98) Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet”

In my review of “Roses Are Red (My Love),” I made no secret of my distaste for that single’s amateurish lyrics, hackneyed musicianship and simpering vocals.  And although “Blue Velvet,” Bobby Vinton’s second number-one hit, sounds remarkably similar on a cursory listen, it far exceeds its predecessor.  At first, I feared that my enjoyment of the namesake movie had colored my attitude toward the song.  But after a few dedicated listens, the indisputable superiority of “Blue Velvet” made itself obvious.  Even the songs’ origins offer clues.  “Blue Velvet” was already a tested standard by the time Vinton recorded it, with Tony Bennett scoring a hit with it a decade earlier.  “Roses Are Red,” on the other hand, was plucked from a pile of rejected demos.  “Blue Velvet” also has a darker edge than Vinton’s previous hit – even discounting David Lynch’s penchant for exposing the malevolent undercurrents of pre-Beatles pop.  This isn’t a cooing ballad to a girlfriend, it’s something more ambiguous. Vinton’s girl has left him, but he doesn’t explain whether it was a break-up or a death.  I suspect the latter, as  the song’s final verse seems a touch morose for the end of a relationship:

But in my heart there’ll always be
Precious and warm, a memory
Through the years
And I still can see blue velvet
Through my tears

Of course, “Blue Velvet” could be interpreted either way, which is surely why it appealed to Lynch. This mysteriousness gives the record a haunting quality and a certain intrigue that would be lost if it were more literal. Even the standard early ’60s pop production doesn’t sound quite as heavy-handed as usual, and the faint chimes (bells? marimba? xylophone?) add a subtle pensive quality.  In short, this is how you introduce adult contemporary to a new generation: make it soothing but wistful, romantic but ghostly. 7

Hit #1 on September 21, 1963; total of 3 weeks at #1
98 of 977 #1’s reviewed; 10.03% through the Hot 100

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1 Comment

Filed under 07, 1963

One response to “98) Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet”

  1. GeorgeL

    I think Mr. Vinton was more talented than some of his records sound. I think “Roses…” & “Mr. Lonely” are particularly lame. But I really like this one. It has an excellent arrangement which brings out the best in his voice. Back in the 50s the R&B group the Clovers did a cool version.

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