“Blue Moon With Heartache”
Written by Rosanne Cash
#1 (1 week)
March 13, 1982
“Blue Moon With Heartache” was originally the B-side to “Seven Year Ache,” which served as the lead single and title track of Cash’s breakthrough album.
That designation made sense at the time, because who would ever think of sending a rambling poem overflowing with metaphor to country radio in 1981?
But then Columbia did just that, passing over radio friendly fare like “What Kinda Girl” and “You Don’t Have Very Far to Go” for Cash’s deeply pensive meditation on a dying love affair.
And damn if it didn’t go to No. 1 anyway.
More so than any of her eleven No. 1 singles, “Blue Moon With Heartache” previews the Rosanne Cash we’d be fully introduced to on Interiors after her hitmaking run came to an end at the turn of the decade. Rodney Crowell’s production gives it a cool little guitar hook for radio to latch on to, but even that addition does little to make this record’s success feel any less baffling.
That country radio took a shot on something this stark and intellectual in 1982, during the height of what is often dismissed as the most disposable country music era of the twentieth century, should be enough to shake all of us from our preconceived notions of any stretch of time in country music’s storied past.
As for Cash, the somewhat rushed follow up to Seven Year Ache was good for three more hits. Somwhere in the Stars included the top five “Ain’t No Money,” the top ten “I Wonder,” and the top fifteen “It Hasn’t Happened Yet.”
“Ain’t No Money” earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She lost to Juice Newton, but the experience inspired the lead single from her next album, which we will cover when we get to 1985.
“Blue Moon With Heartache” gets an A.
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You know a young Mary Chapin Carpenter had to be listening to this song, right?
God knows, even as a kid, I was. Just like “Seven Year Ache” this song was without peer sonically. I wasn’t old enough to feel the fullness of its emotional weight, but I certainly appreciated the atmospheric moodiness of the production. It sounded cool and mysterious. As an adult, I love the sheer poetry of the songwriting and realize how emotionally devastating the song is. It is heartbreakingly gorgeous.
“Hear, Hear” to Kevin’s point about what has been happening at the top of the country charts in the early eighties. Just look at a list of the songs that have rung the bell so far. It’s largely (looking at you T.G.!) a collection of absolutely essential listening for anyone curious about country music and its song history. And those hits have come from urban cowboys, country legends, and pop-country icons, male and female.
So far, the exploration of this decade has been all about celebrating the the diversity of sound. Just look at the musical miscellany of the last three chart toppers, from Ed Bruce to The Oaks to Roseanne Cash.
One of my favorite song titles! Always found it interesting how this song has no chorus but was such an earworm nonetheless.
The song title sounds like the piece should be hanging in an art gallery alongside “Still Life with Roses.”
That was deliberate: