By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2020. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
We all get the blues now and then,
but all blues are not bad.
I hope these blue songs chase your blues away!
“The blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.”
-John Lennon to Jann Wenner, January 21, 1971
‘The Blue Danube’ is by Austrian composer Johan Strauss II in 1866. When John and Yoko appeared in a bag at their press conference in Vienna after their Amsterdam Bed-In (May 1969) they were humming ‘The Blue Danube’ from inside the bag.
Listen (The Vienna Philharmonic) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6t318FgFdc
The original recording of the standard ‘Am I Blue?’ was sung by Ethel Waters in 1929. The popular version from the film To Have and Have Not is a duet between Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall. The song has appeared in over 40 films and has been covered by countless others including Billie Holiday, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. Eddie Cochran recorded a rockabilly version in 1957.
Listen – Ethel Waters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emOkuPqVDkQ
Watch – Hoagy Carmichael & Lauren Bacall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1vJ2Z8aI0
Listen -Eddie Cochran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAsZ4ki8jGc
‘Lavender Blue’ was written by Eliot Daniel (composer of the ‘I Love Lucy’ television theme song). ‘Lavender Blue’ appears in the film So Dear To My Heart (1949). During live performances, David Bowie adapted Daniel’s lyrics and prefaced his song “Heroes” with the opening lines….
Lavender blue, dilly dilly / Lavender green
I will be king, dilly dilly / You will be queen
Watch – Bowie ‘Lavender Blue’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07acGplIPaY
American Rockabilly star and pioneer Gene Vincent is most famous for ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’. His vocals on this are often mistaken for Elvis Presley. He appears in the film The Girl Can’t Help It starring Jayne Mansfield, performing the song. Vincent has a gorgeous song called ‘The Day the World Turned Blue’ released as a single in 1970.
‘Bluejean Bop’ (1956) is one of Vincent’s coolest songs. During his UK tour in 1960, his leg was mangled in a car accident (in which Eddie Cochran was killed) resulting in a stance which favored his injured leg – putting his right leg forward and his left leg way back. Gene’s way of standing at the mic was adapted by many other singers, most notably by David Bowie, who had a hit with a song called ‘Blue Jean’.
Vincent died from an ulcer at age 36 in 1971.
Bluejean baby, with your big blue eyes
Don’t want you looking at other guy…s
Watch! Gene Vincent ‘Blue Jean Bop’ Live in Italy 1960: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs5avo4bpPM
Watch – Bowie ‘Blue Jean’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZnryZ5rDbs
One of the earliest rockabilly records was ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ written by Carl Perkins in 1955. Elvis had a major hit with the song in 1956 – it was the first track on his debut album. It was also covered by many other rockabilly stars. John Lennon performed it September 1969 at his first post-Beatles solo performance, released on the album Live Peace in Toronto.
Listen – Carl Perkins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvsYRAc-BWA
Watch– Elvis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm5HKlQ6nGM
Watch – John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuEMdfwmQTM
The thrilling ‘Blueberry Hill’ (Rose/Stock/Lewis) was popular in 1940 when recordings were made by various big band artists including Gene Krupa, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Tommy Dorsey, Kay Kyser and also by Country Western star Gene Autrey. A rockier version of song became a hit in 1956 by Fats Domino. The song is about an unfulfilled promise of love.
‘Blue Train’ by John Coltrane is a classic instrumental jazz/blues piece from the album of the same title, released on the jazz label Blue Note in 1957.
The Miles Davis sextet’s classic and highly influential jazz record Kind of Blue was released in 1959. It is considered by many to be the greatest album of all time. Most of it was recorded spontaneously, without any rehearsal or instruction to the players. ‘So What’ is the opening track.
Listen – ‘All Blues’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-488UORrfJ0
Listen – ‘So What’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q72jAN2F5Cs
Detroit’s Guy Mitchell had a No.1 hit with ‘Singing the Blues’ in 1956. The American actor and singer hosted his own TV show in 1957.
Watch on The Ed Sullivan Show – 1956 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_NLhDTyRJk
‘Blue Christmas’ (written in 1948) is a wonderful hit by Elvis Presley from the 1957 record, Elvis’ Christmas Album.
The Ikettes had a 1961 record called ‘I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song). Ike & Tina Turner’s backing group of female singers had hits of their own. Members on this recording were Jessie Smith, Vanetta Fields and Robbie Montgomery. The Ikettes members varied and they were sometimes a quartet.
