SALEM — It’s not too great a stretch to compare genius singer-songwriter Van Morrison — introverted, moody and creatively driven — with Nathaniel Hawthorne, said to have had similar traits. And for both, place played an important role in the creation of their seminal works of art.
On Thursday, April 11, The House of the Seven Gables hosts Boston-based author and musician Ryan H. Walsh. His book, “Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968,” was selected by many critics as one of the best books of 2018 and has just been published in paperback. Walsh will tell some of the stories that make connections between Van Morrisson’s creative drive and the psychedelic, mystical and artistically vital Boston of 1968, where he lived at the time. That year in Boston was auspicious. Walsh began his research into Morrisson when he realized that 1968 Boston gave birth to Morrisson’s masterpiece album, “Astral Weeks.” The album is considered by many to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
“I do make a case in the book that Boston seemed to have an effect on Morrisson and the album,” says Walsh, a musician himself. “I drop back 100 years to when Boston was a hotbed for spiritualists. Certain cities and locations do hold energy. Boston and New England have that. Boston is a special place,” says Walsh.
“Astral Weeks” was a major departure from Morrisson’s first album, “Brown-Eyed Girl,” and it caught the music world — and Walsh — by surprise. “Astral Weeks” first impacted Walsh’s life during his 20s when he was hurting from a bad heartbreak. “It was like medicine. It helped me tremendously and quickly became my favorite album of all time.” Many have been influenced by “Astral Weeks,” from Martin Scorsese to Bruce Springsteen. Music critic Lester Bangs called “Astral Weeks” a “mystical document” and Elvis Costello called it the most “adventurous record made in the rock medium.”
Walsh’s appearance at The Gables kicks off the 2019 annual lecture series, Seven Lectures at Seven Gables. This year’s lecture series and exhibition theme focus on The Gables’ influence on popular culture. The book and lecture, which also touches on all that’s happened since the book was first published in March 2018, promises to be a mind-expanding dive into a lost chapter in 1968 Boston. Many may know Ryan Walsh from his rock band Hallelujah the Hills, which performed nationally for 10 years.
For more information or to register, visit 7gables.org. This lecture is $10 and free for members. The lecture takes place at The Gables Visitor Center located at 115 Derby Street on April 5 at 6:30 p.m. A book signing in the Museum Store will follow the lecture with the newly released paperback version.