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I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos

Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1959Charted:
  • This song 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. Ben Selvin recorded it that same year and landed at #2 on the charts. 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 and peaked at #18 in the US. The Lettermen did a version in 1966, and Jerry Butler covered it in 1972. (thanks, Ragnar - Horten, Norway, for above 2)
  • The Flamingos honed their vocals at the Church of God and Saints of Christ in Philadelphia, where there were no musical instruments, just voices. The songwriter/producer Phil Hurtt, who also attended this church, told us: "If you listen to the harmonies of The Flamingos, you can hear one of the things that separated them from a lot of the Doo-Wop groups was their sound. Flamingos' sound was a smoother, accurate harmony. Their blend was awesome."
  • 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. He told Sound on Sound:

    "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,” Johnson told Sound on Sound. "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.
  • The Flamingos' version was featured in several movies, including the 1983 astronaut drama The Right Stuff, starring Ed Harris, and the drag racing drama Heart Like a Wheel, also in 1983.

    It also prominently appeared in the 1991 comedy Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead during a romantic beach scene with Christina Applegate and Josh Charles, and in the 1991 drama My Girl, starring Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin. It was used in the 1993 Robert De Niro film A Bronx Tale and in the 2003 romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
  • The '90s hip-hop group the Fugees sampled this on "Zealots" from their 1996 album, The Score.
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Comments: 29

On May 20th 1960, at a concert at the Tivoli Theater in Chicago, IL; the Flamingos and the Crests were the opening acts for headliner Sam Cooke*...
At the time the Flamingos' "Nobody Loves Me Like You" was at #38 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, while at #39 was the Crests' "Step by Step"...
The following week "Nobody Loves Me Like You" would peak at #30 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the Top 100 for 10 weeks...
It reached #23 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart…
Between 1956 and 1970 the Flamingos, a Chicago-based quintet, had nine records make the R&B Singles chart; with two making the Top 10, "I'll Be Home" at #5 in 1956 and "I Only Have Eyes for You" at #3 in 1959...
They were inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' in 2001 and into to the 'Vocal Group Hall of Fame' in 2000, and no surprise here, in 2004 they entered the 'Doo-Wop Hall of Fame'...
* Sam Cooke was the composer of "Nobody Loves Me Like You".
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Always wondered what the background vocals were saying...drove me crazy for years, my imagination went wild, so I'm glad I finally gave in trying to crack the code on my own, swallowed my pride (what little there is), and came here. Always thought it was "do what you want" or "Charles Schwab". So either a little subliminal messaging trying to get us to follow our hearts or invest more wisely. Fine line between the 2, I guess...Justin - Virginia
On August 17th 1975, "I Only Have Eyes For You" by Art Garfunkel entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #87; and on November 23rd, 1975 it peaked at #18 {for 1 week} and also spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
On October 5th, 1975 it reached #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
The week it peaked at #18 on the Top 100, six positions higher at #12 was "My Little Town" by some duo named Simon and Garfunkel...
Between 1973 and 1997 he had nine Top 100 records with one making the Top 10; "All I Know" peaked at #9 {for 1 week} on November 4th, 1973...
Arthur Ira Garfunkel will celebrate his 73rd birthday in three months on November 5th {2014}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I had a dream last night with this song playing while dancing with the girl of my dreams. Great song!Matt0 - St Peters, Australia
If I am not mistaken this was also used in the Robert De Niro film "A Bronx Tale".Joel Hugh Mchaggis - Wick, United Kingdom
In 1959 The Flamingos released their version of Gershwin's "Love Walked In"; it only peaked at #88 but it's a great rendition of the George & Ira classic..Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
For Charlie in Albuqueurque,Barry in Lancaster,PA,
regarding the background Rhythmn Vocables: they say, My love must be a kind of blind love.
I can't see anyone but you.
(She-bop-she bop, de-bop-she-bop,)
(De-bop-she-bop, de-bop-she-bop.)

Are the stars out (de-bop-she-bop) tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy (de-bop-she-bop,or
I only have eyes for you, dear.

The moon may-(de-bop-she-bop,)-be high.
But i can't see a thing (de-bop-she-bop,)in the
I only have eyes for you.
(Ooo-oo, oo-ooo-oo, oo-oo.)

I don't know if we're in a garden,
Or on the crowded avenue-ooo.

