The Marcels

Blue Moon

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Of all the songs written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, "Blue Moon" is the one best known by rock listeners and casual pop fans, making it unique in the career of a songwriting duo who did their work decades before rock & roll was ever even thought of. It is also unique in the team's output as the only one of their hits that wasn't written for a specific stage or film work, and it went through numerous transformations to take on the form in which it is now known. And it was one of the very few lasting products to come out of the songwriting team's unhappy period in Hollywood in the mid-'30s. Rodgers and Hart were signed as songwriters to MGM, in what proved to be a less-than-fruitful relationship for all concerned -- they were very unhappy with the quality and nature of the movies to which they were assigned, and the studio was taken aback by the fact that the songwriters' work didn't seem to help make the films in question significantly more successful. "Blue Moon" was initially spawned, under the working title of "Prayer," written for a film called Hollywood Party, starring Jean Harlow. She was supposed to sing a lyric that began "Oh Lord, if you're not busy up there...." The song was dropped from that film, however, and then Lorenz Hart changed the lyric slightly to read "Oh, Lord! What is the matter with me...." That version, sung by Shirley Ross, ended up in a movie called Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy -- the movie itself was notable for setting up a plot (later reused in Angels With Dirty Faces and a dozen other lesser movies) about two boyhood friends who end up on opposite sides of the law, and for being the film that was playing at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on the night that bank robber John Dillinger was allegedly caught there and shot to death by federal agents. "Oh, Lord! What Is the Matter With Me" was barely present in the movie, Ross' performance of it in the background buried under dialogue between Powell and Loy, and that would have been the end of it, had it not been for publisher Jack Robbins, who liked the melody and saw no reason why something couldn't be salvaged. Hart took a third pass over the song, recasting the lyrics and coming up with "Blue moon, you saw me standing alone." It was published in that version at the end of 1934, and went on to become one of the best-known songs ever written by Rodgers and Hart, recorded by Mel Tormé and dozens of others before rock & roll audiences discovered it -- Elvis Presley gave it an early entre to audiences for the new music, cutting it on August 19, 1954, in Memphis; as the B-side to "Just Because," it was one of many pop standards (including "Harbor Lights") that the young Presley appreciated and recorded. Presley's version of "Blue Moon," sung in a subdued manner with barely any instrumental accompaniment to his reflective, lyrical vocal performance, is today considered a classic recording and a high point of his early career, but in 1954-1955, like all of his Sun releases, it never reached the national pop charts. The song surfaced to a wider audience only later, in various incarnations on RCA-Victor once Presley and his Sun catalog moved to the new label. "Blue Moon's real breakthrough into rock & roll took place in New York during February 1961 when, at the tail-end of their first recording session, the Marcels, a racially mixed vocal group from Philadelphia (consisting of Cornelius Harp, Richard F. Knauss, Fred Johnson, Gene J. Bricker, and Ron Mundy) were asked by their producer, Stu Phillips, to record "Heart and Soul," a pop standard by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. The Marcels didn't know that song, and instead cut a version of "Blue Moon" -- which they did know -- with a prominent bass vocal and fine falsetto ornamentation, and a frantic tempo. A tape of that recording, brought to New York DJ Murray "the K" Kaufman on WINS (which was then a music station), was played more than two dozen time the next night. The song, released within a week on the fledgling Colpix Records label, rocketed to number one on the pop and R&B charts. Although often cited as a nonsense rendition for its upbeat vocal acrobatics, this doo wop-style rendition, in tandem with Elvis Presley's version, helped popularize the song among tens of millions, and perhaps hundreds of millions of new, younger listeners around the world over the decades that followed, making it one of Rodgers and Hart's most lucrative copyrights, decades after Hart's death, and during and after Rodgers' late career, in which he otherwise steadfastly ignored the presence of rock & roll in the musical environment around him.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Back to the '50s 1986
