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"One of this year’s best books."

- Aquarium Drunkard


"Walsh's story continually connects disparate events, creating a Day-Glo Venn diagram of '60's countercultural history...[he] unearths a lot of revelatory rock lore, but ultimately the story functions as map of how organic culture worked in that place and time, the weird kids and their weird ideas that eventually codified into industries and institutions...another right-on-time reminder of how crucial participation is in keeping art and music alive."

- Jessica Hopper, Bookforum Magazine, Summer Issue




Lauded as one of the greatest albums in the rock ’n’ roll canon, Astral Weeks feels less like rock, more like a benediction, a song cycle of rebirth. Martin Scorsese claims the first fifteen minutes of Taxi Driver are based on it. Philip Seymour Hoffman quoted it in his Oscar acceptance speech. Elvis Costello called it “the most adventurous record made in the rock medium”; part of the late Jeff Buckley’s own myth is tied with his choice to cover “The Way Young Lovers Do.” The critic Lester Bangs claimed it contained “the quality of a beacon.” Joni Mitchell was so taken aback by the album that she badgered one of Van’s guitarists for information about him before finally meeting him: “What is he actually like?”


About The Book

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 musician and journalist Ryan H. Walsh unearths the album’s fascinating backstory–along with the untold secrets of the time and place that birthed it: Boston 1968.

On the 50th anniversary of that tumultuous year, Walsh’s book follows a criss-crossing cast of musicians and visionaries, artists and hippie entrepreneurs, from a young Tufts English professor who walks into a job as a host for TV’s wildest show (one episode required two sets, each tuned to a different channel) to the mystically inclined owner of radio station WBCN, who believed he was the reincarnation of a scientist from Atlantis. Most penetratingly powerful of all is Mel Lyman, the folk-music star who decided he was God, then controlled the lives of his many followers via acid, astrology, and an underground newspaper called Avatar.

A mesmerizing group of boldface names pops to life in Astral Weeks: James Brown quells tensions the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated; the real-life crimes of the Boston Strangler come to the movie screen via Tony Curtis; Howard Zinn testifies for Avatar in the courtroom. From life-changing concerts and chilling crimes, to acid experiments and film shoots, Astral Weeks is the secret, wild history of a unique time and place.


- Get The Book.

- Read Ryan H. Walsh's original 2015 Boston Magazine article about Van Morrison's Astral Sojourn.