48) The Marcels – “Blue Moon”

A common theme in the nascent years of rock was a revisiting of old standards by rock and roll and R&B artists.  Among others, we’ve discussed Ray Charles singing Hoagy Carmichael, The Platters doing Jerome Kern and Bobby Darin’s delightfully bizarre dip into Brechtian theater.  Now, we have The Marcels, an integrated doo-wop group from Pittsburgh, contributing a cover of a Rodgers and Hart ballad to the rock/standard canon.  “Blue Moon” wasn’t a particularly original choice to be subject of a rock and roll remake, as Elvis Presley had scored a minor hit with it in 1956.  But The Marcels’ version is the most audacious of all the covers.  Sure, there are the typical modern touches: the tempo’s accelerated and the vocals are broken into five-part harmony.  But the big difference is that the most memorable part of the group’s recording isn’t even part of the Rodgers and Hart original:

Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang
Ba ba ding a dong ding Blue moon moon blue moon dip di dip di dip
Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip Moo Moo Moo Blue moon dip di dip di dip
Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang
Ba ba ding a dong ding

These nonsense syllables, interpolated from an original song by The Marcels, transform the song from a relatively faithful remake designed to appeal across generational lines to something completely fresh.  No longer did rock and R&B need to bow in subservience to the sacrosanct old music.  “Blue Moon” proved that the new genres were just as valid as the old standards, if not more so.  But The Marcels also managed the nifty trick of making the cover lighthearted enough that few adults could take offense at its impudence.  And if any adults did, well, that’s all the more reason for the kids to embrace it. 7

Hit #1 on April 3, 1961; total of 3 weeks at #1
48 of 967 #1’s reviewed; 4.96% through the Hot 100


Filed under 07, 1961

2 responses to “48) The Marcels – “Blue Moon”

  1. Eddie George

    It just goes to show how irrelevant the lyrics are.

    It’s all in ” THE BEAT ” .

  2. GeorgeL

    This record is kind of fun for a couple of listens but really starts grate on my nerves. This is another one that I would call Doo Wop Lite. Groups like the Jive Five & the Duprees were making much better doo wop records.

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