Spotlight Dances, The Marcels and “Blue Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, we had a Blue Moon at the end of January, and now coinciding with Easter, we’re going to have another one at the end of March – All down to timing, as the cycle between full moons is 29 and a half days. The short month February had no full moon at all but both months on either side have had one at the beginning and at the end. This time however there are no complications with it being a Super Blue Blood Moon – Oh no, this time a run-of-the-mill Blue Moon, that name of course also used to describe something that “doesn’t come along very often” (although I beg to differ, as here we are already with two blue moons in the first quarter of the year, but highly unusual granted).

The Rodgers and Hart song Blue Moon is one I have been aware of for most of my life as it has been recorded by just about everyone (Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, The Supremes, Bing Crosby, Rod Stewart….), and also appeared in many of the old movies I watched on Sunday afternoons as a youngster.

The Dance Contest

The movie I now associate it with most however is Grease, as it was the song used for the “Spotlight Dance” when Danny Zuko and the brash usurper Cha-Cha DiGregorio take to the floor after winning the dance contest which is being broadcast live to an unsuspecting nation (who didn’t realise that a group of so-called “mooners” would gate-crash this bit of poetry in motion).

The Spotlight Dance

Blue Moon by Sha Na Na (aka Johnny Casino and the Gamblers):

And here is where I confused myself earlier in the year – Because this next version of Blue Moon is just so dissimilar from the original, I had convinced myself that it was actually a different song, which meant I would have had one to coincide with each of the blue moons we have had in our skies so far this year. But no, it is of course the same song, it’s just that back in 1961 the Marcels (named after the “marcel waved” hairstyles worn by some of the group) added an infectious, nonsensical introduction performed by bass singer Fred Johnson – Dang-a-dang-dang, ding-a-dong-ding and so on…..

The Marcels novelty version of Blue Moon was an instant hit and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. They followed it with a series of less successful novelty versions of standards and then disbanded in the mid ’60s. Their version of Blue Moon, along with several other moon songs, featured in the John Landis film An American Werewolf in London (one of Mr WIAA’s favourites as he had a bit of a crush on Jenny Agutter as a young man – a common affliction it seems). Having just watched some of the clips that feature the song, all quite unpleasant, so I’ll spare you the gore and just add a picture of the delectable Nurse Alex Price, who until she met backpacker David Kessler was “without a dream in her heart, or a love of her own” (shame he turned out to be a werewolf).

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s amazing how a single song can be covered just so many times over the years (it was first recorded in 1934), that it can end up barely recognisable compared to the original. Lots of examples out there, and although this time Blue Moon was given the full doo-wop treatment, other songs have been transformed into three minute ska, reggae, or disco triumphs. CC over at Charity Chic Music has run some excellent series over the last year asking us to compare and contrast cover versions to the originals, and I have also written a few posts that do just that (here and here). One of my most surprising discoveries was that the Blondie hit record Denis was actually a cover of a song called “Denise” by American doo-wop band Randy and the Rainbows.

But this is supposed to be a post about tomorrow night’s full moon, so just in case there is cloud cover and we don’t actually get to see it, here is another picture courtesy of my friend with the all singing, all dancing camera. It was taken at the end of January and was cleverly made into a bona fide Blue Moon using a special filter lens. I’m still hoping for a shot at some point that includes the moon alongside some of the amazing scenery we have up here, but not apparently always easy to capture. Only six posts into this series however, and seven to go, so still plenty of time!

Blue Moon highlands
The Blue Moon: Picture courtesy of R.J. and his favourite Nikon filter lens (it’s football related!)

Until next time, have a great Easter and look out for that Blue Moon on Saturday night.

Blue Moon Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart)

Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold

Blue Moon, now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Postscript:

One last thing – In case you haven’t heard of The Marcel Wave before, it looked like this…..

Bing+Crosby+A+Bing+Crosby+Collection+-+Vol-467446

…..and was invented by a Frenchman, who looked like this. Every day’s a school day!

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Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

17 thoughts on “Spotlight Dances, The Marcels and “Blue Moon””

  1. One of my favourite pieces from the brass band repertoire is a tune written by Paul Lovett-Cooper entitled Dark Side of the Moon. It was comissioned by the Black Dyke Band. I love brass music and am always emotionally moved when I see bands perform live.
    Since moving from North Yorkshire, where there was zero light pollution, back down to Nottingham, the new and full moons are not as jaw-dropping as they were up north; I’m guessing where you live Alyson you get ‘ring side seats’ every time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that clip – A different Dark Side of the Moon to the one I only vaguely know (not music for girls back then) – Moving as you say. As for the light pollution I hadn’t even thought about that – Yes, as long as there is no cloud cover we get a pretty good show every time, but not the case for everyone.

      I feel as if I’ve put you on the spot now though! Please don’t feel you “have to” drop by as I don’t always write about stuff you would be remotely interested in – But thanks anyway, and Happy Easter.

