Blue Velvet (song)

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"Blue Velvet"
Blue Velvet Song Recorde Single.jpg
Single by The Clovers
B-side"If You Love Me (Why Don't You Tell Me So)"
Released1955
FormatVinyl, 7", 45 RPM
Shellac, 10", 78 RPM
GenreRhythm and blues
Length2:38
LabelAtlantic
Songwriter(s)

"Blue Velvet" is a popular song written and composed in 1950 by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris. A top 20 hit for Tony Bennett in its original 1951 version, the song has since been re-recorded many times, with a 1963 version by Bobby Vinton reaching No. 1.

Background[edit]

While visiting friends in Richmond, Virginia, songwriter Bernie Wayne stayed at the Jefferson Hotel, and it was the sight of a woman at a party held at the Jefferson which inspired Wayne to write the lyric for "Blue Velvet."[1] When Wayne pitched "Blue Velvet" to Columbia Records head A&R man Mitch Miller, he had only played the opening line: "She wore blue velvet ...", when Miller interrupted him, saying: "How about [my giving the song to] Tony Bennett?" Wayne's response, "Don't you want to hear the rest of the song?", drew this advice from Miller: "Quit while you're ahead!"[2]

Tony Bennett version[edit]

The first artist for whom "Blue Velvet" was a hit was Tony Bennett who recorded the song in a 17 July 1951 session with the Percy Faith orchestra: released 21 September 1951, Bennett's version peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard chart of "Records Most Played by Disc Jockeys,"[3] while reaching No. 18 on Billboard's chart of "Best Selling Pop Singles,"[4] and No. 18 on Billboard's chart of "Most Played Juke Box Records."[5] The song also reached No. 12 on the Cash Box Top 50 on December 1, 1951, in a tandem ranking of versions by Tony Bennett, Bill Farrell, Norman Kaye, and Arthur Prysock,[6] while reaching No. 11 on Cash Box's chart of "The Nation's Top 10 Juke Box Tunes".[7]

Bennett's version made its album debut on a 1959 compilation LP that was also titled Blue Velvet.[8] A live version of "Blue Velvet" was featured on the 1962 concert album Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall,[9] with the selection being included on The Good Life, a 1963 EP release in the UK.[10] Bennett dueted with k.d. lang on a remake of "Blue Velvet" for his 2011 album Duets II,[11] while Bennett's 2012 album Viva Duets featured Bennett duetting on "Blue Velvet" with Maria Gadú, who sang her part in Portuguese.[12] ("Blue Velvet" was a bonus cut on an edition of Viva Duets sold exclusively through Target.)

The Clovers version[edit]

In 1955, the Clovers released a version of the song through Atlantic Records as a single.[13] The song was initially recorded, produced, and released when the R&B group was still composed of John "Buddy" Bailey (lead singer), Billy Mitchell, Matthew McQuater, Harold Lucas, Harold Winley, and Bill Harris.[14] Various members of the group left, died, or were replaced, although the group as a whole still performed the song regardless of whom its members were. The single reached No. 14 on Billboard's Rhythm & Blues Records chart of "Best Sellers in Stores."[15] In 1956, the Clovers released the song on their eponymous album.[16]

The Statues version[edit]

The first version of "Blue Velvet" to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 during the rock 'n' roll era was recorded and released by the Statues, a Nashville-based doo-wop trio consisting of Buzz Cason, Hugh Jarrett, and Richard Williams.[17] In 1959 Cason and Williams, members of local rockabilly band the Casuals, had been invited by Jarrett, a former member of the Jordanaires and later a disc jockey at WLAC, to join him - along with veteran background songstress and composer Marijohn Wilkin - to form a vocal chorale who would back artists recording in Nashville;[17][18] the three male members of the chorale were signed to Liberty Records by label founder Al Bennett, who had Snuff Garrett - in his apparent debut as a producer - record the trio in three sessions at the Owen Bradley Studio at the end of November or the beginning of December 1959.[19]

