The Delta Snake Review

The Delta Snake Review


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blues From A Cadillic: Thoughts About "Madame George"

I do a lot of music listening in my Caddy, which is like being in a sofa that happens to have wheels. There's music that sounds best in one, blues being the most obvious, but songs of a contemplative nature also sound good. I like to spend the 40 minutes or so driving to work drinking coffee, listening to my iPod (via car stereo), and generally just waking up. If you happen to see a '90 tan Cadillac DeVille floating along some South SF Bay road towards Palo Alto, you might be wise to give it a wide berth until I'm at least halfway through my coffee. I find the relative bliss of awakening useful in ignoring the usual commuter road ragers also, which is a sort of yin-yang thing if you really think about it.

I like to just channel surf songs until one hits, which is why the 700 or so songs are eclectic. Plus, for all you budding song writers out there, surfing 30 seconds of each song till one catches your ear will give you an invaluable glimpse into the superficial world of A&R. I remember reading articles about A&R people who listen to demo tapes, and the main thing is that they often just listen to the opening of each song and often will begin to lose interest by the third cut. That wisdom cost me nothing, so I pass it along for you all for whatever use you can make of it.

The first song that stuck was the live version of "Madame George," from the relatively recent Van Morrison CD that featured the classic "Astral Weeks" in it's entirety. I have to admit, listening to lyrics tends to be a secondary priority with me, I'm more interested in voice as sound (as Van is, from what I've read), but this morning the words really came through. Part of it might be the mix, the live version is much "brighter" in sound, but Morrison's voice tends to penetrate the consciousness like a good Coltrane cut too.

I'd always seen this classic interpreted as a glimpse of the life of a female impersonator, which it is of course, but what struck me was that Van's narration wasn't sympathetic, but was dispassionate yet focused on small incidents that showed Madame George's humanity and frailty and the overall mood was kindness.

Not the kind where you pat the person on the back or give them money, but where you view the person as-is, their foibles noted without judgement, and purely on what happened. That's a type of tolerance we don't see much anymore. This country has become very partisan, and every fault can become a reason to lose a job or position, and every mistake a stain on your character. Labels have become charged, and we often preach diversity, but find it OK to use the most insulting terms for someone we disagree with, often on a single issue. A woman can be independent and outspoken, but if a Republican, can be disparaged in a way that would normally cause a bar fight in many parts of the country.

Which is what's so beautiful about music, it really never ages like a movie can. It's meaning can change over time, depending on how your point of view shifts with life, and in this case, it made my morning just that much more peaceful hearing a story about some human being that when you think about it, isn't any different than the rest of us. Madame George was the perfect soundtrack to my commute this morning.

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