Van Morrison — Astral Weeks.

Alice Bell interview

Forty years ago this month, Van Morrison released his very first (depending on who you ask) solo record, Astral Weeks. He had just quit as the singer of Them, which you might (or might not) know, but I’m sure you know about their hit “Gloria”, as in G-L-O-R-I-A Gloria; I’m sure you don’t know The Doors opened for Them during the band’s 1967, three week stint at The Whiskey A Go-Go, and, in one of Them’s final shows, Jim Morrison jumped up on stage with Van Morrison to belt out “Gloria” for one of their final encores — ever.

Imagine that — the two Morrison’s screaming “G-L-O-R-I-A!” before almost anyone knew who Jim Morrison — or The Doors — were.

It doesn’t get any better than Astral Weeks. Really, it doesn’t. Just about every music rag places Astral Weeks in its Best Of Lists; Lester Bangs called it “the rock record with the most significance in my life so far” (he died a few years later); I scored it an 8 on the Billy Watson I Shoot Porn Top 10 albums ever made list.

It’s not only Van’s masterpiece, but a masterpiece of modern music, and, like all masterpieces, no one really paid attention to it when it was released, and the record company didn’t really promote it, and for years no one really cared about it.

So when I saw Van was coming to the fabulous Hollywood Bowl last weekend to play Astral Weeks in its entirety, I was all over it. I even forked over 350 Clams to sit as close as I could to Van and his mini-orchestra…as well as two of the last surviving musicians who played on the record.

350 Doll Hairs is a whole lotta bread to fork over just to see a show, but lemme take a sec and defend my decision:

1) It’s Astral Weeks, god damnit. From beginning to end. Catching a Van Morrison show really isn’t a big deal — cause he still tours somewhat frequently — but catching him playing anything off that record is, cause, well…he just won’t play tracks off Astral Weeks. (He also doesn’t do “Brown-Eyed Girl” or “Gloria”).

2) It’s The Hollywood Bowl, god damnit. What a great place to hear a show. Plus, ever since I was a kid and shelled out 6 bucks for a copy of The Beatles at The Hollywood Bowl, I’ve had a weird affinity for that place.

3) I’m flying solo. No date. As in Mr. Lonely Guy. I’ve never been to a show by myself — ever. Why not start now? Plus, if I bought a date, we’d be talking 700 sheckles, which is steep. But solo? I’m there!

4) Then, the day of the show, I read he’s doing two sets, cause they’re gonna make a DVD / CD of the whole shin-dig, and the first set will be a greatest hits thingy — with “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Gloria” in it — and the second set’s Astral Weeks, and once he does this show, that’s it. As in Van’s done. He’ll tour again, but there will be no Astral Weeks tour.

So I went to the show.

And it ruled.

I sat near the fat dude from Superbad; actually, I sat in front of him.

After Van walked off stage and the house lights went up, I headed home, but before I got there I ordered a plate of Chicken Nachos and a Diet Coke from my favorite taco stand in LA.

I made it back just in time to watch Bill Maher and n’joy mis nachos.

Then, as usual, I took my medicine and fell into a deep sleep.

3 thoughts on “Van Morrison — Astral Weeks.”

  1. I just downloaded Astral thanks to you. Great stuff. I love music suggestions; keep posting them please, and if you feel like it, respond to my goddamn call for help regarding the threesome.

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