Van Morrison happy to be called musical genius

Belfast-born singer says he did not have a clue what he was doing when writing ‘Astral Weeks’

 Van Morrison during a 2012 concert in Marlay Park. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Van Morrison during a 2012 concert in Marlay Park. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Van Morrison has said he thinks he is a musical genius but believes that label brings its own problems.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio 1, presenter Miriam O’Callaghan, who is a fan of the singer, asked Morrison (73) if he was comfortable with being described as a musical genius.

Morrison responded: “I don’t mind [that label]. I think I am [a musical genius]. That can be a problem too. It doesn’t make it any easier because there are higher expectations.”

In a wide ranging interview covering his career, Morrison admitted that when he recorded the album which is widely regarded as his best, Astral Weeks, in 1968, he was “just a child” and did not have a clue what he was doing.

Morrison wrote many of the songs on the album between the ages of 19 and 21. It was released when he was 23.

At the time he was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Boston and was “totally broke”.

His early champion, the New York record producer Bert Berns, had died the previous year and the record label left him “out to dry”.

He recalled: “It’s very difficult to relate to it now because it keeps coming up. That was that period of time. It is not relatable to me now. I am not the same person.

“I didn’t know anything about anything then. I was just spinning off the top of my head basically. I was absorbing things that people were saying and doing or things that were in books. All of this stuff was regurgitated in the album.”

He said the version of Astral Weeks that was eventually released was his third recording of the album as the other two did not work out.

He had also played many of the tracks on the album live with a bass and flute player. He maintained that stories put out by the producer that the album had miraculously come together in the studio were simply not true.

“I wasn’t analysing this stuff. Nowadays everyone is analysing this stuff, but that came later. Now it seems that everything is dissected. I don’t need to dissect it. If I get these ideas, I write them down, progress and evolve. It’s a process. When I’m doing it, I don’t need to analyse it.”

Myth

Morrison also stated it was a myth to suggest that he was ever influenced by the poet WB Yeats.

“There was a book out in America that mentioned me and linked me with Yeats. That’s where that idea started. Yeats wrote great poetry, but I was never influenced by him.”

Morrison released his 40th album, The Prophet Speaks, on December 7th. It is his fourth album in 15 months.

He said the music industry was very tough and he had survived in it because it was a vocation for him.