While visiting Donal and Isobel last week I was delighted to be able to introduce them to the tale of Van Morrison's famous contractual obligation album for Bang Records.
You might have heard about this. The exact details of the album aren't very clear. I can't find any reliable tales behind the recording beyond the fact that it was cynically made in 1967 to satisfy Van's contract with Bang. The contract strangely required him to come up with 36 original songs within the space of a year. In a badass move that almost makes up for the time he collaborated with Cliff Richard, Van came into the studio and made up 31 crap songs in a single session.
I have on my iPod a copy of the "best" of these tracks, "Ring Worm;" but today dug around and found a blog that posted all 31 of the tracks back in 2005. As of today, at least, all of the songs are still available.
It's probably not worth sitting and listening to 31 (short) intentionally bad pieces of music. The novelty wears off rather quickly. So, I'll tell you the five most amusing tracks:
- "Ring Worm"
- "You Say 'France' I Whistle"
- "Want a Danish?"
- "Dum Dum George"
- "Chicken Coo"
In and of themselves the tracks are funny and odd (every time I hear the tiny little half whistle in "You Say 'France' I Whistle" it makes me giggle like a hyena), but they also have a number of amusing elements.
First off, they contain more dialogue from Van Morrison than you'll hear anywhere else. He's famously unchatty. I've seen him live in concert twice and the man simply does not speak between songs. Even more unlikely is any display of emotion beyond grumpiness, which makes his burst of laughter in the middle of "Chicken Coo" extremely rare.
There is also the epic of George, played out in the songs "Hold On George," "Here Comes Dumb George," "Goodbye George" and "Dum Dum George." Clearly Van has an obsession with this George person because later, in Astral Weeks he spends 9:46 singing about "Madame George."