♫ I Only Have Eyes For You ♫

I had a song picked out … two songs, actually.  And then I discovered that I had already played both Chances Are and Everlasting Love.  Back to the drawing board.  I was in the mood for some really old 1950s tunes, and the first one that came to mind was this tune by the Flamingos.  I listened … I liked … I’m playing!  Simple, yes?

This song dates back to even before my time … eons ago!  It was written by Henry Warren and Al Dubin for the Busby Berkeley movie musical Dames in 1934, where it was introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.

The Flamingos recorded it in 1959, and it also appeared on the American Graffiti soundtrack from 1973.

Frank Sinatra recorded this in 1962 with the Count Basie Orchestra, and Johnny Mathis named an album after this song in 1976. The Count Basie Orchestra did it again in 1990 with George Benson; Art Garfunkel made a very romantic version on his 1975 Breakaway album, which topped the UK chart, reached #18 on the US Hot 100, and was a #1 Adult Contemporary hit. The Lettermen did a version in 1966, and Jerry Butler covered it in 1972.  WHEW!  You know a song is good when that many artists cover it!

The Flamingos’ version was arranged and co-produced by Terry “Buzzy” Johnson, a Baltimore native who joined the group as a first tenor in 1956. Fellow Flamingo Nate Nelson encouraged him to go crazy with the song, but he couldn’t figure out what to do with it. All he knew was the other versions were way too vanilla for his taste. The answer finally came to him in a dream.  Says Johnson …

“I was laying down in my room with the guitar on my chest, playing around with the chords, but no matter what I tried it just didn’t fit. Finally, it was about 12 or one in the morning, and I was so tired that I fell asleep, and in my dream I heard ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ just the way it came out on our record. I heard the ‘doo-bop sh-bop’ [backing vocals], I heard the way the harmony would sound – I heard the harmony so clear, and I heard the structure of the chords. As soon as I woke up, I grabbed the guitar off my chest and it was like God put my fingers just where they were supposed to be. I played those chords and I heard the harmonies, and so I called the guys. I woke them all up and I said, ‘Come over to my room right now! I’ve got ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’!’

They were like, ‘Are you crazy? It’s almost four o’clock!’ and I said, ‘I need you all now, otherwise I may not be able to remember.’ So they came to my room, all of them grumbling, and when they heard me do it they looked at me like, ‘What the hell is this?’ They laughed at me: ‘What’s ‘doo-bop sh-bop, goo-bop sh-bop, boo-bop sh-bop, loo-bop sh-bop, shoo-bop sh-bop”?’ You see, although in my dream it was ‘doo-bop sh-bop’, I had everybody doing a different thing, changing things around to make sure no one could really pick out what we were saying.”

George Goldner, who produced the track with Johnson, didn’t think it was commercial enough to be a single, so the group kept it as an album track and recorded a cover of Russ Columbo’s Goodnight Sweetheart for the first single. That is, until DJs got wind of I Only Have Eyes For You and changed their mind.

Jake Carey (bass) was the shortest member of the group, which made it difficult when he couldn’t reach the mic at the same level as the other guys during the recording session, where the music and vocals were being recorded simultaneously. To his dismay, they asked him to stand on a stack of phone books.

“He was mad as hell. He said, ‘I’m not a midget!’ but we told him, ‘We’re not going to bend our necks down to suit you. The mic has got to be at a certain level for all of us.’ So, we put Jake on three or four phone books and that’s how we recorded, with the background singers on one mic and the lead guy on another.”

Art Garfunkel performed his rendition on the second episode of Saturday Night Live, which aired on October 18, 1975 and was hosted by Paul Simon.

My own preference is The Flamingos version, but … I also like the Garfunkel version, and since I have so many UK readers,  I shall offer up both versions tonight.

I Only Have Eyes for You
The Flamingos

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)

Are the stars out tonight (sha bop sha bop)
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright (sha bop sha bop)
I only have eyes for you dear
(Sha bop sha bop)

The moon may be high
(Sha bop sha bop)
But I can’t see (sha bop sha bop) a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
(Sha bop sha bop)

You are here
(Sha bop sha bop)
And so am I
(Sha bop sha bop)

Maybe millions of people (sha bop sha bop) go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Al Dubin / Harry Warren
I Only Have Eyes for You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

16 thoughts on “♫ I Only Have Eyes For You ♫

    • I think I just tuned out when I saw the list on Wikipedia of the artists who had covered this song, for I do not recall seeing either Brook Benton’s or Rod Stewart’s names. Yes indeed, Brook Benton is among my favourites. I wish I had known, for I would have included his version, too.

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  1. I’m partial to Art’s version, although the Flamingo’s version brings out the nostalgia in me. Art’s version gained its hold on me because of my marriage. A young married couple with tightly budgeted money, we rarely bought music. We just couldn’t afford it. One cassette we bought was Garfunkel’s “Breakaway”. Stationed in the military, we listened to it often as we drove across states to visit our parents for holidays and special occasions.

    Back then, radio coverage was as extensive as now, so outside of urban areas, we often had to turn to recorded offerings when our conversations floundered. I enjoy Art’s stylings on all the songs on “Breakaway”, but personal favorites were “My Little Town”, “99 Miles from LA”, and the song that you feature today. I particularly recall hearing them as we drove ‘home’ for Thanksgiving. Sleet and rain was falling, and the wipers going, but the car was warm, and the music was soulful and reflective.

    Thanks for re-invigorating some cherished memories of a joyous time in life. Cheers

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    • Wow … I am so glad that the song brought back all those wonderful memories!

      I mostly only knew of Art’s music as Simon & Garfunkel, but wasn’t too familiar with his solos. I’ll have to check out some of the ones you’ve mentioned, for they aren’t ringing any bells. But then, I am old and forgetful … some days I am proud that I can remember my name! Cheers!

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