Watch – American Bandstand, May 1965: https://youtu.be/87a8nrANb64
Rosie and the Originals (famous for the hit ‘Angel Baby’ in 1969) also released a great single ‘Lonely Blue Nights’ in 1961. The singer, Rosie Hamlin was then a 15-year old Mexican girl living in California. Her beautifully sincere, haunting and innocent voice transcends time.
Patsy Cline did a great version of ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ in 1963 (written by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe in 1945). Elvis also sang this on the B-side of his single ‘That’s All Right’ in 1954.
Listen – Patsy Cline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHMeXfMPHms
Listen – Elvis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7M0CmkJ-2o
‘Go Now!’ by The Moody Blues was released in 1964 in the U.K. and in 1965 in the USA. the singer begs his love to leave before she sees him cry. It was previously recorded in 1964 by American singer Bessie Banks, but the British Invasion version usurped her success.
Although this Jagger/Richards tune was released by other artists as a single, ‘Blue Turns to Grey’ appears on The Rolling Stones album December’s Children released in late 1965. The short ballad was also covered by Cliff Richard in 1966, and by The Flamin’ Groovies in 1978.
Here are two covers of two Bob Dylan songs from 1965 that I love, performed by Bryan Ferry:
‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ from Dylan’s album Highway 61 Revisited
On Bryan Ferry’s album Dylanesque
‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ from Dylan’s album Bringing it All Back Home
On Bryan Ferry’s album Frantic
Marianne Faithfull also did a beautiful version of this. And She re-recorded it in 2018 on her album Negative Capability.
Listen – 2015: https://youtu.be/fZSvoPLX4Zg
‘Bell Bottom Blues’ by Derek and the Dominos was written by Eric Clapton for Pattie Boyd, who was then George Harrison’s wife. He also wrote ‘Layla’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ about Patti. This is on the album Layla and Other Assorted love Songs released in 1970.
‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’ was a 1970 hitby Tommy James and the Shondells. James says his lyrics are based on Biblical passages. This could possibly be a veiled allegory to the effects of blue LSD pills.
The spectacular ‘I Got the Blues’ by The Rolling Stones from Sticky Fingers (1971). The album cover art – a man’s crotch with a working zipper on the jeans – was designed by Andy Warhol. The highlight of this song is Bobby Keyes on sax!
Listen – Sticky Fingers album version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR5DbMQgIOQ
Watch: Live @ The Marquee 1971: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTQt6lHoMcM
‘Baby Blue’ a great pop song with a wonderful melody from Beatles’ protégés Badfinger, released on Apple Records in 1972.
The heavy band Blue Cheer had a fuzzy tribal hit with ‘Summertime Blues’ in 1967. The song was originally a rockabilly hit by Eddie Cochran in 1958. It was covered by many, including The Who and performed live by Jimi Hendrix. The Blue Cheer version sounds like a combination of those two merged into one!
Watch on Beat Club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as1NcX31szs
Listen: Eddie Cochran: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In7z7B87Puc
The Blues Magoos from the Bronx had a psychedelic garage hit with ‘(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet’ in 1967.
‘L’amour est bleu’ (‘Love Is Blue’) was written in 1967 (with lyrics) but a baroque pop instrumental version was made popular by Paul Mauriat. This will sound very familiar once you click on the link!
‘Stray Cat Blues’ by the Stones (on Beggar’s Banquet released in 1968) is not really a blues song, but a depraved rocker about an underage orgy. Jagger claims that the beginning of the song was inspired by The Velvet Underground song ‘Heroin’.
Watch live @ Hyde Park 1969 (Mick Taylor’s first gig with the Stones)
Jagger is wearing a wonderful white dress, a creation by Mr. Fish
Listen: Live @ The Roundhouse 1971 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDBaU6l1Lm8
George Harrison brought us two blue Beatles tunes; ‘Blue Jay Way’ (about a foggy road in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles) on the Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and ‘For You Blue’ on Let It Be in 1970.
Listen ‘Blue Jay Way’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixmOAb6qzvY
Listen ‘For You Blue’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIFHRaZERHg
And of course we have the great John Lennon song ‘Yer Blues’ on The Beatles (white album) from 1968. The lyrics are brutal and sincere. “Yes I’m lonely, wanna die / If I ain’t dead already, girl you know the reason why.”
Watch – Rock N’ Roll Circus 1968 – John Lennon with The Dirty Mac: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeFwaWFTGYU
‘Pale Blue Eyes’ is an unusually tender song written by Lou Reed about one of his first girlfriends. It’s on the 1969 debut album by The Velvet Underground.
Shocking Blue – the band who gave us ‘Venus’, have many great songs, including Shocking You’ from their third album in 1971! Another great song of theirs is called ‘Love Buzz’. A cool mix appears on The Enochian Way compilation. – Nirvana covered it on Bleach.
