Noise Variations: “Blue Velvet” through the Years

In honor of David Lynch’s release on vinyl of his single “Good Day Today” (and our love of all things Lynch), Noise Narcs is posting on the music of, for, and about David Lynch this week. See our intro post (and claim of Lynch as a Philadelphian) here, and see the rest of the DLW posts here.

Few directors capture so well the menacing strangeness of America’s small towns and suburbs as David Lynch.  Twin Peaks gave this theme its full, soap-opera-length treatment, but Lynch had already begun to probe the heartland of darkness in earnest five years earlier with the masterful Blue Velvet (1986).

In the picket-fence town of Lumberton, U.S.A., young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is drawn like a reverse moth into an Oedipal nightmare of violence and sexual desire.  The film’s central image, its titular fetish, is a blue velvet stuff gag.

She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet was the night
Softer than satin was the light
From the stars
She wore blue velvet
Bluer than velvet were her eyes
Warmer than May her tender sighs
Love was ours
Ours a love I held tightly
Feeling the rapture grow
Like a flame burning brightly
But when she left, gone was the glow of
Blue velvet
But in my heart there’ll always be
Precious and warm, a memory
Through the years
And I still can see blue velvet
Through my tears

Tony Bennett was the first to have an early hit with the Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris penned pop song in 1951, a million years ago.  Soaring strings complement his crooning style.

Tony Bennett, “Blue Velvet”

In 1955, a D.C. doo-wop outfit, The Clovers, recorded their version of the song.  The Clovers would eventually be best known for their 1959 hit, “Love Potion #9.”

The Clovers, “Blue Velvet”

Taking their cue from The Clovers, a Cleveland-based doo-wop group, The Moonglows, recorded one of my favorite versions in 1957.

The Moonglows, “Blue Velvet”

Then, in 1963, the “Polish Prince,” Bobby Vinton conceived of Blue on Blue, an entire album of songs with the word “Blue” in the title.  “Blue Skies,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Blueberry Hill,” “My Blue Heaven,” etc.  This is inarguably the most famous rendition of “Blue Velvet,” hitting number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for three weeks.  It is also the version that opens Lynch’s film.

Bobby Vinton, “Blue Velvet”

And three other notable versions:

And of course:

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5 Responses to Noise Variations: “Blue Velvet” through the Years

  1. Julien says:

    Unfortunately Good Day Today is pure shit, I wonder how he can go that low…

    • David G says:

      Maybe compared to Ice Cube’s classic, but in comparison to most AK-less tracks, it’s pretty great.

  2. David G says:

    Lovely run-through.

    Although the scene is amazing, amidst all those other entries, Isabella’s rendition is pretty lacking.

    Love The Moonglows, which I’d say blows the rest of them away. Martino is characteristically fantastic. And I’ve always loved the beginning of The Clovers’ version more than the rest. Can’t fault Lynch using Vinton’s version, either, it’s pure innocent beauty. A perfect tone-setter.

  3. Matt K says:

    Hm. These are all interesting. I think I’m a Bobby Vinton man, but Brenda Lee’s coming on strong. (Yes! “Blue Velvet” x 7, plus “Radar Love” reference).

    The Clovers and Moonglows versions are great, too — and I agree about that lovely soft sax that opens the Clovers version. But for my money, Brenda’s got the strongest voice, and Bobby’s got the sweetest arrangement.

    On the other hand, maybe we’re making too many fine distinctions. Katherine just yelled in from the other room, “WHY ARE YOU PLAYING THE SAME SONG OVER AND OVER?”

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