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.