We are shocking you until you turn to blue!!
Watch! ‘Shocking You’ https://youtu.be/iiNm3oM28Pk
Watch! In color: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRoLrOHCM9I
‘Love Buzz’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAvYUFcRnO4
‘Bitterblue’ is a great tune by Cat Stevens from his 5th album Teaser and the Firecat released in 1971.
‘True Blue’ appears on Rod Stewart’s album Never a Dull Moment (1972). This has a gorgeous melody and then it rocks out!
‘Little Bitch Blue’ by Suzi Quatro is the B-side to her song ’48 Crash’ from her debut album released in 1973. Be sure to check out the amazing new documentary, Suzi Q, in which Quatro basically tells her own life story!
Watch Suzi teaching us the bass line in 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR2TebNUdR8
‘Out The Blue’ by John Lennon from Mind Games (1973) is one of his most beautiful love songs to Yoko.
‘Out of the Blue’ by Roxy Music features one of the most amazing soaring guitar and violin performances of all time, by Phil Manzanera and Eddie Jobson. It’s on their 4th album Country Life released in 1974 (with a controversial album cover of two partially naked girls). The band performed this song (minus Paul Thompson) at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when they were inducted in 2019. The long solo outro is heavily flanged (a technique named by John Lennon).
The development of the classic “flanging” effect is generally attributed to Ken Townsend an engineer at EMI’s Abbey Road Studio who devised the process in 1966. Tired of the laborious process of re-recording dual vocal tracks, John Lennon asked Townsend if there was a way for the Beatles to get the sound of double-tracked vocals without actually doing the work. Townsend devised Artificial Double Tracking (ADT) According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn it was Lennon who actually gave the process the name “flanging”.
John asked Beatles producer George Martinhow ADT worked. Martin answered with the nonsense explanation “now listen, it’s very simple: we take the original image and we split it through a double-bifurcated sploshing flange with double negative feedback”. From then on, whenever Lennon wanted a Beatles song double-tracked, he would ask for “Ken’s flanger”. According to Lewisohn, “The Beatles’ influence was so vast that the term “flanging” is still in use today, more than 20 years on.” The first Beatles track to feature flanging was “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, recorded in April 1966. When Revolver was released on August 5, 1966 almost every song on the album had been subjected to flanging.
Flanging has also been credited to George Chkiantz, an Olympic Studios London engineer. An early use of the sound on a commercial pop recording was The Small Faces’ 1967 single ‘Itchycoo Park’ recorded at Olympic and engineered by Glyn Johns.
Watch – Live featuring Lucy Wilkins on violin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad_g2I91LQo&feature=youtu.be
See my story about all the Roxy Music album covers:
‘Mitternacht’ (‘Midnight’) is an electronic instrumental track from Kraftwerk’s fourth album, Autobahn released in November 1974. Although the group had previously rcorded groundbreaking electronic albums, this was the first which featured their trademark sound of repetition and a steady beat. This beautiful spacey track retains their original sound. The blue and white graphic on the album cover with its roadway and overpass icons represents the German roads it is named after.
Bob Dylan sang ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ on his album Blood on the Tracks in 1975. Dylan had admired Picasso’s paintings (particularly his blue period) and there is an alleged dual linking of this song title to his love of the cubist paintings and of his affection for Joni Mitchell’s album Blue from 1971.
Speaking of Picasso and in honor of his Blue Period, I’ll include the song ‘Pablo Picasso’ by Jonathan Richman for his band The Modern Lovers. The song is about Picasso being a ladies’ man despite being short. The back-handed compliment in the lyrics are ‘Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole’.
Though Richman wrote the song in 1972, produced by John Cale. The Modern Lovers debut album (produced by John Cale) was not released until 1977. Their producer recorded the song for his own album, Guts in 1977.
‘Pablo Picasso’ was also covered by David Bowie on his Reality album in 2003.
Listen – The Modern Lovers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1agI3u1YUjQ
Listen – John Cale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXtBsikiY50
Listen – David Bowie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk2hYnPo77M
‘Jackie Blue’ by Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1975) sounds very much like it could be by Ian Lloyd’s band Stories.
‘Protex Blue’ is a song by The Clash. It appears on the U.K. version of their 1977 debut album (omitted from the U.S. release). The title refers to a brand of condoms. The cool Irish punk band Protex took their name from this song.
Iggy Pop shot himself up in ‘Turn Blue’ from his 1977 album Lust For Life. The song is credited to his producer David Bowie and Warren Peace, but the lyrics are autobiographical for Iggy. ‘Turn Blue’ was written with Bowie in 1975 and was originally titled ‘Moving On’. The lyrics are mysteriously missing from the album sleeve.
