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Sep 03

THE STARGAZERS – “I See The Moon”

Popular43 comments • 4,755 views

#17, 12th March 1954

They don’t make ’em like this any more, thank Christ. A 1954 British comedy record: either jokes were still rationed or they hadn’t been invented yet, so standing in we have musical pratfalls, on-purpose bad singing and noxious comedy accents. (“Just like The Darkness/The Libertines/Blur!” you might say and that piss-poor gag would be a thousand times funnier than this track.) Even this comic armoury can’t sustain the record for more than a minute so the Stargazers just do the whole thing again, but louder.

This record is genuinely excruciating. As a thought experiment I was trying to work out some kind of defense for it and the closest I can get is invoking/insulting Spike Jones but it won’t wash. The part where the female vocalist keeps starting her verse at the wrong time is particularly unspeakable but “I See The Moon” is irritating and embarrassing from start to finish. I had to wait until Isabel was out of the house before I dared give it a second play, and if it gets a third in this lifetime it will be a dark dark day.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    AndyPandy on 14 Dec 2008 #

    Re:24 Why on earth should it be a thinly disguised response to the Windrush generation? – it was just a cover of an American nonsense hit by Jim Lowe from the year before. As Wichita Lineman said at 25 surely the idea is related to ever-breeding Tribbles type creatures.It always amazes me the lengths people (often white)will go to find racial subtexts in the most unlikely places…

  2. 27
    lonepilgrim on 15 Dec 2008 #

    apologies for any offence – maybe watching the Potter clip increased my levels of intolerance/paranoia as I’m not usually one to see racist subtexts everywhere – I doubt it was a marching song for the Blackshirts – but it could be/could have been interpreted that way – there was/is a casual racism among that generation (and later ones) which was almost unconscious and breathtaking in its assumed innocuousness.
    Sung earlier in America it could still have had/been given a racist subtext – and Star Trek was not immune to sending coded messages – although I can’t speak for Tribbles as I’ve not finished scrutinising it for backwards messages and hidden symbols.

  3. 28
    AndyPandy on 15 Dec 2008 #

    I think race was one area where the still Reithian in outlook inspired BBC Radio (as opposed to (maybe) television)was quite forward thinking. If you look at the many reasons the BBC had for denying airplay back in the early fifties racially offensive connotations had been one of them.I’m not saying they were perfect (Indian doctors’ voices etc) but they’d definitely have drawn the line at “Shut the Door keep the **** out” sentiments and it’d been commercially suicidal for the record companies to try to get force the issue. I think it possibly had something to do with the newly emancipated members of the Commonwealth and the BBC’s role as the broadcasting arm of a government trying to encourage immigration.And with at least one of the Stargazers being of recent (albeit white)immigrant stock themselves and the fact that (and admittedly I don’t know) but I’d guess that going by their connections (the Goons etc) and look of some of them they were part of the more enlightened, jazz and folk-loving side of the music business.
    The song was written by two Jewish Americans so surely peddling a “shut the door” philosophy in a song would have have put them on extremely dubious verging on illogical ground…

    …It’s all a complicated area though very ripe for misunderstanding as the following incident shows. I remember once having a chat about the Jam compilation “Snap” with two acquaintances who unlike me only had the average person’s interest in music and neither who’d ever read a music paper…eg they’d have had no idea about Paul Weller’s political views or anything. To my disbelief they were both convinced (and they didn’t know each other previously so they’d obviously both reached the same conclusion/been told the same thing separately and in a way that indicated “of course that’s what it means everybody knows it!”)that ‘Eton Rifles’ with its line ‘there’s a row going on down near Slough’ was an anti-Asian line in a racist song!
    If that kind of misunderstanding could be made (and one of these people was reasonably intelligent and this would have been as late as the early 90s)it really shows what a minefield the whole area is.

  4. 29
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    “I See The Moon” is a bit of fun, innit? A laugh. And you’ve got to laugh. I didn’t find it offensive at all.

    “Close The Door”, which I’d never heard before, is terrifying if you listen to it in a BNP frame of mind. Whether or not it was intentional, all it would take is one person saying “you do know it’s about darkies?” for it to become an unstoppably plausible urban legend.

  5. 30
    wichita lineman on 24 Sep 2009 #

    Imagine this as a Muppets sketch and it all makes beautiful sense.

  6. 31
    lonepilgrim on 24 Sep 2009 #

    re # 30 the clip @#23 is basically a live action Muppet sketch

  7. 32
    Howie on 26 Sep 2009 #

    This is a great site and I am looking forward to many visits – so I hope you won’t me starting by disagreeing about this recording! I find that one mark of a memorable song is that we enjoy singing it after a few drinks. On that basis, I See the Moon is a song that I never tire of. I agree that this setting of it by the Stargazers is a bit gimmicky, but the cheery almost self-parodying humour adds something too – really a song for a party. I just wish that there were a few more verses.