Various Artists
Dominion 2:12
No Image 1988
Various Artists
Dominion
Best of Doo Wop Uptempo 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 2:15
The Best of the Marcels [Rhino] 1990 Rhino 2:15
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Columbia 2:14
Group Sounds: WCBS New York, Vol. 2 1991
Various Artists
Collectables 2:18
Rhythm & Blues: 1961 1992
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
Super Box of Rock, Vol. 2 [Box Set] 1993
Various Artists
Dominion 2:09
Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits: 1957-1961 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 2:15
The Colpix-Dimensions Story 1994
Various Artists
Sequel 2:16
Classic R&B Oldies from the 60's, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:17
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: 1961 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 2:21
American Jukebox Classics, Vol. 4: Dancing To The Jukebox 1995
Various Artists
Sterling Gold 2:12
The Complete Colpix Sessions 1995 Sequel 2:17
Doo Wop Classics [PGD Special Markets] 1995
Various Artists
Rebound Records / PSM 2:17
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Rhino
Cruisin' With Porky Chedwick 1995
Various Artists
Increase Records 2:13
The Spotlite on Colpix Records, Vol. 1 1995
Various Artists
Collectables 2:19
I Got Rhythm [K-Tel] 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:09
Voices of America Vocal Harmony Groups 1996
Various Artists
Ace 2:18
Rock & Roll: 60s Fever 1996
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:13
Four by Four, Vol. 5 1996
Various Artists
Stardust Records 2:16
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Com-Es Musik Schallplatten / Zebralution
Pittsburgh's Greatest Hits, Vol. VI 1996
Various Artists
Itzy Records 2:16
Rock 'N' Roll Nonstop Party Mix 1997
Various Artists
ZYX Music 1:34
20th Century Rocks, Vol. 8: '60s Vocal Groups - I Got Rhythm 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:13
Simply Gold 1997
Various Artists
Compose Records 2:09
21 Winners: Jukebox Hits of the '60s [1997] 1997
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:13
Doo Wop: Blue Moon 1997
Various Artists
Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:17
Hits to Remember, Vol. 1 1997
Various Artists
Galaxy Music 2:10
Party Dance Mix [Riviere] 1997
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 1:53
Whole Lotta Rock: 1960-1961 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 2:17
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1960-1969 1997
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 2:17
Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Hits [Disc 3] 1997
Various Artists
Madacy 2:14
Doo Wop [Rhino] 1998
Various Artists
Rhino Flashback 2:17
Greatest Hits of the 60's: 1961 1998
Various Artists
CMM Music 2:08
100 Jukebox Hits: 50's & 60's 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:14
The Ultimate History of Rock & Roll Collection, Vol. 6: Vocal Groups 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:13
50's Greatest Rock & Roll Hits 1998
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:14
Blue Moon: 26 Doo Wop Classics 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:16
Rock 'N' Roll Reunion 1998
Various Artists
Madacy 2:14
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [1998] 1999
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:15
Oldies Radio: K-Earth 101FM Greatest Hits 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:17
Street Corner Serenade: The Greatest Doo Wop of the '50s and '60s 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:17
Rubber Biscuits & Ramma Lama Ding Dongs: Doo Wop for Kids 1999
Various Artists
Kid Rhino / Rhino 2:16
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:16
Groups That Rocked the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:12
Sixties Collection: Great 2000
Various Artists
Festival Records 2:12
Rock N' Roll Hits of the 60's 2000
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:12
Rock 'n' Roll Memories 2000
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:11
Hot Rod Series: Doo Wop Heaven 2000
Various Artists
Orchard 0:00
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Rhino 2:17
Doo Wop Collection [Madacy 2000] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:10
Greatest R&R Love Songs 2000
Various Artists
EMI 2:17
The Doo Wop Collection, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:10
Doo Wop Greats 2001
Various Artists
Goldies 2:16
Forever Gold: Doo Wop 2001
Various Artists
St. Clair 0:00
