The other day I was scrolling idly through the list I keep of songs that I have played in this series, and of possible future themes, and I came across a word standing all alone, with nary a single song to keep it company. I must have thought it a good idea to include it at some time, but can’t for the life of me remember when or why that was. But after a little bit of thought I came up with a list of songs I could play for it – just the twenty eight of them so far – so it seemed like a good idea to share a set of them for you this week. And probably next week too, as I’ve left out some I really like! So, the theme for this week is: eyes.
Let’s get things off to a stirring, though probably predictable, start:
You probably don’t need me to tell you that Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger was the tune for the movie Rocky III. It was released as a single on 31 May 1982, a day after the movie came out and a week before the album of the same name. It was a massive hit, topping the charts in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and several other countries, as well as making top tens around the world. The album made #2 in the US and #12 in the UK, and is still their only album to make the UK charts, though they have done a bit better in the US. It’s remarkable what one song can do for a band, isn’t it? And for the record I’ve still never seen any of the Rocky movies: boxing isn’t a sport that has any interest for me, and I’m not a fan of Stallone either.
I’m going way back to my youth for this next one:
The Small Faces had a string of hit singles in the UK, but at the time this one was released – November 1966 – they had yet to enjoy any success in the US. They did have a couple of hits there but never matched what they had achieved here – too ‘English’ perhaps? My Mind’s Eye reached #4 in the UK chart, and was the follow up to their mega hit All Or Nothing, which had been #1 earlier that year. Many singles were released in those days without appearing on albums, and this was one such. It was however included on a compilation album, From The Beginning, released in June 1967 by Decca Records after the band had left the label. It was also included on a double album compilation, The Autumn Stone, which came out in November 1969 and covered the band’s career both with Decca and their new label, Immediate. I bought this one and played it to death – a fantastic album, and the title track is magnificent.
Back over the pond now, and one which will be familiar to many of you, I suspect:
Kim Carnes’ version of Bette Davis Eyes was released in March 1981, making #1 in the US, Canada, Australia and several others, but only #10 here in the UK. The song was written in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, the latter of whom recorded the song that year on her album New Arrangement. The synthesiser backing on Kim Carnes’ version is, I think, what made it the huge hit it became – it was the top selling single of 1981 in the US, won two Grammy Awards, and has sold upwards of 3m copies. Actress Bette Davis was 73 when Kim Carnes had her hit with the song. She wrote letters to Carnes, Weiss, and DeShannon to thank all three of them for making her “a part of modern times” saying that her grandson now looked up to her. After their Grammy wins, Davis sent them roses as well. The song was included on Kim Carnes’ album Mistaken Identity, which came out in April 1981 and also topped the US charts – it only got to #26 here in the UK, and remains her only UK chart album.
I’m returning to Sixties England for my next tune. I bet many of you won’t have heard this one before, a real novelty hit:
You don’t often get a kazoo on a big chart hit, do you? Come to that, there probably haven’t been too many one man band acts in the charts either. From Wikipedia: “Don Partridge was an English singer and songwriter, known as the “king of the buskers”. He performed from the early 1960s first as a folk singer and later as a busker and one-man band, and achieved unexpected commercial success in the UK and Europe in the late 1960s with the songs “Rosie”, “Blue Eyes” and “Breakfast on Pluto”. He later was a founder of the group Accolade, which released two albums. He continued writing music, playing, busking and recording, mainly as a solo artist, until 2008.” Sadly, he died in 2010, but if you look at this clip on YouTube you’ll see several comments from neighbours of his in his latter years, saying what a nice guy he was. That was how he seemed to me during his brief period of fame. Also from Wikipedia: “By his own account, he left home at age 15 and became a burglar, before working at some 45 different jobs. In July 1963, he was reported in the national newspapers when he jumped off Hammersmith Bridge, London, equipped with home-made wings, trying to fly.” He was what we call ‘a character!’ Rosie was a UK #4 hit in March 1968, and Blue Eyes followed it up by getting to #3 in June of that year. His other chart success came in 1969, when Breakfast On Pluto reached #26. They don’t make them like him any more and yes, I bought this one at the time!
I’ve always loved this next song, ever since it was first released in 1971 on The Who’s fifth album, Who’s Next. However, I’m sharing a cover which I think actually improves on a superb original:
On its original release, The Who’s album was a UK #1 and got to #4 in the US. Behind Blue Eyes was the second single taken from it, in November 1971, reaching #34 in the US but not making the UK chart. Limp Bizkit covered the song on their album Results May Vary, released in September 2003 and getting to #3 in the US and #7 in the UK. This track was released as a single to promote the album: it only got to #71 in the US but made it to #18 here. As covers go, this is one of the best I know: it is superb, and Fred Durst’s vocals really make something more of the song, which is what a good cover version should do.
I’m being very self-indulgent for my next two songs, as I suspect that they won’t be familiar to you. This is from an album I bought when it first came out and absolutely loved:
As the video shows, that was a track on an album by Audience, entitled The House on The Hill. This was the band’s third album, and was released in May 1971. They had no chart success, though I think they deserved to have done: in composition and instrumentation they weren’t a million miles away from Jethro Tull, and I think this album, in particular, stands up well to comparison with what Tull were doing at that time. Eye To Eye was the B-side on the single release of another track from the album, You’re Not Smiling. It is the shortest song on the album – several others on it are more in keeping with what prog rock fans would expect to see – but I think it tells a good little story in its lyrics: many politicians would do well to heed its lesson of learning to listen rather than speak!
This is the second of the two songs which I said that you probably wouldn’t know, but I have actually played it before, in Tuesday Tunes 14: Fathers. That was for Father’s Day, which this year fell two days ago, and it seemed a good time to play it again. This is what I said about it two years ago when I first played it:
“You may not know of the Webb Sisters but, on the strength of this, I think you should:
That is such a lovely song, beautifully textured and with gorgeous harmonies – the sort that siblings often excel at. It comes from their album Savages, which was released in 2011, and which I highly recommend. They have made little music together since then, but have been far from idle: they have toured extensively with Leonard Cohen, who called them ‘sublime,’ and featured in his shows with an incredible version of his song If It Be Your Will. Again, highly recommended. They were also an important part of what turned out to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ final tour. They therefore have quite a pedigree: Cohen and Petty are no bad judges!”
I wouldn’t change a word of that now. It is still a gorgeous song, and I’m happy to have an excuse to play it for you again.
For today’s final tune I’m going back to my comfort zone – the Sixties – again. This is a later live performance of a song originally released in 1969, and it is fantastic:
That was the opening track on Crosby Stills and Nash’s eponymous debut album, which was released in May 1969. The album peaked at #6 in the US but only got to #25 here in the UK, which is our bad, I think. I bought it, loved it, and even my Mum appreciated it too: she heard it a lot! Marrakesh Express was the lead single from the album, and got to #28 in the US and #17 in the UK. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was also released as a single, in September 1969: it got to #21 in the US but didn’t make the UK chart. I’ve always thought it a fantastic song, a real tour de force when played live. In case you were wondering, the title is a play on words for ‘sweet Judy blue eyes,’ as the song was written by Stephen Stills about Judy Collins, a former girlfriend of his.
That’s all for my first selection of eyes tunes. As I said at the outset I have loads more I could have played you, some of which you might have been expecting and others probably not. Unless anything happens to change my plan I’ll bring you that second set next Tuesday. I hope you’ve enjoyed these and will return next week to see what your eyes and ears can behold in part two. I’ll be back for sure on Sunday for my newly found participation in Song Lyric Sunday, and may reappear before then if anything drops into my head as something I should share with you. Have a great week 😊👁