Glossary entry for
George, Madame

Debate is never-ending on the meaning (and the identity) of Madame George. Rumor has it that the song was originally titled "Madame Joy", and the way that Van sings it, it could be heard as either!

According to the liner notes from Bang Masters:

"Madame George" is a song about saying goodbye to one's youthful friends and the old scene - it's a song about outgrowing a place and moving on. The lyric describes a party full of laughing, rowdy people. The singer, who finds himself no longer feeling like one of the gang, looks around for the last time and then slips out into the night to catch a train that will take him away. As he moves toward the station, he hears the party growing softer behind him...

Some listeners have always maintained that Madame George is a transvestite, owing to her name and to the line about "playing dominoes in drag." In the early '70s, Rolling Stone asked Van if Madame George was a drag queen and Van said absolutely not. More than ten years later he told Musician, "Madame George was about six or seven different people who probably couldn't find themselves in there if they tried."..."

Lester Bangs talks a bit about Madame George in his classic review of Astral Weeks, while Gerald Dawe includes an appreciation of "Madame George" in his 1998 book The Rest Is History.

As a footnote, Irish singer Sinead O'Connor pays a tribute of sorts to Madame George, with a reference in the lyrics to her song "Black Boys On Mopeds" on the album I do not want what I haven't got:

England's not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It's the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds

Van references in:

Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website

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