Blue Moon (1934 song)

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For the song by Steve Holy, see Blue Moon (Steve Holy song).
"Blue Moon"
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Published 1935
Blue Moon on alto saxophone.

"Blue Moon" is a classic popular song. It was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and has become a standard ballad. In 1961 it became a doo-wop hit when recorded by The Marcels and later by Jan & Dean.

Lyrics

The lyric presumably refers to an English idiomatic expression: "once in a blue moon", meaning "very rarely". (The origin of the expression is unclear; see article "blue moon"). The narrator of the song is relating a stroke of luck so unlikely that it must have taken place under a blue moon. The title relies on a play on words, since blue is also the colour of melancholy, and indeed the narrator is sad and lonely until he finds love. The song is noted for its ending with the exaggerated baritone "blue moon".

History

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1933. They were soon commissioned to write the songs for Hollywood Party, a film that was to star many of the studio's top artists. Richard Rodgers later recalled, "One of our ideas was to include a scene in which Jean Harlow is shown as an innocent young girl saying—or rather singing—her prayers. How the sequence fitted into the movie I haven't the foggiest notion, but the purpose was to express Harlow's overwhelming ambition to become a movie star ('Oh Lord, if you're not busy up there,/I ask for help with a prayer/So please don't give me the air . . .')." The song was not even recorded and MGM Song #225 "Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)" dated June 14, 1933, was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933.1

Lorenz Hart wrote new lyrics for the tune to create a title song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama: "Act One:/You gulp your coffee and run;/Into the subway you crowd./Don’t breathe, it isn’t allowed".2 The song, which was also titled "It's Just That Kind of Play", was cut from the film before release, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30, 1934. The studio then asked for a nightclub number for the film. Rodgers still liked the melody so Hart wrote a third lyric: "The Bad in Every Man" ("Oh, Lord . . . /I could be good to a lover,/But then I always discover/The bad in ev’ry man"2), which was sung by Shirley Ross. The song, which was also released as sheet music, was not a hit.1

After the film was released by MGM, Jack Robbins—the head of the studio's publishing company3—decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but he was persuaded.1 The result was "Blue moon/you saw me standing alone/without a dream in my heart/without a love of my own".

There is another verse that comes before the usual start of the song. Both Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart used it in their recent versions of the song. The last line of this extra verse is "Life was a bitter cup for the saddest of all men."citation needed

Robbins licensed the song to Hollywood Hotel, a radio program that used it as the theme. On January 15, 1935, Connee Boswell recorded it for Brunswick Records. It subsequently was featured in at least seven more MGM films including the Marx Brothers' At the Circus and Viva Las Vegas.1 Part of the song was in the musical Grease.

The Frank Sinatra recording of the song appears on the radio stations in the video game Fallout: New Vegas.

"Blue Moon" has been adopted by the fans of Crewe Alexandra Football Club (of the English Football League) and Manchester City Football Club of the Premier League (whose home jerseys are sky blue and white) as an unofficial team song.

THe song was repeatedly referenced, with an orchestral background, in the 2013 Woody Allen movie Blue Jasmine.

Cover versions

Billy Eckstine cover

"Blue Moon"
Single by Billy Eckstine
B-side "Fools Rush In"
Released 1949
Format 78 RPM
Recorded 1949
Genre Jazz
Label MGM Records
Writer(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart4

Billy Eckstine did a cover version of "Blue Moon" that reached the Billboard charts in 1949. It was released by MGM Records as catalog number 10311. It first reached the Juke Box chart on March 5, 1949, and lasted three weeks on the chart, peaking at number 21.56

Mel Tormé cover

"Blue Moon"
Single by Mel Tormé
B-side "Again"
Released 1949
Format 10" single
Recorded 1949
Genre Jazz
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart4

Mel Tormé did a cover version of "Blue Moon" that reached the Billboard charts in 1949. It was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 15428. It first reached the Best Seller chart on April 8, 1949, and lasted five weeks on the chart, peaking at number 20. The record was a two-sided hit, as the flip side, "Again", also charted.57

Elvis Presley cover

"Blue Moon"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Elvis Presley
A-side "Just Because"
Released August 31, 1956
Recorded August 19, 1954
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:31
Label RCA
Writer(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart4
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"I Love You Because" / "Trying to Get to You"
(1956)
"Just Because" / "Blue Moon"
(1956)
"Money Honey" / "One-Sided Love Affair"
(1956)
Elvis Presley track listing

"Blue Moon"'s first crossover recording to rock and roll came from Elvis Presley in 1956. His cover version of the song was included on his self-titled debut album Elvis Presley.

In Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train, the three distinct stories that make up the narrative are linked by a portion of Elvis Presley's version of "Blue Moon" (as heard on a radio broadcast) and a subsequent offscreen gunshot, which are heard once during each story, revealing that the three stories occur simultaneously in real time.

The Marcels' cover

"Blue Moon"
Single by The Marcels
from the album Blue Moon
B-side "Goodbye to Love"
Released February 1961
Format 7" single
Recorded 1961
Genre Rock and roll, R&B
Length 2:15
Label Colpix
Writer(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart4
Producer(s) Stu Phillips
Certification Gold
The Marcels singles chronology
"Blue Moon"
(1961)
"Summertime"
(1961)

The Marcels, a doo-wop group, also recorded the track for their album Blue Moon. In 1961, the Marcels had three songs left to record and needed one more. Producer Stu Phillips did not like any of the other songs except one that had the same chord changes as "Heart and Soul" and "Blue Moon". He asked them if they knew either, and one knew "Blue Moon" and taught it to the others, though with the bridge or release (middle section - "I heard somebody whisper...") wrong.8 The famous introduction to the song ("bomp-baba-bomp" and "dip-da-dip") was an excerpt of an original song that the group had in its act.

Reception

The record reached number one on the Billboard Pop chart for three weeks and number one on the R&B chart.9 It also peaked at #1 on the UK Singles Chart. The Marcels' version of "Blue Moon" sold a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.10 It is featured in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Marcels doo-wop version is one of three different versions used in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London (the other two being done by Bobby Vinton and Sam Cooke). Their version of the song is referenced in the 1962 Academy Award nominated animated short Disney musical film, A Symposium on Popular Songs during the song, "Puppy Love Is Here to Stay" written by Robert & Richard Sherman.

Chart performance

Chart (1961) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 111
UK Singles Chart 112
U.S. R&B Chart 19

Jan & Dean's cover

Jan & Dean recorded the song as a single in 1982. Blue Moon is a post accident recording by the duo after Jan Berry's crash near Dead Man's Curve in April, 1966.

Cowboy Junkies cover

In 1988, Cowboy Junkies' second album, The Trinity Session, included "Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)", which is both a cover and an original, combining a new song by the band with the pop standard "Blue Moon."

The Mavericks cover

American country music group The Mavericks covered the song for the soundtrack of the 1995 film Apollo 13. Their version peaked at number 57 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada. It also charted on the RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, peaking at number 15. A music video was produced, directed by Todd Hallowell.

Chart performance

Chart (1995) Peak
position
Canada Adult Contemporary Tracks (RPM)13 15
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)14 57
Preceded by
"Wooden Heart" by Elvis Presley
UK number one single
(The Marcels version)

May 4–11, 1961 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"On The Rebound" by Floyd Cramer

Choral adaptations

A version suitable for performance by chamber choir arranged by David Blackwell is in the collection "In the Mood" published by Oxford University Press.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Brent, Bill. 'The Story of Blue Moon', Weekly Bugle. Retrieved June 6, 2005.
  2. ^ a b Kanfer, Stefan. 'Richard Rodgers: Enigma Variations', City Journal, Autumn 2003.
  3. ^ Martini, Alessandro. 'Song: Blue Moon', LorenzHart.org. Retrieved June 6, 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d Hart, Lorenzo; Hart, Dorothy; Kimball, Robert. The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart (New York: Knopf, 1986). ISBN 0-394-54680-6
  5. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research. 
  6. ^ "Billy Eckstine| Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  7. ^ "Mel Tormé | Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  8. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present (5 ed.). Billboard Books. p. 87. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6. 
  9. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 376. 
  10. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 137. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  11. ^ "The Marcels | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  12. ^ "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  13. ^ "RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. October 9, 1995. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  14. ^ "RPM Country Tracks." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. September 18, 1995. Retrieved September 8, 2013.

External links