Two sides from the Garrett sessions had a May 1960 single release credited to the Statues (the group name was a reference to the Statue of Liberty, as the group was signed to Liberty Records): the intended A-side was the Marijohn Wilkin original co-write (with Polly Harrison) "Keep the Hall Light Burning" but it was the flip: a remake of "Blue Velvet," which would not only become a Top Ten hit in Nashville but also rank on regional hit parades across the US rising as high as No. 8 on the September 30, 1960 Top 50 survey for preeminent Los Angeles Top 40 station KRLA.[20] However, the Statues's version of "Blue Velvet" would only accrue enough focused national interest to rank on the Hot 100 for a period of three weeks in August 1960, with a peak of No. 84,[21][22] while reaching No. 80 on the Cash Box Top 100.[23]

Bobby Vinton version[edit]

"Blue Velvet"
Single by Bobby Vinton
from the album Blue on Blue
B-side"Is There a Place (Where I Can Go)"
Released2 August 1963[24]
FormatVinyl, 7", 45 RPM
Recorded1963
GenreTraditional pop
Length2:47
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Bob Morgan
Bobby Vinton singles chronology
"Blue on Blue"
(1963)
"Blue Velvet"
(1963)
"There! I've Said It Again"
(1963)

The most successful recording of "Blue Velvet" was released by Bobby Vinton in 1963. Vinton's version reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 21 September 1963 and remained at No. 1 for the subsequent two weeks.[25][26] "Blue Velvet" also afforded Vinton a No. 1 hit on the U.S. Middle-Road Singles chart, where its No. 1 tenure was eight weeks.[27][28]

Vinton's No. 3 hit in the summer of 1963, with "Blue on Blue," prompted the recording of the Blue on Blue album comprising songs featuring the word "blue" in the title. Vinton's friend, music publisher Al Gallico, suggested "Blue Velvet" as a Blue on Blue album track and sent his secretary with a dollar to a music store to purchase the song's sheet music; an hour later, Vinton had recorded "Blue Velvet" in two takes. Vinton did not expect the song to be a hit, and believed that his remake of "Am I Blue?" had more sales potential.[29]

Vinton's version was ranked No. 5 on Billboard's end of year ranking "Top Records of 1963",[30] No. 4 on Cash Box's "Top 100 Chart Hits of 1963",[31] and No. 8 on Cash Box's "Top 100 Chart Hits of 1964".[32]

Vinton's recording failed to make the British charts when originally released, but a re-release in 1990 reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, with "Blue on Blue" as the B-side.[33]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1963) Peak
position
Australia (Music Maker)[34] 9
Canada (CHUM Hit Parade)[35] 1
New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)[36] 1
Peru (La Prensa)[37] 8
Philippines[38] 5
South Africa[38] 6
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 1
US Billboard Middle-Road Singles[39] 1
US Cash Box Top 100[40] 1
Chart (1990) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[41] 38
Ireland (IRMA)[42] 3
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[43] 2

Lana Del Rey version[edit]

"Blue Velvet"
Lana Del Rey Blue Velvet Cover.jpeg
Single by Lana Del Rey
from the album Paradise
ReleasedSeptember 20, 2012 (2012-09-20)
FormatDigital download
Length2:36
LabelInterscope
Songwriter(s)
  • Bernie Wayne
  • Lee Morris
Producer(s)Emile Haynie
Lana Del Rey singles chronology
"National Anthem"
(2012)
"Blue Velvet"
(2012)
"Ride"
(2012)
Audio sample

American singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey released a cover of the song "Blue Velvet" in 2012. It was taken from reissue of her debut studio album Born to Die – The Paradise Edition and her third EP, Paradise. It was released as a single on September 20, 2012, through Interscope Records, and used in an advertising campaign for the clothing retailer H&M.

Background[edit]

Del Rey had recorded a cover of "Blue Velvet" for her 2012 H&M Autumn campaign.[44][45] On September 20, the song was released as a single.[46] Del Rey was selected for the H&M ad campaign after an impressionable performance at a Mulberry dinner party. Industry moguls Michelle Williams, Alexa Chung, Elizabeth Olsen, and Anna Wintour attended the party and were impressed by the performance. A public relations manager for H&M said Del Rey was chosen because they "were looking for a style icon and singer to model our fall collection and so Lana Del Rey was the perfect choice."[47][48][49]

Music video[edit]

