Astral Weeks by Ryan H. Walsh

Astral Weeks

A mind-expanding dive into a lost chapter of 1968, featuring the famous and forgotten: Van Morrison, folkie-turned-cult-leader Mel Lyman, Timothy Leary, James Brown, and many more Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is an iconic rock album shrouded in legend, a masterpiece that has touched generations of listeners and influenced everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Martin Scorsese. In his first book, acclaimed rock musician and journalist Ryan H. Walsh un...

Details Astral Weeks

TitleAstral Weeks
Release DateMar 6th, 2018
PublisherPenguin Press
GenreMusic, History, Nonfiction, Culture, Pop Culture

Reviews Astral Weeks

  • Faith
    I don't know for whom this book is intended. The title is clearly designed to lure fans of Van Morrison, and the lure worked on me. However, there is actually very little about Morrison and his work in this book. Instead there is a lot of random information about people and events in Boston around the same time that Morrison was there. There are gangsters, a folk music cult, happenings, psychedelic public television, a bank robbery and LSD. I cou...
  • Christine
    I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways. There were so many interesting stories and back stories in this book, that it either needed to be longer or to shorten its scope. The Fort Hill Community alone could have taken up the entire book, as could Van Morrison and his time in Boston. Trying to mash them together, though in time period they really were in sync, does them both a disservice. Then you throw in everything else that...
  • Whitney
    This book talked about a LOT of things I love. I did want to hear a little more about the general population and their experience of Boston in 1968 in contrast to the hippies and cult members and musicians he talks about here. The chapter on movies and the Boston strangler was my favorite because of that bigger picture stuff.
  • Matt
    My friend just wrote this one up: so did I, for The Baffler (!!!):
  • Martin
    I enjoyed the book but the title is a misnomer. It is a collection of chapters on the various counterculture happenings in Boston in 1968. It spends a lot more time on the Mel Lyman cult than it does on Astral Weeks but it is never less than interesting.
  • John Spiller
    Before purchasing "Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968" by Ryan Walsh, you need to know a few things. (Don't worry, there's no spoilers.) First, it is not one of those book length explorations of the making of a classic rock album in the style of the 33 1/3 Series. Yes, Walsh explores how Van Morrison came to record "Astral Weeks," but it more of a point of departure than the crux. Second, this is not a book length exploration of a given year,...
  • Glenn
    This is a (too?) detailed account of events that occurred in Boston/Cambridge in 1968. A chapter is devoted to each of: the end of the folk scene, Van Morrison's band, the groundbreaking TV show "What's Happening Mr. Silver?", the opening of the Boston Tea Party, the start of WBCN, the James Brown concert the night after MLK was killed, the "Spiritualist" movement in Boston, and more. Many many chapters concern Mel Lyman's Fort Hill Community and...
  • Tad Richards
    You might expect a book that takes Van Morrison’s legendary album title for its own, and suggests that it will be about Morrison’s time in Boston creating this breakthrough music, to actually be about that. The bad news is that if that’s what the book is supposed to be about, it does get a little lost in digressions. The very good news is that the digressions—Boston’s counterculture in the year of Counterculture ascendant—are far mor...
  • Jason Rabin
    Not just a deep dive into the Boston origins of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, but a mosaic of the music and cultural scene surrounding them--centered in 1968, with flashbacks, flash forwards and on-theme digressions. As a participant in the local music scene who wasn't yet born in 1968 but very much lives in its aftermath, I can say that my understanding has been greatly expanded by this colorful, insightful and well-researched piece of rock journ...
  • Jerome
    Primarily enjoyable for its evocation of a time and place, dominated by the cult-like Fort Hill Community in Boston, the hallucinogenic 60's of Timothy Leary, and to a lesser extent, the recording of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. The writing style is well-paced and the interviews with Peter Wolf and Lewis Merenstein are illuminating regarding the year Van Morrison spent playing in Boston and recording this album. There are interesting coincidences...
  • Maureen Stanton
    This is a fascinating book, especially if you know Boston and can visualize the locations of this seemingly forgotten story of 1960s music, activism, and ideals. Walsh went deep in his research, and while I sometimes got lost in the many minor characters, I found the story fascinating. Well written investigation into a cultural moment that we think we know, though Walsh proves that digging vertically into a place and its happenings reveals new st...
  • Jack Saltzberg
    What do The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, The Velvet Underground, Van Morrison, the Mob, The Bosstown sound, and an LSD based cult have in common? They were all active in Boston in 1968. I, like many others, read this because I thought it was going to be about the making of the album Astral Weeks. While it is touches on Van preparing to make that album, it is really about the underground scene in Boston. While that year in San Francisco has been extensiv...
  • Andrea
    I did not expect it to be so beautifully written.Background: I graduated HS in the summer of 1968 in a town nearby to Boston and hid in my room and lived thru my radio. I visualized a lot of this since I could not get to Boston then.The story is really more about Boston popular culture in 1968 than about Van Morrison.
  • Eric
    Originally a smaller piece on Van Morrison & his time in Boston during the summer of 1968 leading to his recording in the fall, in New York City, the landmark record album of the title. Those stories are fantastic & thrilling to read, evoking a Boston & Cambridge from another world. Many stretches make for riveting reading, including Walsh's odd encounter with local legend Peter Wolf, Van's old chum from the time, and the tales of other area band...
  • Django Laić
    Ryan H. Walsh ‘Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968’ – dogodilo se u BostonuKnjiga novinara i glazbenika Ryana H. Walsha vodi nas pedeset godina u prošlost na ulice Bostona i detaljno i s puno žara opisuje mjesto i turbulento vrijeme u kojem su se zbivale razne ludosti, ali je i nastala jedna od najtajanstvenijih i najčarobnijih ploča svih vremena.Boston, 1968. godine. Van Morrison, mladi irski pjevač i pjesnik teške naravi i izraž...
  • Rebecca
    Other reviewers have already said much of what I agree with. I was lured in by the title, expecting more about Van Morrison than what I got. Reading the Epilogue I realized that the author original wrote a shorter piece and then expanded it to a full book. Also the writer had a whole team of college student workers helping with the research. The bibliography and the list of interviews is long. The book is more about Mel Lyman I think than it is a...
  • Alan
    This was one of the most fascinating and interesting books I have read in a long time. It's a snapshot of music and cultural history in Boston in the late 1960s. Yet it was a part of its history that until now I was totally unaware. It seems Van Morrison wrote and performed one of my favorite records of all time, "Astral Weeks" while living in Cambridge, Mass (on the run from some unsavory characters in NYC). Also, Lou Reed and the Velvet Undergr...
  • Ed Mckeon
    I was 15 in 1968. I remember attending a union gathering with my parents and wandering around the streets in my paisley shirt, dodging in and out of head shops, record stores and hippie boutiques only now realizing that the tiny bit of Bosstown that I experienced was like a turntable stylus, only me scratching the surface. This book is amazing. I picked it up because I'm a huge Van fan, and have always loved Astral Weeks. Ryan Walsh, who is looki...
  • Matt Fitz
    Born in 1968, I only discovered Van Morrison in my late teens in the 80s and felt like my parents' generation did me a disservice. That's what lured me to this book about 1968. Interesting look at not only Van Morrison, but the whole Boston music and scene, marketed as the "Bosstown Sound, which promoted the blend of psychedelic and folk rock scene. T. My disappointment with this book was it's lack of clarity and focus. It seemed more like a seri...
  • Steve Sanders
    In Astral Weeks, Ryan Walsh gives us parallel portraits of two gifted musicians —Van Morrison and Mel Lyman—and the divergent ways in which they responded to what Philip Roth called “indigenous American berserk.” Lyman channeled the rhetoric of utopia and transcendence into the Fort Hill commune, allowing the high-minded ideals to curdle into violence, exploitation, and cult of personality. Meanwhile, Walsh deftly illustrates how Morrison...
