Eyes That Say "I Love You"
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Eyes That Say "I Love You" [Version (a)]:

When the night has gone cold and you're standing so alone
On the threshold of the rest of what you know
When the fever has died out, turned a flood to a drought
Left a chill inside that's growing like a ghost

You'll come running with eyes that say 'I love you'
You'll be blind, you'll be blind
And I won't know you, I won't see you
I won't need you, I won't love you anymore

When the poison from the wound slowly takes hold of you
And the only way not to drown is not to fight it
When you're falling down the stairs with your superstitions and despair
On a helter skelter fall to your demise

Oh you thought that you would never need
What I could have given
If you'd given half a chance

Start again from the end, from beyond where you've been
You can't wash away your sins in shallow water
Cast a stone in a grave of the plans that you made
They only go as far as you can throw them

You'll come running with eyes that say 'I love you'
You'll be blind, so blind
And I won't know you, I won't see you
I won't need you, I won't love you anymore
The Song:

"Eyes That Say 'I Love You'" can be found as sheet music in Beck's Song Reader collection.

You can hear versions of the song here.

It has been evident that Beck, in writing and creating Song Reader, studied the history and art and form of old sheet music, an industry which was at its most popular a hundred years ago (or more). Beck used some old titles, pictures, ads, etc. for inspiration.

With that, there is an old song on the Library Of Congress' website called "Eyes That Say 'I Love You'" from 1919. It is by Fred Fisher, a popular songwriter of the day. (He also wrote "Come, Josephine, In My Flying Machine," which also is mentioned in Song Reader.) Anyway, you can hear the old "Eyes That Say 'I Love You' right here.

Beck's interesting song, though, borrows nothing but the title phrase. He wrote his own song. (And borrowed the cover of the 1919's sheet music; see the picture above.) Beck's song feels slightly warped to me, a surprising and slightly wicked point-of-view.

Each of the verses describe seeing an ex hitting the bottom, in relatively strong language: cold chills, alone, poisoned from a wound, fallen, sinned. Whatever happened, the end of the relationship was her fault: "you thought you would never need what I could have given / if you'd given half a chance." This sort of fingerpointing at someone else feels unique in a Beck song.

On top of all that, the chorus is even more harsh. He recognizes that when this person bottoms out, she'll "come running with eyes that say 'I love you'" and try to get him back. But when that happens, he won't need her, he won't love her anymore.

I think there are probably a lot of songs about this kind of feeling out there (which is the point of a number of the Song Reader songs); however, it is unique to Beck for sure. Clearly, Beck has written a lot of sad loves songs in the past, which normally explore heartbreak. Here though, there's a striking lack of heartbreak; instead it's bitterness and even a little anger: "I won't need you, I won't see you, I won't love you anymore."
Here are the lyrics to Fred Fisher's song, which you can learn to play here.

I've often heard it said that eyes were the windows of the soul
And in that little game of love, they play the leading role
I've studied every color and learned to realize
The wondrous charm that lies within a pair of roguish eyes

Eyes that are always telling lies
Naughty eyes, eyes that are blue or grey
What do they want to make those eyes at me for?
At you for? Just to steal your heart away
Eyes that can fool the very wise
Wicked eyes, eyes that can look you through
But of all the eyes I see
Only two look good to me
They're the eyes that say 'I love you'

A mother tells her baby just by looking in its eyes
A doctor with a single glance knows where the trouble lies
We tell a cook that's clever that she must Hooverize
But can't tell a woman just by looking in her eyes