Can't take my eyes off you: notes on the death of Andy Williams

Sep 27, 2012
Johnny Dee

As the American crooner dies at 84, one song will live on - at wedding receptions and on the terraces

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OF ALL the songs that Andy Williams made his own - Moon River, Born Free, - it is not a smooth ballad but a punchy pop song for which he will be best remembered.

Plenty of people - from original interpreter Frankie Valli through to Lauryn Hill - have covered Can't Take My Eyes Off You but the only version you'll want to hear when you are drunk at a wedding reception is the one recorded by the laid-back prince of the polo-neck in 1968.

Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams is a timeless pop classic. It is the kind of record you hear once and know all the words to. Or, as with Auld Lang Syne and Bohemian Rhapsody, you think you know all the words to.

And even if you don't, you can ba-ba-ba in time to the rip-roaring brass breakout section - "I Love You Ba-by" - that barges its way through Williams's smooth, golden croon like a line of can-can dancers at a vicar's tea party.

Can't Take My Eyes Off You is fun like so few songs are. It crosses generations, loved by young and old. It's sentimental and romantic but celebratory and uplifting rather than mawkish or sloppy - a seduction that begins by telling the object of it's affections that they're "too good to be true" and ends with a riotous striptease. There is little plot - "Oh pretty baby...let me love you" -  although the elderly might appreciate the liaison is motivated by warmth rather than lust.

It is the kind of song that can disarm. In the Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter it provides light relief in the famous bar-room singalong; in 10 Things I Hate About You, Heath Ledger performs a riotous version complete with marching band as he seeks to woo Julia Stiles.

Covered by the likes of the Manic Street Preachers it tells an audience "we're not as deep as you think we are". It's a full-proof karaoke standby for non-singers the world over and on the football terraces it's a song that lends itself perfectly to virtually anyone or any team - although some Arsenal fans may now regret telling Cesc Fabregas that they loved him "all my life" and that he could "shag my wife" shortly before the Spanish midfielder left North London and batted his eyelids at Barcelona.

Such re-appropriations don't really fit with Andy Williams's smooth image. Yet beneath the cashmere jumpers and Farah slacks lurked an intriguing character who was much more liberal and anti-establishment than you'd expect – he famously experimented with LSD and fought against Nixon's attempts to deport John Lennon.

All together, "You're just too good to be true..."


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You cannot be serious. The Williams rendition was dreadful in comparison with the Valli original and was only a hit in Britain because Philips, Valli's record company at the time, had problems with distribution. Everything about the original is superior, the vocal, the arrangement, the producton, which is why it was a smash hit in the US and why it underpins the iconic scene in the Deerhunter.