It’s early days, but the 1934 pop standard ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ will probably be my song of 2012. I’m just not sure which version yet.
Right now there’s three versions to pick from in my iTunes: the 1959 Flamingos interpretation, the one everyone’s familiar with; the recent, cavernous Beck cover; and the even-more-recent Oneohtrix Point Never version which is less a cover and more a complete deconstruction. But then, if I’m counting the Oneohtrix Point Never song, it only seems fair to say that there’s actually a fourth version in my iTunes: The Field’s from ‘From here we go sublime’, which blows apart the song like the Oneohtrix Point Never version, but neglects to put it back together again.
All four have found their way onto my computer quite recently, which is strange for all sorts of reasons. As Mark Richardson touches on, The Flamingoes ‘original’ is a very ‘slippery song’. It could easy have been made a couple of decades earlier or later. It’s a song that’s familiar but not familiar enough to be rooted in history. If Mad Men started in 1959, a copy of it on vinyl wouldn’t end up in Don Draper’s lap in a piece of clunky cultural exposition. While the covers are all pretty different, but have the same slipperiness. Beck’s version feels like it’s come a long way forward in time; Oneohtrix’s has travelled back in time or at least fallen into our laps from a very distant universe; while The Field’s exists out of time, permanently jarred or frozen. In the most complimentary sense, none of them feel particularly current; none of them feel like they should be played on a computer, at least not my computer.