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September 28, 2005

Van Morrison's Contractual Obligation Album

Van_morrisonMP3s: 31 improvised songs from Van Morrison's Bang Records Contractual Obligation Session, below the jump.

In the great pantheon of contractual obligation records, there is the noisy (Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music), the brassy (Neil Young's This Note's For You) and the phony (Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Record).

And then there is Van Morrison's Bang Records Sessions.

In order to fulfill his obligation to his early solo label Bang Records,Van Morrison sat down in 1967 or so and cranked out 31 songs on the spot, on topics ranging from ringworm to wanting a danish, to hating his record label and a guy named George. Make sure you get past the first few tunes - it takes him a few to get cooking.

Listener Scott S, who originally brought the tapes to our attention in 2001, wrote:

As far as I know, none of this stuff was ever issued in the '60's. I can only surmise at some point in the early '90's, whoever controlled Van's Bang masters ran across the tapes and - either having questionable ethics and/or a twisted sense of humor - licensed the tapes to European labels that were releasing compilations of Van's Bang-era material. I know of at least two double-CD sets that include demo stuff as the second disc - one is Payin' Dues on Charly in 1994, and the other is New York Sessions '67. WIll Rigby told me that he saw a single-disc best-of that actually mixes legit Bang-era Morrison tracks with material from the demos - now that must be an interesting listen. I guess there's irony in the fact that Morrison recorded these tunes as a big fuck-you to his label - before he signed to Warner and recorded Astral Weeks - yet ultimately the joke's on him, now that they're being packaged as legitimate tracks (on "best-of" collections, no less).

Twist and Shake
Shake and Roll
Stomp and Scream
Scream and Holler
Jump and Thump
Drivin' Wheel
Just Ball
Shake it Mable
Hold On George
The Big Royalty Check
Ring Worm
Savoy Hollywood
Freaky If You Got This Far
Up Your Mind
Thirty Two
All The Bits
You Say France and I Whistle
Blow In Your Nose
Nose In Your Blow
La Mambo
Go For Yourself
Want A Danish
Here Comes Dumb George
Chicken Coo
Do It
Hang On Groovy
Goodbye George
Dum Dum George
Walk And Talk
The Wobble
Wobble And Ball


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» Van Morrison's Contractual Obligation Album from Cynical-C Blog
WFMU's Beware of the Blog presents: 31 improvised songs from Van Morrison's Bang Records Contractual Obligation Session In the great pantheon of contractual obligation records, there is the noisy (Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music), the brassy (Neil Young... [Read More]

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And yes, someone has written up the lyrics for these songs. Sing along with Van!

"Here comes dumb George?" That's one for the history of campaign ditties...

Thank you, thank you, thank you Ken. Today is a glorious day.

Years of scouring the file-sharing depths had only yielded "You've Got Ringworm," "I'm Waiting For My Royalty Check," "Have a Danish," and "Savoy Hollywood." All excellent songs-- but the whole session? Tremendous.

You can get all the tracks, plus his other lesser popular tunes currently on this comp:


My local record store was actually advertising it when it was released!

Here's a background as to why he recorded this stuff:

The label released an album of his while he was on the road without his knowledge.

"You say France and I whistle"

THIRTY-ONE songs?!

WFMU, marry me.

And can you believe Astral Weeks was just a year or so away...Madame George indeed.

The Bang Masters (the first disc of this collection) is slightly better than this, for anyone seeking serious Van from the same era.

Brian Doherty wrote a great piece about these tracks in issue #16 of Scram.

A 50-download trial membership to Emusic.com can net you these and more - if you are willing to give up your VISA number and remember to cancel before they charge you and sign you up monthly. Here's the listing and All Music Guide...funny, no mention of disk 2.


By contrast, this might not be a bad tribute "Vanthology":


Ken, once again you've bestowed a perfect gift upon us. I'm going to be listening to these all weekend long.

"In the great pantheon of contractual obligation records," don't leave out the obscene - "Cocksucker Blues" by the Stones. Their contractual obligation single for Decca.

The bandwidth alone is amazing....
This is truly an altruistic gesture like no other!

Thank you!

The fact that his guitar keeps getting further out of tune is awesome. I just imagine him crapping these out, one after the other, in one long 40 minute take.

"This Note's For You" was a contractual obligation record?

Funny, it was the first record he released on his return to Reprise Records in 1988.

I tell you. You're very lucky to have ring worm, because you may have had...something else.

Van Morrison is genius, even in fun.

These are great. Did anyone else notice the similarity of 'Hang on Groovy' to 'Hang on Sloopy' by the McCoys?? The funny thing is, I looked it up and that song was recorded in 1965 on Bang records! Any bets on whether Van saw a poster or something in the studio?

metal machine music wasnt no contract obligation album. no way.

For the record, Van's birth certificate reads "George Ivan Morrison". George is him.

Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music was not a contractual obligation record!! He recorded CONEY ISLAND BABY 1975 & TAKE NO PRISONERS 1979 shortly after MMM in 1975. Don't say that something is a "contractual obligation" just because a release diverges from an artists preceding work and you don't like it. That is and insult to the artist. Did Lou tell you this himself?

And the Monty Python Contractual Obligation Album was, in fact, a contractual obligation album (it was their last album for Charisma, although Virgin issued a compilation album called "The Final Ripoff" after they acquired the label).

Re: Metal Machine Music.

From The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden of New Musical Express, 3rd Ed. 1979, Salamander Books.

