray, Across The Bridge Where Angels Dwell.  That was a spiritual, near religious experience for me and  my cousins. Since then have got nearly everything by Van, and love it all, especially Astral Weeks and A Sense Of Wonder.

Stone Foundation   -   It's too late to stop now was actually the first thing I ever heard by Van Morrison, before Astral weeks, before Moondance. A guy who worked in the local record shop gave me a cassette of it, I was very young still , maybe 15. It remains not just my favourite Van album but one of my favourite albums ever.  As for other Van albums, I've always considered No Guru, no method, no teacher to be an extremely underrated affair.

Bard of Ely   -   I love all of Van's work and obviously some songs and music more than others but Astral Weeks is my favourite of all his albums. It has that magic that touches something inside and you can't put what it is in words - it's a sort of spiritual connection that comes over! But not for everyone because that connection doesn't work and that's why some people love one act but can't stand another. Singer-songwriters that have that quality and become legends all have it - a projection of their soul through music and it is their art and role in life to communicate this way!

Tony Kennedy   -   I must admit Astral Weeks has never done it for me, but when I first heard Veedon Fleece I was blown away (& still am) & also to a lesser extent 'St Dominic's Preview'. Am I the only Van fan 'not to 'get' AW? I love all of his 70s stuff (& a lot of the later stuff too) other than AW. Each to his own I suppose.

Vincent   -   St Dominic's Preview was the 1st Van LP that truly inspired me.  However it was and is TB Sheets which knocks me for six every time i hear it - a very hard listen in places - but ultimately a journey somewhere special.

Rudi   -   Dennis Potter once said about writing "Don't transmit, connect" and this is precisely what Astral Weeks does. It's like listening to someone talking un-selfconsciously to themselves, an intriguing inner mumble that compels you to listen closer. Tiny details take on massive resonance. This is the Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart that anyone with a sensitivity to music cannot help but be attracted to. It's the sound of someone's soul talking, it doesn't even care if anyone's listening.

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