The Infinite Jukebox: Jonathan King’s ‘Everyone’s gone to the Moon’

Though a great number of them have been overturned as I grew older and more widely experienced, much of my musical foundations were formed in those first two or three years of listening to what was around. Which naturally produced a lifelong distaste for Jonathan King.
Some people just rub you up the wrong way, and King was several of these. He was a smug arsehole, a prominent singer and producer who based his entire output upon what could only be called commercialism without any thought of the quality – usually completely lacking – of the music which appeared as a multiplicity of singles, some of them under his own name, far more of them under a whole string of pseudonyms. The sole thread linking these pseudonymous tracks together was that every single one was based on a gimmick. None more blatantly so than The Archies bubblegum classic re-done in a weak Heavy Metal arrangement under the name Sakharin.
Scanning the discography in Wikipedia, it’s notable that only a very few of this relentless onslaught became big hits, with most of the chart successes failing to crack the Top Twenty if at all. The only one that holds any merit as far as I’m concerned was King’s pop rearrangement of the B.J. Thomas country song, ‘Hooked on a Feeling’, and that because the Swedish band Blue Swede recorded a near identical version but with considerably beefed up sound.
Yes, that was another common characteristic of King’s output on his own music, production that was as thin and weedy as his voice.
But. In 1965, as an Undergraduate aged 19, King had recorded one of his own songs, called ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’, one of half a dozen songs with which King was trying to make his way into the Music Industry after boasting to the first label boss he’d met that he knew how to make hit singles. According to Wikipedia, when the single reached no. 18 he was invited onto Top of the Pops (then still recorded in a former church on Dickenson Road in Manchester). The next day, the single sold 35,000 copies. It would eventually peak at no. 4.
I heard it often as a Radio 1 Golden Oldie. It was probably actually the second song from King that I ever heard, the first being his Top 30 hit, ‘Let It All Hang Out’, at the beginning of 1970. I learned to listen out for further plays of this oldie. It was different. I drew a firm distinction between that and King’s contemporary output. What made it so different? Some of it I attribute simply to it being of the Sixties, but the biggest difference is that quite simply, ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’ was sincere.
This was King singing an atmospheric, floaty song, with a lovely, lazy melody, and some quite beautiful string arrangements, but above all he was singing the song seriously. He wasn’t pissing about, wasn’t sneering at the audience that bought his modern, ephemeral music. It wasn’t an idea brought about by cynically combining two disparate notions. ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’ was straight.
But then again, what was it all about? It was the middle of the Sixties, the time of the Space Race. The Moon was in the atmosphere, and not just literally. Every day, every Apollo Mission, was one step nearer to when we would, in fact and not just in Dan Dare, cross space and stand upon another body in the Universe. King’s song, with its drifting ambience, its sense of strangeness, captured that feeling, that air of yearning for what was out there. It was even emblematic of the Sixties itself, when nothing could stop us, when we would keep growing, keep expanding.
And yet, if you listen to the words, they’re meaningless. They’re nothing but a series of paradoxes, sung without any thread connecting one to another. Streets full of people, all alone. Roads full of houses, never home. And everyone’s gone to the Moon is the cause of this strangeness, this lack of any inner substance.
King was never any great shakes as a singer, not even then, but his reedy voice is integral to the song. Other, better singers who covered it, like the English duo successful only in America, Chad and Jeremy, can’t go anywhere near the air of a fever dream – no, a cool, unexcited fever dream, if one can be said to exist – that King brings to life.
Even the middle eight has no meaning in words though it’s the necessary counterpart to King’s verses. Long time ago, life had begun, everyone went to the sun.
Yes, Jonathan King showed everyone that he could indeed come up with hit records, but once upon a time he wrote and sang a song, an actual song, that for two minutes and twenty seconds carried us off, and still had the unspoiled power to carry us off into a strange land that we could only glimpse through its distance from our real lives, but which whether we knew so or not we all yearned to reach. In time, it turned out to be the only way that we could go to the Moon, but it still remains an invocation for the desire still to go there.


3 thoughts on “The Infinite Jukebox: Jonathan King’s ‘Everyone’s gone to the Moon’

  1. Could you have done any better? It’s entirely very simple isn’t it to pass criticism on someone’s work but could you’ve honestly have done any better during that time? No? You reply?! Oh that’s a surprise…If you cannot state a kind words then why say anything at all.

    1. Since you obviously don’t have the least idea what an analytical review is about and seem to believe that the only time anyone should ever remark on anything is to praise it, I’ve approved your comment so that people can see what an idiot you are. Something defending the song against my analysis, which you can’t gainsay, would have been worth reading but that was too much for you, wasn’t it?

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