Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and “Moonlight Serenade”

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 I don’t know about you, but it seems ages since I’ve seen a bright moon, as it doesn’t get dark up here in the North of Scotland until way after my bedtime at this time of year. By hook or by crook however I intend to catch the one that should grace our skies later on this week, on Thursday night. This full moon is called the Strawberry Moon, because for the Algonquin tribes of North America, June was the month the wild berries started to ripen and could be harvested.

Different for us nowadays when we can buy soft fruit all year round, but as a child I lived in a house with a massive garden (tended by my dad and I) and in one corner was a large strawberry patch, which meant “pudding” for around two months of the summer was berries and ice-cream. It all got a bit boring, and no longer a treat at all, although once we acquired our new refrigerator complete with tiny ice-making compartment, at least we could keep a small supply of Walls vanilla in block form, which saved me being sent to the shop every evening just ahead of “tea-time”. (We were definitely tea rather than dinner people).

But I digress, this “moon song” was always going to feature at some point in this series and as reference is made to the month of June in the lyrics, this would seem to be the time. It’s soppy and sentimental but harks back to simpler times when boys stood at the gate waiting for their date to appear, and looked forward to “the touch of their hand in the June night”. Moonlight Serenade is a song that could only have been written by someone living in the northern hemisphere, as being outdoors at night, hanging around garden gates feeling all romantic, has never been an attractive proposition during the cold winter months. The music of course was written by big band leader Glenn Miller with the lyrics coming later from Mitchell Parish, but here we have it being performed by Ms Carly Simon – A beautiful version for this romantic summer month, taken from her 2005 album of the same name,

Moonlight Serenade by The Glenn Miller Orchestra:

The reason I am so fond of the Glenn Miller “sound”, is that back in the days when my dad and I were busy tending that large garden with strawberry patches, he and I were also very fond of watching old movies on telly, and if they were musicals, even better. One that we both absolutely loved was The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. In fact in my head Jimmy Stewart is Glenn Miller because hard sometimes to disassociate the person playing them on the big screen from the real life person whom you’ve seen images of very rarely. I don’t think I’d be giving the game away by saying the film has an incredibly tragic and sad ending (after which I had to retreat to the pre-fridge, sound-proofed “pantry”, to stifle my sobbing), but ahead of that, throughout the hour and fifty minutes of musical action, we are treated to some mighty fine tunes of the swing persuasion: Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, Little Brown Jug, In the Mood, A String of Pearls and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Much of the film was of course a love story which revolved around the courtship between Glenn and his wife-to-be Helen Burger. The song Moonlight Serenade (amongst many others) was written for her, so very apt that the actress who played Helen was called June, as their courtship did seem to play out at garden gates on June nights. Glenn worked hard at finding that unique “sound” he was always looking for, and when he did, he became the world’s best-selling recording artist. In the four years between 1939 and 1943 he scored 23 No. 1 hits – More than Elvis Presley and the Beatles achieved in their respective careers. Sadly, whilst travelling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, his aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. Various theories have been put forward as to what happened that night but in the end it was pronounced a death in absentia. Glenn was aged only 40.

So there I was, a pre-teen buying swing albums, which looking back does seem a bit odd, but yet again I think I was ahead of the curve. In 1976 who should appear on the front cover of my monthly copy of Words magazine but The Glenn Miller Orchestra. As well as getting very hot and bothered by the weather, it seems the UK was also experiencing a bit of a nostalgia-fest that year, and Glenn’s music fitted the bill perfectly. A single was released containing a Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug & In The Mood medleyand it reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart Suddenly it wasn’t uncool to like this stuff (well maybe just a little bit).

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Glenn, back in the “hit parade” alongside Abba, 32 years after his death

So, “What’s It All About?” – This post seems to have been all about looking back. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about times spent with my dad, and realise he was probably my best friend until I reached the age of nine. He died 15 years ago but I still miss him every day – I don’t know what he would think of all this blogging malarkey but I suspect he would be quite proud of what I’ve achieved, as that’s just the kind of man he was.

As for the music of Glenn Miller, just like Carly Simon, every now and again an artist records an album of standards and there is a high likelihood that something by Glenn will be in there. Timeless tunes, which I was going to say come from simpler times, but in view of how he died, not simple at all. Different times. At the moment my favourite Glenn Miller tune is this one, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – As a great lover of both alphabetisation and unusual sounding place-names, this one really hits the spot. The two dancers here are The Nicholas Brothers who back in the 1930s and ’40s were virtuosos of tap-dancing. I urge you to watch to the end as some incredibly acrobatic stuff here called flash dancing (with of course The Glenn Miller Orchestra playing in the background). Oh, and also remember to look out for that full Strawberry Moon on Thursday night.

Until next time….

Moonlight Serenade Lyrics
(Song by Glenn Miller/Mitchell Parish)

I stand at your gate
and the song that I sing is of moonlight
I stand and I wait
for the touch of your hand in the June night
The roses are sighing a moonlight serenade

The stars are aglow
And tonight how their light sets me dreaming
My love, do you know
That your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you, and I sing you a moonlight serenade

Let us stray ’til break of day
In love’s valley of dreams
Just you and I, a summer sky,
A heavenly breeze, kissin’ the trees

So don’t let me wait
Come to me tenderly in the June night
I stand at your gate
And I sing you a song in the moonlight
A love song, my darling, a moonlight serenades

Postscript:

Well it wouldn’t be a “moon post” without a contribution from my friend the amateur photographer. This time however it’s not a picture taken of the last full moon but a picture taken on the night of the Summer Solstice – A waxing gibbous moon back then, a full week shy of this next full moon. Incredible image as ever.

