Matson on Music
Story time: Chromatics' 'Blue Moon' and death in Kirkland
Sometimes you have a story about a song. I have a story about the American classic "Blue Moon," which is about loneliness, which we don't understand anymore as a people because of the Internet. Download the atmospheric version below by Portland/worldwide band Chromatics right here.
In 1998 in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Wash., I was in high school, and a moody and musical youth, if I have to characterize myself. To fulfill some school-related requirement and also out of the kindness of my heart (I guess), I volunteered at a retirement center by my house. The first time I went there, I ate shrimp salad in a dimly lit basement for "happy hour" with an old man. I remember joking with him that the happy hour was pretty sad. Anyway this guy had a sense of humor, and was an ex-baseball player. I was supposed to ask questions, he was supposed to tell me stories. That was the gist of this volunteering. Not really much of a job. It went well. We talked about baseball. I was a baseball freak at the time and knew all the players and stats. Eventually I said I'd like to play the piano, that I had some songs, and that was sort of part of my volunteer work. He asked if I knew "Blue Moon." I did not. But I said I'd learn it and come back. So I played my repertoire of halfway-learned Chopin and pop songs, went home and figured out "Blue Moon." It was a special song for my great-grandmother, it turned out. I liked the chords, and the words. Having grown up with the book "Goodnight Moon," this felt to me like the adult version of that same talking to the moon idea, where you don't wave smilingly to the cosmos like a child but respect that the universe is always watching and never caring. I came back three weeks later for happy hour and he was dead. I played "Blue Moon" and went home.