Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Earl Thomas Conley, “Once in a Blue Moon”

“Once in a Blue Moon”

Earl Thomas Conley

Written by Tom Brasfield and Robert Byrne


#1 (1 week)

May 3, 1986

The second No. 1 single from Earl Thomas Conley’s hits collection is a great example of how a strong vocalist can elevate middling material.

“Once in a Blue Moon” has its heart in the right place, but it’s heavy on self-degradation and light on self-awareness.  The narrator is beating himself up for being a bad partner who only delivers what his woman needs every “once in a blue moon,” yet he seems oblivious to the solution being entirely in his own hands.  Just stop being a jerk, dude.

It works overall because Conley’s interpretation of the material is enough to suggest that such an epiphany is on the horizon.  He aches and breaks in all of the right places, adding a sense of self-loathing that makes it feel like we’re meeting him at rock bottom and that he’s ready to turn the corner and treat his partner with the love and respect that she deserves throughout the entire lunar cycle.

It’s a remarkable feat of singing because none of that is on the page.  Conley is able to create it through his innate sense of empathy and his remarkable interpretive gifts.

“Once in a Blue Moon” gets a B. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. If only being in love was a matter of rational thoughts, right choices, and good intentions.

    I hear this song as being more about the unpredictable mystery, reckless joy, and complexity of love than a guy about to change after bottoming out.

    It’s explicitly a song about hating how much one person can still love another despite not wanting to, because of the too frequent disappointments and obvious personal shortcomings.

    Conley brilliantly captures all the nuances of a complicated love with his vocal interpretation here; it is one of best vocal performances to date.

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