436. ‘Bright Eyes’, by Art Garfunkel

So, we hit the bump in the road. The record that ends the gloriously up-tempo run of disco-slash-rock that we’ve been on.

Bright Eyes, by Art Garfunkel (his 2nd and final #1)

6 weeks, from 8th April – 20th May 1979

It starts off quite flutey. I’m not 100% sure that they are flutes. But it’s woodwind of some sort, and it give us a lush, pastoral sort of feel. Which is appropriate, because this is a song with a lot of references to nature. Tides, hills, winds in the trees, rivers of death… Art Garfunkel’s voice comes from afar, a voice that was always quite delicate made even more ethereal when drenched in echo.

It’s still a great voice, one of pop music’s most recognisable, but I’m waiting for the hook. Bright eyes, Burning like fire… The closest we come, the catchiest bit of the song, comes next: How can the light that burns so brightly, Suddenly burn so pale… But it is fleeting. It’s a whisp of a song, without much to grab a hold of.

It’s about death, so that perhaps explains and excuses the funereal air. More specifically, it’s about dead… rabbits? It’s from the 1978 animation of Richard Adams’s novel ‘Watership Down’. It plays as the lead rabbit lies dying from a gunshot wound. (I’ve never seen the movie, but it’s famously traumatising. Disney it is not.) Adams himself apparently hated the song.

I have to admit that, while this record is far from being instant, the chorus has ear-wormed into me after a few listens. Perhaps there is something there. There has to be, to explain its six week stay at the top and the fact that it was the biggest-selling single of 1979. Yep, not ‘Heart of Glass’, nor ‘I Will Survive’, nor any of the other classics still to come in this year. ‘Bright Eyes’, by Art Garfunkel. Has anyone played this recently…?

It’s interesting that this is Art’s 2nd solo chart-topper, two more than his sometime partner. Simon has been the bigger solo star over the decades, but never managed a UK number one. Garfunkel bookends the decade with two monster hits: from ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, to this. You’d have to be very generous not to admit to the drop-off in quality. Meanwhile, as this song meanders on, I find myself wondering if the band Bright Eyes have ever covered it… They might do quite a nice version… Alas, there is no record of them ever having done so.

379. ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, by Art Garfunkel

Amazingly, and despite this being the first solo chart-topper for either Simon and/or Garfunkel, I have never heard this record before…

I Only Have Eyes for You, by Art Garfunkel (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 19th October – 2nd November 1975

Quick question: has anyone listened to this song in the past thirty years? The big S & G hits still get airplay, as does a lot of Paul Simon’s stuff, and some of Art’s… But this? The only place this is still getting a spin is on those late-night local radio request shows, where people request sexy music for their loved ones. (Do they still exist? The one I listened to growing up was called ‘Pillow Talk’.)

And yes, ‘sexy’ is the right word for this disc. Sexy, sultry, slinky, slow, sophisticated, and any other adjective you can think of beginning with ‘s’ … Are the stars out tonight…? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright… Art Garfunkel croons in that smooth, high-pitched way of his. I only have eyes… For you… Dear… It sounds nothing like the folky, acoustic classics he recorded in Simon & Garfunkel.

I’m picturing a fancy apartment in the Hollywood Hills, candlelight reflected in a private pool, Art flicking the fire on and slipping a bottle of champagne from the cooler, before answering the door to his date for the night… It’s an image. This is purest of pure seventies soft rock. So glossy and smooth that you can’t find anything to grab onto, and so you slide down into the sickly syrup. It is… I’ll just come out and say it… pretty dull.

Nothing about this jumps out as #1 hit material. It is last-song-on-the-album filler, to me. And it’s not as if its success can solely be explained by Garfunkel’s star name. This was the 2nd single, from his 2nd solo album, and it took a leisurely six weeks to make it to the top. But whatever the reason, there it is. Top of the pops. I’m going to proclaim this as the most-forgotten #1 since ‘Baby Jump’.

Things pick up a bit when we get to the Beach Boys sounding bridge – Art Garfunkel is one of the few singers who can make his voice sound like five people. I don’t know if we are in a garden… Or on a crowded avenue… The doo-wop feel becomes clearer when you remember that ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ has been around since the 1930s, while the version that most people know was by The Flamingos, in 1959. The ethereal do-bub-she-bubs that make that version a classic are notably missing from Garfunkel’s version, drowned in the gloop, and that’s a shame.

It has also been recorded by names as legendary as Billie Holiday, Rod Stewart, Louis Armstrong and, um, Michael Bublé. Meanwhile at the start of this post, when I named this as the first solo #1 for either Simon or Garfunkel, I was being slightly misleading. Paul Simon has never (to date, we should add, because who knows!) topped the UK charts. Art Garfunkel will again, in a few years, with a song I have heard before! Hurray.