EML’s Favorite Songs – “I Only Have Eyes For You” by The Flamingos

One of the most romantic love songs ever written has to be “I Only Have Eyes For You”. The song was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin for the 1934 film Dames, starring Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. Powell sang it in the film and several artists also recorded their own versions of the song in 1934, including bandleader Ben Selvin, (with vocals by Howard Phillips), pianist Eddy Duchin, and singer Jane Froman. But the version released in 1959 by R&B/doo wop band The Flamingos is without question the most captivating of them all. It’s among the earliest songs I ever remember hearing as a very young boy, and I’ve loved it my entire life.

The song was the biggest hit for the Flamingos, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #3 on the Hot R&B Songs chart, but it should have been #1 in my opinion. Their version has endured over the years and is recognized as an important work. The song has been included in numerous ‘best-of’ lists, and in 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #158 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It was also featured in the 1973 film American Graffiti.

The song is perfection from start to finish, with a dreamy arrangement and that sultry doo wop groove that’s so damned enchanting. I love the repetitive piano riff that establishes the mesmerizing percussive rhythm for the song, as well as those tasty little guitar notes sprinkled throughout. Then there are the fabulous silky vocals by Nate Nelson, backed by echoed vocal harmonies of the rest of the band that almost have the effect of another instrument in themselves. God, what a magnificent song it is!

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can't see anyone but you

Are the stars out tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I can't see 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
You are here, and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Other versions of the song were later recorded by numerous artists, including Frank Sinatra in 1962, The Lettermen in 1966, Art Garfunkel in 1975 (who’s version went to #1 in the UK), Carly Simon in 2005, and Michael Buble in 2018. But the best will always remain the one by the Flamingos.

EML’s Favorite Songs – “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic” by Morris Stoloff

One of my favorite songs from the 1950s is “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic” by composer Morris Stoloff. Stoloff served as music director at Columbia Pictures from 1936 to 1962, and was subsequently tapped by Frank Sinatra to be music director of his label Reprise Records.

The beautiful instrumental piece is actually a medley arranged by Stoloff that combined the popular 1933 song “Moonglow”, written by Will Hudson, Irving Mills and Eddie DeLange, with the “Theme from Picnic”, written by George Duning for the 1955 film starring William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell, Betty Field, Cliff Robertson, Arthur O’Connell and Susan Strasberg. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Picnic by William Inge, the film was adapted for the screen by Daniel Taradash, and directed by Joshua Logan, who also directed the Broadway production. Stoloff’s piece was used in the film, and later released as a single in early 1956. The song spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Most Played by Jockeys chart that spring (from 1955-57, Billboard had four distinct, and rather childishly-named, pop charts: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by Jockeys, Most Played in Jukeboxes, and Top 100).

From the 1940s to the early 1980s, instrumentals were quite popular and often released as singles. Beginning with the Big Band era and continuing all the way through to the Rock and Disco eras, numerous instrumentals became big hits. Some of the iconic instrumentals that went to #1 include the Benny Goodman classic “Sing Sing Sing”, Perez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”, Percy Faith’s “Theme from A Summer Place”, Booker T & the MGs’ “Green Onions”, Paul Mauriat’s “Love is Blue”, Hugo Montenegro’s “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”, Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas”, MFSB’s “T.S.O.P”, Barry White’s “Love’s Theme” and Vangelis’ “Theme from Chariots of Fire”. For me, “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic” ranks among the best of them. The cool percussion, jazzy piano keys and stirring orchestral strings are positively sublime.

The song is wonderful all by itself, but what makes it even more significant is the fact that it was used for one of the most important and memorable scenes in Picnic. A rather intoxicated Hal, played by William Holden, dances to the song with his college friend Alan’s girlfriend Madge, played by the devastatingly beautiful Kim Novak, while her younger sister Millie, played by Susan Strasberg, watches with teenage envy as she swigs liquor from a bottle hidden in Hal’s jacket. The also intoxicated middle-aged schoolteacher Rosemary, played by Rosalind Russell in one of her finest performances, and the hapless Howard (Arthur O’Connell) watch from the sidelines. Rosemary stews with bitter jealousy as she watches the younger, more beautiful Madge dance with Hal, who she finds both attractive and repellant. It’s an incredible scene taut with sexual tension and desire, and the sensuous song sets the perfect mood.