"Albums were returned in droves until RCA, duly embarrassed by their gullibility and culpability in the affair, were forced to take it off the market. Reed later claimed that he made the album to break his contract with his manager."

(Note that his next Coney Island Baby was also on RCA.)

And from Billy Altman, founder of the first magazine called Punk in 1973, in The Rolling Stone Records Guide 1979.

"In retrospect, one might easily have given the album four stars for sheer nerve and guts, for its deafening blip-and-bleep is a statement, a bitter rail against record companies, fan's notions of image and the entire workings of the music industry. (On the other hand, Metal Machine Music might be nothing more than a rather perverse and elaborate joke, replete with a cover that implies a concert recording and liner notes written in deadpan electronic mumbo jumbo.) Everything considered, it's probably a combination of the two - hence the dilemma."

Re: Van Morrison and Bang Records from same sources as above:

NME - "Bert Berns had written Hang on Sloopy for the McCoys and Twist and Shout for the Isley Brothers, as well as Here Comes the Night, and had formed his own label, Bang Records. Being well aware of Morrison's potential, he invited him to New York to cut four trial singles. One of the tracks that Morrison cut was Brown Eyed Girl which became a U.S. Top 5 hit when it was released in May 1967. Bang then put out an album, Blowin' Your Mind, about which Morrison knew nothing. It was merely a collection of the songs Morrison had cut, as he thought, as singles materials. Berns pacified Morrison's anger by allowing him to make an album himself, the result of which was The Best of Van Morrison, though yet again he did not really have the opportunity to exercise the artistic control he had been promised; he now suggests that the album is more accurately titled 'The Worst of Van Morrison'. Bern died suddenly of a heart attack on Dec. 1 1967, and Morrison was once again a free agent."

RS - "Following the death of Morrison's producer, Bert Berns, the owner of Bang but best known as a soul writer/producer, Van moved to Warner Bros."

From the liner notes to the 1991 release of the Bang Masters, quoting Van Morrison from record exec Joe Smith's book On The Record: "I actually recorded some of the songs that eventually wound up on Astral Weeks for Bert. I did one album for Bert, and then for a second he said, 'You know, we have to get you back into the studio.' So I played him a tape, me on guitar, and he said, 'Great, this is what we should do.' Just like that. He said, 'We'll fill it out a little here, put that there.' Well, I showed up for the session and forty people are there. We struggled through that one but the songs just didn't work out. Astral Weeks became what it was because everything was stripped away."

(Two songs from Astral Weeks appear on the Bang Masters, Beside You and Madame George. There's no mention of the contractual obligation recordings mentioned in blog subject)

Whoever posted about Cocksucker Blues using my anonymous but unique "Guest" and non-functional email address "nobody@here.com", please differentiate yourself from my postings. And no offense, I realize I should come up with something of my own - I'm just lazy.

"Bang Sessions" was issued as a sumptuously packaged, triple LP set by Get Back. Sounds great! Even the "contractual obligation" crap sounds good...not that I've listened to it more than once.....listening to MP3s is to listening to music as having sex wearing a half dozen condoms is to having sex....

A lot of what he sings here seems pretty random. But at just before the climax of "Cypress Avenue" on "It's too late to stop now" you'll hear Morrison passionately chanting "and you say France".

God know what it means - but it sounds great on that Live album.

These are the lyrics from it's too late to stop now:

An you say France
You say France
An you say France
An you say France
An' me whistlin'


From the Bang Masters' insert:

"Some of the tracks - even the goofy 'Chick-a-Boom' - begin as pure pop only to have Van jump ship, improvising lyrics and scat singing. The spoken asides between takes suggest that some of the session pros were having a tough time understnding what Van was after. Listen to the rap Van launches into on 'Who Drove the Red Sports Car' and remember that tense 'A piece of my life, if it means anything!' Van spins the story of the girl beckoning him to come in from the rain (it's raining all through these songs) and gets lost in his reverie. Then, as if he suddenly opened his eyes and remembered where he was, he snaps, 'That's a bag. Now you gotta turn it upside down, put it in a rack, fold it, press it, call it a record.' "


"Thankfully there's a lot of fun in these sessions, too. Is Van really saying, 'Talk to trees' on the band version of 'The Smile You Smile'? Even if he is, that's not half as bizarre as his romantic request, 'If you can't come home, please send your mind.' And you've got to smile at the guitarist (probably Eric Gale or Hugh McCracken) valiantly trying to go reggae on the chorus of 'Goodbye Baby.' "

Notes by Bill Flanagan, Editor of Musician Magazine (1991)

I like your site

a great site, good job on the Van songs and it is a beautifully constructed and well thought out site.

Nice nice. A lot of useful here. Such disscussions make our surfing not so useless
Thanks for all.


These songs got airplay on 102.5 WDVE-FM in Pittsburgh today, and the morning show's intro sounded very similar to the text you wrote above. Really funny stuff!

What a pleasure to hear these lost gems. Van Morrison even though did this one session with no overdubs or anything else. This is a classic album that should of been released like Beach Boys "Smile" release. Van Morrison is pure, raw, and real. Awesome find.

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Logo-Rama 2005

  • Winner (T-shirt): Gregory Jacobsen
    We received such an outpouring of extraordinary listener artwork submissions for our recent logo design contest that we just couldn't keep it all to ourselves.

    Hold your champagne glass high, extend your pinky, turn up your nose, and take a stroll through this gallery of WFMU-centric works from the modern era.