You are here, (de-bop-she-bop,)and so am I.
May be millions of people (de-bop-she-bop)go by,
But they all disappear from view.
(Ooo,oo-oo-oo-oo, oo-oo,oo,ooo.)
And I only have eyes for you

(De-bop-she-bop, de-bop-she-bop, de-bop-she-bop,)
(De-bop-she-bop, de-bop-she-bop, de-bop-she-bop.)
Bruce - Rockwall, Tx
I suspect that the Flamingos may be responsible for their own piece of the baby boom, just from this one hit.

"Getting Lucky" never had a better soundtrack.
William - Los Angeles, Ca
Art Garfunkel also sings this song.Ginny - New York Mills, Mn
The background doo-wop)vocals vary during the intro before the verse.
1st line = sh-bomp sh-bomp.
2nd line = dwomp sh-bomp
3rd line = dmomp sh-bomp

For the remainder of the song, the background remains the same, dwomp sh-bomp
Charlie - Albuquerque, Nm
I, too, remember a contest with our local radio station. I never did find out what the background words were. Does anyone know? Even hearing it in person, at a doo-wop concert, didn't help. It sounds like chlop-chlop.Lois-anne - New Castle, De
I like this song really very much.

Maybe 'cause I'm falling in love exactly like a young boy, but next april 2009 I'll be 59 years old.

It's happening exactly what the song lyrics describes: I Only Have Eyes For Her.

Wonderful musics and lyrics, perfectly mixed.

Really lovable. The unbelievable thing is that I knew this song only a few weeks ago.
Giuseppe - Pescara, Italy
I have loved this song from the first time I heard it back in 1960. I don't know that they get any better than this. If so, please bring them on!Joe - Philadelphia, Pa
The musician (and i use that term very loosely!) Eamon used this beat in his song "I love dem hos"... which I find extremely ironic!Evin - Cork, Ireland
I used to think the background singers were saying, "Jehosaphat."N.i. - Baltimore, Md
One of my all time favorites, such a great lovely song...Patrick - Lokeren, --
I agree with each of Barry's comments. A timeless classic & "de-bop-she-bop."Guy - Woodinville, Wa
Back ground singers are saying(de-bop-she-bopBarry - Lancaster, Pa
This was used in an Australian tv mini-series called 'Changi' about Australian prisoners in Changi during WWII, and their reunion in the present. A number of songs from the period were used, and were a powerful counterpoint to the hell they were living in.Nick - Brisbane, Australia
From a musical historical perspective, the Flamingos version has to be one of the top ten songs ever recorded.Keith - York, Pa
This song has such a wonderful dreamy quality to it. So surreal and haunting. I also like "Lovers Never Say Goodbye."Barry - Greenville, Nc
To me, the repeated phrase in the background sounds something like, "She bop She Bop", sung in a moderately fast motion.Annabelle - Eugene, Or
A Denver radio station had a contest, when I lived there, for people to call in and speculate on what the background singers are saying. The best guess entry: "Dump Truck".Tom - Tucson, Az
This is a wonderful song but I would like to know what the background singers are saying/singing?Sharon - Winona, Mn
what are the background singers saying??Joseph - Phila, Pa
Man............what a nicer than nice song man, nothing like those old Classics i tell you. It's ashame how the music has changed so much, but these all time classics shall never die i tell you man!!!!!!!Robert - Glendale , Ca
What words are being repeated behind the lead singer?Mel - Tucson, Az
The songfact above is incorrect. The Flamingos did *not* record this in 1959 for the movie Dames. Dames came out in 1934; there is an extensive (and bizarre!) Busby Berkeley dance sequence set to this music. Dick Powell sings this song as he's falling in love with Ruby Keeler.

It took the genius of Flamingos lead guitarist and vocalist Terry Johnson to transform this Harry Warren song from an upbeat 1930's dance tune into the world's greatest pop nocturne. A romantic song for the ages...

By the way, the Flamingos follow up song, "Till The End of Time," sounds almost exactly like this song in terms of structure and production. A case of attempting to repeat success with the same formula, I guess.
Wes - Springfield, Va
this song was also used in an episode of Buffy (the title of the episode also being the title of the song) in series 2. It involves Buffy having flashbacks to the 1950s before a prom night (the flamingos version was used even though technically it hadnt been recorded at the time some of the episode was set).

it was also mine and my boyfriends favourite song
Catherine - London, England