The title song and opening track of Van Morrison’s 1968 album ‘Astral Weeks.’ Morrison said that the song represented transforming energy, and a renewing or rebirthing energy, dying in order to be reborn. It was Morrison’s take or twist on Astral Projection, and out of body experience. He encountered this in a personal way when he visited his friend, the artist Cezil McCartney in Belfast in 1966. McCartney had a painting which inspired Morrison. He said the painting embodied astral projection.
What is interesting is that the music critics said that the song, and the album, the voices and sounds were other worldly – astral also means from another world. So in that sense the album works and on every level. The album also coincided with Morrison’s wrangle with Bang Records, his move to America and marriage – a lot of upheaval and a lot of pressure, which is reflected in the songs and the mood. The album is a depature from rock and pop and moves into the jazz territory that became his stock in trade. Which leads to the question as to why he named his album Astral Weeks when jazz great Charles Mingus had one with the same name in 1964.
My experience of music is that it transports me. For a time music took me to worlds beyond myself, deep in my imagination, in my youth, when I needed to escape pain. I can still place elements of Lord of the Rings in moments of Led Zeppelin (the film ‘The Song Reamins the Same’ shows how Zeppelin enjoyed a medieval and sometimes Tolkinesque imagination, and some of their songs reference Tolkien) or Bach. There are many hits of the past where I can remember a place, a smell, a situation. I find music both energising and relaxing depending on the genre. Music still takes me to other worlds. Van Morrison is one of my favourites too, and he takes me to other worlds.