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Jul 04

THE MARCELS – “Blue Moon”

Popular9 comments • 2,046 views

#116, 6th May 1961

I don’t think even the glitchiest glitch could match “Blue Moon”‘s introductory slap. This stutter, this chatter, this cheek – this is “Blue Moon”?? And when the Marcels start the song ‘proper’ the swell and mess of voices doesn’t retreat to its rightful backing place, it actually grows. The group take the endpoint of “Blue Moon” – the sweet overwhelming relief that comes with finding someone to be with in this world – and turn it into the song’s foundation. The result is a two-minute party, a compressed essence of not-alone-ness and one of the funniest Number Ones to boot.

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Comments

  1. 1
    wichita lineman on 13 Jan 2009 #

    See also Unchained Melody by Vito & The Salutations. Not as funny as the Marcels, but just as pantheon-trashing. And better than Jimmy Young of course.

    Blue Moon could also be seen as the death knell for the Doo Wop revival – scenes always seeming to curl up in a ball of self-parody and nov. Luckily a new wave – the Frankie Lymon inspired Girl Groups – were about to take group harmonies and teen pop to the next level.

  2. 2
    richard thompson on 29 Dec 2012 #

    Showaddywaddy covered this, were they the death of rock and roll and doo wop and there was Matchbox and Shaking Stevens

  3. 3
    Cumbrian on 25 Oct 2013 #

    Is the start of this actual parody? Or is it more like a fore-runner of what happened to some other musical scenes the longer that they went on? Horribly rockist of me to compare to rock/metal, but it strikes me that the opening of this is an equivalent to Van Halen or Dave Mustaine: OK, you’ve got this doo-wop thing down, now let’s go as fast and as hard and as full of notes as we possibly can.

    Where this wins is that it’s still in service of the song, making it memorable and, as Tom points out in his review, tying in with the sentiments of the lyrics, whereas the gunslinger route in rock produced stuff like Ywingie Malmsteen that just sounds like a pointless, Fastest Gun in the West competition and never really engages me to listen beyond the “blimey” moment.

  4. 4
    tm on 25 Oct 2013 #

    Van Halen seems a fair comparison then: normally letting rip only when in service of the song (except Eruption!). I’d argue that a lot of soul/R&B from the 80s onwards mirrored metal/hard rock’s descent into demonstration-of-technique as virtue in it’s own right over technique pressed into service of something more compelling.

  5. 5
    tm on 26 Oct 2013 #

    VH, like this record, also much more goofy and tongue in cheek than their classic rock predecessors.

    Re 80s soul/RnB, just like the 60s girl groups what happened with RnB was of course the rise of a new phase of the genre driven more by drama and street attitude and cutting edge production than vocal histrionics.

  6. 6
    Cumbrian on 28 Oct 2013 #

    I think I am probably on the same page as you with VH – guitar pyrotechnics that are more usually about the song. I would say that he is definitely on the Malmsteen/Vai continuum though – albeit at the end of it that I can actually listen to (Eruption wisely is less than 2 minutes long for instance).

  7. 7
    hectorthebat on 3 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 513
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 19 Mar 2014 #

    I like this song in its more traditional arrangements (including the one by The Cowboy Junkies) and so I find it fascinating that The Marcels are able to blow it up in this way without turning it into a mere novelty. Somehow they manage to combine their hyper-kinetic vocal skills with the crooning melody of the original without compromising either. Their love for the song and its sentiments sounds sincere.

  9. 9
    wichitalineman on 19 Mar 2014 #

    The success of the Marcels’ drastic re-write led to some less successful, hyper doo wop covers of oldies – Vito & the Salutations version of Unchained Melody is pretty daft.

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