In 1968, Van Morrison cut tracks for what’s been called his “revenge” or “contractual obligation album.” The backstory, provided by Top Tenz, goes like this:
After a pretty unhappy couple of years with his label Bang Records in the mid-60s, Van Morrison wanted out. They demanded he deliver some more short and poppy stuff like Brown Eyed Girl, while he wanted to release 11-minute renditions of lion impersonations (which he did on the album Saint Dominic’s Preview.) The singer became so distraught with his label situation, that he slipped into financial trouble and had problems finding gigs.
Just when it seemed Morrison might never deliver on his musical potential, Warner Music stepped in and bought out his deal with Bang Records. There was still one small contractual detail though. Morrison was obliged to record exactly 36 songs for his old label, who would also continue to earn royalties off anything he released for the first year after leaving Bang. Not a patient man at the best of times, Van did the only thing he could think of: he recorded more than 30 songs in a single recording session, on an out-of-tune guitar, about subjects as diverse as ringworm, blowing your nose, a dumb guy named George, and whether he wanted to eat a danish or a sandwich.
Deemed unworthy, the songs Morrison banged out (cheap pun, I know!) weren’t released in the 1960s. They eventually saw the light of day, however, on the 1994 album Payin Dues, which happens to be available on Spotify for free. According to rock critic Richie Unterberger, the album ranks as “the least commercial music ever recorded by a major rock artist, and the nastiest spit in the eye of commercial expectations and contractual obligations.” But, there’s certainly an entertainment factor to the collection, and it should be noted that Payin Dues also includes some worthwhile tracks, including all of Van Morrison’s studio masters from the Bang years, plus the demo of “The Smile You Smile” and an alternate take of “Brown Eyed Girl”.