Mega Fete [Box] 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:10
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:15
Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Vol. 1: The Greatest Songs from Early Rock 'n' Roll 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:16
Grease and Other Golden Oldies 2001
Various Artists
Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:18
16 Hits: 60's Rock n' Roll 2001
Various Artists
Madacy
Jukebox Hits 1961 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:11
Rock N' Roll Hits: Golden 1961 2002
Various Artists
Madacy 2:12
The Sixties - A Decade to Remember: Pick of the Pops 2002
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:14
Original 60's Summer Album 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:15
Billboard #1 Hits of the '60s 2003
Various Artists
Flashback Records / Rhino Flashback 2:15
Box of Rock 2003
Various Artists
Import 2:13
New Hooked on Number Ones Experience 2003
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 1:17
Teen Time: The Young Years of Rock & Roll, Vol. 2: I Got Rhythm 2004
Various Artists
Eric Records 2:17
Golden Era of Rock 'n' Roll: 1954-1963 2004
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:16
Golden Age of American Rock 'N' Roll: Special Doo Wop 2004
Various Artists
Ace 2:17
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:15
Rock & Roll's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:16
The Only Doo-Wop Collection You'll Ever Need 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:15
The Ultimate Doo Wop 2005
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:16
#1 Hits of the 60's [K-Tel] 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:12
No Image 2005 EMI Music Distribution / Parlophone 2:16
Shake Rattle & Roll: 50 Classic Rock N Roll Hits 2005
Various Artists
Sanctuary 2:17
Top 20 of Rock 'N' Roll 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:12
No. 1 Rockin' Chart Toppers 2006
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:13
Hits of the 60s: Those Were the Days [3 Disc] 2006
Various Artists
BMG / Delta 2:07
Sound of Summer [United Multi License] 2006
Various Artists
United Audio Entertainment / United Multi License 2:13
Original 60's Number 1's Album 2006
Various Artists
EMI 2:15
The Colpix Story, Vol. 1 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 2:19
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Doo Wop Love Songs 2008
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:19
Folle Histoire de Rock N Roll: Platinum Collection 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:16
101 Rock 'N' Roll Songs 2008
Various Artists
Virgin 2:14
Sweet Soul Music: 1961 2008
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:16
Ultimate Doo Wop: Collector's Edition 2008
Various Artists
Madacy / Madacy Distribution 2:16
No Image 2008
Various Artists
CMC Records 2:09
Original Hits: Love 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:15
Original Hits: Number 1's 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:15
Massive Hits: Rock 'n' Roll 2011
Various Artists
4 Gold / EMI / EMI Gold 2:16
60's Summer Party 2011
Various Artists
EMI Gold 2:15
The Hits of the 60s [DST] 2012
Various Artists
Dst / Music & Melody 2:16
Greatest Hits of 1961 2012
Various Artists
Great Voices of the Century / High Note 2:19
America's Greatest Hits, Vol. 12: 1961 2012
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:17
Dick Clark's Jukebox Gems: The Best of Doo Wop 2012
Various Artists
Distribution Solutions / Time / Life Music 2:16
Street Corner Symphonies: The Complete Story of Doo Wop, Vol. 13: 1961 2013
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:16
Britain's Greatest Hits 1961 2013
Various Artists
Acrobat Music / Fabulous 2:18
Sweethearts & Stolen Kisses: Dancehall Days 2014
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:15
Box of Rock [Disc 9]
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 2:13
No Image
Original Soundtrack
Warner Bros. 2:17
Hit Parade [Mercury]
Various Artists
It All Started with Doo Wop
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:16
Legendary Voices
Various Artists
StarVista / Time / Life Music 2:15
Massive Hits!: Number 1s
Various Artists
EMI 2:18
Party Dance Mix, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Euro Trend 1:53
Soda Shop Hits
Various Artists
Green Hill Productions / Spring Hill Music 2:04
Sounds of the Sixties: Number Ones
Various Artists
EMI Gold / EMI Music Distribution 2:17
The British Hit Parade: 1959-62
Various Artists
Acrobat Music 2:17
The Great Sixties Collection, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Rajon Entertainment Pty Ltd. 2:12
Way It Was: Rock Around the Clock the 50's
Various Artists
Dynamic 2:18