The Elvis Presley versions of Blue Moon is such a fantastic recording. It is a whole universe in less than two and a half minutes. I found a site where you can read the history of Blue Moon. (Though the first two paragraphs should be skipped.) A sample:
“On August 19 they spent hours doing take after take of ‘Blue Moon,’ in an eerie, clippity-clop version that resembled a cross between Slim Whitman’s ‘Indian Love Call’ and some of the falsetto flights of the r&b ‘bird’ groups (the Orioles, the Ravens, the Larks). After it was all over, Sam wasn’t satisfied that they had anything worth releasing, but he never uttered a word of demurral for fear of discouraging the unfettered freshness and enthusiasm of the singer.”
Take 4 that evening, the one that RCA would eventually release two years later, reveals Elvis’s unusual interpretation of the song. Music historian Colin Escott describes it thus: “Elvis skips the bridge and the final verse that contains the happy ending, neatly transforming the 32-bar pop classic into an eerie 16-bar blues.” Hart’s original lyrics describe a man whose longing for love is finally rewarded. Elvis used only the following two opening stanzas, repeating and separating them with falsetto moans (that’s how I categorize the sound now):
One thing that really strikes me about the recording is how primitive it is. Yet this does nothing to detract from its enjoyability, and in fact this actually helps to create the timeless mysterious quality of the recording. Mood and emotion always win out in music. What is good music if not sounds that create emotion? In modern recordings you can make everything clear, but that is not necessarily an advantage. When there is a bit of murkiness or misdirection, it allows the imagination of the listener to fill in the missing qualities. Even knowing the history of Blue Moon, how it was recorded, cannot detract from the recordings strange beauty. I think one of the reasons that something like Blue Moon is with us, aside from the fantastic performances, songwriting, and place in history, is that no matter how much we know about it, it remains a mysterious puzzle that will never be solved. We might know the pieces that were in place on August 19th, 1954, but there is a strange alchemy, another presence, participating in the events of that night.