Sunday, May 01, 2016

Your Moment of Swing: In the Mood

A final Glenn Miller tune, possibly his most lasting: "In the Mood."  This is from the movie Sun Valley Serenade,  so that's actor John Payne at the piano, and lots of shots of co-star Sonia Henie in the audience.  But the rest is the Miller Orchestra of 1941.

Next to maybe Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller is the giant of Swing music, and probably even more of a representative of the Swing era.  I think a lot of the reason is that Glenn Miller crafted songs.  Most of the songs still remembered from the late 30s and early 40s--those with lyrics and especially those without--were introduced or made famous by the Glenn Miller band.

"In the Mood" is one of the classics, an almost perfect pop song as well as buoyant hit of Swing.  It was probably based on a blues riff that made its way into several songs.  In 1935, Joe Garland made his big band arrangement, calling it "There's Rhythm in Harlem."  When Swing took over he gave it to Artie Shaw under the title "In the Mood."  Shaw's band played this version but never recorded it.

It was left to Glenn Miller to edit it, taking out secondary themes and emphasizing the propulsive, happy sounding riff.  He made it a song.  It became one of his signature tunes, and has only increased in popularity.  Musicians from Louis Armstrong to Chuck Berry admired it (Berry claimed that he based the famous guitar riff that starts "Johnny Be Good" on the opening of "In the Mood.")

There are so many versions of "In the Mood" around, including those made by various versions of the Glenn Miller Orchestra that has played for decades after Glenn Miller's death.  One of these later versions is matched to this movie footage on a different YouTube video. (There have to be fifty different versions of this song on YouTube.)

But this is the version recorded for this movie, and it has some tasty differences from the official version that the Miller Orchestra recorded in 1939. The movie also shows the song played in its natural habitat, facing dancers on the dance floor.  This had to be an ecstatic experience to hear and dance to live.

Swing was my mother's music, her rock & roll.  Glenn Miller's was her favorite band, and she was a good dancer.  When the Glenn Miller Orchestra got off the train at the Greensburg station and played at the Coliseum ballroom, she was there.  I love to think of this song making her happy.


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