Mr. Moonlight - The Beatles

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"Mr. Moonlight" - The Beatles (1963)

With a unique take on a sappy and pretty dumb song, “Mr. Moonlight” is one of the strangest cover songs The Beatles performed.

Originally written by American R&B songwriter Roy Lee Johnson, with its blistering vocal from John Lennon it begins with nearly a false intro. After Lennon’s initial screams- as the rest of the band picks up the gentle skip of the rhythm, Lennon falls into it only grudgingly. When singing solo, Lennon produced his own especially broad array of contrasting vocal colors.

Musciolgoist Tim Riley considers the track one of the most peculiarly engaging covers The Beatles ever recorded:

“Steering just this side of parody, Lennon and McCartney deliver their lines with straight-up seriousness in the harmony section, setting up a sharp contrast with Lennon’s gut-wrenching solo lines. Harrison’s Hawaiian-flavored guitar adds to the song’s strange ambiance.”

Music critic Robert Rodriguez points out that for some inexplicable reason,  the Beatles decided to add some “drama” to the proceedings with exotic percussion, a slower tempo, and Hammond organ,. He believes this helped transform the track into a “plodding, almost comical piece.”

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack agrees that “Mr. Moonlight” is one of the least favorite of any Beatles cover songs:

“Seems like this is the Beatles cover song which everyone loves to hate; it must be something about the self-consciously campy vocal, lugubrious Hammond organ, and generally queasy blend of dooh-whop and Latin musical styles. But get beyond this if you can and discover a number of compositional details which are more reminiscent of the Beatles' own style than you'd ever expect from the surface.”

He adds:

“Judging from the introductory vocal scream you'd be tempted to suppose that John had a hankering to play the good Doctor that was as long-lived as Paul's desire to be Little Richard.”

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