      Like

  2. I’m a bit out of my depth with the various versions of Blue Moon but American Werewolf in London used several “moon” songs for its soundtrack so an excellent find for this series.
    Will look out for tomorrow night’s full moon

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I should have probably just watched that movie again and sourced all the moon-related songs I would need for this series from it, but much more fun to discover things for ourselves.

      Yes look out for tomorrow night’s blue moon, although of course it won’t actually be blue!

      Like

  3. You realise I completely rely on you now to keep me updated with all the moons to look out for…! I’ll be watching for this one tomorrow.
    Love that snippet about M. Marcel and that lovely description, Le Roi de L’Ondulation, which just sounds so much better than ‘The king of the wave’! Whenever I hear the term Marcel Wave though, I automatically think of the Kenny Everett character – remember that?
    I loved ‘An American Werewolf In London’. Fantastic film. Yes, seems Jenny Agutter had quite an effect on a lot of men (particularly after her role in Walkabout….) and it got me thinking really how refreshing it is that someone like her should be so attractive – what I mean is, she was always very natural, a little bit quirky looking, not especially well-endowed or anything obvious – she just had an innate sensual appeal without needing to be all glammed up. I’m getting mighty bored of seeing what passes – or what some perceive – as attractive now in the form of young women desperately trying to transform themselves into plastic clones (don’t get me started…!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, until I started this series full moons came and went and I thought nothing of them whereas now they hold a whole new fascination. Cross fingers R.J. (Rob to you and I) will get a few good pics tomorrow as well.

      Le Roi de L’Ondulation – everything in French just sounds so much better doesn’t it (and thanks for reminding me as I had forgotten about Kenny Everett’s Marcel Wave). Actually just checked, and when you feed that term into a French/English translator it comes out as “the king of the ripple” which at first glance looked like something else!

      As for Jenny Agutter, yes her role in Walkabout had a lot to do with her effect on young men and again, having just checked, she was 19 at the time so all above board (for today’s world). She was also in Logan’s Run and of course the film mentioned above – Very proper and middle class but belied a sensuality that made her really attractive. In fact she is still on telly now at 65 and still has that girlish look to her I think (although well hidden behind a wimple most of the time!).

      As for the fat lips, hair extensions, tattooed eyebrows, silicone implants and fake tans that girls favour nowadays, there are going to be an awful lot of strange looking older ladies in care homes down the line. But then again, we’ll also have older men with full arm, neck and body tattoos so they’ll all look a bit odd together.

      Have a lovely Easter weekend….

      Like

  4. Lorenz Hart was such a great lyricist. One of the best ever, I think.

    A minute ago I thought of another real good song with “moon” in the title: Kiko And The Lavender Moon, by Los Lobos.

    I enjoyed this essay a lot.

    Till next time . . . . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahh, Jenny Agutter. American Werewolf In London was my introduction to her, then Logan’s Run and finally Walkabout. For me and many of my friends (we are of a certain age, after all), she had a big impact on our adolescence (and beyond). My wife is a big fan of Call The Midwife, which I’ve watched a bit, and I’m always happy to see Jenny on screen. What’s that? You wrote about something else here? I’m sure you did, but….Jenny Agutter. Ahhhhh!!!!! 😀

    (In all seriousness, I love these “moon” posts. Great song choices, and I learned about the Marcel wave. I enjoy the fact that it was invented by a bald Frenchman)

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    1. Yes it seems Ms Agutter made a very big impact on men of a certain age! She really was lovely back then though and those films she appeared in did leave a lasting impression – still lovely today.

      I am actually in our capital city Edinburgh at the moment which I feel sure you must have visited when over in Scotland. Just having a wee dram (whisky) looking out over the Grassmarket, round the corner from the Royal Mile – amazing history around here and you really can imagine how it must have been all those centuries ago (very smelly!).

      Thanks for dropping by and glad you enjoy this series.

      Like

      1. I have been to Edinburgh a couple of times and love it there. Just watched the Trainspotting sequel this past weekend and was reminded how much I enjoy that city. The last time I was there I was fortunate to see my all-time favorite Scottish-based band, Big Country. It was the reunited lineup with Mike Peters on vocals. It was later released as a DVD/CD set, and you can see my wife & me in the front row of the balcony several times.

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        1. Big Country live in Edinburgh – quite something for you especially. The Trainspotting films show a very different side of the city but oh so good aren’t they. Danny Boyle did well.

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  6. Blue Moon is the only song I can play on the harmonica. Inspired by David Addison doing just that in Moonlighting. Maddie Hayes did a quite lovely version in one episode too.

    Ah yes, Jenny Agutter in American Werewolf. ‘Nuff said.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m loving this full moon series and here we are doubling back to Moonlighting again, which will probably happen more than once.

      You know what, the harmonica is the only musical instrument I’ve ever mastered but not thought of trying Blue Moon before – Away from home at the moment (so couldn’t come up with an 89 song yesterday) but will seek out the harmonica when I get back and give it a try.

      Like

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