Crewe’s “Blue Moon” and avoiding Wikipedia ‘citogenesis’

Which supporters first adopted “Blue Moon” as their fans anthem? Both Crewe Alexandra or Manchester City claim it, and it’s a disputed assertion in Wikipedia.

Charlie Morris: Generation GameMy friend Charlie Morris (another London-based Crewe Alexandra supporter, who also grew up in Cheshire; also an ex-FT journalist and author of Generation Game, an excellent memoir about being a Crewe fan),  recently wrote a letter to the Financial Times:

Permit me to add to Ian Gittins’ excellent history of “Blue Moon” (The Life of A Song, FT Weekend, March 6). He refers to the song’s football associations, being “a terrace anthem at the blue-kitted Manchester City FC for 30 years”. As a member of the stoical band of Crewe Alexandra FC supporters, please allow us one “victory” over the all-conquering City by recording that we were the first fans to sing “Blue Moon”. As City historians freely admit, Crewe fans adopted it during the postwar years, apparently because the mournful tune and the first verse’s misery-drenched lyrics matched their mood as the team endured dire times. The 1950s included the side’s worst-ever league defeat — 11-1 by Lincoln City — and 55 consecutive away games without a win while stuck firmly at the foot of the Football League. Now that Crewe Alexandra has reached the heady heights of English football’s third tier, I am delighted to report that the old joke aimed at Crewe and City fans — that we sing the song because our teams only ever win once in a blue moon — does not currently apply to either team.

There was subsequently some Twitter chatter about his assertion. He cited as sources a 2008 history of the club from south Cheshire’s Crewe Chronicle newspaper, and also the English edition of Wikipedia, which says:

“Crewe’s fans were the first to sing the famous football song “Blue Moon” (with lyrics that do not quite match the Rodgers and Hart original). The song was a response to the gloomy days at Gresty Road during the mid-1900s, and reflects the colour of the Alex away strip, which only the more steadfast and determined fans would travel to see. The song has since been sung by fans of Manchester City, although their rendition was highlighting the colour of their strips as opposed to simply copying Crewe’s supporters which has been a trending ideology amongst Crewe followers.” (Wikipedia, as at 12:08 on 16 March 2021)

Tracking a Wikipedia assertion

I have edited the Wikipedia article about Crewe Alexandra many times. My first edit was in November 2003 and I’ve since made over 500 updates. In total, since it was first created in November 2001, over 900 editors have made almost 3,000 updates – see article statistics), I did a bit of checking.

The first Wikipedia reference to Crewe fans singing Blue Moon was added by an anonymous editor on 8 January 2007. The section was later expanded by another anonymous editor on 6 March 2009, and it has remained pretty much untouched ever since. There was for a while, from 25 September 2009, another anonymous addition about Crewe fans starting to sing the song at an away game at Stockport County on 22 April 1988, but  – as Wikipedians were now more stringent about reliable sourcing – this was immediately marked as “citation needed”, and (with no source provided) later deleted. Nonetheless, the claim about Crewe fans being first to sing the song remains.

Interestingly, I recently read about a Wikipedia phenomenon called “citogenesis“, whereby false or erroneous assertions are made in Wikipedia articles, with the assertions then quoted as facts in books, journals or newspapers so that they become “reliable sources”.

I am not saying this assertion amounts to ‘citogenesis’, but how could either Crewe or Manchester City fans reliably support any claim to be the first to sing “Blue Moon”? I have read discussion forum contributions where people say they remember singing it during a particular season (today, two Crewe fans on Twitter recall it being sung at Stockport on Friday 10 February 1989), but in Wikipedia terms this would be unreliable and ‘original research’. I wonder if there any newspaper reports remarking on the singing, or perhaps recordings of audio or video broadcasts of games from the late 1980s, if – indeed – that is when it started?

Books can also be reliable sources; I’ve scanned Jules Hornbrook’s Gradi Years (no joy) and I can’t find my copy of Scarlet Ribbons (named after another song) – however, I think Jules’s books were self-published so also may not be reliable sources.

I certainly recall singing “Blue Moon” during the 1990s. It was also something I wrote about when I created the first Crewe website, the Alexandra Extravaganza, in 1996. And for a while (1998-2004), I even edited an Alex Exiles fanzine titled “Without a Dream in My Heart” – citing a line from the fans’ version of the song.

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