Listen: ‘Turn Blue’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfpKXo94SVg
‘Out of the Blue’ is one of three instrumentals on Elton John’s 1976 album Blue Moves. Although it lacked critical acclaim, this double album, with its genre diversity and orchestrations is every bit as great as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Elton lets his players shine, especially on this progessive jazz track.
‘Memory Motel’ is a Jagger/Richards tune about a real place in Montauk, Long Island, from the Rolling Stones’ Black and Blue album in 1976. Model Anita Russell appears in the advert for the album, which was also on a huge billboard on the Sunset Strip. She is all tied up – ouch!
See my story: Am I Blue?
‘Mr. Blue Sky’ is by ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) from their double album Out of the Blue. It was released in 1977. This is the finale to the band’s epic ‘Concerto for a Rainy Day’. As with many ELO songs, it resembles many elements of compositions by The Beatles.
Here are two songs from Blondie. From their debut album is ‘Look Good in Blue’. I always wonder if this is about the cop that is being seduced in ‘X-Offender’.
‘Union City Blue’ on Blondie’s 4th album Eat to the Beat (1979). Debbie appeared in the film Union City and wrote this song on the set.
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvqgb1D6Opw
I must include something from Marianne Faithfull’s’ 1979 album Broken English because this really is the ultimate blues song (with a reggae twist) about a scorned woman! ‘Why’d Ya Do It’ has incredibly scathing X-Rated lyrics that were actually written by a man (English poet / actor Heathcote Williams) who had intended for Tina Turner to sing it! Marianne spits it out the words with pure venom, shattering her fragile chanteuse image forever! Barry Reynolds’ guitar work honors Robert Fripp!
‘Beat My Guest’ is my favorite song by Adam and the Ants. It was an obscure B-side of ‘Stand and Deliver’ on a disc included as a free bonus with some copies of the Kings of the Wild Frontier album in America in 1981. It later appeared on the compilation CD B-Side Babies. (In January 2013, Adam released an album called Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter).
Black and blue / baby I love You
Be your dog for just one flog
‘The Blue Mask’ is the killer title track of Lou Reed’s 1982 album. Lou really levitates on this one, along with Robert Quine on guitar! It was an incredible honor to have seen all 8 shows at The Bottom Line in NYC during this tour!
‘Blue Millionaire’ is a jazz/funk piece on Marianne Faithfull’s 1983 album A Child’s Adventure.
Marianne included ‘Prussian Blue’ on her 2011 album Horses and High Heels. It’s quite Dylanesque and the melody resembles ‘Laugh At Me’ by Sonny Bono.
Brian Eno has a calming track called ‘Deep Blue Day’ on his album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (released in 1983, remastered in 2019).
LeAnn Rimes had a hit with the beautiful song ‘Blue’ in 1996, which has the feel and sound of an old standard. The song had been written by Bill Mack for Patsy Cline in the 1960s. Patsy died in a plane crash in 1963 and never recorded the song. LeAnn was only 13 when she recorded this amazing version.
Listen – LeAnn Rimes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GozdIQx1Wow
Here comes Prince with ‘Computer Blue’ from his 1999 Purple Rain film soundtrack (1984)
The dreamy ‘Blue Light’ from Mazzy Star is from their 2nd album So Tonight That I Might See (1993). The haunting, whispering vocals of Hope Sandoval always get to me. They had a popular song called ‘Fade Into You’ which is also wonderful, as is most of their material. Another gorgeous track is ‘Blue Flower‘ from their album She Hangs Brightly.
Listen – ‘Blue Light’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opkGfDklqus
Listen – ‘Blue Flower’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhIq5uk2hW8
‘Little Boy Blue’ by Yoko Ono starts with the tinkering sound of a music box. This is a haunting lullaby, with lyrics not far from Yoko and her son Sean’s own truth. ‘Mommy’s weeping, daddy’s gone…’ Yoko’s delicate singing morphs into haunting screams. This is on her 2013 album Take Me to the Land of Hell. With tUnE-yArDs.
I’ll forego Bobby Vinton’s version ‘Blue Velvet’ in favor of the more evocative version by Lana Del Rey released as a promotional single in 2012 for the H&M autumn campaign.
Full version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0gr2abrE64
The Rollings Stones’ finely-honed album of blues covers Blue and Lonesome has Jagger singing better than ever, and the players dripping blue from their fingers. This was released in 2016. Here is the title track, a cover of Little Walter’s song.
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