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Song Stories

“The Letter”

The Box Tops | 1967

On the first run-through, 16-year-old Box Tops frontman Alex Chilton sang this soon-to-be Number One hit "really softly," he later recalled. "The producer came out and said, 'No, man, you gotta sing it hard. Don't be afraid of the microphone.'" Producer Dan Penn then demonstrated, belting out the song, and Chilton followed suit, nailing it. Penn remembers the session differently: "Everybody thinks I coaxed Alex into doing a lot of vocal tricks, but it's not true -- he just had it. The only thing I ever told that young man to do was sing 'aeroplane' instead of 'airplane.' I was just tryin' to make it flow better."

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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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