    PS Try the Few Drinks test and see how it goes.

  8. 33
    Victoria on 7 Feb 2010 #

    Hmm. I’m intrigued by this one. As a 20-something all that starting the line at the wrong time stuff etc actually seems more the stuff of “modern” comedy records than the previous “novelty” no.1s we’ve had. You could almost imagine parts of it on an 80s Comic Relief single.

  9. 34
    rosie on 30 Sep 2010 #

    The song – in its basic form anyway, without the comedy – is by Meredith Willson. As the writer of The Music Man he was no slouch.

  10. 35
    wichita lineman on 5 Oct 2010 #

    Norman Wisdom’s Don’t Laugh At Me peaked at no.3, stuck behind I See The Moon and the Obenkirchen Children’s Choir’s equally slapstick The Happy Wanderer. Is that ironic? Presumably it was a no.1 in Albania. RIP, Pitkin.

  11. 36
    Eli on 20 Dec 2010 #

    Wow, I’d never really thought about this record all that much, beyond being another silly 50s novelty. It’s infinitely better than Broken Wings, and yet you’ve rated that higher, Tom…

    AndyPandy, thanks for your observations about this music ‘disappearing’; I’ve commented on earlier Popular entries about the fact it’s been nearly erased by the mainstream media. It seems natural to me that there was a time, not so long ago, when all these #1s were still (relatively) in the public consciousness.

    My mum is ‘Beatles generation’ – and she can’t bear these pre-rock novelties.

  12. 37
    thefatgit on 16 Oct 2011 #

    I spent a happy afternoon yesterday, chatting to my Mum about the music she listened to before the Rock&Roll invasion, and “I See The Moon” cropped up among reminiscences about Alma Cogan and Kitty Kallen singing live on the Light Programme with various big-bands. Surprisingly, she could sing the tune quite happily but the lyrics descended into “dum de dum” after “the moon sees me”. I was baffled, but then she observed that HM Forces overseas would have sung this ditty as if it were an End-Of-Empire “Lily Marlene”, which kind of explains its popularity.

  13. 38
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Jan 2012 #

    I actually heard this being played on Radio 2 on Christmas Day, whilst driving up with Mrs Swede to have lunch with my brother and his family in Crowborough. Lizzie cracked up, whilst I nodded sagely. “That’s a real drinking song for you!” I told her, being an authority in these things. I was therefore dismayed to read Tom’s inaugural comments on this gem of a record back in 2003 but was pleased to see his revised comment five years later. Now, over three years further on again, I await for confirmation from our Dear Leader that he now regularly bursts this out as he attacks the bottles of homemade plonk he keeps hidden from his old lady in the garden shed.

  14. 39
    Mark G on 11 Jan 2012 #

    I heard “Close the door (They’re coming in the window)” about 30 years ago, a friend played it to me as a suggestion for a cover version we could do.

    (I said “no way” and “urgh?” and “wmf?”)

    Anyways, I do remember it having a vague ska feel, then again maybe that was my subconscious trying to remix it…

  15. 40
    wichita lineman on 11 Jan 2012 #

    Not too hard to imagine Bad Manners doing a ska version of Close The Door.

  16. 41
    David Cone on 19 May 2012 #

    I really like the song i am singing it all the time it funny and i give it a 100 plus i also like nancy sinatra version also sorry people i see the moon in a neww light David

  17. 42
    derek fowler on 27 Sep 2013 #

    I loved the record in 1954 and i love it now, bit of recorded history! it must have bee popular to get to No.1

  18. 43
    CriticSez on 4 Jan 2016 #

    Hello. I’m back. Sorry I’ve been away for some time. I can share my opinion on this novelty from November 1953. (That’s when the 78 was released, according to 45worlds. Here’s the link:
    http://www.45worlds.com/78rpm/record/f10213)

    I especially agree with comment #1: this was a good song in its day. People’s senses of humour and musical tastes were different then, so their money (A LOT) would certainly have been worth it.

    I like to balance perspectives of past and present to make my opinion fair. This song may be hideous now, but if I’d been around in 1954 (I wasn’t), I would’ve thought it was far better.

    Here’s my own opinion, rating each area out of 10:

    Presentation: 7.5
    Instrumentation: 8.5
    Vocals: 6.5
    Originality: 6.5
    Lasting appeal: 5

    Overall: 6.8

    It doesn’t make people laugh any more (like it would’ve done in 1954), but it still puts a smile on my face at times.

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