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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Blue Moon"

The Marcels - Blue Moon (1961)

An integrated male doo-wop group named after a ladies hairstyle.

What a great opening. It gets your attention, immediately presents itself as a fun challenge to repeat and lets all the listeners know that this song is going to move. This is a doo-wop song, so the five part vocal harmony is the primary ingredient here. The drum set is the only other instrument that really gets a fair share of the microphone. There is a bass that walks during the verses, and I think I can hear a piano during the /bomp-baba-bomp/ part. I love the last thirty seconds. You get that really high harmony sung over everything, and then the really low /BLUE MOOOOON/ right at the end.

The song itself was older than the young men singing it. Written in 1933 and '34 (an arduous process that involved two MGM films and four versions of the lyrics) by American musical masters Rogers and Hart. It was used in at least seven more MGM films including two Marx Brothers' films. Mel Torme brought a version to the Billboard charts in the 40s and Elvis did it again in 1956. The Marcels hit came in February of 1961. They recorded more songs in a similar style and began touring all very quickly. By August their tour had reached the South and the integrated group hit a snag. In order to keep the money coming in and the music playing, the two white members were replaced with black friends and family of the three original black members. In the next year, one original and one new member left. Blue Moon reached number 1 on the charts, and the Marcels never managed a hit that big again.

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