Trans identity and rights have been eclipsed by other madness in world events recently, but one old and very petty little debate won't go away. Say hello to Madame George.
Often held up as a trans song, there is in fact no reality in this, just the misinterpration of words. Van Morrisson wrote Madame George as the second part of a probably a highly autobiographical pair of songs , the other being Cypress Avenue , of course mentioned in the opening line again of the latter in the brace of ballads.
The myth of Madame George being an early pro trans song and alluding to a flirt with blurring the borders of sexuality and the artist's own experimention there in, are completely transparent. Firstly in the very name of the 'lady' being George. Secondly in the general poetic narrative suggesting a forbidden, underground flirtation which could never quite be requited. Thirdly the mention of what some claim is ' playing dominoes in drag' when the police raid the place.
Alas these are just misinterpretations. Firstly George is not referring to a first name, it is a well known second name in Ulster, and as both the well heeled middle class avenue and the 'soldier boy' husband suggests, a protestant one at that. Leading from this, the sexual tension and intrigue is more understandably heterosexual and extra marital, as the swingin late sixties afforded women a greater sexual freedom. Lastly ' in drag' is actually ' an' drag' , and not in, with the word meaning a card game played for petty bets at the time.
Van Morrison has spoken little of his specific inspirations for his modern folk master piece ' Astral Weeks' but he has mentioned that he had an affaire ( or several?) with an uptown lady which meant him walking up Cypress avenue in Belfast. ' Marching with the Soldier Boy Behind' seems to allude pretty strongly to a woman in control of her destiny with some contempt for her husband. This has also though, been 'decoded' to mean a gay lover in tow, walking two steps back to avoid attention.
The subject matter is though more clearly upon setting in context of the young openly heterosexual artist's formative years, centred around an affaire or unrequited relationship wirth a femme fatale. She may have been from the Republic due to the references to a police raid on their gambling den, and Van Morrisions seemingly obsessional need to get the train back to Belfast from Dublin. This seems also to refer to the innapropriateness of having a liason with perhaps a lady into her forties, and Van Morrison's dubiouty over the relationship
For me Madame George is then and Ulsterian Mrs. Robinson. She is a chance encounter for the artist. Out of boredom or awareness of her sexual needs, she leads the teenage protege into unchartered adult waters.