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The Summer Solstice moon: Picture courtesy of R.J.

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.

14 thoughts on “Glenn Miller, Carly Simon and “Moonlight Serenade””

  1. A good friend of mine has just come back from Skye where he’d spent a couple of weeks contemplating his navel. ”It never gets dark, John”, he told me. ”It’s daylight all bloody day long.”

    My folks were huge Glenn Miller fans (And Syd Lawrence – Glenn Miller lite), so I ‘learned’ these tunes by osmosis; I’m sure Mud put out ‘In the Mood’ as an early B side (Tiger Feet? Cat Crept In?).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Was never a fan of Mud actually so wouldn’t have known that. They were around at the same time as the Rollers and the Davids and Donnys so lost out in my affections. Also, I was never a fan of the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll revival thing – First time around it was new and innovative but second time around it was a bit pantomime-like. Although I will never forget Rob from Mud’s TOTP outfit of large spherical earrings and flared glittery pant suit (he obviously decided to go down the glam rock route).

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    1. If you wake up between 1am and 3am it’s dark but other than that, not so much. Hope he enjoyed Skye – Getting a bit too busy with tourists nowadays sadly so can be a bit Piccadilly Circus-like at times.

      Yes, as I said above, my dad loved Glenn Miller so got to know the tunes from watching old movies with him.

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  2. Hi Alyson. I also listened to a lot of big band in my youth. My parents weren’t into that music at all. My in was being a huge fan of the films of Woody Allen, and I would buy the soundtracks. Got me into some classical too. These days, I hear big band all of the time in my house because my 12-year-old son plays the clarinet in two bands, and one of them is straight big-band era music. Sure beats what most kids that age are listening to right now. I like these moon posts. Are you familiar with the Mel Tome album Swingin’ on the Moon? It came out in 1960 when the space race was all the rage. Every song is moon themed. One of my favorite album covers, and the title track is just fabulous. I think I’ll do a post on it later this week.

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    1. How great that your son plays clarinet in a big band – That really must be something going to watch him perform. Yes I remember buying the Manhattan soundtrack album straight after going to see that film (which troubles me now although it didn’t when I was 20 – different times), because I fell in love with the music of George Gershwin.

      Didn’t know about that Mel Torme album but having looked it up, all moon-related songs as you say. I have written about a couple of them already on this blog. I must admit, this “Full Moon” series has been my favourite yet – Lots of interesting stuff to find out about that I hadn’t hitherto bothered about, an opportunity to share great songs & pictures, and usually a little anecdote as well. Only 4 more full moons to write about – I’ll miss them!

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  3. I was also introduced to The Glenn Miller Story by my Dad and, like you, whenever I picture Glenn in my mind’s eye it’s always James Stewart that I see! Dad liked his Big Band and Swing, whereas my own tastes in Jazz eventually erred more towards small group stuff. You can’t beat Glenn Miller’s sound though – utterly unique and immediately identifiable.
    That Words / Record Songbook cover took me back too. As a lad, I never spent any of my pocket money on sweets, toys or any of the usual things, it all went on Sounds, NME, Disc, Record Mirror, Music Scene, Record Songbook plus any other music related publication I could lay my hands on, even those more aimed towards girls like Jackie and FAB 208 – and I devoured them all on a weekly basis. These days, there are no weekly music papers left and only a couple of general monthly publications – and I have to wonder how much longer they’ll be able to continue.

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    1. Yes, it was that film that did it for me – I still remember well watching it with my dad. So glad he eventually found that “sound” he was striving for as the rest, as they say, is history.

      As I think you know, I still have quite a lot of these old publications which has been handy for my Alyson’s Archive series (although not so great for my groaning loft!). I like that you also bought copies of Jackie and Fab 208 (I had a subscription to both for years) – With no internet in those days we had to take what we could get but I realise now how little we actually knew about any of the bands/artists we listened to. Doing the research for my blog posts has really opened my eyes, in lots of cases.

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    1. Gosh – I had just assumed all Americans had grown up with Glenn Miller so knew all about him. Yes I think you should investigate further as amazing big band music and an amazing, but short, journey through life.

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  4. Lovely memories. The moon is glowing gloriously as I write this, still low in the Eastern sky, burning a bright warm gold against its not-yet-dark Summer backdrop – beautiful. A Strawberry Moon! Perfect.

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    1. Ironically after a few days of blue skies and blistering heat, last night a haze developed over the town so I didn’t see this full moon at all! Luckily I had watched it evolve over the previous few days and it was pretty much full on Wednesday night but I had planned to take a little film instead of a picture so thwarted. Hazey here today as well but need a break from the heat so quite glad really. Only 4 more moon posts to go – I will be sad for this series to finish. It’s been my favourite so far.

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  5. My dad introduced me to Glen Miller too. I have a similar nostalgic affection for his music because of that. Loved Carly Simon’s version… Will have to track down that album.

    Oh, and dinner is for dinner time. Tea is for tea time. I blame whoever came up with this “lunch” nonsense for causing all the confusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didn’t know about the Carly Simon version until I tried looking for a good version of MS – All the older ones seemed too twee but her version I thought sounded great.

      Yes, lots of factors come into play re the tea versus dinner debate. Ironically we still have “tea” but my daughter has “dinner”, and we all eat at the same time! She is wrong, of course.

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