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Van Morrison Revisits His 1968 Classic

This year, Van Morrison will be touring select cities and performing every song from his seminal album, <em>Astral Weeks</em>.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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This year, Van Morrison will be touring select cities and performing every song from his seminal album, Astral Weeks.

Van Morrison's 1968 Astral Weeks is perhaps the seminal album of the folk-rock genre. Morrison has described the album as a series of short stories and impressions, some gathered from his time spent in New York and Cambridge, Mass.

"It's just impressions, basically, things people were saying," Morrison says. "Songs come from strange sources."

But when Morrison approached his record label with the album, they almost shelved it.

"All they did was release it," Morrison says. As they call it in the music business, the album was 'buried.' "That was kind of the order of the day. You just got ripped off — that's the way it was."

The Album That Would Not Go Away

But over the years, the album kept coming up. It was a perennial favorite in polls with titles like "What is the greatest album of all time?" On the other hand, Morrison himself had been content to forget the album ever happened.

"It was suppressed in my memory," Morrison says. "As far as I was concerned, it just didn't exist."

Now, the album has an almost mythological status in pop culture. Everyone from Glen Hansard to Johnny Depp has talked about how it changed their lives.

"I don't know what to say because it didn't change my life," says Morrison. "I don't know what to make of [the mythology]. It's like any sort of art form — it's whatever it means to you."

Morrison's cynicism goes further.

"Rock is a brainwash — I think that's where your mythology goes back to," Morrison says. "It's the most pretentious area in music. It's got singers who don't really sing."

In any event, this year Morrison will be touring select cities and performing every song from Astral Weeks. But he says not to expect the sound of his 1968 recordings from his live performances.

"I'm not this 21- or 22-year-old guy," Morrison says. "You move on."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Guy Raz
Guy Raz is the host, co-creator, and editorial director of three NPR programs, including two of its most popular ones: TED Radio Hour and How I Built This. Both shows are heard by more than 14 million people each month around the world. He is also the creator and co-host of NPR's first-ever podcast for kids, Wow In The World.