On September 19, the music video, which served as a commercial for the H&M 2012 Autumn Collection as well, for "Blue Velvet" was released through H&M.[50] In the video, Del Rey is singing the song in a low-lit room before an audience of pallid people, playing an Americana lounge singer dressed in a pink mohair sweater,[51] She is then hypnotized.[52] Three women dressed identically to Del Rey sit on a couch and watch her coldly.[53] At the end, a little man walks into the room, pulls out the plug for Del Rey's microphone, silencing her.[52] Compared to the David Lynch film of the same name,[54] it was directed by Johan Renck.[54] and composed in post-World War II Americana fashion and the notion of external beauty cloaking inner vulnerability.[55] A behind the scenes video was filmed and posted to H&M's official YouTube channel.[56]

Critical reception[edit]

Rolling Stone called Del Rey's cover "doleful."[52] Carl Williot, of Idolator, dubbed Del Rey's cover "beautifully languorous and dreary (though [it] is replete with her go-to swell of strings and grainy programmed beats)."[55] Jenna Hally Rubenstein, writing for MTV, called the commercial and vocals "moody, totally broody," playfully adding, "What would a Lana Del Rey campaign be if it didn't make you feel a tad depressed?" In the video, Rubenstein said Del Rey was a "ridiculous beauty" sporting a Brigitte Bardot–inspired look, which she added, not every singer can pull off.[53] People said the video was dramatic, intriguing, unique, and played off the moody, vintage Hollywood image of the retro-inspired starlet. Appropriately, they wrote, the video had film noir elements.[57] Specifically, it was compared to the neo-noir film, Mulholland Drive, as well as to the film Blue Velvet itself.[58] In an interview with Artinfo, David Lynch spoke out about Del Rey's cover:[58][59]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download [60]

  1. "Blue Velvet" – 2:36

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Paradise.[61]

Performance

Instruments

  • The Larry Gold Orchestra – strings

Technical and production

  • Ben Baptie – mixing assistant
  • Spencer Burgess Jr. – assistant recording engineer
  • John Davis – mastering
  • Tom Elmhirst – mixing
  • Larry Gold – string arrangements
  • Emile Haynie – production

Charts[edit]

Chart (2012) Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[62] 40
France (SNEP)[63] 40
Germany (Official German Charts)[64] 49
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[65] 44
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[66] 42
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[67] 60

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
France [68] September 20, 2012 Digital download Universal
Germany [69]
United Kingdom [70] Polydor
United States [71] September 25, 2012 Interscope
Canada [72]

Other recordings[edit]

The Paragons released a version of the song as a single in 1960. Their version reached No. 103 on Billboard's "Bubbling Under the Hot 100".[73] It spent three weeks on the chart in the autumn of 1960, sharing the "Bubbling Under" chart for two weeks with the version by the Statues, which had just dropped off the Hot 100 (see Section 4 above).[73]

Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra released a version in 1963, as a single and on the album Wonderful! Wonderful![74] It reached No. 103 on Billboard's Bubbling Under the Hot 100.[75] A different, fully instrumental recording was featured on Welk's 1965 album Apples & Bananas.[76]

The 2016 album Upward Spiral by the Branford Marsalis Quartet with vocalist Kurt Elling features a remake of "Blue Velvet".[77]

Use in film soundtracks[edit]

Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet" is one of the thirteen songs featured in Kenneth Anger's groundbreaking experimental film Scorpio Rising (1963). Tony Bennett's version of the song is featured in The Last Picture Show and Raging Bull.

Bobby Vinton's version is featured several times in David Lynch's 1986 film Blue Velvet. The film drew partial inspiration from the song's lyrics, where Isabella Rossellini, who plays a singer in the film, also sings the song in-character.[78] Lynch selected the song, because it conceptually matched the mood of the film. Specifically, in an interview he gave to the Village Voice, Lynch said of the song: "The mood that came with that song a mood, a time, and things that were of that time."[79] The film itself heavily incorporates portions of the song. During filming, Lynch placed speakers on set and in streets and played Shostakovich to set the correct mood he wanted to convey for the song.[80] The score also makes direct quotations from Dimitri Shostakovich's 15th Symphony, to which Lynch had been listening regularly while writing the screenplay.[81]

Bobby Vinton's version is featured once, in the fourteenth episode of Kamen Rider Kuuga, as the Gurongi Me-Gyarido-Gi backs up a truck.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]