Song Stories

“Ambling Alp”

Yeasayer | 2009

The "Ambling Alp" was the nickname of the six-and-a-half-foot-tall Primo Carnera. Though the song is named after the Italian-born 1930s heavyweight champion, Yeasayer are actually paying tribute to boxing legend Joe Louis with this first-person psychedelic dance-rock tune. “I was always interested in writing a song that had boxing mythology in it,” Yeasayer’s Chris Keating said. “It’s pretty fascinating: There were so many amazing characters, and it was so closely entwined with 20th century history.” Yeaseyer also invokes German champ Max Schmeling and hints at the historical significance placed on the historic bouts between the Nazi-era boxer and the African-American Louis.

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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