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, Reference, Research, North American Hi..., American History

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...
  • Annie
    Guys, my phone's notes that were recording my thoughts on this book (read on a long train ride several weeks ago, I've been lazy about reviews) got accidentally deleted. So this will be a real short review.Basically, it was adequate for what it was, but ultimately the people written about are a bunch of sociopathic wankers and I'm not altogether interested in their lives (I only read this because it's set in Boston, where I live, and I've seen a ...
  • 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...
  • Jennifer Ozawa
    I found this book utterly riveting. I had no idea about the Lyman compound or any of the bands profiled here. The best nonfiction books feel like stories, and this one did.
  • 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.
  • Barbara
    I got this book because I am an epic fan of the album Astral Weeks, and Van Morrison. I didn't know that it was almost entirely a history of Boston, a city I know and love in 1968. If I knew Morrison lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts at some point, I'd forgotten. So what is there not to love about this book - plenty.As other reviewers have noted, this is not a book about Astral Weeks, and Morrison. The first chapter and the final chapter do focus...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Matt
    My friend just wrote this one up: so did I, for The Baffler (!!!):
  • Darcia Helle
    This book is weird, interesting, disjointed, and probably not what you expect. First, if you're a Van Morrison fan and you're expecting this book to center around him and the 'Astral Weeks' album, you'll be disappointed. What we have is a hodgepodge of stuff going on in the Boston area during the year Van Morrison lived in Cambridge. The author attempts to tie Van Morrison's presence and the album into everything else, or maybe the other way arou...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Ollie
    There are many questions floating around in my head after reading Astral Weeks. Near the top are “Should I finally put in the time with Van Morisson’s Astral Weeks” and “How did I miss all this!”.Astral Weeks is more than just history, it deserves to be studied. And really, you shouldn’t complain because Ryan Walsh did all the hard work for you. In this deceptively dense book, Walsh focuses on a particular location at a particular tim...
  • 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...
  • Michael Malone
    I was really psyched to dig into this one, and found several parts of it quite interesting. But Astral Weeks did not do what it set out to do. I saw it as a book about Van Morrison's short time in greater Boston in 1968, and how it inspired him to come up with his album Astral Weeks. Morrison gets maybe 50 pages of the book, which is instead a look at music, culture and socio-political happenings in Boston in 1968. (To be fair, the book's subhead...
  • Rob
    A remarkable book that attempts to relive the tumultuous 60's through the lens of one year in one town, Boston 1968. Lots of interesting tidbits about Van Morrison in the infancy of his career. Some nice Janet Planet quotes for those of us who remember her liner notes. Talk of LSD, communes, civil rights, and anti-war protests. It does a fine job of explaining a period that is often difficult to explain to those too young to not have been there. ...
  • Tony
    This book seemed to be a hot item among music nerds, and the bits about Van Morrison hiding out from gangsters in Boston and coming up with what would be the legendary Astral Weeks album is enticing. And for that the book was pretty much worth it for me as I learned quite a few new things about how the album came about. No easy task, as Van Morrison is a notoriously difficult person to interview. Or speak with. Or be in the same room with. So the...
  • 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...
  • Maritza Soto
    I am not a Van Morrison fan. I have never been gone on his music. I don’t get the appeal. I put on his “Astral Weeks” album so I could have that point of reference as I read and didn’t even get halfway through it because it was simply not my thing. The main reason I picked this book up is because I admire Ryan Walsh’s writing and cultural commentary. I follow him on Twitter and read about his research and process as he was writing this ...
  • Simon
    An all-over-the-place cultural and musical history of 1960’s Boston that finally doesn’t have much to do with Van Morrison. The Astral Weeks album was born during Morrison’s years in Boston playing with local musicians, but the album was recorded in New York with session players. Yet Walsh - who loves Morrison’s early music - makes the creation of Astral Weeks a central strand of the book, and places Morrison in opposition to “Fort Hill...
  • Nina Gordon
    I almost didn't finish this, because it was just so damn tedious. But, being a fan of Van Morrison, a musician, and a veteran of the 1960s, I stuck with it. Wasn't easy, and I'm not sure it was worth it. The book is hardly about Van Morrison... it's more like one man's obsession with a particular brief time period in Boston in 1968. And after reading the whole book, I can honestly say... who cares? I mean, I'm the kind of person who can find some...