The History and Mysterious Beauty of Blue Moon

The Elvis Presley versions of Blue Moon is such a fantastic recording.  It is a whole universe in less than two and a half minutes.  I found a site where you can read the history of Blue Moon. (Though the first two paragraphs should be skipped.)  A sample:

“On August 19 they spent hours doing take after take of ‘Blue Moon,’ in an eerie, clippity-clop version that resembled a cross between Slim Whitman’s ‘Indian Love Call’ and some of the falsetto flights of the r&b ‘bird’ groups (the Orioles, the Ravens, the Larks). After it was all over, Sam wasn’t satisfied that they had anything worth releasing, but he never uttered a word of demurral for fear of discouraging the unfettered freshness and enthusiasm of the singer.”

Take 4 that evening, the one that RCA would eventually release two years later, reveals Elvis’s unusual interpretation of the song. Music historian Colin Escott describes it thus: “Elvis skips the bridge and the final verse that contains the happy ending, neatly transforming the 32-bar pop classic into an eerie 16-bar blues.” Hart’s original lyrics describe a man whose longing for love is finally rewarded. Elvis used only the following two opening stanzas, repeating and separating them with falsetto moans (that’s how I categorize the sound now):

One thing that really strikes me about the recording is how primitive it is.  Yet this does nothing to detract from its enjoyability, and in fact this actually helps to create the timeless mysterious quality of the recording.  Mood and emotion always win out in music.  What is good music if not sounds that create emotion?  In modern recordings you can make everything clear, but that is not necessarily an advantage.  When there is a bit of murkiness or misdirection, it allows the imagination of the listener to fill in the missing qualities.  Even knowing the history of Blue Moon, how it was recorded, cannot detract from the recordings strange beauty.  I think one of the reasons that something like Blue Moon is with us, aside from the fantastic performances, songwriting, and place in history, is that no matter how much we know about it, it remains a mysterious puzzle that will never be solved.  We might know the pieces that were in place on August 19th, 1954, but there is a strange alchemy, another presence, participating in the events of that night.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Darling, Don’t Cry Video

In honor of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s new album, Power in the Blood, coming out this week, I thought I would post one of my favorite songs of hers.  Unlike many of her songs that I love for the message that is conveyed, I love this one simply because it makes me happy.  How could this song not make you happy?

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood Out Today


First Listen: Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood

Over at NPR you can listen to a free stream of the new Buffy Sainte-Marie album, Power in the Blood.  I’ve been looking forward to this album ever since I heard it was being released.  She is one of the all-time greats.

Miley Cyrus Sings Paul Westerberg

It’s a strange world.  Miley Cyrus is singing a Replacements song.  She is singing it with Laura Jane Grace and Joan Jett.  Joan Jett has sang with Paul Westerberg several times, so it’s not as surprising that she is involved.

They are performing this to draw attention to Cyrus’s new charity The Happy Hippie Foundation that will help homeless youth, LBGT youth, and other vulnerable populations.

Androgynous is a song I have been listening to since I was a kid.  It’s a favorite of mine.  I’m glad to hear it in any form.  Despite this version being somewhat generic musically, there is love and joy here that I can’t deny.

I’m also glad about anything that helps people that are on the margins.  Anything that brings more love into the world is fine by me.

Original Replacements Version:

Half Heart By Angelo Badalamenti

Half Heart, composed by Angelo Badalamenti for the second season of Twin Peaks, is one of the saddest pieces of music you will ever hear.  It is also beautiful, which only makes it mournful.  It came on last night while I was driving home and I was struck with how emotional it is, even though I have heard it many times.  It sounds like a final goodbye.