Who's Grumpy?

"In order to fulfill his obligation to his early solo label Bang Records, Van Morrison sat down in 1967 or so and cranked out 31 songs on the spot, on topics ranging from ringworm to wanting a danish, to hating his record label and a guy named George. Make sure you get past the first few tunes - it takes him a few to get cooking."

I think my favourite has to be track 13: "Freaky If You Got This Far", although "The Big Royalty Cheque" surely ranks up there amongst his all time greats.

"I'm waiting... for my royalty cheque to come, and it still hasn't come yet... it's about a year overdue..."

I know the feeling.

UPDATE: A thought just occurred to me as I was listening to this stuff again. The 31 tracks include four songs poking fun at some guy named "George":
  • Hold On George
  • Here Comes Dumb George
  • Goodbye George
  • Dum Dum George
At first I thought - perhaps George was some record company wonk for whom Van Morrison had a particular hate on.

But then it struck me - Van's real name is George Ivan Morrison.

Could it be he's having a go at himself here, for having been dumb enough to sign a restrictive contract with Bang Records so early in his career?

Following this thought skein, it brings me back to the popular Van Morrison puzzler about the identity of "Madame George".

Like most Van fans, I guess I always assumed the Madame George he sings about in what is one of the best tracks on Astral Weeks is either some fondly remembered "tart with a heart" or perhaps a drag queen. Maybe the truth is a lot simpler.

Astral Weeks was the first album Morrison recorded under his new contract with Warner, in 1968. The song Madame George, though, was first recorded when Van was still under contractual obligation to Bang Records. A 1967 version of the song popped up in 1991 on the "Bang Masters" album.

The liner notes on my scruffy copy of Bang Masters include a description of Madame George: "...a song about saying goodbye to one's youthful friends and the old scene - it's a song about outgrowing a place and moving on. The lyric describes a party full of laughing, rowdy people. The singer, who finds himself no longer feeling like one of the gang, looks around for the last time and then slips out into the night to catch a train that will take him away. As he moves toward the station, he hears the party growing softer behind him..."

So perhaps the mystery of Madame George is no mystery at all. Perhaps it's simply autobiographical. Why "Madame", though, I've no idea. Let's not go there.

OK. That's quite enough Van Morrison geekery for one day.