Way back in the early sixties, there was a kind of record called a 78. This was named so because it had to be played at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). The Knights’ ‘What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes’ is so old that it was released on a 78 as well as the more familiar (to some of us) 45 or seven inch single. The song itself goes back even further to 1917 when Ada Jones and Billy Murray recorded this little ditty written by Joseph McCartney and James V Monaco. In 1959 it became a popular hit when Emile Ford & The Checkmates took a version to the top of the UK charts.On the other side of the Atlantic a version by Ray Peterson made it to 104 on charts.
I must admit that The Knight’s version doesn’t quite match up to the Emile Ford or Ray Peterson versions. There is nothing wrong with The Knights’ rendition, but it doesn’t quite have the same oomph. Alan Brooker’s vocals don’t have the same kick as Ford’s or Petersons. But The Knights produced a pleasant piece of early 60’s pop which has that garage band sound that was popular a little later in the decade. So why include this song on the list if I don’t think it’s as good as an international version? Well, the Knight’s version is important as it was the first local song to top the LM charts, so it has historic significance.
The lyrics asks why someone is flirting with the singer – ‘What do you want to make those eyes at me for/if they don’t mean what they say?’ and there is an innocence to Brooker’s vocals that leave you feeling sorry for him as the girl is just flirting and not serious. And I guess that this must have tugged on a few heartstrings way back when things seemed so much more innocent. The song is the opening track on 3rd volume of the essential The Best Of SA Pop series.
Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610