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Song Stories

“Tunic (Song for Karen)”

Sonic Youth | 1990

"Tunic (Song for Karen)" was Sonic Youth's tribute to and elegy for Karen Carpenter, who died from complications related to anorexia. Kim Gordon sang on the track, which described the Carpenters lead singer as saying goodbye to Hollywood, and hello to other dead rock stars like Elvis and Janis Joplin. Thurston Moore wasn't a fan of the Carpenters, but he was intrigued by the subject matter. "Oh, it was crap music," he said, "but was also extremely interesting … They were white bread, middle-class people, and Karen was somebody who was supposed to be perfect. It was a heavy slice of Americana, like the Walton family."

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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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