  • Dachokie
    You Had to Have Been There …This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free copy of the book.When I think of the counter-culture in the late 1960s, the city of Boston doesn’t come to mind, but Ryan Walsh’s book, ASTRAL WEEKS, proves Boston had its own thing going on in 1968. Interesting and educational to a degree, the events described in the book certainly illustrate that the iconic California hippie movement ...
  • Maxwell Octigan
    There are a lot of books out there about the 60’s, hippie counterculture, LSD, race relations and Vietnam. Yes San Francisco was the hub of it all, but it is refreshing to read something that isn’t Haight Ashbury or Grateful Dead related. 1968 Boston brought mystics and creatives, such as Van Morrison and Mel Lyman. A truly great study of an unknown time in Boston’s history that is written around Mel Lyman and the Fort Hill Community and th...
  • Drew D Peabody
    A disappointment in its choice of Mel Lyman as the central figure of this book. When I saw Astral Weeks in the title, I jumped in with both feet. The material surrounding Astral Weeks and Van Morrison is excellent, the caveat being the author is mining recollections of people from 50 years ago. The James Brown section is also very good. I have to say the discussion of Boston as "Bosstown" is one I have not heard before and I have lived in the Nor...
  • Ian Hamilton
    Walsh doesn't really succeed at formulating an effective overarching thesis. There are too many disparate ideas that make the read a little disjointed. Too much emphasis is placed on the Fort Hill Community; I think there's a good reason why this group has been largely forgotten by history. I did really appreciate the parts that focused on Van Morrison and the Astral Weeks record, one of my personal favorites. Similarly, I learned a lot of more a...
  • Jennifer
    I started this book thinking it was going to focus solely on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks which I was into....but it ended up being a more comprehensive history of Boston in 1968.I really liked it though. It was very well researched and I learned lots about the city that I did not know.But the Van Morrison part is really just a small part of the entire book. I understand why the marketing of the book focused on it but don't go into this book think...
  • Sumeet
    This book a treat to read if you're a 60s head and have seen a lot of films and documentaries about Woodstock, Leary and the usual subjects. This book uses these usual 60s references as time markers to tell you deeper, lesser known facts. It is a kaleidoscope of recollections from that time. Based in Boston Massachusetts, right from what was on the TV, to what was being written. While this book isn't completely about Van Morrison it paints a pret...
  • John Heiskell
    Whenever I ponder my favorite albums, Astral Weeks has consistently been near the top.I really wanted to like this book but it was not exactly what I expected. I thought it would be more mostly about Van Morrison, his career at that point, and the recording sessions for the album. No, it was more about the broader Boston music scene (of which Morrison was a part). I am not a fan of Boston and he spent way too much time on Mel Lyman.
  • Jayne
    Lured by the go to #1 artist..after over 40 a little disappointed that it wasn’t ALL about him or THE ALBUM or the albums that came after that...but I did learn about my new home town in a certain year of a certain age.There are people coming into the store to buy it who know exactly what they’re buying...I just jumped and grabbed cos it said Astral Weeks...still wish it was more about that.
  • Ted Myers
    Maybe its because I was part of the Boston rock scene in the mid-sixties and knew or knew of many of the characters and events in this book, but this is one of the most engrossing works of nonfiction I have ever read. Ryan Walsh does a masterful job of weaving together many seemingly unrelated strands of music and counterculture history to create a real page-turner, with some jaw-dropping revelations. I highly recommend it to all fans of '60s mus...
  • Jay Gabler
    Not for the casual fan of Van the Man, but people who love Astral Weeks (the album) or follow the Boston music scene will appreciate this detailed history. I reviewed Astral Weeks (the book) for The Current.