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Song Stories

“In the Still of the Night”

The Five Satins | 1956

Not a smash hit upon first release -- it was actually a B side -- this doo-wop staple by a vocal group from New Haven, Connecticut, went on to become one of the style’s most iconic tunes. In fact, its nonsense refrain (“doo wop, doo wah”) is often cited as the origin of the term “doo-wop” itself. Written by lead singer Fred Parris while on Army guard duty, and recorded on the cheap in the basement of a hometown church, complete with a muffled rhythm section and off-key backing vocals, the song nevertheless went on to top New York oldies station WCBS’ countdown of all-time oldies favorites year in and year out.

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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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