Tuesday, September 07, 2010

"I Only Have Eyes for You" (1959)

72. Flamingos, "I Only Have Eyes for You" (June 8, 1959, #11)

The Flamingos were a doo-wop act out of Chicago who kicked around the various alleyways and lonely streets of rock 'n' roll for much of the '50s. Then, finally, came this, their big moment—and what a moment it is. Written originally for a Depression-era movie musical and also recorded in 1950 by Peggy Lee, the Flamingos turned it into one of the most gorgeous confections of the rock 'n' roll or any other era, powered by soft Chopsticks-style playing on a piano, layers of echoing shimmer on the imposing backing vocals, and a tender melody and lyrical preoccupations to die for. "Are the stars out tonight? I don't know if it's cloudy or bright," warbles the lead singer Nate Nelson, softly and carefully landing on each note. "I don't know if we're in a garden, or on a crowded avenue." "CH-BOM CH-BOM," his accompanists respond, which clarifies nothing but its own stunning effect. It's one of those songs that sneaks up on you. You might hear it a thousand times and then one time—perhaps in the many movie scenes where it has been used, perhaps on an oldies radio station when you are making a quick trip to the grocery store for a red pepper—it finally catches you unexpected and strikes you dumb with the pure beauty of it. For how many fortunate couples does this stand as an "our song"? Many. It would have to be. Many, many, many. After all, this version alone has been around more than 50 years, and it sounds as fresh today as ever it could have to the class of '59.

No comments:

Post a Comment