You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
Today I’m trying an experiment. “Uh oh,” I can hear you say. I’m going to feature a single song. That song is Blue Moon.
Blue Moon was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and has been recorded by everyone (well, everyone who counts). These are what I consider the most interesting interpretations (coincidentally, they are also the ones in my collection. Okay, not all the ones in my collection or we’d be here all day).
Bobby Bland is a particular favorite of the A.M. (assistant musicologist).
Bobby “Blue” Bland is not just a blues singer, although he is that, particularly when he teamed with his friend B.B. King. He is also a great jazz singer. He could have turned his hand (and voice) to rock 'n' roll if he wanted to, and some of his songs suggest that he did just that. This version of the song is sort of blues, sort of jazz, a bit of big band and a fine way to begin.
Julie London was the daughter of a vaudeville song-and-dance team.
When she was 14, the family moved to Los Angeles and not long after that she started appearing in films. Easy as that. Later, she married Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame, not my uncle with the same name). In the way of things Hollywood, they were divorced and she married Bobby Troup (who wrote Route 66; there are no Troups in my family).
This is a cool, sultry version of the song (pretty much like everything Julie sang).
Bob Dylan recorded the song on his much-maligned Self Portrait album.
I remember the ordure heaped upon this record when it was released. I wondered why at the time. I thought it wasn’t a bad album at all and I still do. It’s not his best, but it’s far from his worst. This was his happily-married, non-smoking period and his voice was quite different from the way it was in the mid-sixties and the way it is now. Almost Mr. Smooth.
Mel Tormé’s version is probably closest to the version that we most think of when we hear the name of the song (except for some of us, see below).
Besides being a great singer, Mel was also a composer and arranger, a drummer, an actor and the author of five books. He first sang professionally at age four (yikes) and wrote his first song at thirteen (double yikes). I’ll skip over the rest of his career because there’s a hell of a lot of it and just let him sing the song - well, one version of it; he recorded it several times.
Elvis recorded the song in his very early days at Sun Records.
It’s far from the best song he did back then, but everything he did at the time is worth listening to. This is sort of country, sort of slow rockabilly, all Elvis. Nothing more needs to be said.
People of my age (mid-sixties) had heard this song before but the version that hit us like a ton of bricks, and the one that we (well, I) remember to this day whenever the name is mentioned, is the one by The Marcels.
The Marcels were a doo-wop group from Philadelphia who specialised in doo-wopping (sorry about verbing the noun there) classic songs. They just threw this one together when they had a bit of time left over at the end of a recording session. It was their most successful song.