The most beautiful song ever recorded

I make no apology for not choosing something hip and obscure as my favourite song of all time. It’s brilliant – and millions of people think so. Including me.

Like so many children of the 70s, my first experience of I Only Have Eyes for You was Art Garfunkel’s 1975 hit. It’s a not-bad version, and I liked it well enough. I was a kid. I listened to whatever was in the charts. I had no idea he hadn’t written it. I hadn’t even heard of the concept of ‘standards’.

It was years later I learned about Harry Warren and Al Dubin, learned about Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, learned about the Hollywood movie Dames, where the song debuted. I became a huge Peggy Lee fanatic and adored her version.

me with the flying fortress maine events
Image: Robin Weathersbee

In 1996, I was on the road with a band called Sugar Ray’s Flying Fortress, making out way to Le Guinguette du Martin Pecheur for a Bastille Day shindig and everything changed.

The piano player, Trevor Barley, had made a mixtape for me to listen to on my Walkman. Through Trevor I heard  Serge Gainsboug’s early material for the first time. I heard Claude Thornhill’s Snowfall for the first time (though for some reason, since I didn’t know the name of the track I thought it was was about a desert island…)

Then I heard something something that completely floored me. I thoroughly recommend you hear this the same way as I did the first time, loud and through headphones. There’s something about the echo effect the Flamingos’ version of I Only Have Eyes For You uses that makes it float through your head in spooky waves as though you’re listening through the years, back to 1959, tuning in and out of a smalltime local radio station somewhere in Hipsville Dakota on the wireless in your soft-top squarebird.

It was a gigantic hit at the time, reaching #11 in the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in the R&B charts.

The version I bring to you here is, frankly, bizarre. I have no idea what inspired their manager to put them in this getup. I guess it’s what they just made pop stars do in those days. The past is another country.

Shut your eyes, lean back and let this wash through your dreams.

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