One Saturday night when I was a science student at the University of Ottawa, I was in my room listening to the radio while doing a lab report – you know, writing my observations and conclusions in one of those hard-cover notebooks.
I sat in the dark except for a desk lamp when the song, Madame George, came on, the quiet strumming of the guitar, then Van’s voice breaking through. The emotions. The vulnerability…
I knew right away that I had to listen, really listen, so I turned off the light to give my ears a chance to absorb as much as possible.
The song poured right into my soul.
Even though I knew nothing about the world Van was singing about, I felt his longing and how it lingered long after he left wherever it was that he was leaving – Belfast, as it turned out.
For me it was a mystical experience, a communion with something sacred and enduring. And 40 years on, reading comments online, I see that I’m far from alone in cherishing this particular song from Van’s 1968 album, Astral Weeks.
The quote in the title is from the lyrics to Madame George, which can be found here.
Listen to Jazz FM91‘s Nightlab, hosted every Sunday night from 10 to midnight EST by the wonderful Dani Elwell, and you might hear this story and this song in the not so distant future.
For a great example of oral story-telling, check out Radio Deluxe’s broadcast of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey’s concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles, recorded live April 9th, 2016. Download Show. After the first two songs, John tells the story of how he came to record Midnight McCartney.
I’d previously heard him tell the same story on the Radio Deluxe program taped at John and Jessica’s home in New York, but this live version is even more hilarious. John lays it on thick and hits all the right notes.
A shout out to Jazz FM 91 in Toronto for airing this program every Sunday morning at 9 am.