BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “I Only Have Eyes For You”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

“I Only Have Eyes For You” was written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin for the 1934 movie Dames, which starred Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Here’s the original version, from the movie. It’s done later in the movie as a Busby Berkeley production number.

This song has been done a lot, most notably by The Flamingoes in the Fifties; their version was copied by Art Garfunkel in the Seventies. I’m not going to use either of those versions in this battle, because people are quite familiar with them. Likewise, Frank Sinatra is famous for the song, so I won’t use him, either. Instead, here are a couple of obscure versions you might not have heard.

CONTESTANT #1: Ben Selvin and His Orchestra, Howard Phillips vocal From 1934. Ben Selvin started recording for Victor in 1919 and for a number of labels until 1927, when he signed with Columbia. He was A&R director for Columbia from 1927 through 1934, and again from the late 1940’s until the mid-1950’s.

CONTESTANT #2: Freddy Gardner with Peter Yorke and His Concert Orchestra Freddy Gardner was a well-known British saxophonist who by the late 1940’s was a featured soloist for Peter Yorke, who was heard regularly on the BBC. This is from 1948.

So, now it’s up to you: which version of the song did you prefer, Ben Selvin’s or Freddy Gardner’s? Let me know by leaving a comment below, telling me your choice and a little bit as to why. Then, bop on over to Stephen T. McCarthy’s Battle of the Bands blog, where you’ll find a list of the other blogs which might or might not be doing a BotB today as well. I’ll announce the winner as part of next Sunday’s The Week That Was post, so get your vote to me before then.

The lines are now open. Good luck to Ben and Freddy!

19 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “I Only Have Eyes For You”

  1. Hmmm vocals vs sax. This is a tough one! I’ve always enjoyed this tune. It’s a lovely romantic song intended for slow dancing with your loved one. That being said, Freddy Gardner’s version seemed to pick up speed midway through, and I had a difficult time picturing a romantic slow dance during parts of it. So, while I loved the sax, I think I’m going to have to give my vote to Ben Selvin and Howard Phillips.

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  2. You might recall me having used this song with some of the versions you mentioned back in January of 2015 (seems like blogging was such a happy place back then). But there are so many great versions of this great song that it’s worth revisiting.

    I like either of the versions you offered. Freddy Gardner’s sax is so expressive , the orchestration is so lush, and the arrangement is so great that I can’t help but like this version a lot. But Ben Selvin has so much more and I love that old sound.

    A vote for Ben Selvin & Co.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  3. John,

    I didn’t know this song dated back to the 30s. Like most everyone else, I prefer contender #2. The instrumental version transports me to the 40s era and the sax accompaniment is fabulous. I always wanted to plan the saxophone but didn’t have enough wind for it. lol Seriously. I know who knew, right? I can talk up a storm but can’t blow through this woodwind instrument. I had the same problem with playing the trumpet. I wound up playing the flute, which left me a bit dizzy and short-winded until I learned how to play. 🙂

    Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree #BoTB showdown

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  4. I love this song and boy, can you tell the styling of this song between the ‘30s and 40s! This is a tough one since I love both. Do I pick the more “basic” version of the ‘30s or the romantic sweeping version of the second? I…will go with the second version because of that romantic styling with the harp and all. I could easily see Fred Astaire dance with Ginger in the early version and Rita Hayworth in the second

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  5. Hi John.
    I really enjoy this song and your battle was a real delight. I am very fond of the sax in general and this solo is outstanding. However, I typically like a song with vocals over an instrumental. But I wanted to give both another listen and my mind is made up: I’m giving my vote to Freddy Gardner and Pater Yorke. To my surprise, the instrumental version won my heart over.

    Nicely done John.
    Have a great week,

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  6. Well, the second one was good, but I have a fondness for that (what I call) “Antique Sound” of the late ’20s and early to mid ’30s. Therefore, my vote goes to BEN SELVIN.

    It sounded like background music one would hear in an old OUR GANG skit. And that’s a good thang.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    STMcC Presents ‘Battle Of The Bands’

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  7. I nearly always vote for the vocalist over an instrumental piece. I say nearly, because if you say never… well, you get proven wrong. This is one of those cases in which I’d be proven wrong. I preferred the Freddy Gardner rendition. Who could’ve guessed???

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