Summertime has always been filled with all kinds of outdoor activities, including everything from bungee jumping to extreme skateboarding, but one of the most popular activities is one that requires very little special equipment — swimming. And when you combine swimming with the right conditions – specifically the addition of moonlight – it forms the basis for one of my favorite “guilty pleasure” tunes.
The very term “guilty pleasure” tends to make a person feel a little sheepish, but I’m not going to give into that kind of thinking. I Know that each and every music lover reading this has their own little secret cache of favorites, and I for one am proud (or at least relieved) to admit my affection for this particular one. Its initial appearance on my radar was around 1961 when I first saw the Elvis movie, Blue Hawaii.
We all know about Elvis Presley’s film career, and how Colonel Parker picked roles for Elvis based pretty much on how many dollars ended up in the Colonel’s pocket. It led to a number of pedestrian movies, but like the proverbial blind squirrel who sometimes finds an acorn, occasionally one of Presley’s cinema efforts was a cut above the others.
It would probably be important at this point to state that I’m not talking about how a movie critic might rank Presley’s films, because I’m well aware that Blue Hawaii is considered a light-weight effort with a rudimentary plot, and that it painted a picture of a politically-incorrect, plastic Polynesian paradise. But to me, a young guy who had lived his whole life in small-town middle America, seeing Elvis enjoying the good life with the gorgeous Joan Blackman, while surrounded by bright and colorful scenery, created a fantasy world that was very appealing.
Part of the appeal was the music, and I went out and bought the soundtrack album, then proceeded to play it nearly to death. There was nothing revolutionary or cutting-edge in the music, but it was a better than average mix of the type of songs that populated Elvis’s movies. Several were forgettable but others have stuck with me through the years, and one of those was “Moonlight Swim”. Ironically, in the movie Elvis performed the song while cruising along in daylight – in a convertible filled with babes – rather than on a beach in the moonlight.
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that there’d been an earlier version of the song, one that actually scored higher on the Billboard charts than the one from Elvis. In 1957, actor Anthony Perkins (yes, the guy from Psycho) who had some singing practice from his Broadway experiences, recorded an album with a moderately selling single — his version of “Moonlight Swim”. He made a couple of more albums after that, but mostly concentrated on acting for the rest of his career. In my mind, he will be forever linked to The King by that song.
Tony Perkins – “Moonlight Swim” (1957) Elvis Presley – “Moonlight Swim” (1961)